A lesson in Shadow Play by NISHANE

One of the best things about my job is no doubt the constant flow of information and education I’m given. Since founding TLF I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about PR, Marketing, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Journalism and Cultural specialties. The last one no doubt because I live in a city with so many nationalities and on top of that interact with a global beauty community via social media and emails. It is incredibly rewarding!

Three years ago, I had no concept of what niche perfumery was (to be honest, I’m still confused). I liked to used perfume, I’m not the least ashamed of my collection which up until then mostly consisted of brands like CHANEL, Dolce & Gabbana, Estee Lauder and Dior. I got married wearing CHANEL Mademoiselle and till this day it’s still a favourite!

What I didn’t know three years ago, was the story behind the perfume industry. I had no knowledge about notes, harvesting and what cultural statements could be read into a certain brand or a Nose’s creations. Back then, I was much more reluctant to spend loads of money on a bottle of perfume but then slowly I started my niche education.

And I haven’t seem to be able to stop! This journey is like reading or painting or going to the theatre; every new piece is a piece of art with its own history. My collection is growing simultaneously with my knowledge and understanding. I’m so far from an expert and it is a real pleasure to “educate” you, my readers as long as I’m learning myself.

My personal mission is to make niche or fine perfumery accessible to everyone.

A while ago, I had the chance to once again meet up with the two gentlemen behind Turkish niche fragrance house NISHANE. I had met them both once before during a scent-dinner where there were several other perfumers present. Still, Mert Güzel and Murat Katran managed to stand out with their take on perfumery and so when the opportunity came to sit down with them again, I jumped with excitement.

Now, in the light of recent events and my previous article, what should have been an interview with the founders will now instead be more about a brand presentation and the philosophy on which all NISHANE perfumes are created from. Let me just quickly introduce the three persons behind the brand (two founders and one nose) so that you’ll get to understand why learning about NISHANE has been particularly educating for me.

Both Mert and Murat was born and grew up in Istanbul. While Murat graduated and made a career in the International Steel Trading Industry while also combining it with a professional acting career ( 13 years with the Istanbul City Theatre) his business partner Mert, a Sociology graduate pursued a career as an entrepreneur releasing several coffee table books about the luxury hotel industry. Publishing, Marketing and Tourism is his forte and together, they are both well traveled with a great understanding for art and the global luxury industry. The perfect combination.

They don’t have a background or education in perfumery and still they decided to found the first Turkish house of niche perfumery. I must admit, it takes some courage to do so, and in only a couple of years the brand is now known and accepted internationally for their special take on perfume! Together with educated perfumer Jorge Lee, they have managed to build an extensive portfolio of alluring and interesting fragrances that are wearable. This being the operative word for me. Whenever perfume becomes too fancy for its own good I stop paying attention.

The NISHANE motto is beautiful: “Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone over with others. Unfold your own myth”. This taken from the Anatolian clerk Rumi. In this statement alone lies the truth of the brand: its mission to spread their take on Istanbul’s vibrant scene and the chance for each and everyone who carries the perfumes to make them a part of their own personal story. By wearing a NISHANE perfume, you’ll have a wonderful chance of expression and creativity.

Without being too vocal when it comes to Mert and Murat (trying my best here to show that products are not merely about their founders but so much more) I still have to tell you that very few people in this industry makes me feel as comfortable, open minded and ready to listen as these two men. When we met I had already read through the extensive marketing material provided by the agency and although I could have asked a gazillion questions, all I really wanted to know about was their firm believe that perfumery is ART and how-come that makes such an importance to their recent collection.

First of all: guys. Let’s take a moment and drool over the wooden ornamented box where my newest NISHANE perfume is resting. This is a brand that has managed to make luxury and fine details safe and fun as the opposite of frightful and excluding. The packaging is utterly luxurious and still kind of comforting if you know what I mean?

So what about perfumery being ART? I had to know how they were thinking (as I happen to agree). We constantly see large galas being thrown and awards extended for pretty much every part of the global art scene: motion pictures, dance, music, and culinary. When it comes to the art of perfume, the awards are not always as visible to the public at large. Still, Mert and Murat view their job as in line with composing music or telling a story. There are only a constant number of notes available to create music and the same goes with perfumery. Nothing is really new under the sun, and yet everything that is created is a new expression. In their company we are treated to an expression of the “Istanbul Spirit” and what it has to offer. It is a balancing act between the notes but also between all the different cultures that is so significant for Istanbul where Asia, Europe and The Arab world blend together in an eclectic mix. For this reason, you will never find a NISHANE perfume with 100% western or oriental or eastern notes.

NISHANE has mastered the art of creating “music” that will please people of various cultures without being a mainstream brand. This is what truly fascinates me with the brand. They make it look so easy when we know that in this day of age where people like to alienate those who are not the same as themselves, these fragrances are equally loved in all corners of the world even though the scents are being complex, diverse and challenging at times.

NISHANE means mark/symbol or sign. In line with the Rumi-proverb wearing these fragrances shall be seen as a symbol of the value you put on yourself, your loved ones and their differences.

All within the brand’s love for the ART (and most probably due to Murat’s theatre background) the new collection of Shadow Play combines the art scene while making a homage to an ancient Turkish tradition.

Before we sat down for the interview I didn’t know about Shadow Play. I had only experience puppet shows as a child and had to be educated on the rich history. Since eternity, in Turkey there has been this tradition of shadow play puppetry where mostly three leading characters emerges behind a white screen lit up to show their shadows. In honour of this tradition of early “screen play”, NISHANE have created three perfumes, one for each main character:

  • Hacivat: The well educated gentleman, elegant, sophisticated and loving.
  • Karagoz: Hacivat’s best friend but also his complete opposite. A little bit stupid, the constant player who’s quite harsh and rough around the edges.
  • Zenne: The super beautiful femme fatale, feminine, flirtatious, sexy and the interest of both men.

Not only do we get to sniff some new fragrances, we also get a bit of cultural education and this part thrills me. The Istanbul-based fragrance house has made it possible to spread awareness about Turkish culture in the most elegant way!

I’ve had the chance to play with all three perfumes and come to understand them well. Three characters with incredibly different personalities but the brand has connected them together via one single (and quite complicated note) pineapple.

I shall not lie. Using pineapple in a fragrance is dangerous! It can so easily go wrong, making the blend either icky-sweet or almost bitter. To add it in fragrances suitable for males is even more daring. And of course NISHANE had to do it – trice.

Luckily it works. I was generously gifted a bottle of Hacivat and whenever I wear it, I get compliments from both genders and all ages. Let’s take a look at the notes:

  • Top Notes: Bergamot, Pineapple, Grapefruit
  • Heart Notes: Jasmine, Patchouli, Cedarwood
  • Base Notes: Clearwood, Oak Moss, Dry Timber wood

What first comes off as something fruity, zesty and almost sparkly very quickly shifts into an elegant and woody scent. The base makes it heavy without any harsh or vivid strokes and for this Swedish lady who’s been growing up with miles and miles of woods around her, I feel at home. I have liked almost every perfume ever produced by the brand; to be frank they could have gifted me anyone of their creations and I would have found a way to connect with it. This is what makes the brand unique for me. While I love the theory about niche perfumery there are still many brands and notes that I can’t master to wear successfully. It doesn’t work in reality. With Hacivat I feel safe and happy. It might have something do do with Mert describing the character Hacivat exactly the way I would describe my husband hahaha.

I can’t wait to learn more about the entire NISHANE portfolio as it is clear that it will provide me with a sensory journey as well as a lesson in history, culture and art. Not bad for two guys who weren’t supposed to create perfumes in the first place! ♥


Product provided for review consideration
  1. What a beautiful story behind the brand, most of all pineapple?! How incredible. I am so fascinated by the story and notes in this leading lady of a perfume that I must look into this. Thank you for yet another beautiful article.

    1. Hello Dear Ann! It’s wonderful to read your sweet comments. Thank you so much for reading and liking my job. NISHANE has so manu amazing fragrances in its portfolio. I hope you’ll get the chance to try them out. Kisses, M

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.