But there’s this thing about beauty; it’s just not as much fun as- well, fun.
If you can conjure the genies of sexuality (Femme Rochas), sensuality (Miller Harris L’Air de Rien), ambiguity (Guerlain- Jicky; Mick Jagger wore it, QED), wickedness (Caron’s Narcisse Noir), beauty (Guerlain Chamade), melancholy (Guerlain L’Heure Bleue), reverie,(Chanel Bel Respiro) sleepiness ( de Nicolai Cologne Sologne), heat (Dior’s Fahrenheit), cold (Hermes, Terre d’Hermes) clubbing at three a.m. in Paris (Kurkidjian Absolue Pour Le Soir), then why, oh why can’t you cram a laugh into a bottle?
The answer, in a word, is spontaneity. That incomprehensible magic that makes things, people and places come alive in a whirl of charm is given to few people and few things. It’s the reason why we love our favorite comedians as much as we do. A beauty may delight the eye, but we soon get bored of her sitting cross legged on her marble plinth filing her nails. We’re all out looking not just for a good time, but for the time of our lives, and the people who give this to us are rare and unpredictable. Same with perfume, it’s pretty hard to bottle a great party, but if you could, how much money would you rake in?
How many have I come across in all the years I’ve been smelling perfume? Not many. Beauty is nothing by comparison. I can reel off the names of dozens of gorgeous perfume compositions – but fun? That’s hard.
One that does actually make me smirk is not new, but is to my mind a prank on the business end of an atomizer: Fifi Chachnil. It’s such a ridiculosity of a pink foo-foo bottle in which there is a sweet vanilla amber perfume sloshing about. Fifi is almost as much of a cliché as that bottle until you hit the dry-down and…wait for it… it’s a cigar! You thought you were such a girl and surprise, surprise, surprise! You turn out to be a middle aged man with a paunch and a Havana in that bubblegum pink peignoir.
Fifi is, in short a cross dressing moment designed to ambush the unwary general public.
It’s cute effort, but no cigar in my opinion. Then there are perfumes that actually mimic euphoria. Joy does until you hit the civet that’s scattered on runway like a box of nails, and that tends to bring Joy back down to earth before it achieves lift off, until that moment though, Joy is well named.
Similarly the big fruity umbrella that shoots up every time you spray Badgely Mischka is perfume as silly fun, being the kind of umbrella you’d unfurl if you worked on a unicycle for Barnum and Bailey, but then you’re left gripping a thin umbrella stick of a dry-down in the middle of a tight rope run, pedaling for dear life. Most of the brilliant ebullience of the formula is dissipated, and the whole ridiculous thing just loses its momentum with you still perched on it. What the hey, though, you knew that what goes up comes down before you got the rainbow wig on.
Chanel 22 has always struck me as being a bit of a party girl. Along with Caron’s Royal Bain de Champagne, it evokes those evenings when there’s no curfew and no shortage of bubbly. At its best, and when it works on your skin, it’s an impromptu drag race between two fishtailing Rolls with empty Bollinger bottles clinking about your feet.
In short, a P.G. Wodehouse plot in liquid solution. If Chanel No.22 doesn’t work on you, alternatively, it can smell as ghastly as all that champagne tossed back up on the Rolls’ carpeting.
By contrast something like Gucci Rush, more or less created for clubbing seems rather thin and staid, standing on the curb and priggishly pointing at its wrist watch.
But then, as we know, perfume is a serious business.