The lives of perfumers have changed so much in the past twenty years. They used to be invisible entities, people who engineered liquids in bottles so that we would all be enchanted, and their work was ascribed to designers, “Bigdeal Designer, for his new perfume…” In fact Big had licensing agreements. Nowadays it’s much more civilized. We recognize that perfumes are worked out like watery equations by perfumers.
Maybe it’s naive to pay too much attention to the work of perfumers simply because they are themselves at the mercy of briefs and of the clients who present said briefs, but now and again, the fumes clear and you can see an individual at work who is clearly highly talented. Continue reading →
The fig note in perfumes, now fairly widespread, was an innovation of the 1990′s. Olivia Giacobetti’s Premier Figuier for L’Artisan Parfumeur dates back to 1994 and with it was born a perfect craze for figs. For a while they became the only green fragrances that were in vogue. You could smell leafy and edible at one and the same time, which I suppose was the point.
There is also the enduring connection between human sexuality and figs, and therefore the use of fig leaves. Walk through a Vatican statue gallery, and a perfect gale of marble leaves apppears to have been stripped off stone trees, blown in, and hit the nudes with unerring accuracy all in the same spot. They are the Renaissance answer to Speedos. Continue reading →
Most people when they write about the chypres of Guerlain do tend to go on (and on) about Mitsouko. If you knew Mitsouko, like they knew Mitsouko, your whole outlook on life would change. There is a kind of mystic union between the wearer and the perfume, and if you love peaches and bergamots and lilacs, vetiver, amber and oakmoss , not forgetting a bit of cinnamon, you will indeed love Mitsouko.
Still Mitsouko is not the whole story in terms of chypres chez Guerlain. There is always Chant d’Aromes (a sort of back crossing of Mitsouko with Ma Griffe) and Sous le Vent which is a skinny chypre with herbs and lavender in the beginning and less going on its dry down than in Mitsouko,rather like a girl with no behind, and then…there’s Parure. Continue reading →
Some folk leave a large sillage behind them. They were not small characters try as they might to behave as though they were. The gale of life, as A.E. Housman wrote, blew high through them. George Sand of course is a case in point.
It’s sort of too bad about George. She was so famous in the 19th century for her writing and is now famous mostly for the unapologetic originality of her life. She did not prosper at the career then considered appropriate for all women, marriage. In her writing George has a great deal to say about bad marriages and the trouble they cause, and since she believed in the interconnectedness of human beings, the far reaching consequences of these troubles. George was the first to point out that a society that is unhappy in its molecular form, is unhappy in the aggregate as well. Continue reading →
You can guess from the way that I formulated this question that I am skeptical. It’s an open secret that the perfume business has very high margins. Only the handbag industry has higher ones which is why both are sold on the bottom floors of department stores where the foot traffic is heaviest. You have a large number of people getting into the scent business assuming that they will make their fortunes on the buoyancy of scent molecules.
This got me thinking though. Do we really do a good job selecting quality perfume for our hard earned dollars? If we’re buying luxury, what exactly is that? What constitutes luxury these days, and what constitutes a good price for it? Continue reading →
The word I have in mind is vanillin. Vanillin is one of the earliest synthetics from 1874 actually when first produced by the firm of Haarmann & Reimer, and you would recognize the smell even if you were not fascinated by fragrance because vanillin, like the SPECTRE organization in James Bond stories is everywhere, though mostly these days in food, along with its close associate ethylvanillin. If you’ve eaten candy bars you’ve eaten vanillin. Continue reading →
You can’t wear Guerlain without wearing vanilla. It’s not even worth making the experiment because Guerlain equals vanilla, and there is no version of vanilla that Guerlain hasn’t whipped up, baked up, brewed up or macerated in just about endless variations during its nearly two hundred year history.*
First a disclaimer, I’m not a vanilliac. But I like the note . When I was younger I was sure I didn’t, and avoided Guerlains, but time Continue reading →
John Singer Sargent Promenade during the uncrowded fin de Siecle
Believe it or not this happened once before. You may think that nothing like the multiplication of perfume niche companies has ever been seen in the history of scent sales but back in the early twentieth century something very like this happened.
Frankly I’ve long since lost count of the number of new niche fragrance houses that have debuted in the last three years or so. Some of them will survive of course, and many will not, but back in the teens and twenties the world of perfume was similarly flooded. Continue reading →
Her name was pronounced Dee-Ahn, never Die- Ann. People who worked with her rapidly found that out. Not that Diana was affected, she was simply, completely, utterly, and unapologetically, inner directed. This may be a euphemism for being eccentric, but the line between genius and madness is notoriously thin, and eccentrics frequently straddle it.
Diana Vreeland Parfums is the attempt to commercialize the reputation of the late editrix of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Perfume seems an odd choice for that task since I don’t remember any statement from Mrs. Vreeland on perfume, except for a lone endorsement of Glamour. Clothes and shoes I should have thought, were more her sphere. Continue reading →
You may be familiar with Hal Vaughan’s book, Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War. The book came out in 2012 and caused some flutter as mention of Coco’s wartime activities inevitably does. The fact of Coco’s affair with Von Dincklage, and her attempt to emphasize her larger amount of “Aryan” blood to oust the Wertheimers from Parfums Chanel is all pretty easy to discover. However, having a spouse who writes non-fiction history makes you sensitive to primary material, plus I have always wondered if we know some of Coco’s war activities, how much did people know during the forties? Continue reading →