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
Heliotrope in bloom
photo my own
Heliotrope is one of those floral notes in perfume that everyone thinks is old fashioned-that is if they even know what heliotrope is in the first place. So heliotrope is that delightful annual that blooms in dark purple or sometimes white flowers and produces a delicate fragrance. Some say heliotrope smells of almonds and others of vanilla, still others liken the perfume to a freshly baked cherry pie. That was one of the popular names for the flower back in the 1880s in fact.
In case you’ve never smelled heliotrope one of the best places to begin to encounter the note is Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue 1912. The other place is Guerlain’s Apres L’Ondee 1906. Both are re-interpretations of Francois Coty’s L’Origan 1904, which used a heliotrope base (among five others). All of these fragrances have made it into what you might call fragrant pop culture. Never smelled them? Try one and if you’ve never met the scent before chances are you’ll smell talcum powder. Continue reading
When was the heliotrope last in fashion? I wonder. It may have been sometime in the nineties. The 1890’s, that is. It went out no doubt with hair pomade and gardenia boutonnieres.
What is the heliotrope? It is a small flowering herb originally from Peru. It has dense heads of flower usually horizontally arranged, violet or dark purple in color. You grow them for the scent which is heavenly. They used to be called Cherry Pie – a doubtful characterization to my mind since the flowers don’t smell like cherries or pie.
When Guerlain came out with their l’Art et Matiere line some years ago, it was supposed to be, I guess, a dutiful effort by the venerable firm at edginess. It’s been pointed out that the bottles are uncomfortably close to Serge Lutens’ in shape and size and the whole concept seemed to be an homage a Serge. Or possibly, homages had nothing to do with it and Guerlain merely had no intention of letting Serge eat their lunch.