You know the sad story of the lost scent, as tragic as Gilbert’s famous song: The Lost Chord. You knew the smell, you loved the smell, and suddenly, the perfume’s out of production. Moreover, when you try to track down the missing bottle, you discover that many other users have beaten you to the punch, hoarding bottles heartlessly, so that you are left with nothing but your memories.
Take as an example the case of Moment Supreme (although you can substitute dozens of perfumes for this one loss). Moment was extremely popular for a very long time, well into the late decades of the 20th century (see Rangtang’s Bet and this review by Olfacta), but was discontinued by the house after they were purchased by Proctor and Gamble.
Patou’s 1000 came out in 1972, which was when my family lived in Rome. Back then, Roman real estate was relatively cheap, and we were right in the heart of old Rome in a penthouse apartment of the sort that I suppose few people could afford now. Anyway, there were little perfume and makeup shops around every few corners, and one of them was on my route home from school.
Not being of an age yet to wear perfume, or make up, for that matter, I still was compelled to go and stick my nose into bottles out of curiosity, and would stop by. That proprietress must have been fond of the young, and pretty indulgent. Most shopkeepers would have tossed me and my tatty book bag out the door. Instead, if she was not too busy, she would tell me about what was in the bottles, and let me smell things on a finger (no paper strips then). This was how I first met the Balmains, Balenciagas, and Cotys of the era.
When Sublime first came out I was stuck in smell Limbo in Central Vermont and really couldn’t smell much perfume. This was a shame because 1993 was a very good year for perfume. Besides Sublime, we saw the release of Femininite du Bois as well (anyway in the States). I had to be traveling if I was going to catch a whiff of these two masterpieces.
Sublime was Jean Kerleo’s great signature scent for contemporary women. It was definitely complex but adaptable enough to wear every day, and you did not tire of the scent easily. But Sublime was elusive.
I mean that Sublime was the sort of perfume that has about it something hard to define, something that you think you’ve almost categorized in your mind, and therefore also in your memory, only to find the next time you smell it, that you were quite wrong. The sense of the perfume eludes you. This makes for a fascinating experience and one you tend to come back for time and time again because you can’t believe (oh well, okay, I mean, I can’t believe) that something as simple as a perfume has slipped my powers of recall for the fifth or sixth time in a row. Continue reading
M. Kerleo’s career was spent behind a curtain, choreographing some of the finest prestidigitation of French perfumery. He was the man in the booth at Jean Patou for some thirty two years and in that time he not only kept Joy at its ebullient best, but also created the enigmatic 1000, the satiny Sublime, and what many consider among the best masculines ever created, Patou Pour Homme.
These are only the best known of his works. He also orchestrated a revival of the most famous Patou scents for the Ma Collection series in the 1980’s including the green floral Caline, and the much praised gourmand/chypre Que Sais Je. He did Ma Liberte in 1987, and Eau de Patou, Voyageur, also Patou Forever. He composed a number of scents for Lacoste, including Land, and the first perfume for Yohji Yamamoto, simply called Yohji. He won the Prix des Parfumeurs in 1965, and the Prix Francois Coty in 2001. He is still the honorary president of the Society of French Perfumers, and the founder of the museum of historically significant perfumes, the Osmotheque in Versailles. It’s quite some record, you must admit. Continue reading
Parisian fashion loves to impose structure and absurdity on beauty in about equal parts. Don’t ask me why.
Oh well, go ahead. Ask me why.
Maybe it’s the French love of logic that requires the structure, and possibly the fondness they have for the offbeat that imposes the absurdity, cf Frenchie Bulldogs, the whole concept of the Jolie Laide, and Jerry Lewis.
The cumulative effect is at once mannered and a little strange, and so it is with that most Parisian of florals, the rose bouquet. To be French the bouquets must be extravagant in their rosiness, but to be chic, they must impose just a little peculiarity on their inhalers. Continue reading