Everything But Shalimar

Old advertising for Shalimar with the familiar bottle...

Old advertising for Shalimar with the familiar bottle…

Some of the great classics are stumbling blocks.  There is something about the journey of perfumery that can make you think that you would never be the sort of person who would wear say No 5, or Mitsouko, or L’Origan, or in my case Shalimar.  Here’s the point though – you may be exactly that sort of person after all.

Maybe it’s a kind of snobbism that makes us not want to admit that some well known formula brings us as much joy as the next person, or that some perfume is just about unbeatable in its class though that’s often the case.  My own experience in  coming around to Shalimar had to do with realizing that I was already wearing Shalimar, just not the blue stoppered kind. I mean I wear leather, a lot of leather, and citrus, and vanilla and what does that add up to?  Yeah, it adds up to Shalimar Continue reading

Interview with Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

Starry Night

Starry Night

Do you have a smell from childhood that you loved-anything from your Mom’s perfume to your dog’s paws-and what was it?

A: You know, there are so many smells from childhood that I loved (and still do): the scent of my neighbor’s muguet and lilacs in Spring (these still remind me of my mother and grandmother); violets in my own back yard; the smell of my grandmother’s house (my husband and I bought our house partially because the basement smells like her basement did); warm hay in the humid New York Spring and Summer.  I could continue for a very long time, but these are some of my top favorites.

Are you a synesthete, do you “visualize” odors, or “taste” colors, and does it affect your output?

A: Yes, when I smell smells I not only see colors but sense textures and shapes.  For me, aromas are sculptural / architectural and multi-sensory.  The synethesia effects everything that I do from paintings to perfumes.  I have even created a collection of perfumes called CHROMA that express some of the colors in fragrance form.  I will say that sometimes I let the textural aspect take the “front seat” while at other times my work is about the color or the shape as a primary focus but the overall experience is woven into everything that I make. Continue reading

Being Henry

Recently I read a description in a style magazine of stylishly appropriate and inappropriate houses.   Among the latter group was Henry Higgins‘  in the movie of My Fair Lady.  (You know, the blockbuster with Audrey Hepburn making you feel fat and Rex Harrison making you feel dumb.  That one.)  According to the magazine, his was absolutely the kind of house YOU DO NOT WANT.

I think I read that statement over at least twice.  Not want?  What was wrong with Henry’s house?  It was well staffed and well appointed with yards and yards of William Morris wall paper on the walls and lots of carved mahogany everywhere (except Eliza’s bedroom) and lots of books.  What man in his right mind wouldn’t want to live there?

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(Rose 13) – Roses, Take a Bow!

Since there have been a dozen rose posts, this might a good time to take a breather,  go back, and re-cap.

For all the complaining that perfume consumers do about the industry these days, one thing is inescapably true: there’s more variety.  Once upon a distant time, Perfumer’s Workshop produced Tea Rose and Houbigant sold A Rose is a Rose.

That was about it in 1976.  Now you have entire lines devoted to the flower in all its variations.  Les Parfums de Rosine is one such house, and besides its twenty or so perfumes, there’s a slew of mainstream releases popular with the public such as Stella, or Valentino’s Rockin’ Rose.

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(Rose 4) – Roses for Boulevardiers

Men once had buttonholes.  Hard to believe, but they actually did, and what is more they really put things in these buttonholes – flowers for preference.  Which flowers?  Well, the gardenia was once called the “opera flower” because of being worn by gentlemen in their button holes to the opera.  Other gentlemen chose other buttonholes: carnations, lily of the Valley, possibly a geranium (if they were Charles Dickens whose favorite flower it was) or a rose.

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The 1912 Overture part I

There are watershed years in practically every field, and in perfumery, 1912 was the year of grace.   It is one hundred years since Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue, Houbigant’s Quelques Fleurs, and Caron’s Narcisse Noir were introduced, amazingly, all three are with us up to the present day.  They are all classics and are all, in their various ways, ground breaking.

It’s hard to conceive of a time when fragrances weren’t launched with the  outsized caution and undersized budgets of our own era, and yet those pre-war years were the time of Francois Coty’s rise, and his competitors were responding to the market dominating successes of La Rose Jacqueminot (1904) and L’Origan (1905), especially the latter.  On the strength of these blockbusters, Coty  built a factory complex outside of Paris capable of producing thousands of bottles a day, and he was in the process of conquering overseas markets as well.

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The Stealth Assault of Rosemary

If there is ever a contest for the world’s most romantic perfume, one of the chief contenders, indeed, possibly the all time champ, will be Guerlain’s Apres L’Ondee.

It is the most delicately decadent perfume in the whole canon of classic French perfumery, and yet it is also one of the most sentimental ones. It is a fumic partner to the aimless melodies of Ravel, the pale blue to mauve shades of hydrangeas languidly disposed about summer lawns, and only the very silliest and most sentimental of Impressionist paintings.

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The Chypre’s Child

It was 1917 and François Coty invented something new – a perfume that was floral, but also woody, light but also dark, sexy but also restrained, and, like Jicky,  a fragrance that could be worn by women or by men.

Naturally it was a hit.  Coty – or Spoturno, to use the name he was born under -  was a natural perfume impresario.  Like P.T. Barnum then, like Simon Cowell nowadays, he had an instinct for what attracts the public’s attention and – the real trick – holds it.

He’d done this before, with Le Rose Jacqueminot in 1904 and L’Origan in 1905,  but Chypre, the 1917 perfume, was something new, what the French call Le chef du ligne, the head of the line.  Every other chypre fragrance ever produced looks back to that initial release (now discontinued) during World War One.

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