There has never been a time for violet perfumes like the turn of the last century. No doubt their proliferation, like a purple tide through perfumery, was due to ionones, invented in 1893, and then the development of a chemical that imitated the scent of violet leaf in 1903.
By that time, violets had become the most popular scent in mass market fragrances. Sweet violets projected a delectable candor that was simultaneously edible and cozy, even though the woman wearing them might have been defiantly undomesticated, and anything but candid.
The earliest of these violet scents is Violetta di Parma; Borsari’s version was mine for years. They have replicated the scent of violets in the bottle.
But wait a minute – what is the scent of violets? Continue reading
Perhaps you’re not familiar with Footlight Parade of 1933 with Ruby Keeler and Jimmy Cagney? This was the movie that came to mind when I ran across Tom Ford’s Shanghai Lil the other day.
The reaction of other bloggers to this scent has been rather like that of Cagney, Lil is irresistible they say and highly original. I was a bit less struck by the fragrance’s originality since I recognized the lily top notes as being similar to my Gardenia Petale’s, the Van Cleef & Arpels fragrance from some years ago. They probably share a high end floral material, although the green side of the floral is stressed in Shanghai, and not so much in Gardenia Petale which eventually devolves into a vanilla lily of the valley note. Continue reading
Bella Figura, if you have never been to Italy, is the social compact that all Italians share with one another by the terms of which no Italian shall knowingly mortify another Italian with uncouthness, especially not sartorially. Trendy clothes may be worn, but they must be worn with care. When jeans came in back in the seventies (for instance), many Italians had them dry cleaned. The same over elaborate care was taken of cargo pants, I’m told, ditto the endless parade of tiny fashions: wearing watches on the cuff of your shirt, trilby hats and so forth and so on.
Basically, anything that Lapo Elkann has done for five minutes, the rest of the peninsula must try also.* But without, above all else, looking foolish, or for that matter, smelling foolish. Continue reading
There is something internally subversive about the productions of Tom Ford. He is so charming and so practiced in the seduction techniques he uses on his public that it is almost camp. Every Tom Ford perfume has something about its packaging and promotion that recalls a weekend in one of those resorts popular with swingers in the 1970’s; about equal parts chic and louche, all black toilets, black marble counters and black bidets, so much so that it sometimes tips over into (I hope) unintentional self-parody. Continue reading
It can happen. For preference, you need a hit to avoid that catastrophe. It doesn’t have to be a mainstream hit. You don’t have to come up with the next J’Adore, but you do have to come up with something that makes the perfume world buzz just a little- like a disturbed hive.
Certain perfumers have a knack for this. Andy Tauer certainly does. His L’Air du Desert Marrocain still comes up on lists of things that the perfume-obsessed wear, and write about, and rhapsodize over. Pierre Guillaume is good at it too, he only has to stare hypnotically at a camera to sell perfume bottles, although the heck of it is, his stuff is surprisingly good, and if he resembled a cross eyed nanny goat I’d still think so.
Why are so many new perfumes failing to become staples in the public’s wardrobe? It’s a good question. We still wear perfumes that are quite old by the estimation of the Industry. D&G’s Light Blue came out in 2001, Dior’s J’Adore in 1999, Lolita Lempicka in 1997 – you see what I mean.
And it’s not as though things are vastly more au courant on the other side of the pond. Frenchwomen still wear Thierry Mugler’s Angel 1992, or Victor and Rolf’s Flowerbomb 2005. In fact there weren’t many I could find on bestseller lists younger than three years. Will things like Wonderstruck or Someday survive till next year or 2014? Sensuous in the US, a 2008 Estee Lauder release, and in France Idylle from Guerlain in 2009, might manage a few more seasons in the sun. Does it take that long for us to make up our minds that we really really like something? Or is it that we are now inundated with product and have a hard time filtering the perfume deluge? Are we so busy bailing out our little dinghies on the ocean of scent that we can hardly tell what we’re smelling before we heave it overboard? Continue reading