Wednesday, August 26, 2009

CREED Jasmin Imperatrice Eugenie

The original formula for Jasmin Imperatrice Eugenie (JIE) was created in 1862 for Empress Eugenie of France. I find this fascinating. When I’m wearing JIE I smell similar to Empress Eugenie over 147 years ago. What an odd feeling this is – to smell like, well, history. You might wonder if JIE smells dated and old fashioned, considering it’s age. Maybe a little, but all things considered, there’s a reason why it’s a classic and still around today, it’s quite excellent.

The monarchy dissolved after the reign of Napoleon III so Eugenie was the last empress of France. She is noted for her beauty and elegance and was quite a fashion icon during her time. This seems so trivial to me, that Empress Eugenie was a fashion icon. Surely she could have accomplished something more noble, but alas, perhaps it was not permissible for a woman to do much more than be a beautifully dressed thing in the 19th century.

Jasmin Imperatrice Eugenie is a decadent sillage monster with potency to spare. I love that about it. I’m not particularly fond of jasmine so it took me many years to get around to trying JIE. Once I did I found that the fragrance is not so much about jasmine at all, but instead a classic oriental with a divine ambergris and sandalwood base. JIE begins with the a powerful triumvirate of bergamot, jasmine and rose. The first 15 minutes or so might seem suffocating, like you’ve entered a dark wood paneled room from the 19th century whose windows and doors have been shut for years and the air is thick with the aroma of heavy dusty drapery.

After the initial overwhelming entrance, JIE becomes much more accomodating to the modern nose, albeit taking it’s time in doing so. You must remember that JIE was created in a time before the automobile, when plumbing was a luxury for only the wealthy and electricity was a figment of the imagination. So please bear with JIE, she’s from a different time and place, she’s ostentatious and regal and she’s and well worth your time.

The most pleasant surprise for me is that JIE is actually a sublime sandalwood and ambergris fragrance with jasmine used only as a garnish. This is the most beautiful rendition of creamy sandalwood and ambergris that I’ve ever smelled. There is also a hefty dollop of vanilla in the base – giving JIE an almost gourmand quality. For comparison sake, there’s some similarity between JIE and Chanel’s Bois de Iles, however, BdI is stark, minimalist and barebones compared with the opulence of JIE.

At a time when Guerlain’s upcoming launch includes the note “marshmallow harmony” and every tacky celebrity is slapping her name on a perfume bottle, Creed’s Jasmin Imperatrice Eugenie seems most welcome. Just don’t overdo it, JIE is beautiful when applied with a light hand, suffocating when overapplied. I can’t underscore how important it is not to overapply JIE. Two discrete sprays are plenty.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Parfum d'Empire 3 Fleurs & Wazamba

Marc-Antoine Corticchiato, the nose for Parfum d’Empire, oftentimes lives in the shadow of Serge Lutens. The two share a passion for Morocco and the scents associated with this land. Corticchiato has created several fragrances in the footsteps of Lutens. Detractors suggest PdE’s fragrances are similar yet less inspired renditions of a few Luten’s creations, namely PdE’s Ambre Russe to SL’s Ambre Sultan, PdE’s Cuir Ottoman to SL’s Cuir Mauresque and this year’s newly launched PdE’s Wazamba to SL’s Fille en Aiguilles.

Personally I’ve found Corticchiato’s fragrances equally masterful as Lutens. Ambre Russe is my favorite amber focused fragrance of all time. Cuir Ottoman is one of the most wearable leathers I’ve ever owned. And Wazamba is perhaps my favorite new release so far this year (note: I have not tried the Fille en Aiguilles yet).

Parfum d’Empire 3 Fleurs
Of the two new fragrances from PdE, 3 Fleurs was the one I was most excited about. Oddly, upon receiving them both, I like 3 Fleurs but I love Wazamba. As the marketing material suggests 3 Fleurs is a scent built upon the 3 most emblematic florals in perfumery: rose, jasmine and tuberose. Early reports suggested tuberose to be the most prominent note and I was happy to hear that being a big fan of tuberose. After wearing 3 Fleurs, I find it to be an equal blending of all three flowers rather than one being magnified more than the others.

The fragrance is a voluptuous, heady floral, not so much a white floral but more or less a “pink” flower with rose being added to the equation. The tuberose adds the sensuous, exotic element, jasmine lends a light green floral note and rose invigorates the blend with an herbal freshness. As suggested by Grain de Musc, 3 Fleurs pays tribute to Jean Patou’s Joy (another jasmine rose pairing) but includes an additional floral layer with tuberose in it’s base. A clunky description of 3 Fleurs might be Joy plus tuberose minus civet.

3 Fleurs is delightful. It is a straight up floral lover’s dream. It’s a full lipped, heavy bosomed, ripe and erotic beauty.

Notes: Bulgarian rose, Egyptian jasmine, Indian tuberose, galbanum, mint, white musk

Wazamba (love this name)
Wazamba is named for a musical instrument from Western Africa used mainly during initiation ceremonies. Wazamba, the fragrance, is meant to symbolizes one’s inner journey, a sort of purification ritual, like burning incense to purify oneself and one’s surroundings.

The word that stikes me the most from PdE’s marketing for Wazamba is sacred. Wazamba smells like sacred incense. It smells fresh, clean and pure. Wazamba is most similar to the scents from Comme des Garcons; Avignon, Jaisalmer, Kyoto Ouarzazate and Zagorsk. For me, these sorts of incense fragrances are not wearable for the office but this does not mean I don’t enjoy the scents. I absolutely love Wazamba and find it incredibly wearable in a private setting. Since Wazamba is meant to evoke sacred space, ceremonies and inner journeys, wearing it in these settings makes perfect sense to me. I would love to wear Wazamba while doing yoga, meditating, reading a book and relaxing at home.

I find Wazamba more wearable than the CdG incense series scents. Wazamba is fresh, resinous yet soft and enveloping. It does not take center stage but instead provides a back drop for peaceful activities. Sillage and longevity are both excellent as they are for all PdE fragrances.

Notes: Somalian incense, Kenyan myrrh, Ethiopian opoponax, Indian sandalwood, Moroccan cypress, labdanum, apple, fir balsam

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

In which I admit to falling for a skin scent

Brian and I joke that we can’t have too few skin scents. If a fragrance is described as a skin scent – I avoid it. I like my perfumes to be potent, to project and to have the middle initial S for Sillage. I don’t have the money to waste on perfumes that don’t last, and I have the idea that skin scents basically don’t last (or they do but only if you glue your nose to your wrist).

A few years back there was a furor on the perfume boards for Barbara Bui Le Perfume. I ignored it. The juice was discontinued, many wept, I didn’t give a hoot. About six months ago, I noticed Barbara Bui was available on some online discount sites for less than 20 bucks. I don’t know what possessed me, I guess I just figured I could waste 20 bucks, just to know the truth about this stuff.

So, one day Barbara Bui Le Parfum (BBLP) arrives at my door. I opened it, spray some on my wrist, sniff it, don’t smell much of anything, feel annoyed at myself for not following my gut instinct and go about my day. Then about a month ago I tried it again. I can’t explain why, I just reached for it. This time, I could smell it. So I sprayed myself about 12 times all over. I went to meet a friend for lunch and wanted to lick my arm the entire time. I mean, this aroma is addictive, it’s edible but isn’t gourmand. It’s essentially boring, but it’s so good. I’m perplexed by BBLP – it just isn’t my thing – but I love it.

BBLP is easiest to describe by telling you what it isn’t – it’s not floral, it’s not sweet, it’s not intense, it’s not powdery, it doesn’t appear to have an aldehydic effect, it’s just like skin but better. I can’t believe I just used this expression (“just like skin but better”). I hate that expression. Mostly because my skin doesn’t really smell like anything when it’s not perfumed. BBLP is similar to the smell of a baby’s head or my dog’s fur or her paws after a long walk.

Maybe BBLP is filling a summer void for me. I’m tired of light, fresh, florals and citrus. I’m sick of everything I’ve been wearing since the tropical humidity struck a month ago. As much as I want to wear my cooler weather hefties, it’s just too oppressively hot. I’ve managed a few orientals, Tabac Blond works and YSL Y is a great chypre for this time of year. Nevertheless BBLP is different from what I normally wear and it’s something I can wear right now. It’s entirely possible to spray myself 20 times with this stuff and it won’t be too much.

So what is BBLP? It’s softly spicy and incense-y with an underlying smell of cosmetics and lotion. It’s dry but not bone dry. It has bits of vanilla, amber, and a milky quality that’s just downright delectable and cozy. It also smells a bit musky like sweat and salt and warm skin. Imagine this’s Sunday morning at 10:00 AM, you’re sleeping in and just beginning to stir, your significant other rolls over and kisses you, spoons you, tussles your sleepy head then quietly gets up to go to the bathroom. You roll over and feel the bed where he was, the sheets are warm and smell like him, a little sweaty but just like his skin. You smoosh your face into his pillow and inhale. This is Barbara Bui Le Parfum.

Monday, August 17, 2009

D'Orsay Le Nomade

Le Nomade starts off with a tart, sparkling lime note, making the fragrance seem almost dewy at first. I wish it lingered there longer because it's a unique note, but it's a pretty fantastic openings. After this, it moves along into woodier, spicier terrain, but it never really loses that tart disposition altogether. Some have compared it to Cartier Declaration, and while it's true they feel related, there are enough differences between them to warrant individual attention. Declaration is nuttier somehow. Le Nomade feels a little more floral, recalling the jasmine beatitude of Third Man, if perverted by the spice rack.

I liked Le Nomade instantly. It smells better than the majority of masculines I come across, and, like Third Man, has something about it which makes it feel a little more unisex, partly the jasmine, but also something else. It doesn't take much to veer away from "masculine", when you consider how homogeneous your average masculine fragrance is. Many of the D'Orsay fragrances date to the early 1900s. Le Nomade is practically a baby, at a little less than ten years old. It smells much older, and not just because it bears very little relation to contemporary trends in mainstream perfumery.

The D'Orsay website features the fragrance as part of its "Intense" series and lists the notes as follows: ivy green, cedar leaves, bergamot, lime, jasmine, geranium, cardamom, coriander, cumin, black pepper, vetiver, atlas cedar, sandalwood, balsam fir, sage, and liatrix. The easy way out would be to describe Le Nomade as a woody vetiver, citing the cedar, the sandalwood, fir, sage, etc. But the spices, the jasmine, and the geranium take the composition to an entirely different place. I've heard people describe this as a confused fragrance. D'Orsay doesn't help dissuade from that impression. "Where cultures collide," the website boasts, continuing:"the perfect blend of essences from Asian and African civilizations." Then again, that makes sense to me, as the overall result smells like a fusion of a spicy dish and a steaming porcelain cup of jasmine tea, side of lemongrass. Le Nomade is that rare thing, an eau de parfum masculine.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bond No.9 Saks Fifth Avenue for Her

Michel Almairac has done some pretty high profile fragrances, some of which even the newest or most casual admirer of perfume will find familiar; Gucci Rush, Gucci Pour Homme, Chopard Casmir, and Dunhill Men among them. He's also done a lot of niche work, like Voleur de Roses for L'Artisan and Le Labo Ambrette 9, and lower profile mainstream compositions like Gres Cabaret, Joop Homme, and Paloma Picasso Minotaure for men. Though he has been productive since at least 1982, his name is hardly as well known as contemporary peers Sophia Grojsman (Poison, Yvresse, White Linen), Jean Claude Ellena (Hermes) and Maurice Roucel (Missoni, Be Delicious, Tocade). Even among perfumistas, he's hardly a household name.

Almairac has done five fragrances for Bond No. 9, several of which I like very much. Fire Island has its detractors, but I'm a fan. It smells like suntan lotion, but it's a fantasy version, conjuring the beach and summer memories and a laid back state of mind. It starts out strong with gardenia and seques eventually into white musk and soft patchouli, a progession which mimics the real sense of a day in the sand, where you start out fresh and clean and end up salty, slightly grungy, and warm. Bryant Park is pleasant enough. West Side, too. Recently, I smelled Saks Fifth Avenue for Her, a fairly straightforward tuberose, and I think I like it most of all.

Sold exclusively at Saks, it has an unusual quality for a tuberose. It has that buttery, rubbery quality many of them do, but something else too. This might be the vetiver at its base. It might be all kinds of things. What it smells like is somewhat smoky. Almairac delivers this unexpected trick in a few other places. The incense singe of Gucci Pour Homme comes most readily to mind. Along with vetiver and tuberose, the notes include vanilla, jasmine and gardenia. Pretty simple. The effect is deceptively simple, too. What I like about Saks is how quietly strange it is. It reminds me of Fracas with an ever so slight gourmand edge to it. I think that's what makes it for me. It's as if someone figured out a way to grill Tuberose and serve it up as an appetizing dish, making tuberose seem as edible as artichoke or coconut. Coconut is a good analogy, as many people swear there's some in Saks. They find Saks somewhat tropical. I guess I really don't. Then again, it makes perfect sense to me that the man behind Saks and Rush is the man behind Fire Island, because all do interesting things with tuberose and/or gardenia. Like many tuberose fragrances, Saks last well, but it doesn't seem as "take no prisoners" as some can, and I'm someone who likes the assaultive quality of Michael by Michael Kors. Whether or not you find its qualities worth the price tag is another question, and always or often an issue with the Bond line.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Lalique Flora Bella

Lalique Flora Bella is a beautifully big puffy tropical floral created by Bertrand Duchaufour and launched in 2005.

Recently I’ve become intolerant of florals injected with pink pepper and while Flora Bella lists pink pepper among the notes it’s not overdone. Flora Bella is rather difficult to describe from it’s notes – I smell freesia and frangipani the most prominently at first with a softly spicy carnation way in the background. It’s a sweet tropical fragrance but much less narrow minded than other tropical scents such as Monyette Paris, Kai, Ormonde Jayne Frangipani, Chantecaille Frangipane and the like. Flora Bella, while tropical, is still very much a sophisticated proper perfume without the casual beachy vibe. I’ve worn Flora Bella a few times over the past 2 weeks and I’ve come to regard it as a perfume very nearly in a class by itself. I can’t think of any other fragrances which I’d classify as sweet, tropical yet complex and interesting.

After Floral Bella dries down it morphs into a milky-vanillic-floral which is nearly edible. I think of rice pudding with a string of orchids decorating the dish. At this stage, the floral note moves closer to a sweet violet rather than frangipani or freesia – so from a distance it smells like a milky violet scent. It’s really rather sexy and delectable.

Flora Bella also has the one-two punch which is so necessary in a good perfume: it projects and lasts for a very long time. You can easily wear 2 sprays of Floral Bella and have it last all day. And while it projects, it does so in a polite manner, it’s not overpowering, yet it’s there.

I bought Lalique Flora Bella for a song from Rei Rien. I’m so happy I did – it was a steal and I’ve come to think of it as a hidden gem.

Notes: mandarin, bergamot, rose, violet, pink pepper, frangipani, freesia, cassia flower, mimosa, tuberose, carnation, orchid, tiara flower, white musk, vanilla, spices and amber.

Third Man by Caron

It shocks me sometimes how many fragrances I love but haven't gotten around to reviewing. Maybe I wear and love them so much that I just imagine I have. The fact that I rarely review masculines, on the other hand, isn't so shocking. Can anyone blame me, with so few worth talking about? Certainly the department store is a wasteland of mediocrity, though the wasteland has less terrain than it once did. Lately I've noticed an alarming reduction of stock at the counters--empty shelves, things shifting around, more dead space between the bottles. The most exciting thing I smelled in the last several weeks was Givenchy Play Intense, and that was essentially a redux of Rochas Man. Slim pickings, for sure.

Warning: I strongly advise against smelling Caron's Third Man alongside or anywhere near nine out of ten so-called masculines. All kinds of trippy mental-emotional adjustments might ensue. Third Man is really just too lovely for this world, according to many. It does have some weird, spectral quality to it, part floral, part piquant, but its uniqueness among masculines hardly makes it a feminine, however often you'll be told otherwise. Trust me: women know the difference. The comments I receive from the ladies have always been strictly of scientific interest to me, but I can tell you that I have never worn Third Man or even opened the bottle in the presence of a woman without being made aware of the stuff's aphrodisiac properties and the implications of my gender.

Third Man references various feminine compositions the way John Travolta's long hair and bedroom eyes referenced female "sensitivity" in the seventies. Caron's third masculine, it teeters like no other male fragrance on a line very few had the balls to venture. Even now, twenty-five years later, masculines approach this line not by walking it but by blurring it. Third Man is a magic act, an ode to classic male beauty, capturing it in a perfect contrapuntal pose, one shoulder still dipping into childish androgyny, the other pointing toward manhood. Some will tell you that the high shoulder isn't quite reaching high enough. For me, it's all just so, and just right. I can't remember a time Third Man struck me as too girly--yet I wouldn't call it a dandy fragrance either. It doesn't have an arch bone in its body, nor does it have a deliberate sense of Wildean irony.

I've seen the notes listed as oakmoss, vetiver, clove, lavender, coriander, bergamot, and citron. I've also seen anise, geranium and carnation, though I'd be hard pressed to identify them. The clove is used subtly. I've smelled an older bottle of Third Man, and I actually prefer the current formulation, which seems both softer and more crystalline to me, its structure more clearly defined. Its dulcet allure relates interestingly to Pour un Homme, another classic Caron masculine, while having very little relation to Yatagan and Anarchiste. The lasting power is impressive, and on my skin it goes through the kind of subtle permutations of development one would expect from such an impossibly lovely composition, the smell of dewy jasmine and the last faint traces of quality after shave on a starched tux. Best of all, you can get a 4.2 ounce bottle online for somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty bucks.

TWRT 8.14.09

This Week's Random Thoughts ~

I realized this week that I loathe pink pepper. I’m so tired of this jarring pepper note showing up in florals. Pink pepper already seems dated to me, it’s so 2002.

I just found out my little dog Greta needs surgery. This will cost approximately $4,000. There goes my fragrance budget for the next year. You will likely see a lot more posts about “oldies but goodies.”

I purchased a bottle of vintage Shalimar to compare with my current Shalimar(s). The vintage is ‘parfum de toilette’ concentration and dates to approximately 1970. It has not turned and is in pristine condition. I have both the edt and edp in the modern Shalimar. After reading how awful the modern reformulated Shalimar is I decided to do a side by side comparison. Honestly, I don’t notice much difference. In fact, I prefer the current edp to the vintage pdt.

I watched a fascinating vampire movie last weekend. If you like quirky films and don’t mind a bit of gore you ought to check out the Swedish vampire movie called: Låt den rätte komma in or Let The Right One In, in english.

I bought PG Bois Blond a few months ago. I sniffed it and thought it was nondescript with very little hay. Yesterday I was craving a hay note intensely so I tried it again. This time – it was amazing. I have no idea what the issue may be but I definitely have “off” sniffing days.

I just noticed that the first two notes of Amouage Epic (Woman) are cumin and pink pepper. I have no problem with cumin but pink pepper, as I just mentioned, is my most hated note lately.

I have not tried, nor do I desire, any Boudicca fragrances. Zero interest.

America Idol needs Paula Abdul. Simon & Paula together are a big part of the show. Plus, we need a nice, loopy judge who’s always late, may or may not be drunk/on drugs and wears the tackiest clothes.

Sandwich of the week: Roast chicken on soft whole wheat (sans crust) with thinly sliced mango and chopped fresh herbs whipped in the mayonnaise.

I read this on Beauty Snob blog and it made me laugh out loud: “a pierced nose is a large pore for life.”

I’ve found NARS lipstick and eye shadow to be the best of the best, except for their lipstick called “Senorita.” This color has no staying power. True, it’s a sheer sparkly beige, but it should last better.

In case anyone out there uses Avene Diacneal just thought I’d let you know you can have it for incredibly cheap from this pharmacy in Greece. I’ve ordered twice already – the product is perfect and the shipping is fast.

Parfum d’Empire 3 Fleurs and Wazamba are on their way to me from Luckyscent. I read 3 Fleurs was heavy on tuberose and that sounds really nice to me. Early reports on Wazamba sound intriguing as well.

Just read a thread on Basenotes about the Serge Lutens non-exports becoming available worldwide in a few weeks. Imagine being able to purchase any Lutens you’d like from the Paris Salon? Seriously?
Here's the link to the Basenotes thread This is still at the rumor stage – but what an exciting rumor...

Beverage of the weekend: I’m visiting my Mom so it will be vodka & tonic. I’m packing a bottle of Grey Goose.

Have a fragrant weekend everyone!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Typically I write reviews about perfumes I love and avoid discussing those I find disappointing. I decided to be more balanced and let it all hang out – by every so often writing quick blurbs on some I find complete misses.

Big Disappointments

Tokyo Milk, Poe’s Tobacco
Notes: tobacco, tea leaves, amberwood and autumn apple.
I had high hopes for this. There’s very little tobacco. It’s mostly a sweet mishmash of apple and unidentifiable florals – sweet one’s – like hyacinth and car air freshener.

Tokyo Milk, Lapsang Su Chong
Notes: winter moss, asuka rose, sandalwood and black currant.
Again, high hopes – completely disappointed. This doesn’t smell like tea much at all. It starts off smelling like a generic mens cologne then dries down to a cheap smelling moss. I haven’t tried any other Tokyo Milk perfumes and given the two I’ve purchased I won’t be trying others.

Ineke After My Own Heart
Notes: bergamot, raspberry, crisp green foliage, lilac, sandalwood.
Lovely bottle, box and marketing, however, the juice is not high quality. If you are looking for a lilac fragrance just save your pennies for Frederic Malle En Passant or perhaps find the long discontinued Jean Patou Vacances. After My Own Heart smells like generic lilac air freshener. Headache inducing artificial cloying disaster.

Ineke Evening Edged in Gold
Notes: gold osmanthus, plum, angel’s trumpet, saffron, cinnamon, midnight candy, leather and woods.
I should have known when I read “midnight candy” listed among the notes. Evening Edged in Gold is not a nice osmanthus perfume but instead an overly sweet lollipop dunked in scotch. Bleck.

Not Bad but Not My Thing

Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier Secrete Datura
Secrete Datura is mentioned often on the perfume blogs and fora so I thought I’d give it a try. I expected something along the lines of Serge Lutens Datura Noir. Secrete Datura is not an indolic, tropical rendition of the datura flower but instead a very soapy concoction. I mean soapy – like Ivory or Dove soap. Now, I might like this if I had been looking for a soapy fragrance…but I wasn’t. In time I might decide I like Secrete Datura, but I need to get over the soapy shock.

L’Artisan Fleur de Liane
This is simply a matter of personal taste. Surely Fleur de Liane is a high quality fragrance just one that isn’t to my liking. Fleur de Liane is green and watery. I visualize a pond with water lilies – like Claude Monet’s Water Lily painting. There’s a lot of algae and moss in this pond.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Really love your peaches want to shake your tree

As much as I hold the house of Parfums MDCI in high esteem, their peach fragrance, Peche Cardinal, was not right for me. Peche Cardinal is far too sticky, drippy, juicy sweet and didn’t seem like a sophisticated perfume. I was disappointed, because I’m smitten with several others from MDCI.

For me, the ultimate peach fragrance is Keiko Mecheri Peau de Peche. If you desire a peach scent that doesn’t evoke Jolly Rancher candies or syrup, but instead the soft fuzzy skin of a perfectly ripe peach, then this is the one for you.

KM Peau de Peche makes me want to smell like a peach. Even though it isn’t citrusy it still has that “happy” effect on me that’s usually reserved for scents with orange, lemon and grapefruit. And, most amazing of all, KM Peau de Peche smells like real perfume, like something an adult can wear with panache. Peau de Peche starts of like you just sliced open a peach; it’s juicy, delectable and full of nectar. I always want to drink it. Once it dries down, however, the juicy quality reduces and it becomes slightly woody and powdery. KM Peau de Peche stays relatively dry and not overly sweet especially for a fruity scent. The dry down is sublime; it becomes all sandalwood with a hint of peach.

Peau de Peche, like every Keiko Mecheri perfume I’ve tried, is minimalist, simple and well done. I know it’s because Keiko Mecher is Japanese but I get an Asian vibe from her fragrances. Peau de Peche makes me want to don a silk kimono, walk into a room through sliding rice paper doors and pour myself a spot of jasmine tea. I feel elegant, uncluttered, peaceful and happy when I wear Peau de Peache.

There seem to be a good amount of aldehydes in Peau de Peche because the sillage is decent and it pops off the skin a bit. The longevity is good, especially if you apply liberally.

Notes: white peach, orris powder, sandalwood, amber wood

Available at The Posh Peasant

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Perfume on Film: The Women

The other night, I watched The Women. Has anyone ever seen it? Rosalind Russell, Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, and Joan Fontaine preside over the salon, the department store, the dinner club, the dressing room, the living room, the kitchen. There isn't a single man in the whole film--not in the flesh, not off screen, not even a disembodied voice on the phone, but men of course play a crucial role in the proceedings, just as the tag line promises. The Women: It's All About Men!

Norma Shearer finds out from Rosalind Russell's manicurist that her husband, Steven Haines, is seeing shopgirl Joan Crawford. First Shearer fights to win him back, then she caves. She divorces him, and he marries Joan (Crawford, not Fontaine) who cheats on him with a man she thinks is wealthy (in fact, he's kept himself). Meanwhile, busybody Russell, who from the beginning of the story has thrilled at the slightest misfortune of others, is dumped by her husband for Paulette Goddard. She finds this out in Reno, at a recuperative ranch, where all the women migrate, post divorce.

One of the best scenes of the film is set at Crawford's place of work, the perfume counter of Black's Fifth Avenue. The movie was adapted from a play by Clare Booth Luce, which openly refers to Saks. I'm guessing Saks didn't take kindly to the suggestion it employed women of questionable repute; thus, the name change. Blacks, Saks, or otherwise, the scenario says a lot about the various social intersections revolving around perfume, intersections which don't occur at the cosmetics counter, pretty exclusively the domain of women.

A man goes to the counter to buy his wife a present. Summer Rain is the latest thing. An enormous display features the decorative, umbrella-themed bottles. Every woman who passes has heard of the stuff. To have it is to be what it says it represents. To buy it and present it is to bestow luxury, glamor, sex appeal. The shopgirl sees that her male client cares enough to buy the very best, which is actually probably crap, meaning that in addition he is also very impressionable, easily led. She leads him astray. Wifey gets Summer Rain. Shopgirl hits the jackpot.

Gossip Rosalind Russell visit Blacks to investigate, hiding behind the Summer Rain display to spy on Crawford. Joan has just been on the phone with Steven Haines, playing him like a fiddle. He was calling to cancel their dinner plans (the assumption being, dinner is at her place, which was bought and paid for by him) but she can't allow his interest in her to go interrupted, so in her best little girl voice she declares it happens to be her birthday, and he changes his mind.

Crawford has no idea who Rosalind is, so Rosalind makes sure she knows. It doesn't change anything, because Crawford's "Crystal Allen" has no conscience, thinking only of herself and her feelings. Any man is fair game. Norma Shearer shouldn't have fallen asleep at the wheel. Rosalind and her friend comment on the fact that Mr. Haines must have been in the store, because Mrs. Haines owns a new bottle of Summer Rain. They would very much like to smell it, they say, so Crawford sprays some in their faces.

Perfume is secondary to the plot and ultimately has nothing really to do with anything in any specific way, no more than the fashion show which occurs smack in the middle of The Women, a sudden burst of technicolor in an otherwise black and white film. But seeing perfume at all in the story made me realize how much I'd like to see that kind of content in other movies, and how rarely I do. It also made me realize, when it comes to perfume, how many different things there are to explore thematically. Perfume weaves in and out of our lives in ways most of us don't even think about. Smells attach to memory and become an essential part of who we are. In The Women, Summer Rain defines a version of womanhood. If your husband gives it to you, you're loved. Owning it, women become charter members of a fantasy lifestyle, where maids prepare fancy meals in the kitchen, children are on their best behavior, a dress fits in such a way that the woman wearing it looks like no one else who owns it, and kisses don't feel rushed or perfunctory. In real life, perfume has been working the same way ever since.

Does anyone else know of a movie (besides Perfume) which features perfume in some way?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Marilyn Miglin: Pheromone for Men

Lately, Marilyn Miglin, electronic peddler extraordinaire, has been making the media rounds, chatting up her newest fragrance, Sixth Sense. Don't ask me what any of this means, but Miglin has apparently joined forces with Human Pheromone Sciences, Inc. (whoever that is) to create yet another line of fragrances to be hawked on television. The HPS press release announcing this collaboration scales new heights in idiocy, even for perfume copy:

"Marilyn Miglin's Sixth Sense is a groundbreaking new essence, an intriguing marriage of sensuality and empowerment that delivers a new sensory experience. The wearer is more confident and radiant with her presence heightened to all those around her.

"The fragrance is a unique addition to Marilyn Miglin's highly successful portfolio of fragrances with a sensory-dynamic quality that enhances allurement and self assurance, offering a truly new experience in fragrance."

Miglin's saleslady persona, her hard sell disguised as soft pedal, has always fascinated me. Several years ago, Home Shopping Network started digitally retouching her face on its live broadcasts, resulting in a sort of new age soft focus filter which reduced her features to a gelatinous mush. Somewhere along the line, her face stopped moving. Sometimes, watching her now, I wonder if maybe her expressions are actually the work of animators. Her voice certainly has the sound of something out of a cartoon, like one of the little animals who twitter and flutter around Snow White, cooing affably. Miglin's appearance is something of a cautionary tale, her televised descriptions extreme parodies of the language and logic used by the cosmetic and fragrance industry at large, yet she seems to sell the heck out of her product.

I wish I could tell you Pheromone for Men sucks, because I find Miglin's persona silly and annoying, however good for a laugh, but I actually rather like it. As Miglin stated in a recent New York Times article puffing up Sixth Sense, Pheromone doesn't actually contain any, but violet fragrances don't really contain violet either, so we can probably let Marilyn off the hook. Pheromone for Men is remarkably similar to its feminine counterpart. They could easily be mistaken for one another. Both have a sharp, camphoraceous opening I attribute to a motherlode of galbanum, though none is listed in the accompanying literature. Women has an underlying focus on florals, whereas Men retains an almost minty quality, with what smells like incense presiding over the dry down but is probably the pissy astringency of honey. Both are very green, referencing everything from Givenchy III to Lancome Trophee.

Supposedly, Miglin ventured to Egypt in her quest for the rarest, the most precious ingredients. Picture her in Khaki safari gear, one of those explorer hats, her face diffused naturally by steam and atmospheric whatnot. She beats away branches with her stick. Brave in the face of danger (snakes, scorpions, tigers, sand pits) she travels all the way to the pyramids. There, "Miglin examine[s] unearthed jars, which once contained cherished essences and [finds] that traces of fragrance remain after 5,000 years."

And as I write this, I am hovering over the bed in Luke Skywalker's landcruiser, hiding from the pack of Ewoks under the mattress. "Flower essences, wild grasses, exotic barks, seeds, rare wine resins." Who knows what to believe. Pheromone for Women smells good in a cheerful, impossibly bright way. "Jasmine, ambrette seed, tonka, orange blossom." Trying to identify any one ingredient is a hopeless endeavor, though I wouldn't say Pheromone is necessarily well blended. It's hard to make out the words when someone shouts in your ear. I happen to like this kind of scent, if done well or accidentally the right way, and both Pheromones seem to have been. We can at least be thankful that no real pheromones were harmed in the making of these fragrances.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

And the winner is...


You’ve got yourself a bottle of CREED Acqua Fiorentina

Please contact me with your mailing address

Hope you’re having a great weekend, everybody