Saturday, May 14, 2011
This Week at the Perfume Counter: Good Enough for Kim
Yesterday, I brought a friend with me. He and I were looking at their stock of Guerlain, and I wanted him to try out Moschino Moschino. I pointed to the box and the girl had no idea what I was talking about. It was a needle in a haystack to her and I couldn't seem to point precisely enough through the glass. I felt like I was in an Marx Brothers routine. The Russian women and I have a fairly easy running dialogue. The new girls are like that lady at the clothing store, who feels compelled to comment persuasively on each and every thing you set your eyes on, pushing for that sale. Every perfume, they assure me, is very hard to find. Aromatics Elixir, for instance, isn't made anymore, they say, as if it manages to be a bestseller only in some parallel universe. Bond No.9 Wall Street is a lovely woman's perfume. Mitsouko is an after shave.
As we were standing there, smelling how awful the latest iteration of Egoiste is - a cinnamon bomb, suddenly, missing all the sweet sandalwood I remember - a customer approached asking for Kim Kardashian. The girl sprayed some on her and the woman seemed to love it, but she was totally torn. How could she look anyone in the eye, if asked what she's wearing, and tell them with a straight face, without seeming like she was in a rush to get to Claire's for a beaded friendship bracelet and a double finger ring with her name set in rhinestones?
Listen, I told the lady. "Lie." If you must. If you like it, and you want it, get it. But she couldn't get over the stigma, no matter how many times she returned to the smell on her wrist. It's nice, I agreed. But it's a pretty standard smell and if the name is something you can't get past there are several others you might like instead. I asked the sales associate to spray Carolina Herrera (she pulled out Carolina, convinced it was the same fragrance) and Michael Kors on tester strips, but the lady saw no similarities - not even remotely. It made me realize Kim Kardashian's specific appeal. Kardashian removes all the rubbery camphor from tuberose, augmenting the sweetness with buttery cream. The peach in Carolina Hererra doesn't seem to replace that (apparently) much desired effect. The spicy incense kick of Michael Kors takes things in another direction entirely, the extreme opposite end of a spectrum. Unfortunately, the kiosk has no Fracas, and though I'd mentioned how standard a smell Kardashian is, I couldn't seem to think of another fragrance which approximates it.
We're all standing there, troubling over this, and the sales associate, all of 19, says, "It's really great, Kardashian, because any woman can wear it. Old women can wear it."
My friend and I were speechless. The lady, probably in her late thirties, smiled uncomfortably. It renewed my barely latent contempt for sales associates in general, that special ineptitude they often have, and when I got over my shock I told her that in probably all of ten years she'll realize that getting her foot in her mouth will be a much more arduous enterprise than she's able to realize now, requiring a nimbleness and a lack of perspective she will only vaguely remember as a thing of the far past.
She lost the sale, of course. But she made up for it with me. Like Kim, I'm pretty easy. I got Moschino for my friend, who's just taken to wearing Poison (prodigiously, thank God) and Caleche for myself. The new Caleche is much maligned by Luca Turin and others as a wan reflection of what it once was. I don't mind it, though I have the older version and see the point. The new version is indeed far more masculine, and a lot less pissy, which could be an asset to some. It isn't an asset to me but I like it.