Friday, January 28, 2011

TWRT 1.28.11

This Week's Random Thoughts ~

It’s been a long time since I’ve TWRTed (sounds like one of those icky bodily function words like Snart) but I have a few spare moments today so I figured I’d bless ya’ll with my random musings :-)

Losing Religion: When You Stop Smelling Jesus and Start Smelling a Rat

Reading reviews on selections from the Cartier Les Heures de Parfum line this morning over at Bois de Jasmin really got me thinking. In case you didn't read it, the post began:

"The deterioration of perfume's luxury status has resulted in some new marketing strategies on the part of high-end brands. The most obvious one has been to create niche lines within the main range that are distinguished from their commercial offerings both by the elaborate nature of packaging and the impressive prices."

Monday, January 24, 2011

People Really Love Patrick Petitjean and to Prove It I'm Going to Use His Name in This Post

Latest perfume sighting in a movie: the not at all terribly bad Pick-Up Artist with Molly Ringwald and Robert Downey Jr. In it, Downey lives with his grandmother in a NYC apartment. At one point, his grandmother has met a suitor in the park (remember those? Suitors, parks) and is getting ready for a date with him. Her vanity is full of perfume bottles, the brands of which I couldn't make out. There must have been at least a dozen of them scattered about. Every time I hit pause a little bar appeared on the TV screen to show where I was in the film. I couldn't see a thing but the bar.

Vent Vert Bottle Winner

Tally is the proud winner of a one ounce bottle of Vent Vert. She just has to claim it. Tally, please get in touch with us by email.

Friday, January 21, 2011

From "The Last Days of Brittany Murphy": The Hollywood Reporter, January 19, 2011

"Simon joked that his wife's bathroom was 'her comfort zone.' He called it the 'Brittany-sized room,' reflecting her diminutive 5-foot-2 stature, and recalled how she spent hours sampling the cosmetics and perfumes that crowded every inch of counter space, critically studying her body image, sometimes singing to herself or writing bits of poetry in a journal, listening to music or paging through magazines from which she would tear out pages with clothes she just had to have."

(the picture above is from a 2009 feature on celebrities and collecting, in which Murphy said she grew up "flea-marketing" and had been collecting vintage perfume bottles over the years. )

Skank You Very Much: Francis Kurkdjian's Absolue Pour le Soir

I wasn't a major fan of the earliest offerings from Maison Kurkdjian. I liked them. I didn't love them with a 175 dollar passion. I didn't love them as much as the big-bosomed SA at Saks, who seemed to have taken some manager's admonition to sell "racks" a little too literally. Even her effervescent, busty personality couldn't persuade me to shell out for the scented bubbles Kurkdjian had on display. Like many people, I think bubbles are a nifty idea. I've blown my share of them. Some of the novelty wears off when you price them as luxury items.

I've been waiting for a Kurkdjian I can really get behind. I knew it would show up eventually. Absolue Pour le Soir is one of those fragrances I'm a total sucker for.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Going Out Without Your Underwear On: A Conversation with Nancy

I've known Nancy for about twenty years, I suppose. We lived in New York at the same time. We lived in the same apartment for a while, as well. She's very tight with another friend, D, which is how I met her in the first place.

It's only in the last year or two I discovered Nancy likes fragrance as much as I do. Nancy is a fantastic artist. She has a unique sense of style and a strongly individual way of looking out at things. I remember her entrances, because she typically brought a new energy into the room. Her arrival always introduced an element of the unexpected. She never says what you would expect her to. She's not coming at the thing from that angle. It's not an affectation with her. It's not as if she's trying to be "interesting". She's simply looking for what's interesting in any given thing, and so she lifts it and scrutinizes it where no one else is scrutinizing.

Nancy is what I think of as a Great Beauty. Not all attractive women or even very attractive women fall into that category. For me, a Great Beauty implies style, usually unusual, meaning the person in question is not just stylish but somewhat stylized. Someone who puts thought into presentation. Self, image, as an art. Capucine was a Great Beauty. Greta Garbo. Alida Vali (remember her?) Marlene Dietrich was a Great Beauty. Grace Kelly was not. Nor is, to use a more contemporary example, Nicole Kidman. There's something otherworldly about ladies like this. They're like no one else, so they seem to come from another period.

For a Great Beauty, perfume is part of the picture. It advances the style. The clothes, the manner, the "look": these all express and coalesce the style as well, but they don't manifest it in the air the way fragrance alone can. Very few people talk about perfume as style, but when I think of Nancy and her use of perfume I imagine it as something like a fantastically dressed--inimitably dressed--woman. I've been curious to chat with her about perfume, just to see what she's wearing lately and what she thinks when she scrutinizes the stuff.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Dab Will Do Ya

Marilyn Monroe applies perfume:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Paloma Picasso Mon Parfum

Watching youtube videos last week really stumped me.

There are what seem like thousands of tween girls reviewing their favorite perfumes online, if not their entire perfume collections. I'm in love with all of them--and addicted to watching them. It made me think about recent comments made by more seasoned bloggers alluding to the idea that there are way too many people blogging about perfume. It's just too noisy, they seem to be saying. It's just too messy. Obviously, these bloggers haven't sullied themselves by visiting youtube much in recent years. Bloggers don't stand a chance in that thicket.

It's amazing to see how many people out there love perfume, and want to share it with you. I appreciate what they do--how earnestly they approach the subject. Some of these girls have made me a fan. They bring you right into their rooms and break it all down for you--whether it's Britney Spears Curious or Donna Karan Signature. Far from making me feel threatened, their enthusiasm and ubiquity have paralyzed me with admiration. You don't hear much talk from them about the perfumers behind the perfumes they love. You don't hear much about their pyramids, provenance, the fragrance industry, sales figures, or ad campaigns. Typically, these aren't technically reviews. On a basic level, they're purely personal--this is what I like and why--so personal that you realize nothing else ultimately counts for much. These girls state the case so effortlessly, some of them, with so little guile or fuss, and so much personality, and here I am, plugging away at this post about...

Oh yes: Paloma Picasso.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

"Hi Guys": The Week in Perfume Videos, with Elisa and Brian

BRIAN: I love the girls from like Delaware who walk you through Britney Spears Curious in their bathrooms.

ELISA: I haven't seen that.

BRIAN: Here's one that seems promising:

Kenzo Jungle L'Elephant: Herd Mentality

You're really in for a treat with Kenzo L'Elephant, if prunes and clove make your socks roll up and down. You might just need garters to avoid motion sickness. Sure, the pyramid lists far less pungent ingredients, like mango, heliotrope, and mandarin, but we're talking clove here, and prunes, so anything lighter registers subliminally at best.

Also in the mix: ylang ylang, cardamom, cumin, patchouli, amber, and cashmere.

A friend who went through menopause once told me that her hot flashes were like walking around in a wool unitard. Kenzo L'Elephant is a wool unitard of a fragrance. There's no zipper on it, so you better settle in for the long haul.

Nothing light and airy about this thing. Which makes perfect sense of the commercial, an otherwise odd little piece of cinema. Something about a stampede of thundering elephants covered in Goldfinger paint resonates with the experience of the fragrance, however bizarrely incongruous the westernized Asian model seems, walking as serenely through this setting as a bored valley girl wandering down Melrose.

Me, I love it. I have a soft spot for the fragrance that chokes, the aroma which stifles. It's my notion of heady. I don't really feel I'm feeling it unless the lights are dimming and I know I'm about to pass out. I don't feel like I'm reaching anyone if my fragrance has no spread. I suppose I'm one of those people who wears fragrance at least in part to communicate. L'Elephant is a shrieker. It says: "Hey, I'm stinking over here!"

I like it strong and emphatic. L'Elephant stocks up on the exclamation points. I like what I'm saying (i.e wearing) to be explicitly conveyed. Smother me in Youth Dew, please. Suffocate me with Poison. If my fragrance is telling a story I want that story to have the epic sweep of a Russian novel with the heft of a phone book and a series of characters who connect and intersect in a complicated cross-hatching of intrigues and sub-plots.

L'Elephant falls into a category which includes Aziyade by Parfum d'Empire and Shiseido's Feminite du Bois. All three are characterized by a dried prune note which is practically tactile. L'Elephant has a candied wood aspect I also recognize from Dolce Vita, and could have been created by the same perfumer. But the warm fuzziness of L'Elephant is uniquely its own. I've not seen it or felt it in any other fragrance. It takes a lot of wool to knit a four-legged unitard for an elephant, and I'm appreciative that someone spent the time and effort required.

I've read that some find this a challenge in "tight quarters". I personally don't mind clearing out a room once in a while. I've seen L'Elephant described as an oriental spicy, which I do get, and as a spicy floral, which is...a stretch. It's a fairly masculine fragrance as far as alleged feminines go. I do get floral by way of the ylang ylang, the fuzzy slash gummy aspects of which sit very nicely with the prune and clove. Ylang ylang is really the perfect floral for L'Elephant, mainly because it doesn't register as one. The ylang ylang in this reminds me a bit of another favorite ylang carrier of mine, Histoire d'Amour by Aubussin.

The longevity and projection are off the charts. L'Elephant was created in 1996. It seems like it would have to have been reformulated since then, but I never smelled the original. I did smell original Jungle Tiger, which smells similar to my L'Elephant, so maybe nothing much has changed.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

An Industry Roundtable on Fragrance Conducted Anonymously by some of the Key Figures in the Field

MODERATOR: I want to thank you all for coming.

PERFUME BLOGGER: Before we start, I'd like to tell everyone how important I am.

INDUSTRY EXPERT: I'd like to do that too.

PERFUME BLOGGER: I'd like it to be on record that I was important first.

MODERATOR: Duly noted. You're both important. Maybe we should move on. We're gathered here today because I thought that maybe one of you--maybe all of you--might have something insightful to say about the state of modern fragrance-

Perfume in Literature: Secretions Magnifiques as Institutional Air Freshener

From A Single Man (1964) by Christopher Isherwood:

"It would be amusing, George thinks, to sneak into that apartment building at night, just before the tenants moved in, and spray all the walls of all the rooms with a specially prepared odorant which would scarcely be noticeable at first but which would gradually grow in strength until it reeked like rotting corpses. They would try to get rid of it with every deodorant known to science, but in vain; and when they had finally, in desperation, ripped out the plaster and woodwork, they would find that the girders themselves were stinking. They would abandon the place as the Khmers did Angkor; but its stink would grow and grow until you could smell it clear up the coast to Malibu. So at last the entire structure would have to be taken apart by workers in gas masks and ground to powder and dumped far out into the ocean."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Love, Chloe eau de parfum: Tactile and terrific

Have you ever tried a fragrance, liked it, but didn’t think you loved it, but then found yourself “trying” it over and over again until you finally must admit you pretty much love the stuff? That’s what happened to me with Love, Chloe.

Perfume in Literature

From "Ceremony in Lone Tree" (1959) by Wright Morris:

"The child was growing too fast as it was. Already the college boys were whistling at her. Up through last summer Maxine had been able to dress her in middy blouses and tunics, with bows in her hair to match the tennis sneakers on her long feet. With her pencil box labeled SCHOOL DAZE, and her notebook with the pyramid on the cover, she actually looked younger, with her books hugged to her front, than some of the smart little girls wearing pumps and make-up. Etoile didn't need it. She came with her own make-up, as Mrs. Olmstead said. But in the pocket of her notebook, along with Marlon Brando, Maxine found a ten-page article, clipped from a magazine called Erotica. There were pictures of the busts of famous beauties, beginning with the Venus de Milo, down to Jayne Mansfield and Christine Jorgensen, who had started out as a man and ended up as a woman. Under Jayne Mansfield, Etoile had written, Not so hot. The article recommended massage with the bare hand and a daily application of cracked ice for firmness. Maxine had almost panicked. She had gone through the drawers of Etoile's bureau as if she might find something like cracked ice, and read two months of the diary she kept on the back of her telephone pad. On Tuesday, November 8, she had written, Ran down the stairs just to feel my breasts bobbing. Poor Lillian Strauss! In her pencil box she found a secret compartment, with mascara for her eyes, and Tabu, a perfume no man could resist. Pinned to the lid was a snapshot of a boy without a stitch on, his back turned to the camera, that Maxine recognized as Etoile's cousin Calvin because he was wearing his stirrup boots."

Monday, January 3, 2011

An Interview with Jack

You probably don't need us to tell you we have sort of interesting readers. I met Jack on Facebook, after doing a search on Paco Rabanne's La Nuit there, and we hit it off instantly. Jack treats his facebook profile like a perfume blog for the most part, posting vintage ads, his scent of the day, and observations about everything from why the kid in an old Arpege image is creepy to the fact that he just found Florida Water at Wal-Mart. He does a recurring thing called Edith's Shopping Bag which keeps track of his perfume purchases, with pictures for the short of attention span. It made sense that he'd been reading the blog for a while--even though it took us a little longer than your average person to figure that out. Hey, you're the guy from that blog, he said one day. Um, yeah, I answered. You know it? Duh! Jack's a really smart guy and, like Abigail, and a lot of you, a lot of fun to talk to. We met on Facebook to chat tonight, in the first of a continuing series:

The Family That Sprays Together: Some Hypotheticals Involving You, Your Loved Ones, and Smelly Stuff

Commingling with family around the holidays can be treacherous. Most of our families love us. Okay, so yours loves you. But even when there's no surplus of love, it can sometimes feel as though two entirely different species are coming into contact. By that I mean people who love perfume--a lot--and people who think it smells kind of good but only on someone in another building than the one they happen to be inhabiting.

The following are two hypothetical scenarios which might help you navigate this potentially explosive( i.e. diffusive) territory. I pulled them out of my imagination and can assure you with confidence they involve no persons living or dead.

Okay. They happened to me.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Putrid, Wretched, and Loved by Millions: Smuggling Forbidden Fruit

This week, Abigail talked about requests made by complete strangers that she not wear perfume in their presence during the holidays. Seeing this video on the dread fruit Durian reminded me of her comments. It also reminds me of my daily routine at work, where I hide perfume in my bag and sniff from the bottle furtively, lest someone in the next room cough or sneeze or clear his or her throat in a way which is intended to indicate displeasure at something I myself can barely smell and find it hard to believe anyone else can at all.

Imagine, watching the following clip, that the subject, instead of the fruit in question, is perfume. It's not such a stretch:

Saturday, January 1, 2011

This Week at the Perfume Counter: Omaha

This Christmas, I puchased Guerlain Homme as a present for my father, thinking it would be a good everyday scent for a guy who probably doesn't have many and tends to play it safe. I guess I have no memory, and simply put early indications of his apparently intrinsic sophistication out of my mind temporarily. Entering his bathroom, I saw a 4.2 ounce bottle of Guerlain Heritage on the counter. It was half empty. I smelled what seemed like natural musks in it, so I assume it dates back to the time of the fragrance's release.

Seeing it there brought back childhood memories of my father's previous colognes. He never seemed to have more than one at a time--my father is a deeply pragmatic person when it comes to finances and possessions--but he did have, at some point, Aramis and Aramis 900. I remember his long dressing room, with its full-length mirror and the double sinks, which always smelled of one or the other. My dad used splash bottles. My aunt tells me she remembers him wearing Old Spice as a very young man, so maybe he picked up the habit there. His Heritage is also a splash.