A few days ago, many of you shared your scented memories in response to a journalist’s questionnaire, and I loved reading your stories about your earliest fragrance memories, the scents that you loved and, in a few cases, those you hated from early on. I thought I would share my own stories in return, starting with my childhood when I first fell in love with perfume, then hated it immensely due to a few scented traumas, and then fell back in love with it for good. I’ll tell you a few tales, from lavender to YSL‘s famous Rive Gauche, and the impact of Jean-Claude Ellena‘s first breakout hit and acclaimed “masterpiece,” First for Van Cleef & Arpels. There will be talk of Hermès‘ Caleche and Bel Ami, as well as Fracas, Opium, Kouros, and Egoiste, and even a funny work story about Dior‘s Fahrenheit when I was first starting my legal career at an infamously tough law firm.
I’ve lived in a lot of places in my life, well over 25 the last time I bothered to count, but no place was more influential in making me the perfume-lover that I am today than the few years I lived in Cannes, starting when I was about 6 years old. Cannes is located about 15-20 minutes away from Grasse, the epicenter of French perfumery in terms of raw materials, particularly lavender. But lavender was all over the Provence and the South of France, and our house was no exception.
We had a villa up in the hills, with a long driveway lined with massive lavender bushes whose scent was rather hard to avoid. Inside the house, the decorator had filled seemingly every drawer and cupboard in sight with scented cachet bags of dried lavender identical to those that appeared to inundate every shop, restaurant, railway station, bathroom and kitchen within a 100 miles. Last year, upon reading Roja Dove’s book, “The Essence of Perfume,” I discovered one name for this sort of Lavandin was “Bastard lavender,” which I think is extremely fitting for the aroma that assaulted me from every nook and cranny. To the young me, it was utterly unbearable, as I had a sensitive nose even then, and it launched a lavender phobia that persisted unabated for decades and until quite recently. Even now, I’m extremely wary of any product containing the blasted note but, back then, I would physically avoid any parts of the property that contained the horrific purple bushes. Instead, I stuck to places where mimosa trees grew tall and proud, dropping a blanket of sweet yellow powder all over the ground. I loved the smell, and that sentiment also persists to this day.
Inside the house, the decorator had placed the most beautiful blue, black, and silver bottle inside every bathroom vanity or cabinet. It was something called “Rive Gauche” by Yves Saint Laurent. Back then, I didn’t know the 1970 creation was considered to be a legendary masterpiece, or that the scent started Saint Laurent’s reputation for brilliant, innovative, and incredibly chic fragrances. I was six years old, and all I knew was that it was a really chic bottle, and it was in my bathroom cabinet. The first time, I sprayed it in the air, and I remember thinking to myself, “Oh, it’s hairspray. Floral hairspray!” I thought it had accidentally been labelled as “eau de toilette,” because I truly couldn’t imagine that someone would, you know, actually put that thing on their body. Aldehydes? Clean musk? I didn’t know what any of that meant. To me, it was a heavy, massive cloud of endlessly clean, white sharpness with soapiness that, together, smelt just like hairspray or an air refreshener. I found it revolting. (As with the case of the lavender and mimosa, my feelings about clean, white musks date back to this precise time in my life, and have remained unchanged for more than 30 years.)
That bottle in the bathroom taunted me for weeks with its competing threads of visual, aesthetic beauty and heinous scent. There were times when I considered the idea that perhaps the decorator had left it as a sort of sanitizing bathroom spray to clean up bad potty odors. It was really difficult for my young mind to conceive of anyone actually wearing this thing as a personal fragrance, and if you had told me that Rive Gauche was considered to be one of the great fragrances of the 20th century, I would have thought you were insane. In the end, I settled for using it occasionally as a bathroom deodorizer, and even then I wasn’t particularly enthused. I know it’s heresy, but my feelings remain unchanged about Rive Gauche.
In the years and decades which followed, I developed a full-blown love affair with all things Yves Saint Laurent, starting first and foremost with the man himself. I loved him and his clothes; he was one of my idols; and when he died, I wept. I wore almost all his scents, even if I had to surreptitiously “borrow” my brother’s Kouros for a good 5 sprays at a time when I was a teenager (something he still doesn’t know about to this day). I bought most of them up to his last, great hit, Champagne or Yvresse, which I’ve recently begun a tradition of wearing on the last few New Year’s Eves as a symbolic, scented parallel.
In all those decades, through all that love, I have never once gone near or re-tried Rive Gauche. Not once. Ever. In fact, I had successfully and completely blocked Rive Gauche out of my mind as even being a part of the YSL catalog of fragrances until I started blogging. I would see people rave about the scent’s brilliance and beauty, and my mind struggled to comprehend that they were actually referring to the same thing I once used (extremely reluctantly) as a bathroom sanitizer. That dichotomy bore home more powerfully than anything else the simple fact that there is a scent for everyone in this world, and one man’s treasure is another man’s… ahem… dreaded aldehydes, shall we say.
The young me may have misunderstood Rive Gauche’s intended function, but I was fully clear on the glories of my various family members’ personal fragrance collections. My mother’s mis à toilette table was littered with bottle upon bottle of orientals, chypres, skanky florals, and big powerhouses. Joy, 1000, Jolie Madame, Femme, Alix Grès, Fracas, Bandit, Lanvin’s Arpege and Scandal, and so many others. In hindsight, I don’t remember any Guerlains except Mitsouko perhaps, but there were so many fragrances there, who knows. I do recall Guerlain being a part of my sisters’ collections, although one of them usually stuck to Chloé, a scent created for that fashion house in the mid 1970s by Karl Lagerfeld. It was a gorgeous perfume back then, and I used to sneak into my sister’s room to look at the beautiful bottle with its entrancing golden, orange liquid and to spray it on myself lavishly. Little did I realise that one of its great appeals to me back then was its strong dose of tuberose which has ended up being my absolute favorite flower in both nature and perfumery.
My father’s collection wasn’t safe from my predatory raids, either. His favorite was Guerlain’s Habit Rouge, though he also wore Monsieur Givenchy, Monsieur Lanvin, Dior‘s Eau Sauvage, Chanel Pour Monsieur, and others whose names I now forget. I personally wasn’t so taken by the more citric fragrances on my skin (a telltale precursor to my current habits and tastes), but I loved them on him. I opted instead for Habit Rouge but, above all else, and in an equally telling signifier, the one I really fell for — hard — in later years was Hermès‘ leather chypre, Bel Ami. I loved Bel Ami right from the start, spraying tons of it in the air to sniff appreciatively. (Oh dear, I’m starting to realise the number of family members who are going to be seriously irate at what I used to do to their fragrances. I hope none of them ever read this.)
Above all others, the main focus of my attention was on my mother’s collection, starting first and foremost with “that white scent in the jet black bottle.” That is how I thought of Robert Piguet‘s Fracas for years, never absorbing or remembering the name, but always being entranced by it more than any other fragrance. I was utterly obsessed with the massive white floral bombshell and its radiating waves of narcotic tuberose. I think I truly thought it was some sort of drug in a bottle.
It certainly seemed to have an effect on people like nothing else that my mother wore. I distinctly recall one man walking past my mother and almost stumbling to the ground, as his head spun around at the scent wafting past him. He rushed up to ask her what perfume she was wearing, and there was this expression on his face…. It turned out to be an expression that I would see time and time again when people smelt Fracas on my mother, an expression that I know I had myself whenever I would surreptitiously douse myself from her bottle, a certain glazed looked in the eyes, as if one had been drugged on something utterly mind-blowing.
Alas, my own “collection” hardly included anything so interesting. When I was maybe 5 turning 6, I was given what my parents must have considered to be a “starter kit,” consisting of something by Cacharel and Nina Ricci‘s famous L’Air du Temps. I liked the former, though I can’t recall the name now, only the look of the bottle. But the latter? Pfffftttt. L’Air du Temps was fine but utterly boring, insipid, and so damn restrained after the stolen wonders of Fracas. The bottle was exquisite, but I had little use for L’Air du Temps, so I started begging my parents for a “proper” perfume of my own.
My beloved parents not only thought it completely natural for me to wear perfume, but were happy to indulge my curiosity and interest in learning more about the subject. As you might have gathered by now, we were one very fragrance-obsessed family, but I think it was generally quite common for children to wear scent in France, at least back then. Yes, I was perhaps a little more advanced in my tastes than most kids of that age, but my parents found it to be quite normal. They certainly didn’t mind indulging me for my birthday, though I wonder now in hindsight just how much my mother knew about my secret habit of wildly spraying her expensive perfumes like a Nordic Berserker and was indirectly trying to put a stop to it by getting me my own stuff.
So, for my 7th birthday, they bought for me a bottle of a new scent that had been released a few months earlier to great acclaim, something called First by Van Cleef & Arpels. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was made by Jean-Claude Ellena and was his first, great hit, the scent that put his name on the map in the perfume industry. It was miles and miles away from what he does now because nothing about First was minimalistic, light, and delicate. It was an aldehydic bomb with endless layers of jasmine but also his first use of hedione, a synthetic with a fizzy, sparkling greenness and citrusy quality. (According to The Perfume Shrine, Ellena used 10 times the concentration of hedione than what had been used in the famous Eau Sauvage.) But, above all else, First is known for its massive, blowsy, floral aldehydic bouquet. Do you see where this going after my story about Rive Gauche?
I took one sniff of my birthday present, and I remember struggling to hide my response. Rive Gauche hadn’t seemed like actual perfume but this was clearly, most indubitably, not only perfume but an utterly unfathomable horror of a perfume! “My God, what on earth is in this bottle?!,” I asked myself. I couldn’t fathom how something could smell so…. whatever the hell First was. I didn’t know the word “aldehydes,” or anything about “jasmine” and “ylang ylang;” I merely thought of things as “perfume.” And this one was completely unbearable. Wave upon wave of heavily frothy, floral soap lather, coming at me like a massive tsunami, threatening to drown me in pure misery. After trying a few times to desperately convince myself that my birthday present was “nice,” I gave up the fight, and returned the bottle to my parents. “Please, can I have something else? Anything? Please?”
So, they bought me Hermès Caleche, in what is a clear sign that, back then, not even experienced perfume lovers were particularly aware of specific scent ingredients, perfume families, or that something could be part of an identical genre. You see, Caleche was…. wait for it… an aldehydic floral scent. Yes, aldehydes. Again. Exactly like my Rive Gauche bathroom “deodorant,” and that horrific VC&A First. Except this one seemed to have even MORE of them, mixed with iris and the citrus that I already knew that I didn’t like.
I burst into tears, and sobbingly swore never to wear perfume again. Despite some of the great perfumes in my parents and siblings’ collections that I had liked, I now illogically concluded that everything called “perfume” had to be just like those traumatic scents that I’d been inundated with — and I didn’t want to have anything more to do with the entire business whatsoever. I stuck to that decision for quite a while, and decided that I really hated perfumes, all of them, across the board, and that I was never going near another one again. I was honestly and quite genuinely traumatized, with First being a deadly blow and Caleche finally sealing the deal. (Rive Gauche doesn’t really count because I remained seriously convinced it could not be actual “perfume” but a room sanitizer.)
Then, one day, a year or so later, my mother brought home a fragrance called… Opium. If you’ve read this blog for any period of time, you know my feelings about vintage Opium and my intense love for it, but you might not have understood just why it so fundamentally changed my views on perfume as a whole. And it all stems from my prior fragrance traumas. Opium was like nothing I had ever smelled before in my life, and it barreled over me like a force of nature. Lawyers have a term called Force Majeure which refers to a chance or accidental occurrence that frees one (always in the context of a contract), and often encompasses things like an “Act of God.” Opium was my strange sort of “Act of God” Force Majeure that freed me from my hatred of perfumery, and really created the passion that has led to who I am today as a perfume lover and even, in a sense, really to this very blog. Opium changed everything.
Years came and went, and my tastes continue to develop in favour of the powerful, dark, or skanky but, above all else, for the big (really, really BIG) 1980s powerhouses. As a pre-teen, I may have worn Paris out of love for Monsieur Saint Laurent, but I raided my father’s Bel Ami and Antaeus. In high school, I wore Montana‘s Montana (later called Parfum de Peau), Givenchy‘s Ysatis, and Parfum d’Hermès (now horribly changed into something entirely different called Rouge d’Hermès). Secretly and stealthily, though, I would drench myself in my brother’s Kouros and Drakkar Noir. By the time I went to college at 16 or 17, I was firmly set in my perfume tastes for the rest of my life, bringing a bottle of Coco, Giorgio Beverly Hills, and my beloved Montana in my suitcase, while wondering which guy I could persuade to buy and wear Lagerfeld Pour Homme (reformulated and now called Lagerfeld Classic) so that I could… ahem… “borrow” it. (The vintage cologne actually became the impetus for me starting this blog with a first, very brief, early sort of “review.”)
There was a new love on the horizon, too, something strangely named after weather measurements and called Fahrenheit. I think I was in lawschool when I really fell hard for the Dior scent, though it had been a big hit for a few years. It still wasn’t considered “comme il faut” to wear a man’s scent in those days, and gender classifications seemed set in stone just as much as they had been when I was a 6-year-old spraying my father’s Habit Rouge, but I loved Fahrenheit. The way it was back in the early 1990s brought me to my knees with an instant, very visceral reaction that was far more intense than any afforded to me by Chanel’s relatively recent, Egoiste.
I liked the latter a lot, though, particularly because of its hefty amounts of Mysore sandalwood. I found the scent entrancing every time I stepped into a department store, even though the sales assistants (particularly those in NY’s Bloomingdales) would haughtily inform me that it was for men. “See, it says ‘Pour Homme.’ Come, let me show you our Chanel No. 5.” Then, as now, I would shudder at the No. 5 name; no more aldehydes ever, ever, EVER!!! So I dismissed their condescending attempts to push me towards gender “suitable” scents, and defiantly sprayed Egoiste all over myself.
Still, it was Fahrenheit that I really loved, and it was Fahrenheit that almost got me in trouble one day at work. I was a young associate at a very famous, national law firm whose partners had (and still have) a terrible reputation for ruthlessness and ferocity. This was a sweatshop even by the standards of sweatshop firms, one complete with a suicide rate and lawyers on the other side sometimes making the sign of the cross when the firm’s name was mentioned. Someone once described my old firm as “the biggest bunch of psychopaths ever assembled under one roof,” and you certainly didn’t want to get on the wrong side of any of them, including one senior partner whom I shall call “Mr. X.”
He was a hugely influential, powerful “rainmaker” for the firm, and a little man with a serious Napoleon complex. He was also a very sharp dresser and a bit of a dandy who was always extremely fashionable. I had never worked with Mr. X until, one day, he called me into his office. He launched into a rapid-fire barrage about a case, details spewing so fast and thick that I really needed to pay attention carefully, especially as he wanted me to handle an important litigation motion (a summary judgment, I think it was) with a very fast turnaround. I tried to pay attention, really I did, but there were these whiffs of an amazingly beautiful scent wafting quietly in the background, filled with spices, brightness, warmth, sandalwood, and dark leather.
I quietly drew closer to Mr. X, then closer still, until I suddenly heard a mighty roar of “What the HELL do you think you’re doing?!!” in my ear. He had caught me instinctively sniffing him — with my eyes closed no less! I opened them to see him glaring at me, red-faced and outraged. I simply said, “You wearing Fahrenheit, aren’t you?” That seemed to have been the last thing he expected to hear but, since he was the sort who was quick to take offense at things, his eyes narrowed, and he aggressively demanded, “Why?”
“Because you smell absolutely amazing, and Fahrenheit is one of my favorite things.” He stopped dead in his tracks, but he could tell that I really meant it and his chest seemed to puff up with pride, though he also clearly thought me strange as a loon and completely off my rocker. It was obvious that he’d never had such an experience, let alone at work, with someone basically making an utter fool of themselves by mooning over his scent like something out of an old Pepé Le Pew cartoon. He really didn’t know what to say, though he muttered, “Well, I’m glad you like my fragrance, but don’t go around sniffing people in the office again!!!”
It all ended much better than it could have (particularly given how things operated in that particular firm), and in the years that followed, I ended up working a few more times with Mr. X. He was almost mellow with me, at least by his standards. I think the main reason why was because he had a soft spot for me that was due solely to the incident with his Fahrenheit, though it probably helped that I wasn’t terrible at my job, either. He may have thought me completely crazy, but I suspect that, deep down, Mr. X was actually a secret perfumista himself. You can sometimes sense when people have a shared interest in something, even if they don’t talk about it. And there was a look in Mr. X’s eyes at my behavior over Fahrenheit that told me he understood, even if he wasn’t used to an underling sniffing at him blissfully like a dog at a fire hydrant.
So, those are a few of my scented memories, both fond and traumatic. Thank you for having shared so many wonderful stories of your own this week. I really enjoyed each and every one of your comments. Happy Friday, have a super weekend, and stay warm!
Thank you so much for sharing your memories with us, Kafka. I was having a “bad” day and decided to check your blog to see if you had posted anything new to read. You definitely pulled me out of my abyss. LoL.
It’s wonderful to be able to remember or recall all of the happiest of childhood memories.
As I was reading, I had a vivid image of a little Kafka spraying, sniffing, and scribbling down her thoughts on what she smelled. 😉
So many places, so many memories. It’s good to know there are other “Nordic Berserkers” out there. I just remembered something that I can now confess: as a kid, whenever my parents went visiting friends or relatives, I would always look in bedrooms or bathrooms for bottles of cologne or perfume and always sneak a whiff or a furtive spray. I couldn’t help it. I didn’t feel guilty , though. Hmm. 😀 Besides the Opium, I love Coco, Kouros, Eau Savage, Fahrenheit, Bel Ami…my mom was a hardcore Chanel N° 5 addict, too. I’m used to the aldehydes. She loved Giorgio Beverly Hills, but I never had the heart to tell her that I didn’t really like it. I don’t know why I didn’t like it. I remember buying Egoiste when it was new. That was in 1992 wasn’t it. Didn’t like the Platinum. I wore the original Lagerfeld. Oh, I can’t leave out Habit Rouge! Thanks for opening up my vault of memories. 🙂
Kafka, I did roll my eyes when you mentioned the term “Force Majeure” because I remember that from my partner explaining it to me along with all the other legal terms. Haha. He’ll read this tonight after work. He’ll like Mr. X! You really smelled him??? Wow.
I’ll be ordering samples tonight and Alahine will be included along with a few of the Oriza L. Legrands. I’ll let you know about all of them in an email.
Thanks again for sharing your memories. Cheers. Enjoy your weekend. Hopefully you’re having better weather than I.
Aah, another “borrower,” Don. 😉 😀 I think I was definitely a brat in using other people’s perfume, but I didn’t feel guilty back then either. I do now, though. I certainly wouldn’t like it if some horrid child used my stuff, even if it was my kid sister. LOL.
I didn’t like Egoiste Platinum, either! Did you really wear Lagerfeld, too? And Coco, yourself? Gosh, what a scent that used to be! Your mother had excellent taste in all her choices, even if Chanel No. 5 isn’t my personal cup of tea. I know you miss her enormously, my dear, but I hope you know that she lives on in each of these memories that you share of her.
On a personal note, I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been having a bad day. Perhaps it hasn’t helped that the arctic weather has kept you inside for a few days in a row. Hopefully, the weekend will be better, and there won’t be any abyss in sight. I’ll be thinking of you. Hang in there. I know this can often be a tough time of year for some people, due to the post-holidays blues and the utterly grim, grey skies, but you’re not alone, okay?
No, I’m not alone. Today’s high was 28° and windy. Not as nasty as yesterday and Wednesday. My God- the windchills were negative teens. I love the heat and humidity and probably should live on the equator!
I did wear Lagerfeld, so much that I grew tired of it. I haven’t smelled the new version. Doubtful that I will. Mom wore Coco, but I am now considering wearing it myself, now that I know there are no more gender restrictions regarding fragrances. When I was 13, I started sitting for next-door neighbors’ kids- started with one child, eventually four- but the mom had extremely refined tastes in everything, including perfume; she had every YSL(at that time), including Rive Gauche. I used to wonder what the hell she wore that smelled so heady, so opulent, so narcotic: I found a big tasseled bottle of Opium. Not long after, my mom was wearing Opium. So yes, I have many wonderful memories. 😀 😀
It was lovely getting a peek into your scented memories. Especially the ‘Fahrenheit’ story. I hear you re: aldehydes. Though i enjoy aldehydes now from time to time,in the past they were what i associated with perfumes that i disliked as a child. Turns out i am not a fan of ‘fizz’ in drinks either..lol
And a Happy New Year to you!
Lavanya, so nice to see you, and happy, happy 2015 to you! I hope you had a lovely holiday season, and that the new year has been good so far. 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed the piece and my Fahrenheit story. 🙂
What a fun read, I’m guessing we’re a similar age as I remember many of the same fragrances when I was little. I also loathed the hairspray smell of aldehydes and only just recently have started appreciating them, and lavender too!
How great that you’ve started to appreciate aldehydes! I think that’s wonderful, because it’s better to have a wide appreciation of notes. I’m afraid that will never (ever) happen for me, but I have slowly (very slowly) progressed a few inches on my stance re. lavender. Not a lot, but a tiny bit. Aldehydes, though….. not going to happen! 😀
How about the aldehydes in softer fragrances, such as Bois des Iles and Vrais Blonde? I found it easier to ease into them when there’s creamy sweetness involved!
I’ve never tried Vrais Blonde, but I do like Bois des Iles a lot. The thing is, that one is really not aldehydic on me. There is a bit of a greenness at the start, but none of the really pronounced Chanel signature that you can find in so many of the other scents. (Last year’s 1932…. urrgggh!) I always think of Bois des Iles as a sandalwood scent more than anything else. 🙂
It certainly is a sandalwood scent! I think you’re talking about a particular combo of green or even white flowers with aldehydes. I still can’t really love no. 5 for instance, as it has such a screechy coldness to it!
Aldehydes are certainly is extra lethal (to me, at least) when combined with green or white flowers, but I’m afraid I’m rarely keen on it even with other notes. Some things are simply a lost cause for me. LOL. 🙂
This was such fun to read on a Friday afternoon! Bless your mother for bringing you Opium. I don’t know that I’ve ever smelled Fahrenheit. I mean, I’m sure I have, but I wouldn’t know it was Fahrenheit if I smelled it. I may have to try it, as I know it’s incredibly popular (or at least was). You were ahead of your time with Egoiste – I know it’s not particularly mindblowing, but I still really adore both Egoiste and Antaeus even more! But Bel Ami is probably one of, if not my favorite, men’s scent of all time. It’s so refined and perfect, and it reminds me of Puredistance M but at a price I can afford. I have a vintage bottle and simply adore it. Plus, Bel Ami was launched in 1986, as was yours truly, so I sort of like that connection even though it’s utterly meaningless.
Thanks for sharing these memories – it was really great to read!
Ha, my mother didn’t bring ME the Opium, but that never stopped me from sniffing it with utter awe! But yeah, thank God that came to the house, or else I wouldn’t be here today. 😀 As for Fahrenheit, I doubt it is the same way now, though I haven’t had the heart to actually check out any modern versions in recent years. Everything gets gutted and reformulated, so keep your expectations low. If you can find a vintage bottle, though, I think you might like it.
I’m so happy to hear that Bel Ami is perhaps your favorite men’s scent!
You’ve just made my Friday evening Kafka :-).
I was actually very much waiting for an insight on your scented memories, and I have to admit mine aren’t so impressive, but I do believe they shaped my perception of scent. My father was never a big fan of perfume, and he preferred lighter fresher scents. I recall that Rabanne’s Pour Homme and Cardins classic, which now slips my mind where his favorites. My mother also bought him Farenheit as a more dressy option. On my mothers vanity I recall the big ol’ Opium edt, a bottle of Rochas Mystere which I would secretly use to go to bed, Miss Dior, Diorella, Diorama, one Avon that I can’t recall, Arpege, and First. Those are the perfumes that shaped me as a kid. My aunt used to wear Poison, so to this day I absolutely hate it as it reminds me of her, and a dear friend wore Carolina Herrera. My sister never wore perfume until the age of 20 and since then her favorite is Flowerbomb, which I admit smells very nice on her, and I started with a bottle of Kouros at the age of 16. I followed with Jules until one day I stumbled on a newly launched perfume called Nu, and realized that gender has no place in perfume. I quickly adopted it as my signature, and my late teens where scented with it, along with Addict, Paloma Picasso and Rabanne’s glorious La Nuit, which I still have 2 big bottles unopened. Opium is my mother so it will never be me, Poison will haunt me till the day I die and Nu will always be my game changer, along with Kouros which scented my summers back in Cyprus, mixed with the saltiness of my skin. Scented memories are so powerful that just a whiff of Mystere and I’m 8 again secretly dabbing the parfum to go to bed and have sweet dreams! Happy weekend!
I LOVED this comment, from start to finish, and laughed hysterically at “Poison will haunt me till the day I die.” HAHAHAHAHA! 😀 😀 😀 😀 I’m grinning even now as I type. So damn funny. You know, for all my love for big ’80s scents, Poison was the one single exception. I simply couldn’t deal with it. Too sweet, too gooey, too purple, too….. something. So, I do really relate to your comment, but most of all, I love how utterly traumatized you sound. ROFL. (And it’s the exact same way that I feel about certain scents I wrote about in the piece, too.) I’d love to hear more about your Aunt and about why exactly Poison was such a horror for you, but I don’t want to pry.
Your mother owned First??! *shiver* It’s been a long, LONG time since I smelt Mystere, and I honestly don’t have much of an olfactory memory of how it was. I wish I did. Rochas was quite a big thing in my house with one of my sisters, but I have so little memory of the nuances of all the different ones. I liked Miss Dior, too, and I wore Carolina Herrera myself. (Still have a bottle, in fact.) I had to smile at the Paloma Picasso. That was one of mine as well. Did you ever wear Ungaro’s Diva? For some reason, the two are always linked in my mind, perhaps because my mother wore Diva when I was wearing the Paloma Picasso.
🙂 my aunt was a woman who lived only for herself. She got married three times, with men older and richer, drank regularly, got divorced three times and painted her nails every 2-3 days with a cheap red, layer upon layer of chipped nail polish. She loved cheap perfume like Charlie, owed money to everybody, my mother included, and Poison with its flamboyant bitchyness suited her perfectly, and I’m glad she never wore Opium or any more classy perfume for that matter. I believe she was gifted with it, as she would never buy it herself, but man would she pour it on!
Mystere was a spicy carnation animalic Chypre, though that little bottle is mostly gone. It felt so warm and cozy to me! Diva… Well, I prefer Knowing though I appreciate Diva, and Paloma is now mostly just a memory. Growing up, I also recall Fidji, L’air du Temps, Diorling, Rochas Femme and Mitsouko replacing my moms aldehydes. But never cheap and trashy perfumes.
I hope one day to be able to reconcile with Poison, but I have a feeling it’s going to be hard!!
I don’t think you’ll ever reconcile with Poison, 😉 😀 and perhaps you shouldn’t try? Some perfumes just aren’t good fits and, in all honesty, from what little I know of both you and your personal tastes, I don’t think you seem like a Poison person. As for your Aunt, I appreciate you sharing all that, I appreciate it a lot, but for the sake of diplomacy (after all, she still IS your family member), all I’ll say is that I think I would have had the exact same reaction or set of emotions about her…. :\
🙂 my aunt was a woman who lived only for herself. She got married three times, with men older and richer, drank regularly, got divorced three times and painted her nails every 2-3 days with a cheap red, layer upon layer of chipped nail polish. She loved cheap perfume like Charlie, owed money to everybody, my mother included, and Poison with its flamboyant ‘niceness’ suited her perfectly, and I’m glad she never wore Opium or any more classy perfume for that matter. I believe she was gifted with it, as she would never buy it herself, but man would she pour it on!
Mystere was a spicy carnation animalic Chypre, though that little bottle is mostly gone. It felt so warm and cozy to me! Diva… Well, I prefer Knowing though I appreciate Diva, and Paloma is now mostly just a memory. Growing up, I also recall Fidji, L’air du Temps, Diorling, Rochas Femme and Mitsouko replacing my moms aldehydes. But never cheap and trashy perfumes.
I hope one day to be able to reconcile with Poison, but I have a feeling it’s going to be hard!!
This was an enchanting account of your scented memories, K, and I particularly loved your story about Mr. X and Farenheit.
It’s funny: even though I share a love with you of Fracas and big white floral bomb, my own experience with perfume gifts during my youth is the exact opposite of yours. I was gifted Estee Lauder Cinnabar by my father, and YSL Opium, by a boyfriend, and I hated those scents … pining instead for my sister’s Estee Lauder White Linen and buying myself mini bottles (don’t remember if they were real or dupes) of Chanel 22 when I was in college. Makes me wonder if we are automatically drawn to the thing we don’t have, the thing that is scarce, the thing that maybe is the opposite of what we are given. 😀
It’s a really interesting point about, essentially, “the grass is greener on the other side” and about how we may be drawn to the thing we don’t have. I’ve pondered it and I don’t think it applies to me and my personal situation, because I think the real driving force was skin chemistry and an instant, immediate loathing for how aldehydes manifest themselves on me, rather than being drawn to something I didn’t have. If I had been given Fracas, I would have been thoroughly happy with what I was given. LOL. 😀
What I loved about your comment was the peek into what the young Suzanne loved, didn’t like, and bought for herself. I’m trying to imagine you in White Linen, though, and somehow can’t see it. Do you think your tastes have circled a bit back to the sort of darker, spicier scents that you were gifted when you were young but hated back then? Because things like Mecca Balsam (which I know you love) are a WORLD away from the young Suzanne’s tastes! Same with Fille en Aiguilles.
I’d been so amused (well, in a tender sort of “oh dear, poor thing” way reading about young Kafka and those floral aldehyde perfume gifts, while simultaneously thinking that I would probably have liked them, that this made me laugh out loud.
The greener grass, yes, I think it really does play a part.
Hah, we would be perfect BFF : our taste in parfum is “mutually exclusive” – we would only need to guard our SHL 777 scents (but then again, I would happily share those with you
I think we actually have more in common than the term “mutually exclusive” would seem to indicate but, yes, we have some definite differences. lol 🙂 Speaking of perfume that we may both like, did you ever get the chance to sample the Heliotrope Blanc and to see if it fit your ideal of a “musk” or a clean, soft scent?
Oh yes, I’m a happy owner of a bottle of HB
You got it already??! Did you skip a sample and go straight for a full bottle?!! If so, my word! Regardless of how you ended up with it, I’m so happy that Heliotrope Blanc works for you. I’d love to hear how it is on your skin in the Oriza thread, if or when you ever get the chance, and if it turned out to be the sort of soft, clean musk that you had been hoping for or if it is appealing for different reasons. 🙂
My dear K – such fantastic stories and after hearing about your family it’s no surprise you are doing what you are doing! If only my parents would have given me a bottle of First! Oh my. But i understand as a child that probably would not have a been a good choice. It’s something you want to smell on your mother, but probably not on yourself. Our tastes are so different though. Farenheit is like a flat tire on my skin, so horrible in so many ways! 🙂 A lovely read!
What I’ve been pondering over the last few days is the whole: Nature vs. Nurture thing. I honestly don’t think First would have been a good choice for me at ANY age! But, even as a child, I would have been thrilled with Fracas, Opium, Joy or any number of oriental scents, no matter how grown-up. Some of that has to be Nature, skin chemistry, and instinctive, personal tastes. On the other hand, my issues with lavender definitely stem from where I lived; would probably have been different if I hadn’t had that overwhelming, constant barrage hitting me hourly/daily/weekly/monthly/yearly; and is most definitely a Nurture thing involving environmental influences.
You, my love, don’t like leathers and have developed a taste for the big florals. You have also come to love vintage scents in recent years (something I credit myself with, LOL, if you don’t mind, given that vintage Ysatis that I sent you back in 2012 or early 2013). How much of all this is instinctive, innate, automatic to your tastes going back to your earliest, most immediate loves in terms of certain notes? How much is influenced by memories and childhood experiences? As Dominique Dubrana of La Via del Profumo once told me, “we smell with our mind.” That obviously has to mean memories as well, but are your tastes influenced more by Nature or Nurture?
With me, I honestly think the percentage skews more towards Nature. Obviously, I was hugely influenced by my background, childhood, and the family culture! But I hated aldehydes from the start, along with citrusy scents, clean musk, soapiness, etc. I would bet leather would be something similar for you, and Fahrenheit definitely has some intense leathery aspects to it, too. (Though, to my surprise, you ended up loving vintage Bandit and that one….!!!!)
I think you’ve written about First, haven’t you? I can’t recall if you reviewed a vintage version or the modern one, but it was probably vintage. The funny thing about that one and you is that I would have expected you to find it “Bathtastic,” to use the term that you coined so perfectly for Chanel’s 1932. (I think it fits for good number of Chanel’s feminine scents. Such a perfect, perfect term!) Was First not at all Bathtastic on you? What I would give to know your reaction to 1970s version Rive Gauche….. lol 😉
That was a fantastic read, Kafka. You’re quite the storyteller. 🙂
I laughed out loud when I read about Farenheit. That firm seems to have been quite something too… And I totally agree with you about wanting to find a man to test a perfume… on him.
Reading about Egoïste made me think about an ad for it I found on youtube some years ago. It was quite cleverly made, with women scowling, furiously yelling after a man (the égoïste himself) in Racine-like tirades, in a hitchcockian atmosphere. I remember thinking that perfumes often had distinctive, innovative and cinematic ads, and that maybe I should look more into their world.
(Oh and I forgot to say: I absolutely share your fascination with Yves Saint-Laurent. What a genius he was!)
His clothes… my GOD, HIS CLOTHES!!!! His art, his aesthetic, his vision, his … EVERYTHING! He really was a genius. One of the main reasons why I hate L’Oreal so much is not because of mere Opium, per se, but because of how they have handled everything to do with the Yves St. Laurent name as a whole. (I’m not so happy with the clothes put out by the fashion house either, but at least that’s not the utter mockery that YSL Beauté has become.) God, I loved Yves Saint Laurent so much. There was and is no-one like him.
God, I absolutely despise what Hedi Slimane did to the brand. It’s foul. It’s… urgh, I hate it. And I’ll stop right here before I say something vulgar.
Have you seen the recent film Yves Saint-Laurent, the one by Jalil Lespert? If not, you should.The script itself is mediocre, but the two lead actors, especially the one playing Mr Saint-Laurent, are truly fantastic. Beside, in exchange for feeding Pierre Bergé’s huge ego in the film, they got his authorization to use actual archives from the house. The CLOTHES you see in it, dear Kafka! I would have loved to see even more, and I wished they had spent more time showing Yves Saint-Laurent’s artistic process, but still, you get to see some truly amazing stuff.
LOL at your feelings re. Hedi Slimane and the brand. I’ve had similar reactions to what Karl Lagerfeld has done to Chanel. The Haute Couture line is often an exception — for all these houses — but the regular line? Bah. Even the bags look cheap nowadays, imo.
I haven’t seen the newest YSL film. Wow, they got to show the actual clothes from the past? For me, there wasn’t a single designer post-1960s who could ever really compare to YSL when it came to clothes. Not Valentino, Chanel, Ungaro, Scherrer, Lanvin, Balenciaga, Dior, or anyone else. His things from the late 70s and ’80s were particularly beautiful to me. I really hope the Netflix here gets the film, because I’d love to see it. Thank you for letting me know about it.
That firm was definitely… er… something — on a variety of different levels. 😀 😉
The Egoiste ad sounds fantastic! So clever and, yes, innovative and symbolic as well. If you ever stumble across it again, I’d love to see it. I’m glad that the ad actually triggered an interest in perfume as a whole for you. Was that the first impetus or trigger for you? Did you not grow up around scent in your family or have any interest before then?
One thing about your comment, I never actually wanted to find on whom to test a perfume. I just wanted their perfumes and to wear them for myself! It took me years and until my late 20s not to feel uncomfortable, strange, or embarrassed buying a “man’s” scent for myself. The first one was Lagerfeld Cologne, and it happened solely because I ran out of BFs to bully into buying the fragrance so that I could wear it. LOL.
This might be the Egoiste ad you are looking for:
And then there’s the sequel for Egoiste Platinum:
Wonderful, thank you! I will look at them both the first chance I get. I really appreciate you finding and sharing the links, Lindaloo. Also, welcome to the blog! 🙂
You seem to know French Kafka, but in case others should be interested, it roughly translates as follows:
“You selfish man… (égoïste)”
“Where are you… ”
“Show yourself, you wretch!”
“Beware my wrath!”
“I shall be relentless!”
“O rage! O despair [these two expressions are taken from one of the most famous French plays, Corneille’s Le Cid]! O my betrayed love”
“Have I so lived but to endure this infamy?”
“Show yourself, you selfish man!”
I’m afraid my translation doesn’t do justice to the sheer elegance and well-wrought flow of the text… Whoever wrote this ad clearly knew what they were doing.
It wasn’t the first trigger exactly, but it certainly helped. Perfume has never been a thing in my family, at all; I think my mother owned Chanel Allure when I was younger, solely because I recall seing the bottle, but I’m not even sure she wore it on a regular basis. The only interest I had pertaining to my nose was that I loved to sniff spices.
I had always thought it seemed like quite an interesting, rich world containing many surprises and treasures, even though I had no insight. I knew I’d look into it one day. It came more as part of a whole, when I developed my interest in high fashion. It also helped that I started delving into makeup a few years ago, although I wouldn’t call it a passion of mine.
First, thank you for the link, Anne. I’ll look at it later this evening. How intriguing that they relied on something from Corneille! It’s a degree of intellectualism that is rare in today’s mainstream fragrance world. Practically unheard-of, really. Especially for L’Oreal…. *sniff* It shows what Mr. Saint-Laurent’s personal influence was like on the company in those days, and how much things have changed since his death.
Second, I found it really interesting regarding your perfume background, and how far you’ve come in your interests. I think that’s wonderful. I hope your perfume interests grow even further with time. 🙂
I giggled at your Lagerfeld comment. I was thinking “Ah, yes, except for the Haute Couture (and the Métiers d’Art) collections”, and then I scrolled down. 🙂 I’m wondering, how do you like Jean-Paul Gaultier (especially his Haute Couture stuff) and the late Alexander McQueen? Those two, I absolutely love.
The Chanel ad is more reminiscent of Racine than Corneille for me, but that’s nitpicking. Anyway, I love it.
Well, somehow I had always known that one day I would explore the fascinating yet at that time entirely foreign world of perfume. 🙂 I stupidly forgot to mention it, but two years ago, when I was on holiday in Madrid with two friends, I spent an afternoon with one of them trying perfumes (mostly Guerlain, and mostly exclusives). We had a blast. That friend is a man of impeccable taste, and with him I can talk about nearly everything, from perfume, makeup and high fashion to literature, history, rock music or operas. I didn’t exactly fell into perfume immediately afterwards, but it did help. Now, I sometimes share with him my latest perfume trials. He is a fellow Lutens lover, although his favourites differ from mine: he wears Ambre Sultan ( and un Bois Vanille which are rather interesting on him and a total snoozefest on me), and prefers above all Serge Noir, for the cloves.
And that’s the full extent of my perfume history, really. I don’t see this new interest stop any time soon though, given the fun I have. 🙂
I haven’t seen anything from Gaultier’s collections in years, so I can’t comment. Alexander McQueen I deeply respected and admired for creating fashion art, as well as for his innovativeness, but I didn’t find the vast majority of his clothes to be wearable (for or by me). Out of the modern, current designers, I loved Galliano’s creations, though there are obvious issues with regard to him as a person. And I also really love the Lanvin chap’s clothes. (I can almost never remember his name or how to spell it. lol) So Galliano and the Lanvin chap are the ones who have really stood out to me amongst modern, current designers.
Your friend with the impeccable tastes sounds wonderful! With regard to Un Bois Vanille, I wonder if you have tried the reformulated version or if you used the same bottle that your friend owns, because it is really terrible now, imo. Cloying, gooey sweetness with few nuances or any of the things that once made it so interesting. I would never call it the best of the Lutens collection, but it certainly was better than it is now. If your friend loves Serge Noire, I bet he loves the new L’Incendiaire!
Ah yes, Galliano! I absolutely agree with your remark.
The current state of the Dior house is almost as taboo with me as YSL’s. Thank God for for Gaultier, without him, I wouldn’t look forward to Haute Couture season half as much, that with Galliano and Lacroix gone.
Albert Elbaz! 😀 I love him. He’s great! It helps that he seems to be a genuinely nice, fun fellow.
I don’t know which version my friend owns, I’ll ask him next time I see him. Though “he adds musk to it” (how, I don’t know). I’ll tell him about L’Incendiaire, thanks!
Thank you so much for sharing these memories with us!! So much fun to read.
Now I feel sort of jealous of you, lol, because you were so creative in response to the questions. These ¨origin stories¨ of our love of scent are awesome to read. Thanks, Kafka, for yours, and thanks to everyone else who shared.
Funny thing: I just wrote about Caleche as my pivotal scent in a group on FB! Someone had asked me what perfume I wore back when I was a guitarist in a punk rock band. And yes, I did wear perfume then.
When I was about to turn 18, I complained to my room mate and her boyfriend that no one had ever given me a ¨feminine gift.” I loved scent, gave my mother and father both perfume and cologne that I had saved for with my baby sitting money. My mother didn’t much care for wearable scents and my father loved fragrant soaps. So, my love for fragrance was there. But, I knew Jean Nate simply wasn’t the real thing and my mother’s
So, my room mate’s boyfriend surprised me greatly when he gave me a gift of Caleche. I knew Hermes, and I was impressed that he’d not gone to Macy’s to buy me a gift. I hardly knew the guy! Unlike you, I didn’t burst into tears. I loved it. I unabashedly loved it. This was the mid-70’s Caleche, but still, it was a aldehydic floral. Back then, that was fine with me, and made me feel grown up and elegant, even though I was neither. I wore just one spray of it every day for years on end. . .
And now I can barely tolerate it – aldehydes and reformulation – oh my!!
HAHAHAHAHA about the Caleche!! 😀 😀 What funny or coincidental timing, and how interesting that that was your pivotal scent. Also, what a great, truly thoughtful guy your friend’s BF was to gift you with something so expensive that he made an effort to choose himself. Impressive indeed.
Oops! I got distracted while I was looking up the name of the perfume I bought my mom and left that dangling!! LOL! I came back to my computer, hours later and thought, ¨Oops. I forgot to post my comment. ¨ My mother’s ______________ were the both Coty Muguet Des Bois and Evening in Paris, both of which I bought at the Woolworth’s (for you young kids – that was the equivalent of today’s ¨dollar stores¨).
Reading the name “Woolworth’s” makes me feel positively ancient and like a dinosaur. Gosh, it’s almost like reading about something from the 19th Century, given the landscape today. :\
Yep. It is positively 19th century!! The New York I came of age in was not very modern. When I watched ¨Selfridges¨ I thought it seemed closer to the department stores of my youth. . .oh dear me. I can hear myself creaking. . :-}
Ha, you two! We still have Woolworths in Australia, though here it’s one of two major supermarket chains!
How great to know the company has still survived, even if it’s dead over here and in Europe (from what I’ve seen, at least). I’m really happy, because it used to be such a significant and historical part of the landscape. 🙂
Ah, Woolworth’s. When I was a child, our small-town store had a lunch counter with the swirly aluminum stools.
I was very touched by your beautiful story. Many beautiful perfumes were named. To me l’air du temps was a present from my(later) father in law, in 1978, he was a veterinarian and had to go to Munich for a meeting and I think in a tax free shop he bought 4 bottles of l’air du temps for my mother in law and his two daughters and myself. I will never forget the moment we unwrapped the presents!!!When we moved to Groningen were my husband was studying economics there was a perfume store were I could easily spend my entire salary to perfumes. Heaven of earth! they let me discover: Rive Gauche, First, Poisson, aromatic Elixir and so on. Chanel 19 ( my wedding perfume in 1982) . Nowadays I am a happy member of a perfume group on Facebook and the opportunity to try very different perfumes by swapping samples etc. is so tempting!!!
What a wonderful, lovely story about L’Air du Temps! Mary, I can actually imagine you unwrapping the presents, and seeing your face at that beautiful bottle. How incredibly sweet and touching of your future Father-in-Law to get such gifts for the women in his life. Thank you for sharing your story, Mary. I really loved reading it, and you conveyed so well the feelings you had in those early years when you moved to Groningen as well. 🙂
As for the opportunity to try very different perfumes via your Facebook group and sample swaps, I think you should do it as much as you can. It’s such a great way to learn about perfume, but also to potentially discover a scent that you might love. Succumb to temptation, Mary, succumb to temptation! 😉
My collection at the moment is 26 bottles and more than 200 samples/decants. A perfume profiling in 2011 at the Perfume Lounge in Amsterdam, made clear that woody’s, orientals and some gourmands are my favorites. I love patchouli and incense., amber, vanilla etc. on my desk is now a decant of Meharees by l’Erbolario and in my mailbox I see your blogpost about this perfume!! That’s so funny!!!!
It sounds like we have very similar perfume tastes and love the same notes, Mary. 🙂 How funny that you have a decant of Meharees on your desk right now, given this morning’s post! Did you get that from some swap in a FB group? If so, that’s wonderful.
This has been a real delight to read! Thank you.
My earliest perfumes were cheap things – I had a small solid perfume from Avon that I remember vividly, because it was housed in a cutesy plastic smiling-worm-in-apple brooch. I WORE it, too, both the brooch and the scent (this would have been kindergarten/1st grade, maybe). I had another Avon scent, too, in a roll-on Rapunzel’s tower glass bottle strung on a necklace. (2nd grade.) Then a small bottle of Sweet Honesty; all of these were gifts from my grandmother who lived with us.
She had her own “apartment” in the basement: living room, dining room, separate kitchen and bathroom and bedroom. When we moved to a new house and my brother was born, my bedroom moved downstairs and from the time I was twelve, I shared the bathroom with her. She was fond of Elizabeth Arden Blue Grass and this dusty-powdery oriental Avon scent called Cotillion – which I haaaaaaaaated with a passion. It smelled dirty to me; not like actual dirt but like dusty, musty basements that have needed a good cleaning for a couple of decades.
My mother wore Jovan Musk for Women (which is a very floral warm-skin musk with aldehydes) for everyday, and Chanel No. 5 parfum for evenings out. On her, the aldehydes tend to flit past very quickly, and No. 5 is primarily a glowing floral musk, so that I remember getting a sniff straight from the bottle when I was maybe six, and declaring firmly to her that it did NOT EITHER smell like her perfume. Later, she wore Anais Anais. When I was in college, she baffled me by telling me that she wanted a particular perfume for her birthday. “Coty L’Effleur,” she said, “It smells clean, like a wonderful expensive scented soap.”
I liked the way my mother smelled, but I didn’t want to smell like soap. I wanted to wear the old Lagerfeld Chloe, which my aunt (I think. Or my other grandmother) had given me for my 12th birthday. I wore that for a good decade, the same 1-ounce splash bottle, until it began to smell decayed and I didn’t buy another. Mom bought me Prince Matchabelli Cachet, but I didn’t like it nearly as much, and when I resmelled it this year I understood why: it is a floral chypre, but it smells primarily of vetiver and musk, a scent so prim that it practically tugs your neckline up all by itself. I wanted gardenias. And Emeraude, which made my eyes roll back in my head with pleasure. Our neighbor once sent us a gardenia from his backyard bush, and Mom thanked him profusely… only to turn to me (I was standing there happily burying my nose in it) once the door was closed and ask me to please, please, take it downstairs to my room so it wouldn’t stink up the entire house. I wanted Sand & Sable. I wanted White Shoulders. I hadn’t smelled Fracas then, but I guarantee you I’d have wanted that too. My mother was HORRIFIED. To her, only women of a certain age… and possibly a certain reputation… wore scents like that.
And so I have been delighted with your stories of mothers and daughters and the divergence of tastes. To further expound on it – my grandmother, whose coloring suited jewel tones, and who loved purple, hot pink, and red, also loved glitz. Buttons, sequins, beading, passementerie, braid, frogging, prints, you name it, she loved it.
My mother? Tailored. All the way. Slim skirts, clean lines, no flashy detailing. And she’s an Autumn, favoring olive and sage green and rust and brown. My grandmother bought her a coat once, when she was in high school and money was tight, as a Christmas present. Gran saved and saved until finally there was a coat box under the tree, and Mom was delighted that she was getting a coat… until she saw it. It was royal purple velveteen, double breasted, with diamante buttons, and it made her look consumptive. Mom was crushed.
With her first post-college job, she bought her own coat: olive tweed A-line with self-fabric buttons… and suggested that Gran might like to have the purple coat to wear herself. Gran was crushed at the rejection (but she wore the purple coat).
But what goes around, comes around. Because here I was with a disdain for earth tones, and I liked (oh, the horror) full skirts, and full puffy sleeves. And sweetheart necklines and ruffles. And worse, white florals.
And now here’s *my* daughter, who hates to dress up, much prefers jeans and sweatshirts. She likes either gourmands like Hanae Mori and Prada Candy, or aloof, subdued things like Infusion d’Iris. I try to keep my perspective. 🙂
I so thoroughly enjoyed reading this, Mal, from start to finish. Wonderful!!! I had to laugh at the cycles you describe, especially when I got to the end and you talked about your daughter’s tastes. I was firmly on your grandmother’s side and would have loved a royal purple, double-breasted, velvet-y coat! lol.
As for my own mother, we don’t actually have much divergence in tastes. Not in clothes, perfume, or much else. I haven’t the faintest clue why they bought me First, but suspect that it was purely the symbolism of the name as my “first” adult scent, and perhaps the fact that it was new and very acclaimed. I certainly can’t see my mother wearing either First or Caleche!! She may have worn a handful of scents with a light splattering of aldehydes, but only if there was leather and sensual darkness as well. She never wore Chanel No. 5, No. 19, or had a single Chanel scent in her collection back then — and only years later did Coco become the one, singular exception but that’s because it’s a heavy oriental. Not one of my sisters wore anything aldehydic or from Chanel either. So, I think it’s truly an ingrained, instinctive and Nature issue (on the Nature-Nurture spectrum), because all our tastes skewed towards the dark side, and had nothing to do with generational differences. (Recently, she really loved “O Hira,” a resinously balsamic labdanum scent that would make you keel over and have you scream with unrestrained horror. LOL. 😀 )
But those differences and cycles are so evident in your family that it’s truly fascinating to behold. In your case, it definitely does seem to be a case of the grass greener on the other side as well. I laughed out loud at how she wanted you to banish the poor gardenia flower downstairs. I was also amused by how “To her, only women of a certain age… and possibly a certain reputation… wore scents like” Fracas. 😀 Thank you for sharing a very fun glimpse into your perfume background and memories, Mals.
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Thank you so much for sharing this! It made me smile like a weirdo at my desk. 🙂 Any chance of you doing a review of Fahrenheit? I looked through your archives and didn’t see one. Your anecdote actually inspired me to stop by Sephora and give it a whiff. I had a very strong, not particularly positive perception of it on myself, but that would make it even more interesting for me to read what it’s like for you.
Heh, was it Fahrenheit’s citrusy, green opening or the leather at its core that went south on your skin? I haven’t reviewed Fahrenheit because I loved smelling the vintage, original version — and it always hurts my heart to retry those fragrances in modern times. They’re always gutted and badly reformulated, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the version of Fahrenheit that you tested was the same. Last year, I went to Sephora and sniffed Eau Sauvage in passing, and couldn’t believe it was the same scent.
One thing I’ve noticed is that a number of reformulations amp up any citrus elements that a fragrance may contain to compensate for cuts in the more expensive, oriental, spicy, richer or heavier notes in the base. I wonder if that is what happened to Fahrenheit, or if it was something else. Either way, I don’t know about reviewing the modern version now, 20-something years after its debut. In all honesty, I’m not sure I would have the heart for it. I haven’t reviewed modern Opium, modern Fracas, modern… well, any of my old favorites. It upsets me too much.
I don’t know whether to write “lol” or gasp in horror as I realize I’d not only read this post but commented, too. I enjoyed it perhaps more the second time around!
LOL. No worries, sweetie. I knew you’d read it, but I didn’t want to make you uncomfortable because you’ve also told me that the meds make you forget things at times. Totally understandable and extremely normal! *hugs*
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