I remember as if it was yesterday sitting in my parents’ bedroom playing with my mother’s perfume bottles which were Eternity by Calvin Klein, Paloma Picasso’s signature namesake fragrance, Clinique Aromatics Elixir and Clarins Eau Dynamisante and little pots of solid fragrance oil in pretty hand painted pots that were gardenia, jasmine & plumeria, it was the late 80’s and I was little. I thought they were the most glamorous beautiful things that I had ever seen and smelt. I loved how the bottles were all so completely different and I liked to combine them all creating new scent combinations like a mini alchemist dressed in dungarees with my hideous but much loved cabbage patch doll as an assistant. I think that was when my love affair with perfume started. My first perfumes were mini tester sizes samples of Chloe Original Eau De Toilette and Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps and I loved the birds on the stopper lid. I used to wear these perfumes for special occasions and long after they finished I kept these in my bedroom as I thought they made me appear sophisticated and grown up.
When I saved up pocket or birthday money I bought White Musk from the Body Shop and longed for and lusted after Jean Paul Gaultier Classique. I thought the bottle of the female torso in the corset and the pinkish peach coloured liquid was so interesting, witty and beautiful, I seemed to favour sickly sweet smells that now repulse me yet I am also nostalgic for.
As I was growing up (A levels and then University) I changed my perfume as quickly as I changed my boyfriends who wore aftershaves like Davidoff Cool Water, Dior’s Fahrenheit and one really posh boy I dated wore Eau Savage by Dior. I can barely remember a single conversation we had but I still love that smell. Some of the perfumes that I loved & wore were Calvin Klein CK One, Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey, Chanel’s Cristalle, Samsara by Guerlain & Dolce & Gabanna Femme Eau de Toilette which came in a gorgeous red velvet box and instantly made me feel like I was a Fellini film character. In fact it would be true to say that from around my late teens onwards as my passion for cinema was developing & I definitely was inspired and visually shaped by my female cinematic icons buying frosted pink lipstick after seeing any Molly Ringwald/John Hughes film, blue eye shadow after seeing Isabella Rossellini in Blue Velvet or Christina Ricci in Buffalo 66, buying Chanel’s Rouge Noir after seeing Pulp Fiction and white face makeup and black anything after seeing Blade Runner and wanting to look like both Daryl Hannah and Sean Young. It was visually easy for me to buy the makeup but the fun part was wanting to be the complete character, almost like someone today wearing a total look straight off the runway. I tried to choose a perfume that might fit the part so I would spend hours in cosmetics halls waving the tester papers in front of my nose that had been spritzed then writing the name and brand down so I could go home and save up for the ones I loved the most. The last few years my perfume choice has varied, in my early 20’s I was obsessed with Agent Provocateur’s original perfume and I adored the witty pink grenade bottle. The smell now makes me heave. I studied many years ago in Florence and I discovered Santa Maria Novella the most beautiful pharmacy in the world with products made originally by Dominican Friars established in 1612 and I still wear the Melograno Pomegranate Eau de Cologne. I then discovered Commes Des Garcons 2 Eau de Parfume which is the silver bottle and I still buy it today in fact that & the Santa Maria Novella one are the only perfumes that I have repeatedly bought again and again making them my on going affair rather than a one night stand.
I have realised that I am pretty much a perfume slut. I have little loyalty and I like to change perfume. I love a new perfume for exotic holidays which afterwards when I catch a whiff now instantly transports me back to a fantastic holiday or a secret magical experience. I know that some women want to have one signature scent but not me, I see perfume as I do fashion something that is always changing and constantly evolving. I would hate to smell exactly the same as I did when I was 16, 21 or even 30. Now in my 30’s I have experimented with Serge Lutens Daim Blond which I discovered in his amazing store in Palais Royal in Paris which smells of white suede and apricot and just smells expensive and chic. Makes me think of a Catherine Deneuve in Belle du Jour. I wore for a while Tom Ford’s Black Orchid and loved the sexy black bottle and sexy musky smell same with cult brand Nasomatto’s Black Afgano which evokes the best quality of Hashish. It is the result of a quest to arouse the effects of temporary bliss. I also fell in love whilst on holiday in Mexico with Coqui Coqui’s Tobacco Flower which smells fresh and clean and sexy all at once and makes me think that Diane Keaton’s character in Annie Hall would smell like that. Last week in Paris I had 15 minutes of fun in Saint Germaine and I bought Byredo’s Baudelaire which is apparently a leather fragrance for men. The top notes are caraway, juniper berries and pepper; middle notes are built around hyacinth, incense and leather, while base notes are patchouli, amber and papyrus. I can’t stop sniffing it and spraying it all over myself and if I had to describe how it would smell in cinematic terms I would say like Michelle Pfeiffer, John Malkovitch, Glenn Close & Uma Thuman in Dangerous Liaisons but without being musty and old if that makes any sense. I have realised that the smells I am drawn to all have some combination of leather, wood, tobacco, incense, musk, patchouli and then I like them to have a freshness too with something unexpected like orange blossom lime flower or even classic rose.
Some women cut or colour their hair, get therapy, buy a dress, handbag, holiday or gym membership when they enter a new phase of their life but I buy a new perfume and I am instantly reborn I like to imagine a bit like Venus in her shell by Botticelli. I feel that I can look back at my life through the perfumes that I have loved and the ones that I now obsess over and hope that there will be many more to discover and wear. Ironically the love of my life almost never wears aftershave preferring to be natural and over the years I have bought him eau de parfum or cologne that sit in his bathroom untouched and neglected but I sometimes steal them and continue with my strange alchemist vibes mixing them with my own perfume. I guess our house only has room for one fragrance whore and that is me.