Classic perfumes sacrificed to The Brands?
This post will probably only interest the girls. So guys: sorry you might not be so interested, unless of course you are pondering why we are all looking and smelling alike these days. Regular ThinkingShift readers will be aware that I gave up THE BRANDS just before my trip to Hong Kong back in late March. So getting towards two months now and I have bought no “brand names”. Hasn’t been all that hard really.
I said I would buy my winter coat at a vintage clothing shop. Well, I ended up with a snappy looking moss green coat from the late 1970s. It’s so well made I was rather stunned (ie we are inured these days to dodgy stuff that falls apart or doesn’t last long). This coat has a wonderful lining and it’s reversible, so two coats for the price of one. And much cheaper than one I saw in a major department store (brand new and made in China).
And so with perfumes. I’ve always loved the “old time” perfumes – Coriandre by Jean Couturier (definitely not for the shrinking violets amongst us ladies!). Or perfumes by Caron such as Coup de Fouet created in 1957. It used to be that a woman was known by her “signature perfume”. My mother loved Crepe de Chine by Millot (I think this was created in the mid-1920s). She also loved Bond Street No 9, which was popular during WWII. My grandmother wore something called Rosa Centifolia – I think this was a German perfume.
Anyway, these specialist perfumes are almost as rare as the Kohinoor diamond! These days, women are stuck with the designer brand perfumes or the watery-like perfumes of “celebrities”. I mean really: do you want to wear a perfume by Britney Spears?? Is she a “nose”? So it’s very easy (for me anyway due to my love-affair with perfume) to sniff out what a woman is wearing pretty quickly. It’s rare these days for me to sniff a unique smell from an old-time perfume house.
And so to the really sad news. My favourite perfumery in Sydney was Julia’s Perfumery. It was run by a woman with outstanding knowledge of perfumes, especially the old time classics. After years of going there for Coriandre, we were talking one day about where we grew up and in one of those very spooky moments, it turned out we’d been dance partners in ballet school when we were 5 years old or so. Way too spooky for me!
Anyway, I went last week to get another bottle of Coriandre. Quell horror! Julia’s Perfumery is shut. She’s apparently gone online but I can’t find her (Julia if you stumble onto this blog through some sort of miracle, tell me how to find you!!). So now I am left wondering if I will be forced to totter off to a department store and pick up a bottle of perfume by some celebrity or designer. Some of them aren’t that bad. But for me, it’s about individuality and not having a perfume that’s totally synthetic. The jewellery girls (and guys these days) wear is about wearing art and expressing your identity. Same with perfume. Whatever fragrance family you prefer – Greens, Florals, Aldehydics, Chypre, Oriental, Fougère & Tobacco/Leather – it says a lot about who you are as an individual. Have the old time perfumes been engulfed by the brand names? I know many women who simply haven’t heard of some of the classics of the perfume world.
If you’re like me, you prefer a strong mossy wood. Coriandre fits that with notes of (obviously) coriander but also orange blossom, angelica, jasmine and lily. (I’m doing this by memory so I might have some of that wrong). But it’s not the hideous overpowering gardenia that seems to be the main ingredient of perfumes of the 1990s onward. I well remember the perfumes of the “greed is good” 1980s. These perfumes were shoulder-padded to death, Opium being a stand-out. Can’t stand that perfume personally but it was symptomatic of the excess of the 1980s.
And so, dear reader, I need help. Am I to wade my way through DIY books on how to make perfumes? Will I have to swallow my pride and go off to buy a BRAND name perfume? Coriandre is available, for example, on some online perfume sites, but is it the real deal? How do you know it is truly Coriandre?
Whilst our choice of luxury brands continues to expand, those of us who don’t wish to smell like every other woman are facing a real problem. Where to find the unusual perfume? Where to find that old-time perfume that is still available? Where to find your individuality?
I decided to take a different route late last year. In Dubai, I checked out some of the very strong perfume oils they have there. I went into a perfume oil shop where some guy was a bit perplexed with a Western woman wanting something with sandalwood in it that would last all day. To his credit and after three hours of sniffing and exiting the shop with a headache, he found for me two perfume oils that I love.
But I can’t whip off to Dubai every few months to update my perfume wardrobe, so the dilemma still stands. I’d be really intrigued to know whether you share the same dilemma and what your favourite perfume is. And Julia: are you there?