Classic perfumes sacrificed to The Brands?

May 6, 2008 at 2:00 am 26 comments

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?


Entry filed under: Globalisation, Perfumes, Reflections.

Australia: what’s happening? Get rid of the cages!

26 Comments Add your own

  • 1. jamesfrancis  |  June 9, 2008 at 10:00 am

    Yes, I know that this is probably meant to be a ‘men free’ zone, but I was taken with your description of Coriandre. Coriandre is my wife’s perfume (it’s quite gorgeous) and, yes, we too used to get it from Julia’s. There was one shop in Wellington that had it but, alas, it is long gone. It’s my wife’s birthday next week. Can anybody – please, please – help with a link to Julai’s site? Or if you know of a source of Coriandre (preferably from a shop where you can talk to someone) in New Zealand? It would be greatly appreciated.

  • 2. thinkingshift  |  June 9, 2008 at 10:37 am

    Hi James

    ThinkingShift is certainly not a men free zone, glad you left a comment! I haven’t been able to track down Julia’s Perfumery online at all. I’ve looked and looked. I have, however, done my own sleuth work and tracked down Coriandre at Luxury Perfumes in Australia. Go here to see the list of classic perfumes
    and email is:
    Hopefully, they’ll be able to send you Coriandre!

  • 3. Rihanna  |  June 25, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    I’ve never bought Perfumes online but lately I find that’s the best way to save time and money. For that I’ve looked for some sites ,I found a good one which has cheap prices ,and a friend has just recommended me the same site . Now I can say, I will use internet for buying all things and save few dollars!!!!Here is the link if you’re interested:

  • 4. Melissa  |  August 27, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    I recently purchased Coriandre online from two different sources and it is NOT the same beautiful perfume I’ve worn for years. A terrible disappointment and waste of money. If anyone has a source of something similar or the old formulation, please write in.

  • 5. thinkingshift  |  August 28, 2008 at 11:56 pm

    where are you located Melissa? I’ve found a place in Sydney that has THE original. I agree: I purchased one online and it was definitely NOT the same Coriandre. Just note though: there is a HUGE difference between the EDT and parfum.

  • 6. Helen  |  September 12, 2008 at 3:08 am

    The most beautiful perfumes are Penhaligon’s Bluebell and L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Mimosa Pour Moi. Ordered online from the makers they are pure and long-lasting especially in our summer. Helen.

  • 7. thinkingshift  |  September 12, 2008 at 3:10 am

    Helen: I’ve tried Mimosa Pour Moi but not Bluebell. Thx for the tip. I’m finding Coriandre harder and harder to get, so looks like I’ll have to find a new signature scent.

  • 8. Paris-too young to be mom yet  |  January 4, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    At first I did like you Kim: I bought some delicious heavy perfume in the Gulf ( Abu Dhabi), unfortunately my (Arab) boyfriend doesn’t like it!

    So I have learnt to to craft my own perfumes with essential oils, and absolutes, that I buy online. I like to mix them according to my taste, and then I’m sure no one else smells like me! (unlike you I’m more into flowers: rose, ylang, jamsine, iris…and pink grapefruit!)

    In addition I know my perfumes are 100% natural stuff, chemical free!

  • 9. thinkingshift  |  January 4, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    LOL!! Paris…your Arab boyfriend doesn’t like those gorgeous Arabian perfume oils! good on you for making your own. I am toying around with essential oils but have yet to hit on a good “recipe”. I also find they don’t last more than a few hours on the skin – guess that’s the fixative, haven’t got that right yet.

  • 10. blackincense  |  January 23, 2009 at 4:28 am


    If you’re going to make your own perfume, try the following as carrier oils:

    Grape seed oil
    Apricot Kernel oil
    and my favorite: olive oil.


    Good luck and let me know how you enjoy your new hobby.

  • 11. Cassandra  |  October 18, 2009 at 3:14 am

    Hi, I also loved Julias perfumery. Her number is (02) 92641619. You have the option of leaving a message, so she may call you back. Good luck!

  • 12. thinkingshift  |  October 18, 2009 at 3:40 am

    OMG Cassandra! thank you soooooooo much for leaving the phone number. I will contact her this week.

  • 13. Perfume Sleuth  |  December 14, 2009 at 5:40 am

    I was shocked today when I went into the city and found my all time fave shop had disappeared. I was lost for words, a bit of checking and I also called the number above. Another google site mentioned her being in a new venue. Picadilly Arcade , shop 11, 210 Pitt Street, Sydney. You might like to try it. I have left a message. Will go in and see if it does exist soon.

  • 14. thinkingshift  |  December 14, 2009 at 8:18 am

    I think you’ll find that Piccadilly Arcade was where she used to be before she moved to the old Gowings Bldg (7th Floor) opp Myers. That was the last place I know she was. I’m still trying to hunt her down.

    • 15. Perfume Sleuth  |  December 16, 2009 at 4:05 am

      So it would seem that may have been an old Google post Kim. However, Julia did call me back today, and I was able to place an order over the phone. Seems she will still look after her old customers. Very nice service indeed.

  • 16. thinkingshift  |  December 16, 2009 at 8:21 am

    Good sleuth work Rowena and thx for leaving the comment. I will call her and hopefully find out where/what she is doing. I need a new bottle of Coriandre!

  • 17. Katie  |  March 9, 2011 at 7:35 am

    I know its been a long time since but did you find Julias perfumery… where is it located now??

  • 18. thinkingshift  |  March 11, 2011 at 1:17 am

    Hi Katie

    Nope, no success at all. I’ve trawled the Internet, looked up phone books, phoned the numbers given to me by fellow perfume lovers but can’t find Julia. There is a phone number located in the above thread that one reader says she located Julia on.

    To make matters worse, another perfume shop I used to know in Sydney closed in 2010. The “source” I use now is Luxury Perfumes:

    This is run by a lovely Indian lady, Sitha, and her husband. She can source most perfumes and got her hands on Coriandre for me. She is pretty knowledgeable too.

    It’s getting harder and harder to locate those old-time quality perfumes!

  • 19. Perfume Sleuth  |  March 11, 2011 at 2:05 am

    Katie, Julia can be contacted on (02) 92641619, leave a message and she will call you back. I received my order about a week or so later from memory, all packaged well and just what I needed. Julia is not working out of a shopfront as such, seemed to remember her saying that she was getting more into wholesale. Good luck

  • 20. thinkingshift  |  March 11, 2011 at 6:08 am

    Thanks Perfume Sleuth 🙂 I now live in NZ and I can tell you that good perfumes are few and far between here (unless you like Celebrity and Designer House fragrances. I’ll see if I can get hold of Julia as I am in desperate need of Coriandre and Fracas!

  • 21. Tim  |  August 15, 2011 at 1:39 am

    Good to see that others were able to help you track down Julia! as for online perfume purchases, the selection and quality of perfumes is, IMHO, the best. I also appreciate their reviews and ‘top ten’ categories. And they steer clear of the cheap, tacky celebrity brands and carry quite a few niche perfumes.

  • 22. thinkingshift  |  August 15, 2011 at 6:13 am

    Everyone who’s interested in perfumes – I have FINALLY tracked down an unopened bottle of Yardley’s Bond Street (from the 1940s). My mother used to wear this in WWII and swore it was her all-time fav scent (before she found Zibeline by Weil that is).
    I have always wondered what it smells like and hopefully will swoop on the purchase of this (now expensive) unopened scent.

  • 23. Maid Mirawyn  |  November 28, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    I’ve also abandoned mass market perfume. My addiction is Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, an LA-based indie perfumery. They make hundreds of perfumes, plus seasonal limited edition perfumes and a super-limited perfume for each full moon. I can’t go back to normal perfumes! If anyone is interested in trying something new that’s not like everything else, I highly recommend them! (Be warned, though: some of the art and inspiration for the Valentine’s release is NOT PG. I usually skip that section myself.)

  • 24. Lindy  |  July 25, 2012 at 3:12 am

    I know that the article was written long time ago, However you can vist our perfumery in Balmain called City Perfume of Australia. We carry the majority of the niche brands. We are located at 254 Darling St, Balmain. The phone number is 02-97734202

  • 25. Julene  |  September 24, 2015 at 6:58 am

    I too, used to buy my perfumes from Julia’s Perfumery, that was when she was in Town Hall many years ago. Would love to reconnect with her and have also left a message on the 92641619 phone no. I have since found another perfumery, Odette’s in the Hunter Arcade down the stairs from Wynyard Station which is close to where I work. The shop is quite similar to Julia’s with a wide range of new and old perfumes. They also have a store in Bankstown.

  • 26. Nancy  |  November 18, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    City Perfume Australia took over, phone orders welcome 02-97734202


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