Scent Sample Sunday: Like This

Scent Sample Sunday: Like This

Lately, I’ve been really enjoying Etat Libre d’Orange’s Like This, the scent created by perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui in collaboration with actress Tilda Swinton, in 2010. It must still sell well, as it still has its own page on the ELDO website. It isn’t necessarily a fragrance I would have associated with Ms. Swinton, a brilliant actress who is known for playing eccentric, complicated characters and for her striking, almost androgynous looks. ELDO’s website calls it ” cozy, skin-hugging sweetness nestled with soft florals and unique, orange citrus notes.” Here is the longer description from ELDO, which sound as if it was written by Tilda:

I have never been a one for scents in bottles.

The great Sufi poet Rumi wrote:

“If anyone wants to know what “spirit” is, or what “God’s fragrance” means, lean your head toward him or her. Keep your face there close.

Like this.”

This is possibly my favorite poem of all time. It restores me like the smoke/rain/gingerbread/greenhouse my scent sense is fed by. It is a poem about simplicity, about human-scaled miracles. About trust. About home. In my fantasy there is a lost chapter of Alice in Wonderland – after the drink saying Drink Me, after the cake pleading Eat Me – where the adventuring, alien Alice, way down the rabbit hole, far from the familiar and maybe somewhat homesick – comes upon a modest glass with a ginger stem reaching down into a pale golden scent that humbly suggests: Like This

Smoke/rain/gingerbread/greenhouse. Yes, Like This evokes all of those.  The listed notes are ginger, pumpkin, tangerine, immortal flower, Moroccan neroli, rose, spicy notes, vetiver, woody notes, musk, heliotrope. When I first spray it, the opening is pleasantly tangy with ginger and tangerine — lightly spicy and citrusy, not sweet. If this ginger is gingerbread, it is not the sugary kind — it’s more like a ginger snap (one of my favorite cookies). The combination of tangerine notes and neroli reminds me of a very particular kind of greenhouse: an orangery, a glass enclosure where Europeans in cooler climates could grow trees in huge pots, that produced prized citrus fruits like oranges and lemons. At “Now Smell This“, reviewer Angela wrote:

I imagine Bijaoui looking at the Etat Libre brief, trying to come up with some common theme between the redheaded Swinton and Rumi and hitting on Orange. Orange hair, the orange of the sun, saffron monastic robes, fading day. Then, with this visual inspiration she found a way to connect orange scents: pumpkin, neroli, mandarin, immortelle, and ginger. The crazy thing is, it works.

I’ve read elsewhere that Ms. Swinton had just dyed her hair orange for her role in the movie “I Am Love” when the fragrance collaboration began, and may have actually requested the references to orange. How fascinating the creative process is! Like This is warm and beautiful, like the image of Swinton’s character in that movie, Emma, the midlife spouse of a rich Italian aristocrat, who falls in love with a much younger man.

Tilda Swinton in I Am Love

Tilda Swinton in “I Am Love”, 2010.

Given the powerful roles Ms. Swinton has played in the movies about Narnia and the Avengers, coziness, warmth, and home might not come immediately to mind in relation to her, but a cozy scent is what she asked ELDO to create:

My favourite smells are the smells of home, the experience of the reliable recognisable after the exotic adventure: the regular – natural – turn of the seasons, simplicity and softness after the duck and dive of definition in the wide, wide world.

When Mathilde Bijaoui first asked me what my own favourite scent in a bottle might contain, I described a magic potion that I could carry with me wherever I went that would hold for me the fragrance – the spirit – of home. The warm ginger of new baking on a wood table, the immortelle of a fresh spring afternoon, the lazy sunshine of my grandfather’s summer greenhouse, woodsmoke and the whisky peat of the Scottish Highlands after rain.

The floral notes take over from the citrus, but the ginger continues like a glowing thread through the composition, and the floral notes are well-balanced with spices, woody notes, vetiver, all of which keep the fragrance dry and vivid. This would smell lovely on either men or women, it is truly unisex.

Kafkaesque reviewed Like This when it was released and concluded it is “definitely intriguing and it also really grows on you!”, although she didn’t see herself buying a full bottle. Her review includes more details about the creative process behind the fragrance. Victoria at “Bois de Jasmin” gave it four stars out of five; she found it darker and smokier than I do, calling it “a strange and unconventional blend … a cross between the woody richness of Serge Lutens Douce Amère and the smoldering darkness of Donna Karan Chaos, with plenty of its own surprising elements.”

I agree with Kafkaesque that Like This is intriguing and that it grows on you. I hadn’t really planned to wear it three days in a row this week, but I did, and I enjoyed it every time. It lasts well on my skin, enough that I can spray it on in the evening and still smell its warm base notes on my wrist the next morning. It is the kind of fragrance that other people won’t recognize but most will find very pleasing, especially up close.

Have you been pleasantly surprised by a fragrance that wasn’t what you expected in one way or another?

May Muguet Marathon: Sense of Smell

May Muguet Marathon: Sense of Smell

This week, the New York Times printed an article called: “You Will Never Smell My World the Way I Do”.  It opens with this statement:

The scent of lily of the valley cannot be easily bottled. For decades companies that make soap, lotions and perfumes have relied on a chemical called bourgeonal to imbue their products with the sweet smell of the little white flowers. A tiny drop can be extraordinarily intense.

If you can smell it at all, that is. For a small percentage of people, it fails to register as anything.

The article is about a newly published research study that confirms what many of us know, i.e. that different people perceive different scents in different ways, and also identifies one reason why that is: our genetic make-up, specifically a single genetic mutation, in many instances. This is a scientific breakthrough, one that the researchers themselves did not expect, according to the New York Times:

The work provides new evidence of how extraordinarily different one person’s “smellscape” may be from another’s. It’s not that some people are generally better smellers, like someone else may have better eyesight, it’s that any one person might experience certain scents more intensely than their peers

“We’re all smelling things a little bit differently,” said Steven Munger, director of The Center for Smell and Taste at the University of Florida, who was not involved in the study.

The scientists who conducted the study looked for patterns in subjects’ genetic code that could explain these olfactory differences. They were surprised to find that a single genetic mutation was linked to differences in perception of the lily of the valley scent, beet’s earthiness, the intensity of whiskey’s smokiness along with dozens of other scents.

Fascinating! And now we know why one person’s Diorissimo is another person’s cat pee. This is also why there is no point in arguing with another perfumista about what they smell in your favorite fragrances; it may very well be entirely, and legitimately, different from what you smell.

Bourgeonal is not the only option available to perfumers and noses, however. It is only one of many “muguet” fragrance molecules, which have to be created synthetically because it isn’t possible to extract fragrant essences from lilies of the valley the way one can with flowers like roses and lavender. Other synthetic molecules used to create a “muguet” scent include: hydroxyc­itronellal, Lilial, Lyral, Cyclosal, Heliopro­panal, and a relatively new introduction from Symrise, Lilybelle. For an in-depth professional article by a Firmenich chemist on the evolution of muguet fragrances, go here: Beyond Muguet. Chemist Mat Yudov also wrote a terrific article about the chemistry of muguet fragrances two years ago on Fragrantica: May Greetings: New Lily of the Valley Aromachemicals.

I’m glad to know that there is a new generation of aromachemicals available to support one of my favorite notes in fragrance, regardless of IFRA restrictions. Bravo, chemists! Do you have any fragrance notes that you know you simply don’t smell? Has your perception of any perfume been affected by that?

Featured image from Fragrantica.

Scent Sample Sunday: Tokyo Spring Blossom

Scent Sample Sunday: Tokyo Spring Blossom

When I won a CaFleureBon draw for 4160 Tuesdays’ White Queen, brand founder and perfumer Sarah McCartney kindly included two travel sprays in the package, because UK shipping restrictions meant she could only send me a smaller size of White Queen than originally described. I was delighted, because it gave me the opportunity to try two more 4160 Tuesdays scents! One of them was Tokyo Spring Blossom, which I’ve been wearing off and on all week. It was originally launched in 2011 under the name Urura’s Tokyo Cafe, after a friend of Ms. McCartney’s for whom she first created the fragrance, Urura Shiinoki, owner of the Green Ginger Cafe in Tokyo.

The 4160 Tuesdays website describes it as “the scent of a spring breeze blowing through tree blossom.” Apparently the name Urura can be translated into English as “breeze in the cherry blossoms”, so that inspired the scent, although none of its notes are actually cherry blossoms. The notes are described differently on various websites, and the text on the 4160 Tuesdays site doesn’t seem to list them all, but they appear to be a combination of: a mix of citruses with pink grapefruit, tangerine and mandarin orange; middle notes of violet and rose; base notes of opoponax, Sarah’s favorite raspberry leaf accord, tolu balsam and raspberry. The description of the fragrance’s progression that most closely aligns with my own experience comes from a 2015 review on CaFleureBon, by Susie Baird:

Atop is a sparkling citrus, which feels very bright and airy. Almost as soon as those petals have opened a slightly more aromatic accord appears, herby and green. The perfume is now dappled with shade between the rose bushes. This is most certainly not a rose-centric fragrance though; the floral bouquet is seamlessly woven together with crisp greens and sharp tangerine, creating an image of a flower garden gently swaying in a summer breeze.

From beneath, sweet Myrrh stains the green and pink with umber tones. Here it gives the impression of a great splash of strong green tea, saturating the base of the scent with a resinous solemnity, as if the breeze has momentarily dropped and the sun stepped behind a cloud. It is cooling and pleasant to experience the resin balanced by the green goodness of geranium and rose. It has all the atmospheric depth that incense can bring to a fragrance, without any of the smokiness.

Yes! I think the greenness from the start comes from the raspberry leaf accord, which is listed on Fragrantica as a base note, but I smell it almost from the start, and then it lasts throughout. I smell suggestions of green tea, as described above, more than I smell roses, but I do pick up the violet heart note, which adds to the greenness but also lends a slightly powdery, floral note. Of course, high quality green tea does itself have floral fragrance notes which can vary widely; and green tea is a very traditional Japanese drink.  In fact, to my nose, this stage of Tokyo Spring Blossom smells very much like a specific form of green tea: matcha.

The 4160 Tuesdays website includes one of its pretty graphics to describe this scent:

Eau de parfum Tokyo Spring Blossom or Urura's Tokyo Cafe, by 4160 Tuesdays

Tokyo Spring Blossom, 4160 Tuesdays

I like this scent very much, though I think I was more delighted by White Queen, which is odd because usually I much prefer floral scents to gourmand scents. Luckily, in life it is possible to combine both the floral and the gourmand. The featured image above comes from the website for a specialty tea merchant called Steven Smith Teamaker, created by and named after the founder of Stash and Tazo tea companies. The company thoughtfully provides its own recipe for a matcha green tea latte, shown in the featured image. Enjoy!

Do you have any favorite fragrances that remind you of tea, whether or not they are named for tea? The Bvlgari Eaux Parfumees au The series comes to mind right away; I have and enjoy three of them (The Vert, The Bleu, The Rouge). Any others?

Steven Smith, Teamaker, matcha green tea latter with spring blossoms

Matcha green tea latte from Steven Smith Teamaker

 

 

 

Scent Sample Sunday: Choeur des Anges

Scent Sample Sunday: Choeur des Anges

The third fragrance in the triptych of Atelier des Ors’ “White Collection” is Choeur des Anges. Like the other two (Nuda Veritas and Crepuscule des Ames), it is inspired by Gustav Klimt’s “Beethoven Frieze” and was created by perfumer Marie Salamagne, with direction by the house’s founder, Jean-Philippe Clermont. The brand’s description follows:

Choeur des Anges is a poetic celebration of colour, scent and joie de vivre fused with blood orange, carrot seeds, radiant fruits and flowers. A symphonic creation inspired by the harmonious voices of angels. An ambrosia like golden nectar of osmanthus and honey that sings in harmony to the gods. A fragrance that connects to the primal desire for happiness, where salvation is found in lyrical ambered tones. A radiant and joyous experience. A cocooned embrace. A kiss to the whole world.

Choeur des Anges means “choir of angels”, and that angelic chorus is vividly shown in the last panel of the frieze that inspired Atelier des Ors’ White Collection.

Gustav Klimt's Beethoven Frieze, with choir of angels and human happiness

Gustav Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze

The golden thread of citrus that links all three fragrances continues in Choeur des Anges, with a gorgeous opening note of sweet blood orange. It is very beautiful — sweet in the way a real, ripe orange is sweet, not cloying or sticky. I’m a sucker for a great opening note, and this is one of the best among recent fragrances. Very quickly, the blackcurrant chimes in with its tangy yet herbal undertones. I don’t really smell the pear that is supposed to be part of the opening, but it is likely part of what softens the edges of the blackcurrant.

The last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth contains its most famous section, the “Ode to Joy” which many of us know well and which continues to inspire modern performances in unexpected places, from this flash mob in Europe to YouTube videos. I have a special warmth toward this piece, because it was adapted for use as a hymn in the 19th century by one of my grandfather’s favorite authors, Henry van Dyke. He is often overlooked today, but many Americans know his short novel “The Other Wise Man”  and this hymn, known by its first line, “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.” We and our guests sang it at our springtime wedding, in the same chapel where Prof. van Dyke worshipped, one week before Easter. Its first verse is the best known:

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,

God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee,
Op’ning to the Sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness,
drive the dark of doubt away.
Giver of immortal gladness,
fill us with the light of day

As with many fragrances, the middle stage of Choeur des Anges is mostly floral, the heart notes of orange flower and osmanthus stealing imperceptibly at first into the citrus opening, then taking center stage like flowers opening to the sun, as described in the hymn. These are sunny, happy flowers, appropriate to evoke the triumphant conclusion of humankind’s quest for joy. I smell the honey base note early; to my nose, it arrives not long after the flowers and lends them a polleny sweetness reminiscent of Easter and spring. The carrot seed note blends a rooty, earthy note into this middle stage, keeping the whole composition grounded, as this panel of the frieze reminds us that human joy is to be found on earth, as symbolized by the last, embracing figures, when love unites with art. Klimt apparently intended to convey that the arts are humankind’s salvation; but I choose to remember that today is Easter Sunday, when Christians celebrate the triumph of love over death, through the resurrection of Jesus, the Lord who took upon himself human form and human suffering on earth, thereby winning salvation for those of us still on earth. Easter Sunday is a day for flowers, celebration, singing, and rejoicing, as in the words of the hymn’s second verse:

All Thy works with joy surround Thee
Earth and heav’n reflect Thy rays;
Stars and angels sing around Thee,
center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain
Flow’ry meadow, flashing sea,
singing bird and flowing fountain
call us to rejoice in Thee.

The final stage of Choeur des Anges is warm with amber and cedar, while the honey continues  to sweeten the drydown. I can still smell hints of the blood orange. No heavy musk, no spices. The ending of Choeur des Anges is warm, soft and gentle, like the embrace of the golden couple at the end of the Beethoven Frieze. Happiness, at last. Again, in this fragrance, Ms. Salamagne beautifully captures the spirit and symbolism of the masterpieces that inspired the White Collection, like its scent siblings Nuda Veritas and Crepuscule des Ames.

Of all the White Collection, Choeur des Anges is my favorite, though Nuda Veritas is close behind.  On my skin, it has good longevity, though not for longer than about six hours (not surprising, given the important role of citrus in its composition and the softness of its base notes, not to mention my dry skin). I don’t mind reapplying from my sample, because I do love the opening notes of sweet blood orange, and reapplying allows me to enjoy those again.

In honor of Beethoven’s music, Klimt’s artwork, and this lovely fragrance collection, I decided to post this on Easter Sunday, a day on which the “Ode to Joy” and the hymn it inspired are particularly relevant, and I’ll leave you with this image:

Altar and reredos with flowers for Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday

Have you tried any of the White Collection, or other fragrances by Atelier des Ors? Do you love any other fragrances with links to other forms of art, such as music or painting?

Sample kindly offered by Atelier des Ors; opinions my own.

Scent Sample Sunday: Nuda Veritas

Scent Sample Sunday: Nuda Veritas

One year ago today, Cafleurebon published this announcement of Atelier des Ors’ new releases: the White Collection, and Bois Sikar, which I have previously reviewed. The White Collection consists of three linked fragrances based on Gustav Klimt’s “Beethoven Frieze”, which itself was inspired by Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Like all the Atelier des Ors fragrances, the perfumer who created them is Marie Salamagne.

I was lucky enough to visit the office of Atelier des Ors in Cannes this past January, thanks to an invitation from Megan of the blog Megan in Sainte Maxime. I met her for the first time in person, and I also met Jean-Philippe Clermont, creative director and founder of the brand, and was introduced to some of Atelier des Ors’ beautiful scents.

M. Clermont has himself written about finding his inspiration for his White Collection in Klimt’s masterpiece. Like the frieze, the three scents are meant to evoke the human spiritual quest for joy and its stages, as Sergey Borisov described so well in the piece he wrote about the collection for Fragrantica. Miguel Matos also wrote an excellent review of the White Collection for Fragrantica, here.

Nuda Veritas represents the first stage of that journey. Its top notes are bergamot, an aquatic scent molecule called Transluzone, and neroli. Heart notes are osmanthus, Jasmine Sambac, Chinese jasmine, and tiare flower. Base notes are patchouli, marigold, the scent molecules Ambroxan and Helvetolide, and moss.

The impression Nuda Veritas gives is that of shimmering, early dawn light, at the break of day when the dew still refreshes the landscape. It evokes the hopes of humankind, as does the first panel of the Beethoven Frieze, whose figures symbolize humanity pleading for rescue by a knight who represents strength. Behind him are female figures symbolizing Compassion and Ambition, the two motives that might inspire such a knight to take up arms in defense of others. Above them all float female “Genii”, celestial spirits who are searching, seeking, as hope looks ahead, seeking for a happier destiny, portrayed in shades of white and gold.

Panel, Gustav Klimt's Vienna Secession Beethoven Frieze

First panel, Gustav Klimt’s “Beethoven Frieze”.

Detail of panel of Gustav Klimt's Beethoven frieze, female Genii

Detail of panel, Beethoven Frieze by Gustav Klimt

Of all the figures on this panel, Nuda Veritas most clearly evokes these female Genii, with its floating, shimmering, golden tones. It opens with a clear citrus note from bergamot, coupled with the aquatic notes and the brightness of neroli. The opening is very lovely, reminiscent of dawn light over a tranquil sea, horizon glimmering in the distance. It moves gently into the jasmine heart notes, partnered with osmanthus and tiare. Although these are all white flowers, they are used here with a subtle touch; there is no “BWF” explosion or dominance. Just as dawn’s golden light slowly shifts to a whiter daylight, so Nuda Veritas’ tone shifts from the clarity of its citrusy aquatic opening to a whiter, slightly creamier, more floral heart phase.

As it dries down, Nuda Veritas fades away, leaving earthy, herbal notes of patchouli, marigold, and moss, warmed by the smooth and slightly fruity musk of Helvetolide, and the depth of Ambroxan. I love the marigold, or tagetes, note in the base, as I enjoy both the flowers and their scent in real life; they smell like a mix of floral, aromatic, and slightly musky green, which works well in Nuda Veritas. I can’t describe the Ambroxan note any better than The Candy Perfume Boy, did here:

I perceive it as a very silky, silvery material. It’s immediately evocative of the ocean but in a purely mineral way – it doesn’t posses an aquatic character, but one does get the impression of salt and wet stones. There’s also a sweetness to Ambroxan – a transparent, glittering and crystalline feel, as well as a soft, skin-like woodiness. It’s a fascinating, multi-faceted material that can be pulled in many directions, but it’s also tremendously diffusive, adding an expanse to fragrances, creating space, in which beautiful nuances can dance.

One thing I find interesting about his description is how well it also describes part of the overall artistic purpose of the White Collection, which is to “pay homage to the white space; the page, canvas, or an idea before its conception, at the point of materialising.” The use of Ambroxan in Nuda Veritas does add “white space” to the fragrance, in which its many nuances dance. This also recalls a key aspect of Japanese aesthetics, in which the space between objects or lines, or “ma“, is as important as the lines or objects themselves. Klimt is known to have been much influenced by Japanese art and methods, so here again are a lovely connection and consistency between the art that inspired these scents and their composition. (In fact, one of Klimt’s most famous and controversial paintings is called “Nuda Veritas”, or “Naked Truth”, and its composition is also consistent with its namesake perfume).

The entire triptych of scents in the White Collection offers layer after layer of hidden meanings, using perfume as the evocative art to express them. Like Bois SikarNuda Veritas is a highly intelligent work of perfume art. Marie Salamagne’s brilliant creation evokes dawn, morning, and springtime, all symbolic of hope and new awakenings. For me, it is a scent that perfectly suits Palm Sunday, which Christians around the world celebrate today. Palm Sunday traditionally celebrates the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and marks the start of Holy Week. As we know, the joy of that day will soon give way to Judas’ betrayal and the cross at Golgotha. But on that first Palm Sunday, the people who were present believed that their Savior had come, in response to the pleas of suffering humanity, and hope was in the air.

Sample kindly offered by Atelier des Ors, independent opinion my own.

Scent Sample Sunday: Galanos

Scent Sample Sunday: Galanos

Occasionally I find a fragrance gem online, for sale by a resale shop that has discovered the internet. This spring, my find was the first fragrance from designer James Galanos, an eau de toilette named, simply, Galanos. James Galanos was highly selective in all his choices, from the very wealthy women who were his preferred and devoted clientele (most famously, Nancy Reagan), to his refusal to license his name for almost anything: the two exceptions were furs, and fragrance.

There are only two Galanos fragrances: the first, eponymous one, and a flanker called Galanos De Serene. Both can be found in eau de toilette and parfum though both have been discontinued. I found an unboxed bottle of the first eau de toilette, for sale online, and I knew I would probably like it as I already had a small bottle of the parfum. The fragrance was created in 1979 and won a FiFi award in 1980, the one for “Women’s Fragrance of the Year — Prestige”. I have been unable to find out who the perfumer was; please comment below if you know! Angela at “Now Smell This” wrote a terrific review of Galanos, aptly comparing its appeal to that of classic vintage clothing.

There was only one catch to my purchase: when it arrived, the top of the sprayer turned out to be a replacement that didn’t work. I contacted the seller (from whom I had successfully bought a vintage fragrance once before), who immediately offered to send a replacement top or a partial refund. Since I was pretty sure I would be able to use a Travalo to get the fragrance out, the price had been very reasonable, and it really wasn’t worth the seller’s time to send a new top that might not work either, I took the partial refund and bought my first Travalo. Happily, it worked!

Basenotes analyzes Galanos as follows: top notes: lemon, orange, mandarin, chamomile, coriander, clove, and bay leaf; heart notes: lily of the valley, orange blossom, jasmine, gardenia, ylang ylang, rose, geranium, carnation; base notes: cypress, musk, amber, vanilla, tonka bean, vetiver, cedarwood, oakmoss, sandalwood, and patchouli. It smells to me like a cross between a floral chypre and a green chypre, with the herbal top notes in smooth balance with the floral heart notes, and its woody, mossy, aromatic base. It reminds me a bit of Estee Lauder’s Azuree, but with a more floral, 1980s vibe. The notes that “speak” to me most strongly are the carnation and geranium notes, followed closely by ylang ylang and gardenia, but the herbal notes are evident from start to finish.

James Galanos was famous for the craft of his designer clothing, often compared favorably to Parisian “haute couture” although his creations were ready-to-wear (but still VERY expensive). Galanos’ designs reached their height of fame in the decade of excess, the 1980s, and he used only the most expensive materials and finest workmanship, but you rarely see huge puffy sleeves or gigantic flounces on his dresses.

Gowns by designer James Galanos at Phoenix Art Museum retrospective exhibit

James Galanos gowns; image from Phoenix Art Museum.

You see elegant, feminine lines, often enhanced by exquisite embroidery. Nancy Reagan once commented about his dresses that “you can wear one inside out, they are so beautifully made.” His fragrance is consistent with that elegant, luxurious simplicity: understated, classic, of its era but also timeless. It feels like an elegant accessory, meant to complement the wearer and the outfit instead of outshining or competing with them.

Designer James Galanos in clothing atelier

James Galanos; photo by Getty Images

Although James Galanos retired in 1998 and died in 2016, you will still see his creations on the red carpet, since many stylish women wear vintage Galanos gowns to occasions like the Academy Awards and the Met Costume Institute Gala, where they are as elegant and timeless as ever. I wonder if any of the wearers know that they could also wear the perfect fragrance accessory with those beautiful gowns?

Do you have any fragrances that you think of as couture accessories? Favorites?

Just had to add this photo, taken in the early 2000s in San Francisco, when Mr. Galanos was delighted to discover a perfume boutique that still carried his fragrance:

Fashion designer James Galanos in Jacqueline perfume boutique, San Francisco

James Galanos with his fragrance; image from San Francisco Chronicle

Featured image: James Galanos vintage gown (1950s), www.etsy.com.

Scent Sample Sunday: Vraie Blonde

Scent Sample Sunday: Vraie Blonde

For National Fragrance Day this past week, I chose to wear Etat Libre d’Orange’s Vraie Blonde, mostly for its note of pink champagne. It turned out to be a prescient choice, because we went to an engagement party last night for a friend’s daughter, and the happy couple was toasted with flutes of pink champagne! Vraie Blonde was created by Antoine Maisondieu in 2006 and it is still sold through the website and other retail outlets, so it has clearly found its fan club. The copy on the brand’s website says:

She has all the assets of platinum blond seduction. A full-fledged décolleté, shapely hips and a sensuous catlike walk. A perfectly curvaceous body in a sequined lamé dress, a Technicolor version of the American dream! Accords of ambergray, fur and white pepper evoke an excess of luxury, the flashiness of casinos, women in sheath dresses and Marilyn naked under a mink coat. Is she a real blonde?

To know the answer one will have to wait for nudity… Flushes of aldehydic notes fill the bedroom air, a tribute to the perfume the star wore at night, red-hot kisses enhanced by a bubbling thirst-quenching pink champagne note that leaves one panting. One feels like biting into this lovely sugared almond. Everything a brunette ever dreamed of!

Vraie Blonde is a FUN scent. It is bubbly and pretty and it doesn’t take itself very seriously. In fact, it reminds me of Jayne Mansfield, another platinum blonde bombshell and contemporary of Marilyn Monroe, in her most famous role: Hollywood star Rita Marlowe, in the comedy “Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?”

The film, based on a hit Broadway play in which Jayne Mansfield also starred, is a farce about how a hapless junior advertising man, played by Tony Randall, gets ensnared in a starlet’s scheme to make her TV star boyfriend jealous, by pretending that he is her new love interest. In return, she agrees to become the “face” of his client, “Stay-Put Lipstick”, as her own PR promotes her as “the most kissable” star in Hollywood. Yes, it’s a very silly film, but it is oh so funny! And a big part of the reason it is still so funny is Jayne Mansfield, who fully understands and uses the comic potential in her blonde bombshell image, even more fully than Marilyn Monroe (a gifted comedienne overshadowed by her tragic life and death). While Jayne Mansfield also died in tragic circumstances, people who knew them both often said that Monroe’s vulnerability was real and deep, while Mansfield had a more resilient, tougher attitude that allowed for more self-mockery.

In “Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?”, Jayne Mansfield basically played an exaggerated version of herself: a voluptuous, platinum-from-a-bottle blonde starlet whose ditzy exterior and mannerisms concealed a determined and strategic will.

One of the funniest scenes in the movie shows her in a bubble bath, reading “Peyton Place” and shrewdly discussing her publicity with her trademark breathiness and mew, like a kitten, at the end of her sentences.

Like the film, Vraie Blonde is a light-hearted romp. It opens with the sparkle and bubbles of aldehydes, combined with a soft, peachy top note that is just right and not too sweet. I also smell a light powder note, like one of those swansdown powder puffs sometimes found with vintage powder boxes.

pink powder puff

Swansdown powder puff, from VintageInTheShires, http://www.etsy.com

A pink rose hovers nearby, while a touch of white pepper spices things up — just like the 1950s calendar girls and centerfolds, who were considered naughty back in their day, and who now seem impossibly wholesome by today’s standards.

Blonde movie star Jayne Mansfield as a centerfold model.

Jayne Mansfield, centerfold.

Jayne claimed the color pink as her “signature” color, which was something starlets did back then. She took it all the way, in line with her exaggerated public persona: painting her Hollywood mansion pink and outfitting it with pink fixtures and lights, even pink fur in its bathrooms, driving a pink convertible, and of course, wearing pink frequently in public. In fact, her “Pink Palace” had a fountain filled with pink champagne!

As Vraie Blonde dries down, a synthetic ambergris note emerges, listed as “ambergray”, which provides a pleasantly sensual but light note of warm skin, with suede notes to evoke the luxurious furs we associate with Hollywood glamor of the past. The peach and rose notes persist, however, tinting the fur with shades of pink.

I’m really enjoying my Scentbird decant of Vraie Blonde! It’s a lively, charming fragrance with a sense of humor. And really, what’s not to celebrate about that?

Do you have any borderline kitschy fragrances that remind you of movies or other entertainment?

Christine Ebersole as Elizabeth Arden in the musical War Paint

War Paint; image by Joan Marcus for Town & Country magazine