Back to School: Dress Code

Living in the U.S. for the last… many years I gradually got used to the fact that kids go back to school from early August to mid-September. And still, every year on the September 1st, I think of it as of the back to school day because for the first 22 years of my life (well, technically 15 – since we would start school at 7) it was the day when all schools and all other full-time educational institutions would start their new school year.

September 1st

Because of that date that imprinted in my mind probably forever, I got an urge to post something related to it. Last week there was a community project for back to school perfumes – whatever association you’ve got with that idea. My answer was Serge Lutens De Profundis, but since I’ve previously told that story, as I was reading other commenters’ interpretations, I kept comparing their ideas with my memories.

The responses were quite interesting, people had many connections:

  • Perfumes, associated with places – Library (CB I Hate Perfume In the Library); trees in the park surrounding the school (Ormonde Jayne Woman), campus in the forest (Annick Goutal Nuit Etoilee) – my school was in the downtown, and whatever the smell was, it’s not something you want to recreate with your perfume.
  • Perfumes with the smell of pencil shavings – Serge Lutens Santal Blanc and Chene, Berdoues Arz el-rab – though I’ve sharpen my share of pencils while at school, I have absolutely no recollection as to how those smelled.
  • Perfumes with apple note – Hermes Sous le Toit de Paris and Nobile 1942 La Danza delle Libellule – I didn’t know “an apple for the teacher” saying until I moved to the U.S. long after my school years, so it is not my association as well.
  • One-off clever associations “Fracas – for the fracas that the first week of school tends to be” and “going Old School” with vintage Diorella – can’t say anything about Fracas, and did previously cover school years, Diorella and my first love.
  • Perfumes that people wore during their school years – too many to list what others wore, and since for the first 20 years of my life I was in almost monogamous relationships with Lancôme Climat, this perfume is not associated for me with starting school. Besides, I wrote about it multiple times before.

And then I read something I could relate to. I don’t remember what perfume it was but the association was: new perfume in the wearer’s perfume wardrobe (connection – new clothes for the new school year). And it suddenly resonated with my memories.

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In my school years we wore uniforms. It was the same type of uniform for all schools in the country: brown dresses with black aprons (or white aprons for dress-up occasions) for girls and navy suits for boys. They were slightly different from city to city but you wouldn’t confuse it with anything else, you could tell it was a school uniform. But even though those uniforms weren’t too exciting, every year before the start of the school year I had a surge of excitement while getting a new dress and aprons.

Once I started thinking about school and clothes, my immediate association was Guerlain Habit Rouge Dress Code.

It wasn’t like that everywhere, but my school had a very strict dress code: we weren’t allowed to wear anything but those dresses and black aprons – no extra sweaters or cardigans, no colored leggings or tights, no jewelry. Of course, we weren’t allowed any make-up. How about perfumes? To tell the truth, I have no idea. Most likely not, but I don’t think anybody would think of doing it: perfumes were scarce commodity, not for the everyday use. I don’t think even teachers wore any perfumes to work.

It is not that I think that Habit Rouge Dress Code would go well with school uniform: in my opinion, it’s a more mature perfume; and probably I wouldn’t have even liked it at that age. Also, it is far too unisex for the times when I wore that uniform. But I like Gurlein’s Dress Code today and feel excited about wearing it more often than just in the beginning of a school year.

For the real review, if you haven’t tried Habit Rouge Dress Code by now and are curious about what you’ve missed, read Kafka’s review. I just want to say that I think it’s a pity that Guerlain decided to produce it as a limited edition.

Guerlain Habit Rouge Dress Code

I have many questions today. Did you have to wear a uniform to school? What was it? Were you allowed to wear perfumes? Did you? Do you have any association for back-to-school and perfumes? (I promise not to fail you if you do not answer them all)

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Bespoke Perfumes, Who Needs Them?

From time to time I start thinking about bespoke perfumes. Not in terms that I consider ordering one for myself but in general, as of the idea itself.

If you were to do a search online for “bespoke perfume,” you’d find dozens of articles about that type of service, as well as offers of the said services. The prices start from $250 for a 50 ml bottle and goes all the way up to “contact for the price” (or 200K pounds mentioned in one of the articles – not sure how figurative was that figure).

Why wouldn’t I want to have perfume made just for me? Let’s look at it step by step. Since it is a theoretical exercise, I’ll assume that anything is possible.

Perfumer

I think it would be strange to have your perfume created by some random perfumer with whose work you are not familiar: while we can keep the discussion going whether perfume is art or not, it is definitely not pure science; and, in my opinion, not everyone can just learn how to mix ingredients and start creating amazing perfumes.

I ran a query in my database and figured out, which five perfumers created the most perfumes that I love.

 

Christine Nagel. Most of my favorites from her are her work for Jo Malone. As much as I like perfumes from that brand, do I really want my bespoke perfume to be of that “easy-wear-office-friendly” type?

Christopher Sheldrake. All Serge Lutens perfumes that I like and wear have been created by Sheldrake. But most of Serge Lutens perfumes that I do not like, were also created by him.

Bertrand Duchaufour. I like and wear many perfumes by this talented perfumer, and now when the daughter of the bloody dictator, for whom he created perfume 5 years ago (if you’ve somehow missed the story, look the Leftovers part of this post) is arrested, I probably wouldn’t mind him to be a creator of my bespoke perfume. But would he even have time? The man authors approximately one perfume per month.

Geza Schoen (presuming he actually is the nose behind all Ormonde Jayne perfumes). Until the brand decided to become a luxury one, they were one of my absolute favorites: I love or at least like 7-8 of their perfumes. But I’m not sure I would be able to pry a vat of Iso E-Super from him, no matter how much I pay.

Jean-Claude Ellena. I just don’t know if he still has any Dia left in him. And everything else is a little too sheer for my current taste: I like wearing many of his perfumes as my day-wear perfumes but none of them would be on a short list for a proverbial signature scent (or bespoke perfume, while we’re on the topic).

Notes

But let’s say I settled on the Perfumer. How do I know what I want to get? Clearly, I should shoot for the most beautiful perfume I do not have in my collection already. So of course I can show the Perfumer my most recent exercise with the Desert Island Perfumes and provide a list of my 13 favorite notes: linden, amber, lavender, iris, black currant, rose, mimosa, lily of the valley, narcissus, galbanum, sandalwood, cedarwood and vetiver. But how do I know that actually these thirteen notes make me like perfume? As my analysis in that post showed, the highest count of those favorite notes (8 of 13) make up my favorite Chanel No 19 – but I already have Chanel No 19, and I don’t need another one. And how do I know that it is not the combination of the other 76 notes, which composed my Top 20, that do the trick?

My Favorite Notes

Process

Assuming the Perfumer got all the information both from the notes I think I like and based on the list of perfumes I know I like, after a while we’ll have the first take – and what? How many times have you tried perfumes that sounded amazing based on what you read about them only to be completely disappointed? It is not easy to write a negative review for perfumes created by the brand or perfumer with whom you have some type of relationship or even just like them without knowing them personally. Also, have you ever experienced personally or witnessed any perfumer’s reaction to somebody criticizing their work?

I’m not sure I would be able to say: “Scratch that, let’s start over.” Instead, most likely, there would be polite going back-and-forth with: “It seems a little too sweet…”, “What if we were to add more floral notes?” or “It reminds me X, which I already love and wear.” How many iterations would I go through before giving up and agreeing to something that is very nice but doesn’t come even close to how I feel about my most beloved perfumes? What if it is not even “very nice”?

Price

For my theoretical experiment I’m going with the assumption that I can pay any price. But what is the price? What the price should be?

ScentTrunk, which keeps searching for the business model for making money from the exploding perfume industry, offers a free test kit that “includes a palette of the 6 fragrance families so our lab can identify the smells you love or hate” (you pay $4.95 for S&H). After that you can get your personalized perfume for just $11.95/month. I think we can all agree that I will skip the discussion of what exactly one might expect to get for the money.

Ok, how about € 220 for 50 ml of all-natural perfume “by Perfumer Composer AbdusSalaam Attar”? You can choose up to 7 (out of 92) essences for your perfume. If you want something “rare,” you’ll need to pay more: extra € 100 for ambergris, € 150 for Mysore sandalwood, € 250 for iris root and € 300 for agarwood. But even if you go “all in,” the most you pay is € 1,020. And you can name it whatever you want! So choose 7 ingredients, mention the most important 3, tell your profession or field of work (“important for olfactory psychology”!), add comments, “give your skype for contact ecc…”, prove that you’re not a bot (because, you know, it’s a huge work to put all those 7 notes into the shopping cart; and if you make a mistake, the whole form refreshes – so you should really be into placing that order) – and … I’m not sure what happens next because I didn’t manage to convince the page I wasn’t a “spammer.” But anyway, how personal can you expect it to be for € 220?

$6,750 can buy you three consultations with the team of perfumers at Floris, which will result in 100 ml bottle of your bespoke perfume (plus 5 future refills).

Even though By Kilian’s site states “Price upon request” on their Bespoke Perfume by Kilian page, from my recent visit to Salon de Parfums in Harrods I can surmise that it won’t be less than £15,000 – because that is how much their “one-of-a-kind” Midnight in London that Tara and I tested there costs.

By Kilian Midnight In London

I heard different numbers for bespoke perfumes by Roja Dove but the closest one to the official price was £25,000, which was mentioned a year ago in the article-interview with Mr. Dove. If you ask me, his semi-bespoke perfumes rumored at £1,000 for 250 ml, is a better deal: you can try it and decide if you like it, if it is unique enough before you commit.

As I mentioned in the beginning of the post, you can find dozens of brands, perfumers and no-name services that offer customized/custom/bespoke perfumes on the wide range of prices. But, in my opinion, even the highest price I cited here is not enough to pay for real creativity and uniqueness. I just do not believe that any great and talented perfumer would create something really great just for me – one person.

Why would the Perfumer spend enough time and effort to earn even £25,000, if selling it to a brand or launching it under their name would get a much better return? The explanation I could come up with was that it might make sense only if the result is not expected to be anything too special. For example, if it is done for “civilians” – people who have previously used Perfume de Jour from department stores: almost any average-pleasant perfume made from good ingredients by somebody who knows the trade would be a definite step up. It also can work for people who do not love perfumes but want to wear them because it is a part of the accepted routine. In this case, exclusivity and personal service might be much more important than actual perfume. In both cases it shouldn’t require too much time or magic from a skillful Perfumer. And those “bespoke” perfumes do not even have to be that unique from one customer to another – they just have to be different enough from what one can come across at regular perfume counters.

I have it. Now what?

But even if I manage to get the result I really like, what would I do with it? Should this perfume become my signature scent? Probably not: I’m not a one perfume woman. Should I treat it as a special occasion perfume? But then what should I do with my other special occasion perfumes? I’m not sure I have enough special occasions. Do I wear it just like any other perfume in my collection, several times per year? But then why even go through the exercise of creating bespoke perfume?

So even in my imaginary world, in which I can choose any perfumer to work on my scent and am not limited by any financial considerations, going through with that project does not seem appealing.

And then one last thought had occurred to me: I bet I can wear many of the existing perfumes in my current collection, and, almost any way you look at it, those would be not much farther from a bespoke perfume then any created as such might be.

 

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Images: my own

Small (?) Things that Brighten (?) Life

It has been a while since I published the last post in this series. Back then the topic was holiday lights that had brighten my life in all senses, including literally. Today’s post is kind of the opposite.

As we suspected it would be, this morning we woke up to an overcast morning not looking promising for the impending solar eclipse. As I looked at the sky before driving to work, I couldn’t see anything but grey clouds. I thought about how it should be disappointing to all those who had planned on watching the eclipse, started my car and called a friend to discuss the mischance.

I: What are you doing?
F: Watching the eclipse.
I: Where?!!
F: … On my backyard…
I: I mean, how?
F: (for the next 30 seconds my friend was explaining to me the physics of looking at Sun through a tiny hole in some device)
I: I mean, where do you see the sun? It’s cloudy here (our houses are about 5 miles part)
F: It comes and goes.

At this point I noticed that clouds parted a little, and there it was – a small sliver of sun.

I: I see it! Wait, I should take a picture…

As I parked along the road, rolled (wound – for my British friends) down the window and started taking pictures, my friend was explaining to me how it was impossible to do it without special black lens…

Solar Eclipse August 24 2017 SF Bay Area

It’s hard to call sun a “small thing,” a solar eclipse is hardly something that is associated with illuminating things, and I’m sure that there are thousands of better pictures taken of this event. But for the rest of the day I kept proudly showing my “impossible picture” to friends and colleagues. And it did make my day brighter.

 

Image: my own

Second Sunday Samples: Penhaligon’s Endymion and Savoy Steam

Most of my posts on this blog are stories related to perfumes. As I keep telling brands that offer me perfumes for reviews, even if I like perfume, I might never write about it if it doesn’t have a story to tell. Usually that does the trick – they do not send samples, I do not feel guilty not writing anything about those perfumes. But I spend a lot of time testing samples that I get either from stores or from fellow perfumistas. So I decided that once a month – the second Sunday – I will do a small feature, Second Sunday Samples, in which I’ll be sharing just short impressions of perfumes I tested.

Until a couple of years ago, Penhaligon’s was a brand, about which I knew and some perfumes from which I tested but at that time there were just a couple of not too accessible stores. But then Penhaligon’s moved into my area with several boutiques. And since they are new players on the local market, they are still in the phase of being not too close-fisted with the samples.

Penhaligon's Savoy Steam and Endymion Samples

I was curious to try Savoy Steam because of Cynthia’s (The Fragrant Journey) review of this perfume. She made it sound so appealing that the SA at Penhaligon’s saw right away that I needed that sample.

Savoy Steam has just been released. I tried the EdP concentration. From what I read, the EdC version is quite different – so make sure to try both. EdP is spicy and warm. I know that there’s citrus in it but it’s lost on my nose. I can smell rose and geranium but the rest of the notes I cannot identify (according to Fragrantica, top notes are bergamot, lemon, eucalyptus, mint, pink pepper and rosemary; middle notes are rose, geranium, cardamom, hedione and tea; base notes are benzoin, incense, vanilla and white musk). Savoy Steam stays right on the border where a proper gentleman might still wear it without feeling conscious that it’s too sweet, too feminine. But for me it is too sweet without being feminine enough. Also, I don’t know why but I keep calling it in my head Savoy Cream – not the kind you eat but the one you shave with. I like it the most in about 2 hours after the application but, in general, it is not perfume I would consider wearing.

I knew nothing about Endymion released in 2003 until it almost jumped at me yesterday. I mean, it was the last sample in the sample basket in front of the Penhaligon’s store – how could I pass by?

Endymion for me smells like a classic masculine perfume, which is not surprising with notes of lavender, sage, geranium and vetiver (other notes are mandarin orange, bergamot, coffee, leather, musk, myrhh, nutmeg, black pepper, cardamon, sandalwood, incense and olibanum). I do not smell any leather – at least not the kind you expect nowadays when you read “leather” as a note. Coffee? Not either. It is beautiful, elegant and well-blended perfume. There is nothing “unisex” about it; and it is probably not perfume I would consider wearing myself but I would love to smell it on a man.

Rusty and Penhaligon's Savoy Steam and Endymion Samples

Images: my own

E-Word-of-Mouth and Le Jardin Retrouve Cuir de Russie

Three years ago in the Entertaining Statistics: On Tweeting I wrote:

I still do not see too much sense in tweeting but I still do it from time to time. I get some random news from there but mostly I use it as an announcement medium – for my new blog posts, other blogs’ giveaways and the like. The main reason I do it is the idea that I want those who actually read my posts to get a notification about them any way they prefer – by e-mail, through Facebook, Twitter, RSS, Bloglovin or Google+.

Nothing has changed since then other than me being even less active on Twitter. But one day recently I had a couple of extra minutes and as I leisurely browsed through the feed, I stumbled upon a tweet from Le Jardin Retrouve saying that during July they would have 15 ml travel flacons of all their perfumes (Yesss!!!). Available at their Paris boutique only (Arghhh…).

In this age of globalization, isn’t it annoying when some things you can get only at some special places? Luckily, a “personal shopper” Suzan of Shop France, Inc. who had previously helped me with my quest for a scent from my childhood, just sent a newsletter about her upcoming trip. So I asked her to get me in Paris perfume I wanted, if she could.

When she came back with my travel bottle, she wrote to me asking permission to give my name and e-mail to the brand owner she met at the boutique: he was curious how she knew about Le Jardin Retrouve, and, consequently, how I knew about the brand. I gave my permission and then told Michel Gutsatz, a current owner and a son of the perfumer and the original creator of the brand Yuri Gutsatz, a short version of the story I’m telling you.

Le Jardin Retrouve Samples

How often have you read somewhere a review for perfume from a completely new for you brand and not just remembered the name later when you saw it again but got actively interested and pursued it? It doesn’t usually happen to me. But something in Steve’s (The Scented Hound) review pushed the right buttons; and I ordered several samples.

Yes, I actually paid to try perfumes from a completely new for me brand: not much – they were having some promotion – but it wasn’t free, the brand didn’t reach out to me then. To my surprise, I liked all three perfumes that I tried. The only problem I had with Le Jardin Retrouve was that they had all of their perfumes in 120 ml refill format: I can barely talk myself into 50 ml of any perfume – what would I do with 120?! But when they came up with a reasonable perfumista size bottle I had to put my money where my mouth is.

If I had more time to think, I would have probably bought at least one more perfume from the three that I tested but on a short notice I went for the one I liked the most – Cuir de Russie.

Rusty and Le Jardin Retrouve Cuir de Russie

Until I read Steve’s review, got curious how Le Jardin Retrouve managed to get away with using the name, for which I assumed Chanel had a copyright, and started looking for the answer, I had no idea how many brands have or used to have perfumes with this same name! Evidently, one can get a copyright for the word “peace” but famous perfume(s) name is out there for whoever dares to use it.

According to Fragrantica, Guerlain (1872), Mury Paris (1920), Chanel (1924, 2007, 2016), L.T. Piver (1939), Creed (1953), Le Jardin Retrouve (1975, 2016), Mad et Len (2007), Anna Zworykina Perfumes (2009) and Art Deco Perfumes (2015) can claim Cuir de Russie as their perfume. And I don’t even count those that had perfume with the same name but in different language, for example, Russian Leather and Russkaya Kozha.

Both this perfume house and this perfume have history but I don’t want to repeat it: you can easily find it online. I just want to share my impressions.

Rusty and Two Cuir de Russie

Since my only reference point is Chanel’s take on this theme, I can’t help running a comparison. If you like Chanel’s Cuir de Russie, there is a good chance you’ll like Le Jardin Retrouve’s Cuir de Russie as well. I think these have a lot in common: they both are very refined leather perfumes with subtle and well-blended components. LJR’s one is greener and more floral, especially in the opening, but when you smell them side by side you have no doubts they both are telling a similar story. At the same time, these two perfumes are distinctive enough to own and wear them both.

Chanel & Le Jardin Retrouve Cuir de Russie

You can clearly trace a direct line from a blog post (through accessible samples) to a Twitter ad, then to a travel bottle and now to another blog post. Also I saw in today’s newsletter from Suzan the introduction of Le Jardin Retrouve and their perfumes to her clients. And if you “Like,” retweet or share this post, it’ll keep going further reaching more people. It will be a true e-word-of-mouth.

 

Disclaimer: I’m not affiliated with either the brand or the business mentioned in the post; I did not receive any free items or discounts not available to the public.
PSA1: Contact me for Suzan’s address if you’re in the U.S. and would like to order something from Paris or London: not only she brings stuff not available in the U.S. but also her prices for high-end brands are usually lower than you can get here.
PSA2: During August you can get 20% off any purchase (including samples) from the brand’s site: go to http://jardinretrouve-en.pagedemo.co/, choose the store for your country under “Need to Order Urgently?,” put the product(s) you want in the shopping cart and use the code JARDIN17. It’s a good time to try these perfumes because in Fall the brand is releasing their 15 ml bottles in custom sets of 3 perfumes of your choice. Rusty especially likes the bag, in which my travel bottle came.

Rusty and Le Jardin Retrouve Bag

 

Images: my own

The Perfume Museum of Barcelona

As I promised in the Visiting Three Monarchies, Part 2: Barcelona post, I’m sharing some of the pictures I took in the Perfume Museum of Barcelona while my stoical vSO was silently suffering from boredom. He admits that it wasn’t all bad: he enjoyed the first part of the exposition – bottles and other vessels from ancient times until the last century arranged by the origin and period. The rest, according to him, was also interesting – just not taking-240-pictures interesting, not counting time I was actually looking through the collection and pointing to him items I considered especially interesting and just had to share.

Lighting conditions were not the most favorable but I tried my best – sorry for shadows, reflections of my fingers and some color distortion. According to the museum’s website, the exposition holds 5,000 pieces – so even after you see all the pictures in this post, you’ll still have more than enough to look forward to on your visit to this museum. I decided not to do a slide show since it doesn’t allow enlarging images. To view larger images, click on any image in each section and keep clicking through.

The historical part of the exposition, while interesting, was not particularly unique: you probably saw similar vases, pots and other pottery in other museums that cover those time periods and geography. Can we imagine that some of these were used for something scent-related? We could thought I wouldn’t have thought about it if it weren’t for where I saw them.

 

 

This is where it started getting interesting: these are still pre-industrial bottles and containers but they were clearly created for perfume, powder and other beauty products:

 

 

It was surprising for me to see that many perfumes from the USSR: I recognized just a couple of names – Красная Москва (Krasnaya Moskva or Red Moscow) and Шипр (Shipr) but most others I had never seen or heard of before. As I mentioned previously, perfumes were rare in my childhood.

 

 

The rest of the exhibition is organized by the brand, older and newer bottles together without the obvious rhyme or reason for perfumes or brands represented:

 

 

I couldn’t help taking multiple pictures of my beloved Miss Dior but was a little disappointed that my life-long love Lancome Climat was “mentioned in passing” – though, I should probably be happy that it made the cut at all:

 

 

There is absolutely no doubt as to which brand is the most dear to organizers: not only there is a full case of different Guerlain bottles from different time periods, but before you are done with the visit you can smell all the current perfumes:

 

 

It is a small museum – just a single large room in the back of Perfumería Regia. They do not have much space left for any of the modern brands; and with their admission price 5 Euro that didn’t change at least for the last 4 years (see Vanessa’s report here), I do not envision significant expansion – so you’re on your own making history of modern perfumery in your perfume cabinets.

 

Images: my own

Almost Newcomb’s Paradox

Everybody knows that people in the Perfumeland* are wonderfully generous and kind – towards friends and oftentimes to other members of their group who they don’t know too well.

I got my first sample of Serge Lutens Chergui from Suzanne of Suzanne’s Perfume Journal(read her perfect explanation why to wear Chergui in summer).

I liked this perfume though until recently for me it was a cold weather perfume. I finished Suzanne’s sample, then one more sample and was thinking of getting a decant, when Vanessa (Bonkers about Perfume) sent me her partial bottle of Chergui as an unofficial present for my birthday. I was happy to get it in a bottle: even though those take more space than decants, in the last years I noticed that I tend to favor actual bottles.

Several months later, while we were discussing samples exchange, Vanessa wrote to me that she would also send a box from Chergui that she recently found… As I read that e-mail in the office, I was anxious to get home: I clearly remembered that the partial bottle had come with a box…

I got home, confirmed that I wasn’t confused and even sent Vanessa a proof of having that box.

Rusty and Serge Lutens Chergui

Vanessa had no recollection of how she came to own that second box; and since she had no use for it she used it to send samples to me, making the answer to the post office clerk’s question “Are the bottles in their original boxes?” at least partially truthful: the box was original indeed.

Chergui is one of rare perfumes honey in which does not go urinous on my skin. As I started thinking about this post, I wore Chergui a couple of times, and I have to agree with Suzanne: it wears nicely in the hot weather. Too bad I cannot use a back-up box to even better protect perfume from that heat. I’ll have to rely upon a more conventional method – an A/C. I couldn’t even interest Rusty in checking it out: he clearly didn’t think it was that interesting the first time around when I tried to make a “proof of life” picture shown above.

Serge Lutens Chergui - Two Boxes

Speaking about back-ups… Are you getting any for your Serge Lutens favorites pre-repackaging/reformulation/moving to the Exclusives Collection?

 

Images: my own

* Of course, Perfumeland isn’t unique in that respect: people inside other groups with similar interests behave that way. But I’m writing about my current interests, so forgive me this … hmm… what would be the right antonym for “generalization” in this context?

** Here’s the link to the Wikipedia article about Newcomb’s paradox