Thursday, January 14, 2010

More on scent

I have loved reading the comments on this post. It is good to know that I was not the only teenage Lou Lou wearer, I am enjoy the excellent company of Ali and Nicole. There were some lovely stories too, Lizzie's husband has kept his promise of twenty-one years ago and keeps her in Chanel No.5 (he's definitely a keeper). Anna wore no perfume at all until her wedding day and Cathleen's family associate her and her love so firmly with her scent. Several of you mention associating particular scents with people and I can strongly identify with that.


I will always associate Rive Gauche with my teenage friend. When I smell it I am reminded of the time she dropped her bag on the train st
ation platform. She was on her way to meet her rather unsuitable but terribly handsome, much older boyfriend, the bottle smashed and she was overwhelmed by the smell of Rive Gauche for a long time. It was not a good day for her in more ways than one but I am pleased to say that she is now wears Coco and is happily married to a much more suitable man.

My mum wore L'air du Temps a lot but I associate it more strongly with another friend who suits it perfectly, it seems to me a softly spoken, tall and elegant sort of scent.


The Christmas after Paloma Picasso I received a bottle of Guerlain's Mitsouko, I felt so grown up, it was just the perfume to take me off to student life in London. The years that followed saw a succession of Guerlain scents, including Shalimar and Samsara. Then I began to move out of my student years and into working life, the girl I most wanted to be friends with in my office was a pretty blonde with a very sophisticated social life she always smelled so fresh and clean, hers was such welcome scent after a packed and stuffy Underground journey. So I began to wear Escape. And then, after a while, I noticed that everyone in that office wore Escape so I changed to L'eau d'Issey. I loved that scent, the simple glass bottle, the light, clear smell. I wore it for several years but then it happened again, I noticed that everyone I knew smelled just the same, the ladies room after work was full of girls spritzing from the same bottle that I was.


Change came hand in hand with a new job. I left the creative but chaotic world of a busy stock photography library, a world filled with constant publication deadlines, urgency and stress. Working late at work was followed by partying late in the noisy bars of Camden Town. My new job was a few miles away and so different, I worked in quiet dark wood panelled rooms in a beautiful building just off London's Harley Street. My days were gentler and graver. I was fascinated by the people who lived in the apartments of this graceful building and it was one of them who gave me my first bottle of Channel. She was an artist, in her early seventies and rather fabulous. Tall and willowy with elegantly flamboyant clothes, she presented me with a bottle of Chanel No. 19 for Christmas.

So began a Chanel love affair, that has lasted for some years now. No.19 was followed by Allure and these last few years I have been wholly faithful to No. 5.


But what did I buy this week? Not Chanel, my current bottle is still a quarter full. Inspired by the book I decided to throw my habit of fragrance monogamy and embrace a little variety. So I returned to Mitsouko, the perfume I first wore more than twenty years ago. It smells a little differently to me now, but wonderful. Warm, spicy, a little citrus, it smells of all these things and makes me think of where I have been and where I have yet to go. Just the thing for a new decade and what will be my fortieth year.

15 Comments:

Anonymous Cornflower said...

Well done, Rebecca! It has been great reading this and your previous post, and now I'm minded to go off and sample Mitsouko at the first opportunity!

Friday, January 15, 2010 1:12:00 pm  
Anonymous Jane said...

Next time i'm near a perfume counter I shall have a look and a sniff, not because I want to copy just because i'm curious about the scent. Jane

Friday, January 15, 2010 1:28:00 pm  
Anonymous Martyn said...

It was lovely to be taken by you on a tour of these wonderful perfumes. I've mostly experienced them at second hand, either from my mum (now gone, bless her – but I have her collection, a couple of which are at Flickr) or by association with girlfriends over the years. And you have that great book by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez. In fact, your edition has been updated to included a whole new range of fragrances – I envy you that! They make a great team, but his sense of humour carries the book for me. His description of L'Air de Rien ... !

Interesting, too, that you worked in Camden. I was in Bayham St for years, at Redwood. Would that have been at about the same time, I wonder (mid-90s)?

Friday, January 15, 2010 1:29:00 pm  
Anonymous Alison said...

I've loved your discussions of scent. I wear no perfume, and my Mum doesn't either. My Mum, I think, would feel guilty at such frivolity; she rejects all 'girly' things quite firmly. I find I am very, very sensitive to smell, and though I love scents, have never found one that I'm happy to be followed around by, all day. Scented hand moisturisers, in particular, drive me crazy; Neutrogena is my best friend right now!
My boyfriend, on the other hand, is a scent-aholic. There are a few scents I associate strongly with him, and love. It's one of the great joys of sneaking one of his sweaters on a cold, rainy afternoon! Scent has an incredible ability to transport me immediately to a different place, and time, so strongly that it can be disorientating. It's a very special kind of magic.

Friday, January 15, 2010 1:35:00 pm  
Anonymous Kim said...

I can never quite put my finger on why I love your posts so much. Certainly, your writing style is one I adore. But you also find a way to examine the mundane and make it romantic and fun. I have so enjoyed these last two posts. They made me stop and remember things like how all the girls in 8th grade clamored to wear patouli oil and musk and how I detested it so. Or how I experimented with so many scents only to suffer from bad-scent headaches. Or how I would admire a scent on someone else and how it never, ever smelled the same way when I wore it. But I forever come back to Chanel No. 5, even though it belongs to my mom. It just does....

Friday, January 15, 2010 1:38:00 pm  
Anonymous Suzanne said...

Did You listen to Mary Portas on "Desert Island Discs" this morning? For her luxury she would bottle all the smells of the people she loved, she knew a perfumier that would do this!! So she would open these bottles and all their associations. i thought of you and your posts when i was listening. My first perfume was Charlie i think it was Revlon but im a Givenchy girl now, Im wearing Organza today
Suzanne

Friday, January 15, 2010 4:13:00 pm  
Anonymous theresa/tdoes wool said...

a beautiful aromatic tour...delighting the senses...evoking memories

Friday, January 15, 2010 4:29:00 pm  
Anonymous Liz said...

As my Jo Malone got such a slating in the book (I partly agree, the scent doesn't last) I ordered an old favourite today.....Mitsouko. How spooky is that?

Friday, January 15, 2010 7:33:00 pm  
Anonymous ulli said...

i am so happy it is mitsouko! this was my very first perfum and i still love it! for me, guerlain makes some of the very best perfumes.

Saturday, January 16, 2010 5:04:00 am  
Anonymous Nicole said...

Thank you for all these wonderful stories. It made me think about my own scent journey.

My father bought a bottle of Rive Gauche for my mother one Christmas, and now I always associate its smell with the holidays.

And we also share Escape. I wore it in my early 20's...

I have a bit of shopping to do this afternoon, and will head off to the Guerlain counter, to smell Mitsouko and think of you...

Saturday, January 16, 2010 1:18:00 pm  
Anonymous cathleen said...

Rebecca, I am delighted to see you enjoyed my little story. I am now quite curious to get a whiff of Mitsouko. Your fortieth year? Oh, you are in for some wonderful times.....it was a very lovely time in my life. Every decade brings a fresh new sweetness and a vast amount of grace and wisdom. Enjoy!!!!!!

Sunday, January 17, 2010 5:15:00 pm  
Anonymous anna said...

it's so lovely that your posts have had such an effect on your readers, me included. thank you for making us all think and reminisce, also thank you for mentioning me! i too am now curious to smell the scent you chose... i will take some perfume counter detours and look out for it.

Sunday, January 17, 2010 6:34:00 pm  
Anonymous shelleyinsc said...

Love this autobiography in scent : )!!

Monday, January 18, 2010 12:40:00 pm  
Anonymous alltangledup said...

whaffing down memory lane....

My very first proper perfume was Joy by Jean Patou. I was about 10 and was spritzed by one of those ladies selling fragrance in Bloomingdale when I was with my very elegant great auntie. She gave me a little vial that used for very special occasion. I loved it and when I had my first proper paycheck, that's what I bought. have you sniffed the Jo Malone scents? very gorgeous stuff

Monday, January 18, 2010 4:44:00 pm  
Anonymous Martyn said...

Now we're recommending other perfumes, how many of you have tried those from Ormonde Jayne, in London's Old Bond Street?

I first heard of them through Chandler Burr's blog (he didn't seem to think much of them), so when I was nearby I stopped to look at the shop's window display, wondering if I should go in and try a sample. A tiny blonde woman was just walking towards the shop -- I thought she was another customer, but she smiled, said hello, and asked was there something I wanted to know. It turned out that she was Linda Pilkington, Ormonde Jayne's proprietor and perfumer. I had to agree with Chandler about her latest fragrance for men; but Linda spritzed me with her Isfarkand and gave me a sample spray vial of Zizan (http://www.flickr.com/photos/martynoliver/3612882875/in/set-72157605699331550/) to take home, both of which I really like.

Monday, January 18, 2010 5:03:00 pm  

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