The power and intoxication of scent must lie in its transformative effect – a good smell can instantly beguile, evoke dormant nostalgia and even when I have frizzy hair and chipped nails, cloaking myself in one of my favourites seems to turn me more into the kind of woman I want to be. Who hasn’t looked at those early Chanel No5 ads of Catherine Deneuve and dreamt of having a little bit of what she’s having? I don’t like the smell of Opium but who doesn’t want to be as sexily hypnotic as the various faces of the brand throughout the years?
My first memories of perfume are sitting in the back of my father’s car, with my mother in the front looking incredibly chic and drenched in Chloe, on our way to a family party. Chloe perfume in the late 70′s/80′s was very different from its present day rosy, delightfully feminine incarnation; like many popular perfumes of the day there was nothing understated about it. It was completely overpowering and wafts of it would come towards my sister and I, whilst we would bitterly complain of headaches and feign disgust. The Chloe shop at the time was underneath my dad’s gallery and the owner, a debonaire Italian, took a shine to my glamourously eccentric parents and gave my mother a couple of Chloe dresses (which she still has) and no doubt gave her a taste for the scent.
In my job as a make up artist, I have been lucky enough to work with Duran Duran a number of times in the last year. One particular member of the band, fellow perfume addict Nick Rhodes was telling me about Jungle Gardenia, a very sexy mixture of tuberose and gardenia that “all the drag queens and top models wore”. It retailed for under ten dollars and could be bought in most drugstores in the States but was clearly a fantastic smell of two of my favourite white flowers. I can only imagine Studio 54 absolutely reeked off it (amongst other things!) I believe old bottles of the stuff now sells for a fortune on Ebay. I try and make do without possessing a bottle of this delicious sounding stuff with Penhaligon’s, Chanel Gardenia or Miller Harris’ Tuberose. Fracas is next on my list which is the classic of all tuberoses and such a ridiculously sexy smell that it would be saved for evenings only.
My own first perfume was another 80’s classic – Paloma Picasso. My father bought it for me after one of his many business trips as he liked it’s associations. However, for a fourteen year old, it was far too sophisticated and I never quite bonded with it; it was far more suited to a thirty year old woman of the world. When a bottle of Chanel No19 appeared I was overjoyed to find a scent that was young, fresh and green and adored the chunky glass bottle with the chic screw top.
Things continued to improve when my absolute favourite Penhaligon’s Bluebell started to make its way into the house and my mother’s dressing table and bathroom (the bath oil still being a standard birthday request.) The days of Chloe had given way to something much softer. There is something about Bluebell that no other company has succeeded in making in this flower - a smell that literally smells of a wood of fresh bluebells in the spring under azure cloudless skies. My favourite Penhaligon’s scents still continue to be the classic floral rose, gardenia and bluebell scents which suggest everything I love about the brand and what continue to make it particularly English and special. What I most love about it of course, is that it reminds me of home and memories. Thank goodness for great perfume.
What are your scented memories?