The strongest flower scent was the fake plumeria piped into our hotel in Waikiki.
But there are flowers everywhere.
Plumeria flowers – real ones – drop slowly onto dense, spongey grass underfoot: big, silent pikake jasmine flowers – exquisitely fresh and coldly hypnotic -lurk in bushes. Inquisitive hibiscus, great banks of birds of paradise ; flowers I no idea of the name.
Tuberoses I haven’t seen in the wild, but they formed part of the lei I was given to wear at my talk at the Honolulu Museum Of Art- as well as puakenikeni and the most intense jasmine I have ever smelled; all placed around my neck in sheer sense derangement.
It was a very daunting, but also very exhilarating experience, that fortunately went well (I will write more extensively when we are back in Japan and I can describe it all more fluidly on my computer). I am way too self conscious to watch this myself, but here is the official link if you are interested :
I met so many great people – also the next day at the workshop in the museum courtyard
The rest was mine : MINE ! to take home with me but logistics make that impossible. We are currently packing and taking back my personal selections : other bottles have been gifted to museum staff (who really couldn’t have been lovelier) and some friends we have here. Thanks so much to the brands for sending the perfumes – I will do more detailed features on the scents that were there later.
This exhibition was all about the flowers though, and it is flowers that I love, so quite obvious that the white florals that were there are coming home with me.
Tubereuse Trianon is a scent I once found at the flea market – a vintage original. This new edition is basically the same with a fresher coriander and rhubarb entree that is bright and head clearing – a good one for spring days.
Matiere Premiere’s Aurelian Guichard has a great predilection for Ambroxan (a characteristic I don’t share), but in French Flower, a buttery tuberose with the texture of Montale’s Intense Tiare, it kind of works. This is sexy and direct, and I might wear it for our last night on the town this evening.
The perfume that has really captured my heart on this trip though is DSH Tubereuse. Unassuming at first, compared to its brasher counterparts, this rich but subtly subdued tuberose accompanied my wrists out on a morning trip to get groceries at the corner store. I couldn’t tell if the flower smell was coming from the trees and hidden flora or my skin; combined with a pure tuberose extract I have been wearing in tandem, this lovely perfume has really got to the heart of it all.
But upon arrival at check in yesterday ( a hellish six hours in which we missed our flight, or at least couldn’t board the plane, our hearts in our throats as the countdown ticked and we tried desperately to rectify the situation because our online visa application turned out to be fake – MTHRFCKRS!!!!!! )
: we instead returned home, ashen and defeated but still marginally hopeful that the subsequent visa for the US (can I tell you ? I HATE travel) would actually get us into the country.
So stressed we couldn’t speak.
the cat was glad of an extra night together; we lightened our baggage this morning; and the juneberry blossoms in the front garden in the rain when we came out with our suitcases earlier gave a feeling of ambiguous calm.
We are now at the airport, having successfully gone through all the processes (one hopes ….), having a beer before boarding.
Hopefully the next flowers you see will be Hawaiian
We took the two hour journey up from Kamakura through a stark and rather grim area of Tokyo to get to the Museum Of Contemporary Art, which is currently showing “Christian Dior: Designer Of Dreams”, in search of rare and heartracing bottles like Diorissimo, Diorling, and Miss Dior.
When we got there, we instead discovered armies of masks informing that it was sold out for the day, the spacious environs of the museum and gardens milling with well dressed fashionistas on properly pre-planned Saturdays out eager to pose, post on social media, and stand in awe afore the fabulous creations of Christian Dior.
A little disappointed, it was fun nevertheless to be out, perusing the gift shop (50,000 Cannage candles, are you kidding me?) and
come away with a few curiosities (notebooks, card cases, a rather lovely turquoise pleated bag) ,as well as a quick glass of sparkling in the cafe and pictures in the courtyard.
Asking someone who had been to the show what perfume had been on display, she told us none; but that it had been dreamy and wonderful for the fashion and art lover (I would definitely have enjoyed drifting through and taking the exhibition in, even if pretty floaty dresses don’t float my boat anything like the way perfume does): so we actually weren’t too worried.
In fact, looking through the catalogue that was available for viewing it was apparent that the only allusions to the Dior scent history in the exhibition were done in the rather 90’s style of the poster :
– a blurred J’Adore bottle here, the vague imprint of a Dune bottle there, all absorbed to the visual backdrop of the event – and so we were quite happy to then hop on a bus, which zigzagged its way torturously through the dark backstreets of the city for what felt like an hour, until we eventually got out into the dazzling neon of the most brilliantly moneyed area of the metropolis, Ginza – to go smelling; scores of different perfumes, including – naturally, Christian Dior.
Very rarely, only every once in a while, the blurb for a perfume actually matches its quality and effect.
“A perfume for night birds fed by the memory of Parisian nights during the Palace and Bains Douches era, a galbanum top note immerses us in an electric atmosphere with accents of nicotine, on a musky and addictive patina, somewhere between the scent of crimson velvet seats and the sensuality of the nape of a neck fragrant with vanilla.”
That’s exactly how this perfume comes across.
Having been in the mood for Grace Jones all last week when she rarely left my turntable, it was great to then serendipitously stumble across Nightclubbing – as well as other perfumes from Celine – in the Ginza Hankyu yesterday.
The contrast between the dirtily mossed vanilla, and what smells a little like an afterhours ashtray – think Etat Libre D’Orange’s Jasmin Et Cigarette but done more subtly, enigmatically; and a beautiful green galbanum offset (I was hooked immediately) – creates an elegant and understated blend that reminded a little of a perfume that my friend Artemis and I keep hankering after – the original Colors by Benetton.
Dark and light. Freshness and shadows. I really like this.
I also loved Black Tie.
“A couturier’s perfume: the exact olfactory interpretation of his style in relation to fashion – his obsession with black and a tailored silhouette. An androgynous composition, around vanilla as dense and as crisp as grain de poudre or lacquered satin. Fashioned like a dinner jacket, cedar and tree moss structure its allure; while the powdery caress of orris troubles body and mind.”
Again: a precise description. It is this exactly.
Vanilla. In recent years, I have come to almost hate vanilla, particularly in the current, nauseatingly sweet synthetic vein that permeates everywhere and everything. So it was quietly thrilling for me to finally smell a delicate, but absorbingly ‘just so‘ natural vanilla of such a finely delicate compulsion.
This is lovely. And me all over.
So is Rimbaud.
A fittingly poetic lavender – a very high quality, delightful lavender (and how often do such perfumes now come into view, realistically? The Chanel lavenders are vile – for me – their life force sucked out entirely – Tom Ford lacquers up the lavender notes too much as usual with metallic glosses); a true lavender needs to soar into the skies of the sublime to justify being in haute parfumerie in my view and here, in the Celine, all is lilting and effortless: clear, herbaceously soft, balsamically musky; wearable*. The assistant didn’t smile at my Sylvester Stallone joke, it’s true, but that’s ok. Had I had the money (I wouldn’t rule these out yet, but they are pretty pricey in yen), I would have snapped up all three without hesitation.
And then he probably would have.
*An adjective that is applicable to perfumery far less than it ought
If, like D, you are highly averse to neroli and anything orange blossom, you will hate Nuxe’s Neroli.
If, like me however, you find the scent of natural neroli oil refreshing and relaxing simultaneously (and you don’t mind putting an oil on your face, albeit a fast absorbing one) you will probably love it.
Sometimes, I just need something rich and rejuvenating to smooth out my dried out work week tiredness, and I was already a regular user of the original, and gorgeous, Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse, super effective (and apparently the most popular skin care in all of France), but sometimes its ultra-tropical, sweet florality can feel a bit much too take on board when you have just woken up on a workday morning and don’t necessarily want to smell like an exotic frangipani massage parlour .
This fresher, greener, 100 per cent natural formula (with bergamot and lavandin, giving the oil a cologne like uplift) feels more matinal and stringent.
Perfect, post shower, for this sunny Saturday morning.
I tend to trust people. I want to trust people. As much a philosophical and instinctual life stance as much as anything else (it is just too boring and unfulfilling to go through life overly wary and suspicious of other human beings, too stunting and limiting), as a person who, essentially, can also be trusted, I see no reason why not to extend the same largesse to other members of the same species. People who say ‘I hate people’ strike me as foolish (what would you rather be, an eggplant? You are also a human being; deal with it. Admit your own strengths and weaknesses, your darkness and light, your vices and virtues and recognize that you are not alone). Like everyone else, of course I have days – particularly when tired and in overcrowded places – when I feel misanthropic and crave solitude in the sense of just get the fuck out of my face. But this is more a claustrophobia thing and a reaction to too much physical proximity than a you cannot be trusted.
Considering others to be basically trustworthy doesn’t mean you are an idiot. You can still have a healthy amount of skepticism and rely on intuition when dealing with those who, for whatever reason, have become unsavoury characters with self-serving agendas; empathy certainly does vary greatly across human populations : some are simply not interested in anyone else; exploit and use others. I have strong, if sometimes flawed, antennae; but generally speaking, I think that most people I meet, even if I don’t necessarily get on with them, are fundamentally decent.
There are, of course, narcissists and sociopaths out there – very dangerous individuals; politicians, cult leaders; manipulative CEOs, those poor hollow souls who use their charisma and thirst for power and wealth to pervert the lives of others. There are also inveterate liars, who make things up from a fundamental lack of self confidence. This was one of the extraordinarily tedious aspects of being at school for me; the bane of hanging around with, or at least being forced to be in the company of, boys who ‘wound you up’ by ‘getting you’ when they told you a story and ribbed you when you believed it. Of course I believed it, dickhead, at least initially. What reason would I have not to? You told me an elaborate, if far-fetched, narrative, which I may have raised a quizzical eyebrow or two over in terms of credibility (and storytelling technique); but I listened to the end anyway, even if inwardly bored to death, because you were telling it to me.That the whole thing was inevitably just a piss-take, a lie, always struck me as one of the most utterly pathetic and pointless characteristics of heterosexual male culture – and I was so delighted to eventually get away from it.
Similarly, I innocently believed that Creed scents were what they said they were. I love(d) the gold embossed, ‘founded in 1760’ pristine white boxes. I like looking at them, resplendently ( and now mendaciously), in my collection. In fact, even the other day I naively mentioned a scent on here as smelling a little like Angelique Encens, a perfume ‘that Marlene Dietrich wore in 1933’ or something along those lines (completely nonsense; according to this fascinating book, no Creed scent existed before the mid-1970’s) and so I feel rather embarrassed . A bit stupid. Sorry for the misinformation : I , like (almost) everyone else, was duped. Creed is just a habadasher and a conman : not a ‘seventh generation perfumer’..( this whole story, of course, is not completely new to me : I saw all the headlines in 2021, but was probably too tired at the time, too dazed and confused, to look into it any further).
There are currently three Creeds in my collection : Mandarine Pamplemousse, Orange Spice, and Silver Island Water, all from discounted recycle shops and all of which I quite like. I also love Fleur De Thé Rose Bulgare; Fleurs De Bulgarie (allegedly worn by Queen Victoria in 1850, actually created in 1985); and Tubereuse Indiana (stunning) and would still like to get bottles of all those. I love Original Santal on my friend Justin, and enjoy the soapy citric neroli vibe of Original Vetiver. Though now obscenely overpriced – Creed recently sold his company for one billion dollars to a financial behemoth (and probable terrorist organization) called Black Rock, I have always rather liked a lot of perfumes from this house, even if they are generally disdained by a lot of people in the increasingly fractious and bitchy world of the perfumisti.
But then “The Ghost Perfumer” is not really about whether Creed fragrances themselves are any good. The author, Gabe Oppenheimer, thinks that they are, particularly the main scent in question, the absolute ‘panty dropping’ global smash that is Aventus – a scent that, according to men’s scent fora, is practically a guarantee to having women immediately drop to their knees (some of the sexist bullshit on these aggressively machista sites can be truly astounding; scent is nothing but an exercise in ramping yourself up for copulation ). Aventus was made by Bourdon protege Christophe Herault, who is, thankfully, thanks to the author’s digging, finally being given credit for his innovation after deliberately being keep kept in the shadows by Creed. Before, all literature referred to the creator of Aventus as being Olivier.
Oppenheim also sees the brilliance in at least three other masculine classics, Green Irish Tweed; Silver Mountain Water and Imperiale Millesime; all huge financial successes; all of them widely copied.The quality of perfumery at hand is never the problem here. The problem is that the person who claimed to have made them, the ‘master perfumer’, Olivier Creed, is no such thing, is not even a perfumer – he stole all the formulae from the legendary Pierre Bourdon (Kouros, Cool Water, Feminité Du Bois, Joop!), or rather, coerced that celebrated perfumer into letting him take the credit. Made a great fortune as a result, but cheated Bourdon (and others )out of what was rightfully theirs; not only a very cushy retirement package promised when Bourdon finally lay down the scent strips (he received nothing but a couple of tailored suits); but any recompense for their work, other than the base rate for a perfumer’s submission. Utter miserliness, in other words. And a swindle of the highest (lowest) order; : an outrage.
Which is how Oppenheim begins his book (and continues throughout its duration); full of rage. Part of me loved the muscularity and propulsiveness of the writing in this exciting exposé of the perfume world – he was a boxing journalist before, and the pugnaciousness comes through in the often self-consciously clipped, yet exhibitionistic, prose : there is a David vs Goliath fearlessness here that gives you an energizing dose of adrenaline as you read – the man is single-handedly taking on a behemoth; pennilessly staying at his scent hating parents’ while investigating the crime, interviewing scores of industry figures ; perfumers, distributors, anyone in the know, and you have to admire the ruthless ambition on display – a Netflix documentary is apparently in the works (obviously); there will be more books published on perfume, and I will hungrily read them. As someone who grew up wearing Kouros and knows it inside out, it was fascinating to hear how the perfume was developed; I have also worn Joop; hate Green Irish Tweed but can see it objective merits; reading about all of these classics and how they came into being, for a perfume lover, is exceedingly absorbing. Aside some sections, particularly in the middle of the book, where the ins and outs of all the business transactions become rather boring for someone like me who zones out very easily when there is too much reality, statistics and graphs ( I was, at these stages, slightly skipping pages waiting for more venality on the part of Olivier Creed – as craven and cartoonistically villainous as The Hooded Claw – or else more origin stories about how perfumes such as Opium were created – fascinating! Ripped off from Youth Dew – there is a lot of borrowing of ideas detailed in this book, which will be highly engrossing for anyone familiar with all the perfumes in question – I could smell them all as I am reading, it’s like my adolescence and young adulthood coming back to life – we hear of how different perfumers crafted accords, floral; aldehydic, to be grafted onto the essential spiced template of Opium; there is also plenty of other ‘insider gossip’ about a whole set of classic fragrances as well, from Eternity to Angel to Paco Rabanne and many more. From this angle, considering that the author apparently only started writing about perfume in 2019 (what an upstart!) when he became interested in digging further into the origins of the fantastic fragrances he was wearing at the boxing ring, the amount of information unearthed and revealed for our entertainment and pleasure is quite the accomplishment.
There were two things I really didn’t like about this book, though. One was the repetition. The psychological underpinnings of the book are based on the father-son relationship between Rene Bourdon – a stern and hard working man who pulled himself up from his bootstraps and became head of the offices at Parfums Dior (thus Pierre grew up in a household where all the mods for the latest Diors like Diorling and Diorissimo and the like were lying around the house for him to peruse; Edmond Roudnitska a regular presence and muse – all these details I of course gorged on with great relish) — the problem being that the father showed little love or affection for his son, creating a unfillable void which Creed then opportunistically filled by exploiting the young perfumer’s emotional vulnerability. Father- relationships have a tremendous impact on a person’s life. And Oppenheim has a natural writerly skill in building these portraits. It’s just that he keeps ramming the same point home again and again throughout the book, as if we hadn’t managed to notice or comprehend the first time, continually underlining the daddy issues (why are Americans so OBSESSED with talking about daddy issues?!!!) – to the point where you feel patronized and exasperated.An editor would have come in very handy.
A much more objectionable, nasty, even malignant thread running through this book is a very, to my mind, unnecessarily cruel and vindictive critical emphasis on people’s appearance, particularly as they get older. I have never come across this before in a book (which, I suppose, does add to its originality). I understand the trigger; Oppenheim is furious on Pierre’s behalf, who he deems too timid and lacking in self confidence (BECAUSE HIS FATHER DIDN’T GIVE HIM ENOUGH LOVE, SEE?); he hates Olivier Creed with a blinding passion that part of me loves; gone is any impartiality or attempt at objectivity, though he does calm himself down a little at the end of the book, crediting Creed with at least being one of the best scent appraisers in the world, even if he has done perfumers out of their rightful inheritance; we later on hear of other companies, such as Montale/Mancera, which also have a lot of ethical potholes (the whole industry sounds like a nightmare, to be honest); as a boxing enthusiast, he is fighting in Pierre’s corner; we get that. And so he throws a lot of punches. And boy are they mean.
Only two paragraphs into the book we are told:
“…But very soon, Monsieur Olivier Creed will have crepe-paper skin and a round, jutting chin. His cheeks and forehead won’t quite sag, not right away – but they’ll seem subject to a slightly greater gravity than the rest of him. Unimpeachably handsome once, he will become a pendulous fellow over the next decade, before becoming fully pot-bellied after yet another”.
I was quite gob-smacked when I read this. It didn’t seem relevant to the story. Just spiteful and mean (and also rather childish). I understand heightened emotions – Christ I have unleashed so much on here, which many of you will have been privy to over the years – sometimes it embarrasses me that it is all there for anyone to see but I have no intention of going back and redacting myself as it is a testament. Hypocritically, I also remember ripping apart Donald Trump’s appearance when in a fit of utter hate filled apoplexy in a post that I remember being rather hilarious, so I totally get where Oppenheim is coming from. He is angry. Words are powerful. They can vent your spleen. They can express your righteous indignation. And make you laugh in the process. And if Creed – biking around arrogantly as in the picture at the top; swanning around in limousines superciliously watching over ‘his’ creations in his proliferating boutiques presents himself as some kind of handsome lothario then I suppose that his appearance is fair game. It’s just that almost everyone in the book also gets this treatment; Gabe’s pitiless eye will rove over the contours and inadequacies of your face – crows’ feet, lined foreheads, crinkled eyes look out ! – body – stomach bulges, male pattern baldness and clothing – he once, as a teenager, entered the Best Dressed Man In America contest – and then render them on the page in wincing and punishing detail; even, amazingly, his ostensible heroes (I had been wondering about this throughout the book; with Creed being painted as such a hideous monster, I had been looking at the pictures of Bourdon, not someone traditionally handsome, and wondering whether he would also get ‘the treatment’ (is the author himself an adonis, incidentally? I would never ask such a question usually, only doing so because appearance is made so much of in this book; woe betide you if your shoes aren’t absolutely perfect or there is a hair out of place or something not tied with the exact panache that is required ; honestly, this is pure body/fashion fascism and I hated this aspect of the book ; if I scrutinize the pictures of Oppenheimer above, while on first impressions a perfectly handsome guy, if I really wanted to I could make criticisms about his physical imperfections; but I never would. By that measure, any of us would end up fanned and destroyed. An alternative title for this book could, in fact, have been ‘Aging Is A Crime’.
… But sure enough, later in the book, the hero of the story, the great Pierre Bourdon, eventually does have his aging face and body rather callously dissected;
“The years were not unkind to Pierre Bourdon’s body, but they were also not inevident.
His greyed hair – parted on the left side of his scalp, the bulk of it combed over to the right, had grown hard and thin, its former bounce, the silky resilience of its earliest days, that period during which he’d lost his virginity on the begrimed floor of a maid’s room long ago.
His eyes……deeper set in his skull than you remembered, unblinking and black, cold beads on the floor of a frigid river, unreachable first and impenetrable on top of that. Those eyes.. were also ringed by thin radial lines, wrinkles spreading from the outside corners of his peepers toward his cheek bones and ears, like a child’s depiction of the rays of the sun.‘
Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s my own insecurities. It happens to all of us. In photos of thirty, forty years ago, we *do* tend to look younger and less time-worn. I was a pretty boy then; now I am middle aged ;; but so what? As the writer of the book,I suppose this physical overscrutiny is the author’s stylistic prerogative, and it does in fact serve to delineate the sheer stress that many of these individuals have undergone in the clandestine, backstabbing world of perfumery. And while unpleasant at times (women also get treated the same way, don’t worry – it is quite equal opportunity – a bulbous nose here, a drooping eyelid there), these wrinkled, lined, untrim olfactory renegades and geniuses are very effectively brought to life on the page. It is great investigative journalism; Oppenheim is a natural reporter and writer; he gets in there. He is frank; open; forthright; courageous. And in dealing with a scandal of intellectual theft and opportunism of such a gargantuan scale, risking serious legal repercussions – how the hell did he get away with publishing such a potentially libellous book, when Creed and Blackrock have so much money to burn in striking back? (I think it was the sheer chutzpah of all this that ultimately made the book so deliriously involving); with his sheer angry, strutting ferocity and nerve (and undeniable arrogance). this author probably was, ultimately. in many ways, with his unsparing gaze —- the only one who could actually have ever written it.