Monthly Archives: November 2012

Cranky floral chypre: FAROUCHE by NINA RICCI (1974)

 

 

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Politics and fashion obviously influence all fragrance houses, so while the fifties perfumes tended to scream ‘madam’; the sixties ‘young and beautiful’ and the eighties ‘sex and power’, the seventies, in general, to me at least, shout ‘depressed.’ Yes, there was disco and emancipation, but the dark, masculine chypres that abounded for women in that difficult decade were just that: dark. If they had a colour it would be brown. This was fine for houses like Givenchy, whose Gentleman and Givenchy III were convincingly hairy, animalic and horny, ready to get out the velours and groove.  Nina Ricci, however, whose lady-like fragrances of the prettiest porcelain pink and yellow are some of the lightest and most feminine scents ever made, could never be described as brown (incidentally my most hated colour).

 

It is fascinating, then, to look at the scent that Ricci released into this velvety seventies environment, ‘Farouche’ (which translates as sullen; shy; lacking social graces…) a strange choice of theme and her only ‘moody’ perfume, a weird floral chypre that Michael Edwards, world authority on perfumes and author of many a seminal text, lists as one of the all-time greatest perfumes ever made. Though on Fragrantica, where you can still get vintage bottles of this long forgotten creation, there are  fans clamouring for its return to the main Ricci lineup because they love its delicacy (no chance in hell, ladies!), I must say I personally agree with one reviewer who phrased it perfectly:

 

 

“It’s very dated; cranky like it’s wearing polyester, and shy because it’s older than everyone else at the party and wants to go home; put comfy shoes on and be wild in the only way it knows how: dancing alone to Neil Diamond”.

 

 

 

 

 

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I once had a beautiful vintage parfum of Farouche in Baccarat crystal flacon, but could never fathom its mysteries no matter how many times I tried it (just couldn’t connect to the crestfallen, more narrow-eyed formation of the classic Ricci template – those strange additions of galbanum, clary sage and cardamom to the usual aldehydic florals and musks), so I gave it to my Japanese dressmaker friend Rumi, who immediately pronounced herself in love. To her it has a dignity and mystery, an emotive sense of detachment, and is also redolent to her of Japanese paper and of incense in temples – the smell of the wood after decades of smoke – and, most crucially, intelligence.

 

 

 

I could agree. But there was just something in that sour, dusty, exacting and ill-humoured perfume I could not abide.

 

 

 

 

 

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22 Comments

Filed under Depressed, Floral Chypre

JICKY by GUERLAIN (1889)

 

 

 

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Sometimes I just take my giant green velvet box of parfum, open the lid, just look at Jicky undisturbed, and let its exquisite emanations reach my nostrils.

 

The flacon lies benelovent, secure in its felt indentation; safe in the knowledge of its beauty; and what I smell, in these moments, is a work of stunning, fleeting sensations: the living bergamot and lemon essences; a flourishing lavender; a garland of herbs from an English garden: verbena, sweet marjoram, and the tiniest nuance of mint. I am entranced.

 

But like Narcissus, leaning in at the edge, there lies trouble in these depths……what are the rude aphrodisia lurking down below in those  murky waters…..?

 

I take the bottle and apply the stopper to my skin, and at first, in essence, all is an excelsis deo of perfect harmony.

 

 

I inhale : no perfume has more soul.

 

 

But the citrus has now gone….

 

 

 

Smiling, warmer notes now appear with the lavender in counterpoint; wisps of sandalwood, and that suave, and – let’s not beat about the bush – faecal undertone (an unembarrassed, frank anality of musk, ambergris and civet, sewn together by les petits mains in the ateliers Guerlain with a more civilized accord of incense, benzoin and coumarin)..and it is here where Jicky, suddenly, becomes more difficult.

 

 

 

 

In a modern context, this scent is almost scandalous in its animality (and very, very  French – you can almost hear them laughing at us paling, moralistic Anglo Saxons running from its carnal openness): and so to really wear Jicky, therefore, to have what it takes, you have to be able to carry off this aspect of the perfume – which is never crude, more a deliciously francophile embellishment of the human ;  but if you can, if you can, it can be magical: an ambisexual, historied and haunting skin scent that is simply beautiful –  suited to people, not gender.

 

 

Jicky is a perfume for libertines.

 

 

 

I can’t wear it, but on Duncan, especially when he is in velvet-jacketed dandy mode, it smells wonderful.

 

 

Knowing, adult, and cultivated, a drop here and there is the perfect scented accoutrement.

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Filed under Fougère, Lavender, Orientals, Perfume Reviews

GINGER!!!!! Five O’Clock Au Gingembre by Serge Lutens (2008) + Un Crime Exotique by Parfumerie Generale (2007) + Ginger Ale by Demeter (1997) + Ginger Musk by Montale (2006)+ Versace Pour L’Homme (1984) + Ricci Club by Nina Ricci (1989)

 

The first real cold has hit and I am putting ginger in my tea for that extra wall-tightening glow in the stomach.

 

Grated fresh ginger, brewed with some ceylon leaves and milk: a lovely way to warm up a morning, or a wintery mood-dip in the afternoon.

 

Hot, delicious, an ancient root of suffusive goodness and fiery health, ginger (zingiber officinale) has long been very popular here in Asia for various ailments and health conditions – it is practically a medicine. You might even say that there has been an actual ‘shoga boom’ in Japan recently: while pickled red ginger has always been a condiment for sushi, and fresh ginger often served with grilled pork, currently, a lot of shoga sweets, beverages and various other powders and medicines have been hitting the market here: the rhizome is seen as something of a cure-all –  and it is my kind of panacea.

 

 

 

In terms of perfume, the essential oil of ginger is usually deemed a masculine colour in the perfumer’s palette, and thus occasionally crops up in the top notes of spicy men’s fragrances such as Gucci’s brooding, loaded (and now discontinued) Envy for men, which has a gorgeously gingery top accord. It does not feature in its own leading role as often as it might, but there are exceptions, and if you love the smell and sensation of ginger, please read on.

 

 

 

 

 

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People after a very literal-minded ginger fix should perhaps turn, as their first port of call, to Demeter, masters of gratifying one-note cravings. They will sort you out temporarily with their Gingerbread, Fresh Ginger, and even Ginger Sushi ‘feel-good fragrances’, but like Ginger Ale (see below), the impression usually only lasts a short while before you have nothing on your wrist (this is, after all, the idea with Demeter – they are only meant as ‘pick me up’ scents). There is an aspect of Scratch N’ Sniff.

 

 

For a more interpreted, fresher form of the root, Ginger Essence by Origins is a pleasantly convincing fragrance (citric, floral, very clean and American) that features ginger in a more gentle and feminine role, while other more lasting, gourmand spice scents have very pleasing prominent gingerbread notes, such as the 1926 winter classic Bois des Isles (Chanel) and its male offshoot Egoïste, although the main player in these two is undoubtedly more the balmy, floral sandalwood that lies beneath.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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But on with the ginger…

 

 

 

 

 

FIVE O CLOCK AU GINGEMBRE / SERGE LUTENS (2008)

 

Serge Lutens finally left the caravanserai of the orient for English tea at the Ritz with this fragrance; an imaginary afternoon of cakes, tea,  and crystallized ginger among the cafe clatter and bonhomie of those reposing and catching up away from the cold. The result is very pleasing – some orange peel here, some Earl Grey there – and a very cosy perfume that is nice to dab on in winter. As six o clock approaches though, it gets a touch less interesting, with a generic spicy warmth in the nineties manner, and focuses more on the drabness of the washers-up out in the darkening kitchens.

 

 

 

 

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GINGER ALE / DEMETER (1997)

 

The smell of ginger ale always reminds me of my grandparents coming round on a Sunday evening and the standard request for a ‘whisky and dry’ – the dry rasping bubbles of ginger ale carbons popping from the glass. This smells identical to that first pouring in of Schweppes; then fades away to a nondescript  note as though you had spilled some ginger ale on your skin while fixing that second or third whisky.

 

 

 

 

 

POUR HOMME/ VERSACE (1984)

 

 

A brief tale of ginger and ‘missed opportunity’ from my youth……….

 

In the summer of 1989, I was playing keyboards for The Fanatics, a local Solihull band who later changed their name to Ocean Colour Scene and achieved great success in the early nineties in the UK and elsewhere ( I even find their songs, tauntingly, at karaoke in Japan……)

 

 

They all became millionaires. I wasn’t allowed to stay with them (university- I had wanted a year out to just see how it went), but for a while it was fun anyway, and I got to go to all the parties and meet some famous pop stars. At one, a post-gig thing, I was in quiet conversation with Ruben, boyfriend of the bassist’s-girlfriend’s-sister, a long-haired youth who was gentle, and handsome as a drawing by his namesake, and who was emanating, discreetly, the classic Versace L’Homme from his skin.

 

 

In fact we were in the middle of talking about this scent, him passionately trying to convince me it was the greatest men’s scent ever made, when my head was suddenly punched against the wall from behind, cutting me just above the eye. I had no idea what had hit me, but in fact it was Duncan in an uncharacteristically jealous rage (perhaps I had been more entranced than I realized). Seconds later he had been thrown onto the pounding dancefloor and was being kicked by me as the blood flowed. The group’s bouncers immediately came to break up the lovers’ scrap and we were thrown out in disgrace, me crying in the taxi all the way back home.

 

 

Ruben wasn’t my type anyway, beautiful though he was, and I wouldn’t have worn his scent myself, but I have to admit that he did smell wonderful, because the original Versace, in my view, is something of a masterpiece (this may seem like a contradiction in terms given how crass the house’s perfumes are now, but in the eighties Versace did actually use do some nice fragrances: does anyone remember the sultry Milanese jasmine that was V’è? )

 

 

There really is nothing Pour L’Homme, in its original incarnation, it was smooth, complex, spicy, citric, creamy, fresh and sexy, with a beautiful and vivid top note of ginger that shone right through the formula to become its focus. Seductive, yes, but classy – just about – and irresistible.

 

 

I wish there were more masculines in this vein; forthright, yet elegant, complex enhancements of male beauty.

 

 

 

RICCI CLUB/ NINA RICCI (1989)

 

Long disappeared from Ricci counters, this very special scent can still easily be found online.

 

 

My friend Owen and I used to call this perfume Love instead because in fact to us that’s what it smelled like. We both had bottles, possibly as Christmas presents from our parents I think, but he wore it better than me, living in it for a year or two and smelling excellent: a warm, citrusy, very huggable cologne with a gorgeously fresh ray of ginger shining through the whole like a sunny day in October. It is a masculine of its era, very ‘trustworthy male in adorable woollen sweater’, but definitely worth seeking if you are searching for a well judged, temperate, but big-hearted, ginger.

 

 

GINGER MUSK / MONTALE (2006)

 

I love many a Montale perfume and could wear practically everything in their lineup, but a lot of the scents, while beautifully crafted, perhaps lack innovation.

 

Ginger Musk is different. It has that shock of the new, a smell that you didn’t know you wanted to exist until you actually smelled it: an adorably feminine and sexy combination of aerial musks, dreamy fruit and a fresh-floral ginger that scintillates beckoningly with an abundance of freshly washed, long-flowing hair.

 

Hard to find but worth seeking out.

 

 

UN CRIME EXOTIQUE / PARFUMERIE GENERALE (2007)

 

La piece de resistance. It is obvious that the creator of this perfume (Pierre Guillaume) was having a lot of fun with dabbling in his wintery concoctions when the results are as startling as this.

 

The ‘exotic crime’ in question is perhaps the ultimate spiced ginger: a pungent globe of medicinal spices, cinnamon sticks and baked apple sweetbreads like some heart-lulling medieval Christmas wine. It is quite wonderful – there is nothing richer, and you may laugh each time with the audacity of it all each time you apply.

 

 

A wonderful choice for the coming holiday season.

 

 

 

 

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If you know of any other great ginger scents I am missing here, please let me know!

19 Comments

Filed under Ginger, Perfume Reviews

MARSHMALLOW GIT: Divin Enfant by Etat Libre d’Orange (2006)

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The infant-baiting song ‘His majesty the baby’, by Scottish singer Momus, has a protagonist who ‘swallows breasts as big as mountains’ and commands the attention of a cooing clan of women, much to the singer’s disgust and jealousy. The ‘bald and dribbling little git’ has his audience rapt and can do no wrong.

 

This is also, incidentally,  the theme of Etat Libre d’Orange’s ‘Divin Enfant’: the story of a baby, a ‘polymorphic pervert’, who smells so beautiful and sweet that he can pull the cotton wool over your doting eyes and behave like the devil.

 

Or so they’d have you believe

 

(“ …..leather and cold tobacco, a shrilling symbol of our sleepless nights….” )

 

 

 

In fact, this is probably the softest, cutest and easiest to wear of all orange blossoms. The threatened leather (‘the faked innocence of a demon’) barely materializes; except as a duvet, over which the orange blossom, (rounded, tamed, baby-friendly) reigns.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Marsh Mallow, Orange Blossom, Perfume Reviews

La rosée du matin : SLOANE ROSE by ATELIER FLOU (2010)

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There is something quite brazen about calling a posh girl’s rose scent ‘Sloane Rose’, a perfume bafflingly described by its perfumers as ‘resolutely out of time’.

Perhaps she is. Stealing outside at her friend Rosine’s estate; pinching blooms; self-aware and cannily barefoot in the dawn. A delicate, blackberry-dewed rose, with succulent petals and a strawberry creamed wink in the underglow, as the lights in the house remain off and she revels for the moment in the freedom and privilege she was born into:

 

 

(‘ahhh…….Polesden Lacey………!’)

 

 

An effect, light and rather pleasing ma petite choux fleur, produced by rose of manila, orange; Scandinavian violet; a touch of cedar; and Chenaï jasmine sambac.

 

With its crisp opening, as the orange and the jasmine clasp the stems of this fresh morning English rose, the scent is simple, fruity and a little bit petulant.  Not daring, as asserted by Flou: but actually…….really rather scrumptious.

 

 

 

 

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3 Comments

Filed under Flowers, Perfume Reviews, Rose

Lips and hips : FEMME by Rochas (1944)

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Yesterday I wrote about the wonderful experience that is the Shinagawa flea market in Tokyo, and I forgot to mention one of the scents that I once found there….

And I was thinking. Are these vintage classics that I am so excited to find in their original incarnations mere museum pieces; dusty relics that smell so dated they become laughable?

Or can classic perfumes still be sexy? Can they appeal in the modern age?

It would seem so. One Sunday, a few years ago, our dinner guests, Penny and Terry, sampled the myriad delights of the perfume cabinet and its latest acquisitions. And despite all the goods on offer, the perfume that got the unanimous wow was, to my total amazement, an old, pre-formulation edition of that timeless classic, Femme. Neither of these two is old-fashioned in their tastes (Terri goes for fresh, modern tuberose and wears it well, Penny more the Indian amber and khus), yet somehow this smooth, voluptuous peach of a scent had them inhaling and inhaling  (at this point, possibly from elbows, knees and ankles, so much skin space had been covered in scent – this was one of my last pitches).

 

 

How could such an old classic garner such a response?

Because, quite simply, they don’t make them like this any more. Femme was a splendid scent, as rounded and full-bodied as it is possible to be without ever becoming obvious.

 

 

The perfume clearly has powers of seduction (my friends were up in arms over its sexual magnetism), personified as well in the muse for the perfume, Mae West. Marcel Rochas, head of the house, did a clever thing when he modeled the curves of the original bottle on the hips of his most famous client (the Chantilly black lace of the corset the couturier created for her forms the main design on the box.) At the time of the perfume’s release Ms West was the box office and theatre’s greatest star. West was hilarious, the queen of steamy one liners, and the world  needed cheering.

 

 

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It was nearing the end of the second world war and amid the ruins of Paris, or so legend has it, the great perfumer Edmond Roudnitska was determined to create something happy to banish the ghosts of grey. He had happened upon a perfumery material in one of the laboratory vats, a gourmand ‘apricot-brioche’ molecule that would be the starting point for the perfume that later became the ravishing Femme.

 

 

 

There are two other famous scents to which Femme can be directly compared, its blood relatives: Mitsouko (1918), and Pour Monsieur (1953). All belong to the fruity chypre category. In fact, wear all three and after ninety minutes you will barely be able to distinguish them.

 

Where Mitsouko  (a beautiful, serious creation ) is not conventionally sexed – though its dark spice has intrigue – spiked, undercurrents of piquant green, spices and earth make it forever cerebral, removed. Femme takes the same olfactory template of warm mosses, flowers, spices and fruit, but if Mitsouko is a cool dark wood, then Femme is an orchard of peaches ripening in the sun. It is this full peach note, undercut with plum, fused brilliantly with velvety flowers and warm woody notes of cedar, sandalwood and civet that makes it that much the sunnier of the two: moss suffused with light, a tantalizing scent like a second skin.

 

 

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Funnily enough, the scent isn’t in the least bit redolent of Mae West (Rochas had had it made originally for his demure wife Helène, the legendary Madame Rochas, before Mae become the perfume’s face and derriere):  Roudnitska’s formula was so flawless you can’t even see the seams, never mind rip open the bodice. There is nothing throaty about this scent. It is perfect.

 

 

And yet in 1989 Rochas scandalously commissioned another perfumer to reorchestrate the classic – against the wishes of its creator, and thus vulgarized a work of art. The new version, though capturing the fundamental feel of the original, is brassier, louder – probably more like the inimitable Ms West, who once quipped on stage: ‘I feel like a million tonight. But one at a time.’

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Chypre, Flowers, Perfume Reviews

PERFUME BONANZA AT THE SHINAGAWA FLEA MARKET, TOKYO

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As with any metropolis, there are a good few flea markets at weekends in Tokyo, scattered about the city selling old kimonos, antiques, forgotten ornaments and bric-a-brac;  clothes, vinyl – any old junk to pique your curiosity. Perfume is not a major component of the majority of these places, although you will occasionally come across some unwanted bottle thrown in with rings, lipsticks and old necklaces: perhaps it is not something that the majority of marketgoers are really looking for.

The Japanese relationship with perfume is quite different to that of the west. Scent is of course worn by some people, especially high school girls and boys (who go for quite sweet, brash and trashy domestic brands, almost as a retort to the older, more conservative generation), and all department stores have perfume sections, just like anywhere else. And yet. If you look at the people who are tentatively browsing the fragrance sections, it is as though they are not really sure what they are looking at, as if they are almost afraid of perfume.  They will rarely actually spray any on the skin (it’s always funny when some gaijin – foreigner – like me comes in and sprays with abandoned liberation), usually instead sampling it vagely on a paper strip, at a distance, as an assistant politely explains its virtues.

Perhaps I generalize: naturally there are fragrance fanatics and perfumistas here; you do smell perfume sometimes when you are out in the city (though no way near as much as in Europe, which I realized over this summer), but on the whole it is not something the Japanese do spontaneously. It is more intuitive to be unscented: to be clean, yes, but as unobtrusive as possible. Self-effacement is key in this society.

In terms of perfume itself, this has had its pluses and its minuses, in that the selection of perfume available is quite poor compared to other capitals. I yearn for a Liberty, an Aedes Venustas, KaDeWe or Japanese equivalent thereof, packed to the rafters with niche and obscure, edgy fragrances, but the only decent place to shop, really, is Isetan in Shinjuku, which has Lutens, Penhaligons, Santa Maria Novella and some others; fun, but not enough to satisfy the truly voracious perfume hunter.

On the other hand, when it comes to second hand, unused, unwanted vintage perfume, Japan is heaven on earth. This is a place where appearance is paramount, where gift-giving is an art, where ‘brand goods’, as they are called here, have very high cachet. Thus perfume –  Guerlain, Lanvin, Dior – will often have been gratefully received as an obviously expensive present, perhaps as an omiyage (souvenir) from some overseas trip to Paris or London, but never opened. It is more of an acquistion than something to use. All across Japan there will be vintage parfums in perfect condition sitting on fashionable women’s dressers, knowing full well, as they sit with their scented meniscus unmoving and still, that people like myself are yearning to get their hands on them, to be opened, released, and finally appreciated for what they were intended to be – worn.

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One way or another, these riches find their way into the hands of people who regularly set up stalls at fleamarkets every Sunday at the Shinagawa flea market I went to yesterday, which is more about chuko – second hand, unwanted things – than about art and Buddhist scrolls and calligraphy, the more precious antiques.  People sell off perfumes along with with their other bits and pieces as part of their stall, often blissfully unaware of their value. The aforementioned reverence of luxury brands, which I personally find ridiculous (picking up a piece of olfactory trash such as Bulgari Blu I am told, with great seriousness, sore wa Bulgari, that’s a Bulgari, as though I should be impressed), but the good thing is that its price tag will often be the same as, or more than, say, the pristine vintage extrait of Diorissimo that is sitting next to it.

What this means for the perfume lover like myself is that every time I go to the flea market my heart truly palpitates with anticipation as I enter the building, as you never know what might happen. I can feel my white and red blood cells surging forth (seriously, there is no greater boost for my mind and body than this place). There might be nothing, as frequently happens, or there could be such a cache that you can barely contain your hysteria. I remember one time in particular, quite soon after I had discovered the place, when I was lagging behind Duncan in going in and he rushed out towards me, wide-eyed, saying ‘Oh my god you are going to die when you see this one stall’. There was a woman whose grandmother had left an entire Guerlain collection: Mitsouko, Vol de Nuit, Shalimar, all in the most beautiful, velvet boxes, all parfums – plus Carons – Nuit de Noël, Fleurs de Rocaille, and Infini (my favourite), among others. I stood still in time: my heart stopped. And then I was semi-hyperventilating. To be honest, I had to walk around to calm myself down to gain some sang froid before returning, negotiating  and hoovering up what I could afford that day (all the Carons and Guerlains for a start). That Shalimar in particular has made me yearn thereafter to get my hands on more of the vintage stuff in that purple box- so warm, rich, so deep and absurdly magnetic that it makes the newer reformulations seem like a cruel joke…)

There was also, for a while, a woman who did know her stuff and thus priced things accordingly (there are also people who have no idea at all – I picked up a extrait of Guerlain Ode, an extraordinarily rare piece, and boxed, for 500 yen (about five pounds), tossed among the bric-a-brac as though it were rubbish) as well as Diorling and, to my astonishment once, vintage extraits of Chanel Gardénia and Cuir de Russie for a song. This more savvy perfume broker had nothing but classic vintage perfumes that I wanted – all of them. As I approached her stall (in a different place each time) my chest would constrict at the prospect of what might be about to happen…I remember getting an exquisite Calandre parfum from her that I treasure even now. There is only a bit left.

To be honest, sometimes when I go (not every week, or I would be bankrupt), I am actually happy when there is nothing that I want as it will be better for my bank balance. I am glad to just pick up a tie or two – my collection of vintage neckties is quite something due to this place as well – and leave feeling smug and virtuous.

Yesterday it was really bustling, with more stalls than usual. Duncan and I had met up with a friend Nicole, to saunter slowly through the place and then have a long late lunch in a nearby restaurant – a perfect Sunday for me. It was a bit chilly for the market stall owners sitting outside wrapped in their blankets, but in terms of atmosphere it was perfect, and I can only say that I spent the entire two hours we were there in a state of tenterhook ecstacy.

What was on offer there on this Sunday, November 11th?

Price guide

100 yen  = 79p, or 1.25 dollars, though I try to turn a blind eye…..

It was a good day yesterday at the flea market, even if I didn’t find any eye-busting masterpieces. Had I been completely without restraint I could have bought a large amount of vintage perfume, either for my collection, to sell perhaps on e-bay or just to give as presents to people. Among all the dross I found two or three perfect examples of prime Miss Dior in eau de toilette (800 yen) and 14ml parfum (4000, a bit pricey I thought but it smelled marvellous, just as it should, glowering from its bottle); a couple of Madame Rochas parfums de toilette (about 2000 yen, smelling good indeed) and a Calèche parfum or two (1800), although those were in the vaporisateur format, which I usually find don’t age as well (I have learned my lesson).

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There was a lot of Nº5, in extrait, eau de toilette and the rare eau de cologne, usually around the 3500 mark, which might seem expensive but still cheaper than what you would pay in for a newer edition. I am always on the look out for vintage Nº19 in parfum, and have come across the amazing 28ml bottles in the past for as little as 1500 yen. Just eleven pounds for that scented wonder of iris, leather and vetiver that is one of my top holy grails….Yesterday I really wanted to buy the vintage eau de toilette, a nice full bottle, as I have come round to the other strengths recently ( I have NO time whatsoever for the reformulations of this perfume, by the way, where all the expensive orris has been leached out and replaced with citric vetivers and some ingredient I can’t abide that makes it sharp and evil), as well as that classic eau de parfum, which I remember a girl at Cambridge I knew called Kia wearing constantly….damn I wish I had bought that now thinking about it, in a way to reinvigorate the scent with the myriad of different facets that get brought out at different times….(but you see then I wouldn’t have been able to buy lunch, and that is half the reason we were out in Shinagawa).

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Mmm, what else did I come across? I quite fancied buying Gucci Envy (2000yen) as a green work scent but resisted. There was a bit of Bal à Versailles about, but I have enough of that in my collection now, lots of L’Air du Temps vintage parfum (in fact one bottle, in perfect condition except for its slightly mouldy box, was only 400 yen!) But I only buy it to give to Helen, and I think she has enough for the time being so my coins stayed firmly in my pocket. One person was selling fake Coco roll ons, which I was surprised to see as usually everything is very bona fide article, but one sniff and I knew they were nothing to do with Chanel’s 80’s baroque classic. There were a few Egoïstes, and vintage Cristalles on offer as well, as well as the usual Mademoiselles and Chances.

I could go on and on (please do, cry the perfumistas).  If you looked hard enough, nestled in most of the stalls there was a perfume bottle or two – a lot of unwanted recent-ish fragrances à la Bulgari or Salvatore Ferragamo; I briefly considered a Monsieur de Givenchy après rasage that I wouldn’t have minded owning, but then decided that I would never wear it so there wasn’t much point (that whole civety citrus thing doesn’t really work for me). I am a Givenchy Gentleman fanatic (patchouli, rose and leather – classic) and have a huge stash of the vintage courtesy of this very flea market. I consider it as an alternative to Nº19 extrait – on me they dry down in a very similar fashion: elegant, sexy, but somewhat aloof. Both are two of my signature scents.

Duncan bought an antique Japanese wooden cabinet, some hip-hop cds and some ties, including a very nice vintage Giorgio Armani. I also bought loads of ties yesterday  – a 70’s YSL for 100 yen, one very classic kimono-patterned one and some rather garish things as well as I like to occasionally wear ties that have people thinking is that cool or is it actually quite hideous?

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But back to perfume.

Well I bought a couple of things I can’t write about because they might be birthday presents for friends  reading this. They were definitely good buys. The first other thing I bought for myself, from among a little box of miniatures (where the people don’t often realise they are small bottles because they are PARFUMS! I have had several Lauder Private Collection parfums this way) – a 3.7ml parfum of the original Chloë, which I always loved back in the day, that groggy, woozy tuberose in lace. That only cost me 100 yen (79p for a vintage extrait!!!!!) and its bottle, with its suggestion of aorta sticking out of the top, amused me. Next up was a perfume that smells almost identical, just a little fresher –  Tubéreuse by Les Fleurs de Deborah, a house I have never heard of before, but it is my sister’s name, and though she would never be caught dead in a scent this old dame (she is a Biagiotti Roma girl or wears Daim Blond) I thought it might be cute as a christmas present.

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I picked up an old room fragrance, Terre d’Ochre, by Esteban, which is quite nice in an Ungaro pour homme kind of way, and I couldn’t resist getting an old bottle of Lumière Rochas for 500 yen, simply because I had been reading about it on a Dior Poison thread on Bois de Jasmin and it had been lumped in with all those other 80’s rock queens that I have a secret penchant for. At dinner at Chez Tsubame, I sprayed some on a piece of tissue and my first comment, I must say, was that it smells like ‘a tart who has pissed herself’, though this is perhaps a bit ungracious: there is a sambac jasmine beachy orange blossom vibe going on within it that is actually quite sexy, a hair-tossing member of that whole flaming Red Door sorority.

One thing I absolutely couldn’t resist was an old mahjong set that I found somehow compelling. I doubt I would ever play it, as I have an extremely low IQ when it comes to strategic complexity and retaining rules, but my piano teacher has mahjong parties (there is something illicit about this game – it is illegal for minors for example, and I think you are not allowed to gamble either, by law…) so I might take it round next lesson and see what she thinks about it. The waiter in the restaurant said it is a very good set and an absolute megabargain for 500 yen. I also adore ‘Lust Caution’ by Ang Lee, that ravishingly beautiful and repressedly erotic film which features mahjong prominently (as a pretext for a Chinese spy to infiltrate the pro-Japanese Shanghai government). I stared at this mahjong set for quite a while and then decided I had to have it.

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At this point we were about to leave, and I espied an Eau de Fleurs by Nina Ricci that I felt I needed (1200 yen), a completist urge to add to my collection of vintage Riccis (Farouche, Signoricci, Capricci). I had somewhat gone over budget, so Nicole took pity on me and kindly got it for me as an upcoming birthday present.  I would never wear such a delicately feminine floral in a million years, but the old Riccis fascinate me with their intimate, innocent florality…..the solidity of the glass bottles, the packaging; all so reminiscent of eras long gone.

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