Monthly Archives: March 2013

Tomorrow I will do something new b ut

The Black Narcissus

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Celtic Fire is possibly the hairiest, most virile scent I have ever encountered. Intense, rugged, romantic, it is also the best ‘smoked’ smell I have come across – a very specialized nook in perfumery that includes such alumni as Feu de Bois by Diptyque (technically a room spray but fine as a perfume), and Le Labo’s legendary Patchouli 24. While the Diptyque is severe and somewhat one note as you claw among its embers, and the Labo has a meaty jambon/vanilla fusion I can find nauseating, the first half an hour of this scent achieves a fiery perfection:  it  is natural, clean, and trustworthily sex-charged. Presumably it is the ingredients that count here: a litany of no-nonsense UK sourced botanicals that, when blended together, add up to a club-wielding brute to set hearts pounding (the company itself describes it as ‘positively tribal’ and I can’t say I disagree).

Bog myrtle…

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More ignored greens….

The Black Narcissus

While her majesty’s subjects in the four nations of the United Kingdom are busily drinking to her seventh decade on the throne, new fragrance house Union, which proudly sources all its ingredients exclusively from the British Isles, is about to release a collection of four fragrances that set out to capture a certain Britishness; in this case the bracing scent of the Scottish Highlands.

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The idea is captivating. Locally sourced plant materials native to Scotland are used in the blend: bracken from the Borders, bay from Pembrokeshire, pine sap, and the starring substance, Cnicus Benedictus, or Holy Thistle, picked from the highland estate of Kinra.

With this description, you may be forgiven for expecting a Braveheart green of bitter intensity, as was I. Having experienced Union’s Gothic Bluebell (see my earlier review), I readied myself for another full-blown Brontëan fantasy: something peculiar and diffident – a scent to admire rather…

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In the mood for green, and no one read it the first time so….

The Black Narcissus

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Central Park occupies a very important place in the mental scape of New Yorkers (and cinemagoers); it is the heart and lungs of the city. Bond No 9, a brand I have not had much success with, apparently wished to pay homage to this island of chlorophyll with a fragrance inviting us to ‘commemorate New York’s grand oasis of greenery; a lush sensory landscape that simulates a walk in the park’; a park, as we have seen in countless movies and soaps celebrating the metropolis, with joggers in visors and white shorts running every which way but loose; tennis courts, basketball, dogs a-larking, you name it – this is a place for the lovers of the outdoors.

 

 

Lancôme’s Trophée, another celebrator of green (discontinued but easily found online) has a similar, pastime on the lawns  theme; with a golfer on the bottle, and a golf ball…

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Guerlain Muguet (2013)

 

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I was in Tokyo again today, the cherry blossom in full bloom, and went to the Ginza Guerlain boutique for a quick peep. There on the counter was the new version of Guerlain’s 1906 Muguet, a limited edition that is only available for one day a year – on May 1st, the day in France when people traditionally give each other sprigs of lily-of-the-valley as a ‘porte bonheur’, or good luck charm.

Though not available yet, there it was as a tantalizer. The fragrance: a gorgeously rounded, very expensive, creamy and more Guerlain-ish version of Diorissimo, all very well and good, but LOOK AT THE LABEL ON THE BOTTLE.

I want to disappear into that muguet embossed paper: the purity, the imprinted delicacy….

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THE HALL OF MIRRORS……….Parfum d’Hermès parfum (1984) and the matchless attraction of extraits.

 

 

 

 

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On the way to my Japanese lesson in Kamakura yesterday, I had a bit of extra time and so I quickly popped into an antique shop down a side street which I know has a large selection of vintage perfumes at usually reasonable-ish prices. The selection there might not change from week to week, from month to month even ( I have a mental inventory of whatever is currently in there at any given time), but then, out of the blue, there will be a sudden influx of precious, sometimes unbelievable, things you snap up with a flutter and a heartbeat (if there is still any money in your wallet left), and spend your whole Japanese lesson dreaming of what they will smell like when you get them home.

 

 

 

Yesterday was one of those days. I was completely thrilled, as my eyes quickly scoured the shelves, to find a vintage extrait of Paco Rabanne’s Calandre in its iconic sixties bottle, and as well as that, the rare and wonderful Parfum D’Hermès, full, in exquisite, perfect condition, each the equivalent of only fifteen dollars.

 

 

 

Now this is what I call a perfume. Refashioned as Rouge d’Hermès in 2000 (the parfum of which I also managed to snap up at a fleamarket), I was amazed to find that this extrait is even more beautiful. A less gauzy, powdered madame than its successor, Parfum d’Hermès is bright-eyed and utterly radiant: classic, assured, and beautifully balanced with floral notes of Bulgarian rose, hyacinth and jasmine immersed in a theatrical shimmer of myrrh and amber-infused aldehydes, spices and musk-tinged cedarwood – a Chamade-like semi-oriental that dries down eventually to a very ‘forbidden’, resinous, animalic finish. More so even than Rouge, which smelled familiar to me when it came out yet shocking with its uncontemporary, almost rudely human end notes, this final accord is sensual, perturbing, but a fittingly bodied conclusion to such a fully realized beauty as this. From the green, relucent burst of aldehydic hyacinths, to the powdered, elegant, skin-caressing conclusion, Parfum d’Hermès is a work of art – the flawless creation of perfumer Akiko Kamei, who seems to have only made three perfumes (this, Rouge, and Rouge Eau Delicate) all modulations on the same theme: Chamade. Like an obsessed artist lost in a hall of mirrors, she seems to have been compelled to try and recreate, or even improve upon, Guerlain’s monumental classic by strengthening it, embolstering that perfume’s innate vulnerability by enwrapping it in the finest red satins and silks, by corsetting her up with help from the fierce petites mains from her atelier, by taking her from her private, self-absorbed chambers to the extroversion of the opera house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Also in the shop, new additions, were the tantalizing pure parfums of Guerlain’s Samsara and Sublime de Patou, perfumes I always felt were so rich and vulgar they defied belief (lipoid, loud-mouthed sandalwoods with sillages that even the most ample diva might shy away from), yet I find myself wanting them anyway. There is something so essential about an extract, an extrait, a parfum : the secret concentration, the essence, the heart of the perfume. They are like talismans to me in their potent, 7.5ml flacons, even when I am not necessarily a fan of the perfume in question. I can’t help wanting to collect them, to possess them.

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A LA RECHERCHE DU SHOE PERDU…….. FLASH by Jimmy Choo (2013) + JIMMY CHOO by Jimmy Choo (2011)+ ILLICIT FLOWER by Jimmy Choo (2016)

 

 

 

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I am not a fashionista. And I am definitively not a shoe person. Since I was a young boy I have been vastly indifferent to them, loathed shoe shopping, hated the stress of it; the boredom, the heat and stuffiness of the shoe shops, the artificial lights boring a hole in my brain, the floor mirrors; the shoe ‘horns’ (what the hell are they?); the fact that I have to choose something that I have no interest in looking at in the first place, and also the fact that, in Japan, now an adult, I can’t find any shoes to fit even when I do find myself compelled to buy some new ones, always and only when they are starting to fall apart and my friends or relatives urge me aggressively to go and get some right now because you really need some new shoes ( I buy at most one pair of shoes a year I would say, when they get scuffed beyond recognition, and I still have trainers from about twelve to fifteen years ago which I like well enough and which look fine to me); but even when I do want to buy some new ones, even then I have to go to a specialist store in Tokyo for personages with overlarge feet called Big B, full of hulking trolls looking for something among the rank, ugly selections, which means I, when I have finally found something I can bear to hand over money for, I have to then slink shamefully out of said shop with an ugly brown plastic bag slung over my shoulders advertising to all the fact that on the Lilliputian island I inhabit, at least, I am a Caucasian with giant feet – an ungainly, unelegant maxiped (for the record I am only a UK size 10 1/2, or US 11, which hardly makes me King Kong)……..

 

 

 

 

 

But,  with the increasingly westernized diet that has crept in steadily here, the feet of the nation’s youth are also getting bigger as the youth gets taller, and regular shoe shops, not just ‘specialists for the gargantuan of foot’, are now, finally, starting to stock my size.

 

 

 

 

Yippee!!

 

 

 

 

This still doesn’t mean that I am about to be badgered into caring about shoes because I never will. In terms of my appearance they are the last thing I care about (also in others, I don’t tend to notice shoes on them unless they are especially spectacular): for some reason my eyes rarely stray down that far, despite (or because of) the fact that my father always chided me forebodingly as a child that you judge a man by his shoes and encouraged me to polish my school ones on a Sunday night, especially the bit at the back – no, don’t skip it! that is the part they look at the most! (this was absolutely guaranteed to make me want to do the opposite: my young brain figured that if someone were stupid and shallow enough to judge me by how the back of my shoes looked then they definitely needed to be as dirty as possible); and the fact that my mother and I would literally get into skin-scratching, hair-pulling frenzies of exasperation at the whole experience as I would huff from changing room to changing room, from shop to shop, refusing to take an interest in the leather-soled bullshit around me or else suddenly becoming so shoe-choosy that it was impossible to find anything that would please this evil, shoe-hating Little Lord Fauntleroy  – as we viciously skin-pinched each other in pure and unadulterated, momentary mutual hatred. Ah the memories. (And now, to boot, haha, as destiny would have it, I happen to have an extremely  shoe-centric partner, who gets complimented frequently on his choices, from nifty blue suede numbers and blue sequinned Wizard Of OZ, to pink converse (whoopee!) from Kenzo to Klein to Prada, who then also nags me about my lack of shoes………fat chance D, if I have a spare lump of cash you know straight away what it is going on………….)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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To those of you reading this who are shocked that ‘a gay’ is not inexorably drawn to the world of shoes à la Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (which, to me, is nothing short of anathema – that whole mincing, sour-mouthed, fag-hagged schtick that pisses me off no end for its insidious, limiting categorizations of the non-‘straight’ male, the assumption that ‘we’ are all shallow and so easily marketed to, shocked that I wasn’t genetically born to shop, that I wasn’t forever craving some more unneeded chaussures), well to all of you I say examine your conscience and your entrenched, if well-meaning stereotypes: darling my middle name is not f*&@5&  IMELDA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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YET!  and despite all of the above (amazing that I can get so furious about something as irrelevant as shoes….. Perhaps I need shoe aversion therapy or something, to be introduced slowly to them gradually  – here come the heel, are you ready, Mr Chapman? – until I can being to understand their inherent supposed attractiveness), my eyes, I have to say, do like a bit o’ beauty (as hopefully you may have noticed), and I can, most definitely  appreciate other people’s fashion aesthetically even if I don’t spend any time thinking about it myself (the exception being neckties –  I do love a nice vintage floral Léonard tie to go with my work suits). Don’t imagine I will wear just any old crap – I won’t ; I am quite fussy and narcissistic in my own way – but it must be simple and unfashiony: when I am talking about ‘what to wear’ I am almost always talking about perfume. (Also, while I am on the topic, surely skin, hair, aura are more important than what you don on your hooves – I am always amazed and visually insulted when a person traipses out in some blallywally pair of new boots or whatever expecting the world to come crashing down towards their feet when their flippin’ lips are chapped, their hair is smelly, or their skin is as dry as a locust’s arse. Some people stink but look ‘trendy’ (there’s nothing I hate more than a fashion victim), oh dear how they forget about the essentials. Who cares about your stupid feet if your face looks like a walnut?)

 

 

 

 

 

But to contradict myself now and come across like a total hypocrite: Despite what I have just ranted above, I do, very much, quite obviously, appreciate beauty of all kinds;  I used to read Suzy Menkes of the New York Times religiously before the more miserabilist Vanessa Friedman took over, she with the famous pompadour do who with her delectable prose can translate the fickle and shallow world of clothes and la moda into poetry and from which I get any knowledge I might have of the latest collections and who is creating them. I am also a deep cinephile, as may be obvious from some of my posts. I can swoon over light; colour; the sensations that flow through me in my chest when I am in thrall of good cinema, and one of the key components of this mystery that I can never solve (quite why I love film to the extent that I do) is surely the element of that capturing of a moment in time; the fixed, the plotted, but also the random, aleatory realities of the times; particularly the fashion, captured permanently on celluloid, fashion that immediately dates a moment and yet preserves it, makes it live again before your eyes: : : I  can thrill to the chiffons of the models in Cassavetes’ Killing Of A Chinese Bookie, feel my heart beat with pleasure at the camouflaged Dior boots (see, I knew they were Dior thanks to Suzie) running in slow motion across a Paris pavement from the assassins in hot pursuit in Brian De Palma’s deliciously oneiric Femme Fatale; smile in poptastic appreciation of the pink satin delicacies and blue Converse tossed into the shoe closets of the queen in Sofia Coppola’s gravely underrated Marie Antoinette (the only film that Duncan and myself will argue ferociously about :he thought it was shallow pop candy, I myself know that it was a delicate, delectable masterpiece)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And, for my sins, though I haven’t had a TV for 20 years now ( I don’t need it – mental pollution),  I do watch TV series sometimes on rental DVD, and for a while there, like every other idiot, I was glued to the ridiculous Sex And The City: that addictive, stupid, fun, engaging HBO series where a gaggle of wealthy, self-obsessed, vain, superficial, yet somehow just about likeable women met in Manhattan island restaurants to wail and toast and lament and laugh about their careers, their men, their apartments, their shoes..

 

 

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Yes, those shoes. Carrie was famously obsessed with them; would squeal with delight when that lantern-jawed fool she ended up marrying created a walk-in closet for them both as though she had entered the Pearly Gates themselves. The Louboutins; the Manolos; the Jimmy Choos. She was an inveterate shoeholic, and though I harbored a secret fantasy (which still makes me laugh to this day) that they would all somehow, most improbably, be mowed down by a combine harvester as they sashayed down Fifth Avenue in the final episode, I do know that even this obstinate shoe-phobe had those glamorous labels rammed into his skull. I learned from the show that you could, apparently, spend thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars on shoes (  I would go into a coma from buying even two pairs) and that the holy triad – Choo, Louboutin and the others, represented the stilettoed, rarified zenith of those people who, mystifyingly to this shoe-autistic creature, spend hours and hours fantasizing about what to put on their feet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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UGH!!

 

 

 

 

(look about behind you, ladies ..here come the truck)

 

 

 

 

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Ahem. What is far, far more mystifying to me though, now that we are finally moving away from my initial shoe trauma and on to the related ‘perfume’ (inverted commas very much a necessity here, ladies) is how such a revered celebrity cobbler as Jimmy Choo, presumably licensing (whoring) himself out, could allow his (for shoe-philes, hallowed) name to be attached to such  trash as these two fragrances: Flash, the ‘brand new fragrance!’ and the original ‘Jimmy Choo’, which, to me, in all honesty represent new lows in the glitzy hollow shite that is presented to us these days as perfume. Perfumes that have no connection whatsoever to the apparent quality that the shoemaker is known for. That bring his image down to such an obvious, painful, degree.

 

 

 

 

 

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How can such a thing happen? I realize, naturally, that perfume has always been a way for the relatively moneyless to dream of high-end fashion, that, in buying a bottle of Miss Dior, they could taste a bite of the pie even if they could never in a million aeons afford one of the gowns for themselves. But in the case of Dior, in the old days at least, the perfumes themselves were of such good quality that you surely didn’t mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Flash is, we are told, all  ‘about the cool rush of excitement and the sense of excitement a woman feels when dressed in a pair of sexy shoes. Its character, which is both heady and effervescent, captures this perfectly….the thrill of the red carpet, the fun of the nightclub, the glamour of dressing up. It captures a moment of sheer hedonism where adrenaline and confidence collide…..encased in a luxurious, shimmering, crystal faceted bottle, reminiscent of a paparazzi flash bulb, Flash is for the glamorous, urban woman. At once provocative and a little bit naughty, she challenges convention; she’s a risk taker, charming, audacious and magnetic…’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

R E T CH. 

 

 

 

 

These descriptions amount to nothing less than a gross, misleading deception for those brainless,

barbette twiddlies who haven’t got a nostril hair between them and believe whatever they are told by glossy fashion magazine beauty editors because they cannot for a moment judge a good perfume for themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ugh!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In my piece on the new ‘toilet waters’, Like A Monster, which you can read here, I discuss how haute parfumerie and functional perfumery, (which is another way of saying toilet sanitizers) are, on some of the lower echelons of the industry, becoming virtually indistinguishable.

 

 

 

 

 

It has got to the point where these cheap

 

 

 

(god, Flash smells cheeeeaaaap)

 

 

 

 

 –    these cheap cheap cheap vile aromachemicals have come to form the main ‘bouquet’ of a fragrance, yet, personally, all I can think of when I smell these lavatorial accords is what have you got to hide there, missy?

 

 

 

 

Those sparkling, florachemicals from the sparkliest of toilets, those high class restrooms with surfaces so clean you could eat your dinner off them, that you don’t mind smelling in that environment, as anything is better than the alternative, yet when they are transferred to a perfume emanating from a real person’s skin just smell FOUL.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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But I am getting a bit carried away here again, spiralling down in a shoe-phobia induced frenzy, so let’s (deep breath),  for fairness’ sake, do a hand to hand comparison.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the left hand: Jimmy L’Original, et, sur la main droite, FLASH.

 

 

I have to tell you that this is not easy for me. As I type this I have just been eating my lunch, and I have both the Choos sprayed on tissue paper next to me on the computer. They are not pleasant, and to actually brave them on my skin strikes me as rather gallant – see what I will put up with for your amusement and pleasure ?- as the lunch – quite nice, actually, might be about to go into reverse….(though I doubt that we need any more vomit pictures right now, do we)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Oh, go on then.

 

 

 

 

No but right, here goes:

 

 

 

 

Jimmy (he sprays, lifts his hand up to his nose…..)

 

 

 

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Mmm, the first top notes of sparkly pear and fruit salad over new shampoo aren’t too bad; in fact, the first time I smelled this for a microsecond I wondered if it might be suitable as a work scent: ah but no, see how it swiftly cheapens, contaminates itself, the ill-matched, nasty, vulgarizing notes of ‘tiger orchid’ (in yer f*&^^^^ dreams!!), ‘toffee caramel’ and ‘Indonesian patchouli’, bleeurrrgh,  BLEEURURUR rising up like a tramp from the gutter we are find ourselves, ONCE MORE, in strictly toilet bowl territory: in fact I can vividly see that coloured water swirling, swirling round sweetly as the doo gets flushed down, finally, to eternity…

 

 

 

 

 

On the subject of which, ‘Flash’ is so irredeemably shit that I can only think in bathroom metaphors. Sorry. I can’t find a single nice thing to say about about it. The PR is a bare-faced lie; this is nothing but a rank, sickly, astonishingly banal and artificial concoction (‘strawberry’, ‘tangerine’, ‘tuberose’, ‘white woods’) that I am going straight to the sink to scrub off, ferociously, right now. Sorry. I just can’t.

 

 

 

 

EDITOR’S NOTE!

 

 

NEW ADDITION 2016! More shoes!

 

 

 

ILLICIT FLOWER

 

Smelled this the other day at Takashimaya, and in comparison with the other two, this one is a masterpiece. Apricot, ‘grapefruit blossom’, a freesia-ish vanillic fruity floral, the opening stages aren’t so bad at all, but I am afraid (honestly, I do try to keep an open mind and be fair about these things), yet again, after twenty minutes or so we are back at the Grand Station restrooms of Cheapsville.

 

 

 

Yes, our Jimmy, that canny shoester, as usual, will be laughing all the way to the bank.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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All in all then, to conclude this noble, subtle and poetic post, I have to say in good conscience that all these perfumes are nothing more than sickly, trite flashes in the pan. A bedpan. To me, for such a well esteemed couturier to have allowed his name to be associated with such utter crap as these perfumes are is mind-boggling. It cheapens the brand;  soils the soles, and does nothing whatsoever to enhance what this papoutsiphobic louse (Yes! there is an actual medical term available for a shoe-hater!) would have liked the fragrance to do – rev up some interest in something that bores him to tears, to DEATH: the whole essence of what Monsieur Jimmy Choo is supposed to be all about – the SHOES.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s suddenly gone colder today, and the post I was writing didn’t fit my mood. I am going for something for something cosy from the backlog instead. Put the kettle on, won’t you?

The Black Narcissus

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When I lived in North London I used to go to a very eccentric cafe called The Raj. Up some flights of the stairs in the Highgate Village was what seemed to be some kind of dilapidated, walled-in gypsy rose caravan, where Sunday breakfasts could be had at a snail’s pace as the dust motes of the years travelled slowly in the light, and cosy Londoners nursed their hangovers with the full English Monty and their thick newspaper supplements.  Albums proceeding on the  record player in the corner gave a pleasing aspect of homely, teenage bedroom reality: the stylus would come to a halt amid the sound of chaos from the kitchen, the crackle on the loping grooves of the vinyl only adding to the atmosphere. You let the  click.    click  fade into the general ambience of coffee mugs and trays being carried back…

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