The only thing really lacking at our party the other night was perfume. Conspicuous in its absence, whenever someone did emanate scent the effect was startling: Chie in some fruity shampoo Japanese concoction that suited her slinky sequinned dress to perfection; Takako all femme fatale in her Songes by Annick Goutal: Aiko smelling beautiful as ever in the perfume she was surely born to wear, the dazzlingly alluring jasmine epic Sarrasins, and Duncan in the slick, gorgeous lavender semi-oriental Sartorial by Penhaligons: a ultra-suave, yet brilliantly measured scent that is quickly becoming his signature. Aside these notable exceptions, however, and my own overly applied force field of Eau Du Soir, the evening was about as scented as the photographs I put up the day afterwards. So boring, so bereft of depth, this flat, visual universe. Where is the perfume? It astonishes me the extent to which people are oblivious to the joys of three dimensionalizing their presence with a beautifully crafted scent; of their indifference, or their deep and potent fears of smelling ‘too strong’, or even of smelling at all, a profound paranoia of standing out that bores deep into the Japanese psyche, and, seemingly, the westerners living here as well.
What so many people don’t seem to realize is just how much a scent can adorn you, embellish you, become the ultimate finishing touch: make you come more alive on the dance floor or in conversation; how a well-selected scent can draw people in, magnetize, intrigue, even enthrall, with a beckoning sense of layers uncovered, an unmasking of the soul that simultaneously, and perversely, keeps you even more ostentatiously well-hidden. I want more encounters with people clad in interesting perfumes, the mutual intimacy of the internalizing of another person’s molecules; the breathing in, the mental and physical reaction, how we inhale, and exhale, each other in passing.
The evening after the party, tired and hungover, before going to bed I happened to pick up a sample spray of Guerlain’s Petite Robe Noire that was lying around on the floor long ignored, and thought I would give it another try. And I realized that although I had completely discounted this scent on first try as nothing but cheap Duty Free trash, I would have loved in fact to have smelled something like this on one of the girls, or boys, that came to the event; something sweet, fun, flirty and light-hearted, an ideal scent for the many little black dresses that were indeed dotted about the sparkling scape just begging for a dab or two of scent.
I love cherries, the fruit, the word itself, the connotations, the smell, and though demonized by many in the fragrant community as too ditzy and brainless, I am personally very drawn to cherry perfumes, and also to almond: to Serge Lutens’ Louve and Rahat Loukoum: delicious, simple pleasures with their gustatory allusions to Turkish Delight; L’Artisan Parfumeur’s light, Ottoman adventure La Traversée Du Bosphore – another chewy gourmand scent I would also consider buying with its cherry almonds and fresh, delicate suede-vanille undertow. Some scents have a direct air of morello, others seem to allude more to cherries in a more pointillist manner, from the haze of their overall impression than the inclusion of actual cherry notes in their formulae; scents such as G by Romeo Gigli, an obscure nineties scent I am very fond of and love to wear in Spring with its very Italianate sense of benevolence, comfort: a breath of fresh air. But if only I could smell some of these lip-watering scents on other people as well : the cherry-lip gloss calling card of a free and easy, up-for-it party scent.
La Petite Robe Noire is certainly no classic, but I think when you smell it independently of the great Guerlain classics that it is usually placed alongside at fragrance counters (which can only do it a great disservice in comparison), its good-natured, black-cherry/ almond, well-put-together vibe, with sharper notes of red berries and bergamot on top over rosy, licoricey, vanilla/iris/patchouli base isn’t half bad with its cheeky glow you know and makes a convincing argument for Guerlain’s ability to stay commercial and relevant for the younger generation in the world of mainstream perfume. I would have danced very happily next to a girl wearing this.
And then, later, for a slower smoocher, What We Do In Paris Is Secret would also have been nice: sultrier, richer, more warm and powdery nape of neck: a very pleasant, if perhaps overly unthreatening, floral gourmand by Dominique Ropion that has the heliotropine, honeyish Turkish roses in common with the Guerlain, and the bergamot, but with its doe-eyed, slower conclusions of powdery tonka, tolu, sandalwood and vanilla, you feel that this girl is more emotional – needy, even – that she is just about ready to really drape herself longingly over someone’s shoulders. Secrets indeed; the perfume might not be scintillatingly original, but it does have that elusive aspect of concealment that I like in perfumes. It reminds me in fact a little of Ropion’s similar work for Frederic Malle, Une Fleur De Cassie, but attenuated, less disturbing ( I have a hard time with that perfume for some reason and its feral, musked, renderings of Après L’Ondée). What We Do In Paris Is Secret is a warmer, sensual whisper of a perfume, with a well judged sense of subtlety.
For party purposes, though, you couldn’t ask for a much better scent that Escada’s Cherry In The Air, a ridiculously named perfume that I couldn’t help buying last year for that reason alone and also because in its initial stages it really is a cherry : synthetic, artificial as hell. When I sniffed the bottle, only semi-expectantly at a discount perfume emporium in Tokyo one evening, to my surprise I got that pleased, immediate, smile-inducing lift that a well composed scent always gives, perhaps because it reminded me so much of the Sour Cherry boiled sweets my grandmother always gave me when we went round to her house: I ADORED them (god I’d love to taste those again: can you still get them in the UK?). Yes, this is more sour cherry flavour than anything related to the fresh, tongue-dyeing juice of the real thing, which I imagine would be very difficult to replicate in a perfume. But the more the merrier: this scent is just intended to be fun I think, and it succeeds. With a hint of marshmallow and an admittedly less pleasing, eventual finale of false sandalwood, it nevertheless would have been divine on one of those laughing party girls. An effervescent, invisible kiss of hoopla and charm; someone who has forgotten the 9 to 5 tonight and is simply sipping on her drink, making jokes, living and laughing in the moment.