Perfume can bewitch; irritate; shock. But it can also soothe and simply be nice, a buffer between the harsh realities of the world outside and the cocoon within, a fourth dimension that holds us together in the moment, making us feel grounded, and real. A block.
Standing in the Hibiya boutique of Guerlain in Tokyo the other day and smelling these two new (re-edited) perfumes, I was suddenly transported to a world I am not familiar with: the complacently rarified world of the Parisian well-to-do, a moneyed family living in a beautiful banlieue somewhere in the city of light: the thick, cool, white walls of each room softened with silence, the problems in the outskirts of the city firmly shuttered out, the solid reality of furniture, of drapes; subdued light, the safety of a baby’s cries.
On the dresser are two perfumes: Petit Guerlain and Mademoiselle Guerlain, newly bought in their clutchable bee bottles, their robustness of quality and ease, two pleasant and reassuring scents that are like a nod that in this world at least, everything is alright.
Mademoiselle Guerlain is a reissue of one of the Petite Robe Noire 2 scents that was discontinued and then repackaged as a part of Les Exclusifs (with a price hike to suit, which seems a little naughty). Nevertheless, there is something very appealing about this scent both in appearance and in smell, which is cute, à la mode, a marshmallow gourmand that settles on the skin like a girlish cloud, flirtatious, vanillic, but which also has some astringent contradictions inherent in its makeup: the full vanilla base, lightly touched with white musk and leather, contrasting nicely with a sharp green orange blossom, bergamot, iris, and galbanum opening that gives the scent some extra verve and insolence, that extra sexy something that takes the scent away from the standard high street sweeties. She is pleased that she chose this one.
The price of her baby’s perfume, Petit Guerlain, was a bit much, she acknowledges (and isn’t this starting him on the ‘French way of doing things’ just that little bit too young?) but anyhow, she just couldn’t resist it the other afternoon down on the Elysées with Hélène. How could anyone? One spritz from the bottle, at the insistence of that elegant assistant, and the scent of innocence and simple beauty was so uplifting and affecting that she had to have it, even if it was just to spray in his little bedroom, or perhaps in her lingerie : the softest, gentlest notes of mimosa, orange blossom and honey; tame, pastel shades of pistachio and musk, and that beautiful, delicately citrus opening. When she sprays it into the air, and looks down at her baby, fast asleep, locked safely in his own budding consciousness, the world outside just fades away.