Chloe: that floaty, dreamy, feminine. Two women – one from 1975, the other 2008. Rivals who, though sharing the same name, could hardly be further apart.
The upstart debutante, ‘Chloe Eau de Parfum’, released in 2008, immediately had ‘winner’ stamped all over it. As soon as I smelled the perfume I thought ‘bingo’ : yes – this will sell by the truckload – a scent that had the familiarity of certain other fresh, floral scents – Calvin Klein’s Escape came immediately to mind – yet felt completely contemporary and fully realized: a sharp, piercing, ‘hydroponic’ floral of roses, peonies, lychees and urban, ‘ambered’ chic with cooler than thou freesias. Winning all the awards it could possibly win the following year, from the FIFI best fragrance to the Grand Prix Du Parfum, the reborn Chloe has now become an inextinguishable part of the city olfactory lexicon. You smell it on ladies who lunch; on those that smell so chemically clean their bones squeak; lingering on their unimaginative, but fashionable coats and at the edges of their sheening, high-grade makeup.
I hate this perfume. Really, really hate it. With a passion. I admit that in an way it has perfect construction and is very clever. It works from all angles. It ‘encapsulates the times’. But it is, also, quite inhuman. The strength of its entirely synthetic composition is unholy.
While programmed by the current conservative codes to act all feminine and soft – virginal, prim and proper but with a cleverly flirtatious ‘taste of what’s to come’, this scent, when you peel back the skin, has the infallibility and metallic machine strength of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s unrelenting killer robot in Terminator 2.Hasta la vista baby: : : : I’LL BE BACK. ‘Chloe Eau De Parfum’ is so hissing, so acidically ‘chic’ and penetrating, that when a women wearing too much of this perfume approaches, the scent radiating from her poreless skin – – like a shield, her inviolable armour of hygiene – the smell, of those screeching, hysterically oyster roses – violates your tongue, your bloodstream – she blinds you with her prettiness: you taste her chemicals, you shudder.
Chloe suddenly realizing that she smells really, really horrible.
Yesterday I picked up, for song, a 15ml vintage parfum of the original Chloe, that soft, adipose, white floral classic still loved by many and who continue to lament its reformulation as a relegated, drugstore cheapo. Shaped disturbingly like a severed aortic heart valve (or else a truncated calla lily, depending on your mindset), it is easy to understand why lovers of the current Chloe would label this languorous predecessor a ‘grandma’. There is a fuzziness, dare I say it, a ‘perfumey’ quality – a word I hesitate to use ordinarily as I prefer to find better descriptors – but yes, that aldehydic, padded, cosy, curvaceous skin-clinging quality that the ‘old’ perfumes had – the ones that made you want to move in closer and nuzzle up to the bosom, rather than hold your breath and scream and run.
Yes, the vulnerability and soft, gauzy neediness of this perfume – a cottonwool tuberose with sweet breath of coconut and honeysuckle – may well disgust her younger contemporaries. Certainly. I understand that fully. In comparison to their taut, boned musculature, their brand new tea dresses and their agitated, smiling anorexia, this Chloe, so rounded and smooth, smells almost fat.
Yes, my sweet contemporary darling, I suppose, in a way, it kind of does: but unlike your cold and hyperbolically perfect self, so sharp and unyielding, so poised and indisputable, this Chloe – woozily insinuating, skin-warm and swoon – smells beautiful; real.
The film stills I have used here for this (predictably unpopular) post – no one likes me when I get all poisonous – are all taken from ‘Chloe’, an erotic thriller from 2010 that I am very fond of and have seen several times. Full of genre tropes but filmed with an arthouse sensibility (by Canadian director Atom Egoyan), this is a breathless, sapphic twist on Fatal Attraction – all you-think-you-can–sleep-with-me-and-just-throw-me-away? obsession and lace n’lipstick thrills, starring Julianne Moore, – playing a top level gynaecologist in Toronto pursued by a fractured, psychotic high class prostitute, Chloe (a siren who has also seduced her husband and son), and a character played quite alluringly, and hypnotically, by the beautiful (and in fact, very 1975 Chloe – had she been around back then I’m sure Lagerfeld would have used her in the advertising campaign), Amanda Seyfried.
I’ll leave you to imagine who prevails.