Each morning when I wake up I reach for a scent ( I am surrounded by perfume, our bedroom a museum ), just to start the day, to line it with smell, to dip it in my reality. This morning, I was for some reason drawn towards Fame by Corday, an obscure and rare perfume I found at a second hand store in Kamakura and which I haven’t spent much time with, but which this morning, a hot and steamy affair with the cicadas outside in new chorus, and the plants on the balcony suddenly splurging in growth, suits the deliciously humid heat of summer mood perfectly.
This thing is gorgeous. And it’s nice for once to experience a vintage perfume that is not fixated on elegance, motherhood, tenderness, wistfulness, vulnerability, girlishness or societal righteousness, nor, on the other end of the scale, on glowering, femme fatale tropes of the Barbara Stanwyck school of cigar-toting double indemnity. Usually, much of the old scent is centred around these good girl modes of smelling, of being either the future wife, or the devilishly irresistible, but dark and a touch self-hating, fur-draped bit on the side.
Fame, however, is far more independent, existing more for beauty just for beauty’s sake, more self sufficient and independent to the point of foolhardiness: this woman (thinks that) she just doesn’t need anyone else – except, perhaps, for her audience. The perfume, golden yellow with tropical pollen, is a rich, solar, velvet-moth jasmine, cushion motes leaning beneath its corona of captured white flower essences; civet and tobacco flower, benzoin and Peru balsam; nods, perhaps, also, to the exquisite Vol De Nuit by Guerlain in its jonquil and irisian purrings, and also the lovely Bourjois Soir De Paris with its almost medicinal, antiseptic glow. Like gardenias in the dead heat of a summer’s night, lurking in the shadows of bushes but breathing steadily, the flowers in this perfume are bodied, stamened, and three dimensional – not compromised nor prettified à la Ricci; entombed in glacial splendour à la Chanel; nor even luxed and powdered into fulminations of gloriously beautiful parfum, à la Guerlain.
Rather, all here is as free as the waters of a beach: liberated, touched by soleil: a flower perfume, long gone but captured in my bottle and alive, and heady, a scent that this morning I am finding to be quite delightful, even inspirational.