The Black Narcissus

NPG x14113; Martita Hunt as Miss Havisham in 'Great Expectations' by Cecil Beaton



The vintage Carons are sweet; dense with essence and a yearning, romantic spirit. They are also extremely old fashioned, in a manner that the classic Guerlains manage to somehow avoid with their more intuitively realized timelessness. Fragrances from Caron such as N’Aimez Que Moi, French Cancan, Nuit De Noël and Fleurs De Rocaille, belong to a powdery, gas-lit past that I love, but which tug on me almost unwillingly back to old Paris: to garters and dress-rituals; to lace-concealed candled boudoirs; and the melancholy shadows of the long-fading Belle Epoque.

I talk of the florals especially. The more futuristic, angled scents in the collection such as Alpona, with its strange, orange-green bitterness; En Avion: peppered,flecked: determined and unyielding; Tabac Blond, with its shimmering, gilded interiors, and Poivre, my favourite from this era, a furious, life-loving crooner with a carnation and clove-studded whip, are so rebellious and distinctive in their genuineness…

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