I was strangely restrained on Saturday. Partly this is because I have to be – I have not been paid since the end of May, and won’t be til the end of September – but also because after all the years of tidal vintage, I am perhaps inured to the sight of a Miss Dior extrait, a Madame Rochas, a Nina Ricci Farouche, because I EXPECT to find these twilight treasures just tossed in the bargain bins now: a Joy here, a Diorissimo there; old No 5 and Guerlain Mitsouko, half-drained; unboxed, unloved, history; and as long as I have a pristine, or as close to pristine as is possible example of those particular perfumes in my collection for reference purposes, for reasons of economics and just plain common sense, now I largely leave them.
The recycle shops of Tokyo don’t discriminate by quality. The cheapest imitation scents will be unceremoniously jumbled up alongside along the finest, and yet for me this is part of the pleasure: it’s all in the breath-bating excitement of the potential; the rare but possible holy grail. In Asagaya, however, site of the first shop that we went to, the best selections had already been skimmed by my friend Zubeyde, who lives there and who came to our house last week with some UNBELIEVABLE finds, some of which she gave me ( in return, I presented her with bottles of Jacomo Parfum Rare and Lancôme’s vintage Sikkim – which she did like very much but which unfortunately means ‘fuck you!’ in Turkish), and one which is on loan to me for the summer, just so I can LOOK at it, ogle its Parisian grandeur, but I will perhaps leave these more boudoiresque beauties for another post ( I am quite slow at the moment- this post is already a week overdue and out of date)………suffice it to say that even in the gradually dwindling sea of Tokyo thrift shop vintage, miracles still do happen.
I plan to do a full and comprehensive Tokyo Guide To Perfume soon. In fact I wanted to get it written before Persolaise ( that suave and urbane writer of the perfect perfume prose) and his wife, the legendary Madame Persolaise, come to stay at our house tomorrow and Thursday night so that they could use it for practical purposes while traversing the city, but I need to be fully mobile and of rational, detailed mind in order to do so, to research all the metropolis’ most newly unveiled ( and utterly superfluous, frivolous) retail spaces in the city such as Ginza, Shinjuku, and Harajuku, to do it proper justice. Any valid fragrant guide to Tokyo will need to include everything from ‘fine fragrance’ and the most venerable incense establishments through to the downtown scuzzy emporia that D and I adore to frequent ( I think it is the ‘one-offness of these places that so appeals; the element of chance, the singularity of the experience over the ruthlessly mathematicized and super-elevated profit margins of the concept-inflated baloney of the niche counter); the more down-to-earth jumble bins aimed at the more modestly earning shopper, the friendliness. One is Tifana:chain of recycle shops situated along the shabbier, more human stations of the Chuo Line, and a part of Tokyo that we have truly come to love and become a part of ( it is here that we do our cabaret): rambling railtracks and antiquated, ‘shotengai’ shopping streets, invaluable, warm, because they still have the individual, generational charm of hardworking establishments run by families and not just trending, soulless conglomerations. Buying a brand new niche perfume in Shinjuku’s Isetan ( something that I find I am doing less and less these days, I just can’t really afford it )is very exciting, but finding an endangered, beauteous classic at a twentieth of the price among the bargain priced detritus is surely even more so.
Saturday I was feeling more frugal. Look, but do not touch. There is a certain pleasure to be had in that more sensible, level-headed approach for once – the joy of saying no. A new place we found in a neighbourhood I had not explored before yielded two places, another Tifana and also a more antiques-like place in Nishi Okubo ( I think), more chichi with vintage clothes and overpriced ornaments and some fifties Chanel colognes (just the fonts on the boxes could be enough for me); some Givenchy, and a beautiful Blue Grass vintage bottle that I liked but didn’t buy, even though it was only the equivalent of about ten dollars (that decision I am slightly, mildly, regretting now.) Likewise I was intrigued by Cuio Vero, a soft and balsamic, powdered but modern leather by Dr Vranjes di Firenze, whose interior perfumes I love as I tend to any profumeria Italiana for their escapist, artisanal but simple goodness, but this was in fact a ‘car perfume’, I don’t really wear leathers much, nor drive for that matter, and it was a bit expensive to just spray around the house on my curtains, even just to try and attempt to impress a well known perfume writer. Uncharacteristically, I desisted.
It was nice to see some hard to find perfumes by Molyneux:, both Quartz and Fete, a Dior Dune parfum; but again I resisted temptation and eventually just ended up taking two bottles of perfume home with me : Hermes Eau D’Orange Verte and something I have never found here before, vintage Jill Sander Woman 3.
Eau D’Orange Verte, a scent that is just perfect for this hot weather, and a scent I can spray on with abandon, is interesting for me in that it is an introverted shade of orange; cool, subdued, even verging on depressive, which is unusual for a note that we more usually associate with energy, happiness, and uplift. Like Caron’s Alpona, these are the orange groves at night, umbrous, more mysterious, when the sun has long gone down and the night shadows brush the branches; the oiled, contained, petitgrained leaves. If I find it in some ways incomplete, this scent, unfinished ( it is not something I could ever give my whole heart to), the subtlety and yin of this refined and semi-cerebral citrus to the usually yellower, solar yang are, I think, precisely what appeal to me about it. This was a good buy.
Woman III, a complex, but gentle spiced floral chypre from 1985, is a uniquely soothing, and not much discussed, rose patchouli composition with a long list of ingredients including bay leaf and coriander that to me comes across as the most perfectly realized pot pourri, delicately tingeing the porcelain still air of an English summer cottage; mellow, loving, tranquil. Pinpointing the feeling more exactly, it is a particular holiday we once had down in Looe, Cornwall, as a child, where I remember the intensity of the gentleness of the bedspreads and pillows of our quaint little rented holiday house (I was always so deeply receptive to, and filled with, new environments as a child; their unfamiliarity would completely thrill me, particularly the smell; like the dark, cold, interior of an urn I would take up temporary residence in its still, fragrant new world of harbouring quietness as though I no longer existed, but in a good way); just sink into the cold white sheets and new covers of my bed, sleep like an angel, and this perfume, though deceptively dressy and ‘put together’ at first, has this precise quality for me; its heart notes and base like a freshly laundered eiderdown of tender, Wedgewood reassurance.
(Duncan’s flip flops on the day we had some torrential rain and thunder)
As you will gather from this, my brain has kind of turned into incoherent mush. I have so much to write about in terms of perfume, my recovery, this summer, Persolaise’s visit, life and the universe, but there is a backlog in my mind, I can hardly think straight (might also be all the painkillers, which I am coming off now, actually, hardly take them). Writing is taking me longer. My days, now Duncan is also off for the summer, have just turned into a pleasant wooze of hot lazy