I discovered the full range of Martin Margiela fragrances yesterday. At Ginza’s soulless, frigid, testosterone-free men’s fashion emporium, Hankyu – where blood-sucked succubi a la mode prowl stone-faced in search of wallet-decimating garments that they believe will restore some meaning to their vapid and meaningless lives.
This is the coldest, most reticent service in the world; my corpuscles filling up with antifreeze as we attempted to tolerate a miserable void of consumerism and slavish adherence to fashion codes, the modish; observing the gaunt and fleshless, hollow-eyed figures, their fine-boned fingers inexorably magnetized towards distorted, ripped and molecularly rewritten clothing that will only succeed in making them look like brainwashed, human-hating morons.
I despise this philosophically heinous snobbery; this pointless veneration of imported European luxury, where perfume bottles are handled as if they were holy religious relics or priceless works of art, where you can’t even spray or smell them without feeling that you are somehow impinging on the ‘dignity’ of the passionless fuckwits at the counter, whose passive-aggressive, bottomless reserves of froideur make you feel that not only should you not be requesting paper strips to test what seems like quite a fun series of scents – ‘replicas’ of actual experiences – Martin Margiela instead uses ribbons and his ‘assistant’ really wasn’t dispensing with them freely – but that they would really rather that you had actually backed away completely from their customer-repelling counters in the first place.
And this after I had just bought Duncan a t-shirt from one of the fashiony counters nearby! Wowee. But no. This was not enough. We obviously didn’t look right, we weren’t the idealized demographic, we weren’t ghosts out prostituting our souls for the sake of a ‘fashion moment’, and so these pallid, sexless, ageist and racist morbidly dull fashionistas merely treated us as though we were scum queen undesirables that they would just instead ignore.
It’s a real shame, as I quite liked the look and smell of some of these perfumes. Because although they are not cheap, in niche terms, compared to the Tom Ford concession one floor down below, for example, where a young, purse-lipped, very soignee female assistant with a sphinx- like unblinking demeanor ( from the huge pole up her ass) just about let us sample the rest of the Vert collection – all good, but Vert Boheme is still definitely my favourite – these Margielas were, from some perspectives, relatively reasonably priced.
Beachwalk, a salty, sunscreen holographic olfactory apparition that I think is possibly the best of this type, is a scent I would consider buying if I can avoid throwing my drink in the face of the deathly, paste-faced, thin-moustachioed sales assistant while doing so; Lipstick On the kind of cool, powdered, earthy iris I love with some sweeter, heliotrope facets – I wanted to get to know it more. Others seemed quite interesting too, but I am afraid the gut-clenching over-seriousness and reverential gravitas of the place was becoming so intolerable – you could practically hear the creature’s inner, silent sighs as we had the gall to request more fashion ribbons – that I had to leave.
I hope you go under.
30 responses to “REPLICA SERIES : BEACH WALK (2012) + LIPSTICK ON (2015) by MARTIN MARGIELA”
Very, very good. Loved it all. The last two little sentences were priceless. Yes. Bravo. That’s the spirit!
Must remember “blood-sucked succubi a la mode.” It could come in handy some time. As could “passionless fuckwits.” Oh my. And “passive-aggressive, bottomless reserves of froideur.” Ah. I can just picture the whole scene. Fortunately this small little British Columbian hippie village is filled with tie-dyed hippies actively encouraging the customers in their funky, incense-smoke-filled head shops to try the newest organic fair-trade shade-grown patchouli oil. Won’t have a chance to be reminded of your pithy descriptors for awhile.
Niche has paled for me at this particular moment, as I’ve just received in the mail my much-anticipated 28 ml bottle of Chanel No 19 parfum, full, bottled 1972, from a lovely woman across the Salish Sea. It was her aunt’s. It cost me $8.75 USD. It is in pristine condition. What niche of any description could possibly compare?
It couldn’t. I LOVE those 28ml bottles. I never seen them any more here, and at that price….you have inspired real envy (I am actually wearing it today along with the Vert Boheme – it works perfectly as a combination).
Sounds like a really good combo, the No19 with the Vert Boheme.
Wanted to mention No19 vintage in cologne strength. Just stumbled across a 60ml bottle. Hadn’t expected much. But. Man oh man, this thing starts out quietly, then expands and expands and deepens over several hours until it’s got major decibels. Lesson learned: never underestimate “lesser” concentrations of the good stuff.
I don’t think I have smelled the cologne, but with the quality 19 things take their time in the best possible way I think.
Indeed. And just a follow-up: that cologne was still going strong until the next afternoon. Glorious. So, if you ever come across a bottle in your wanderings (which I hope are getting easier and easier and less and less painful/fraught).
Tell us how you really feel! WOW. Your post was so descriptive I could picture the entire ordeal. I agree with Robin that those two last sentences were amazing as was your description of the entire scenario. As for Martin Margiela fragrances, I do own a few: Lazy Sunday Mornings, Beach Walk and Tea Escape, and you’ve peaked my interest in the Lipstick On, but if I experienced that kind of treatment, I would have walked away as well.
How could you not? It is disgusting. I was furious (as you may have gathered).
Funny that you mention Tea Escape, as that was the other one I was interested in as well, but honestly, the wan fuckwit behind the counter just sucked out any enthusiasm I might have had with his deadeningly cold ‘fashion face’ and appalling lack of proper service and so I never got to properly get a hold on it. Honestly, it really seemed as if he didn’t want us to be there, which is stupid, because there are so few people in that store in the first place. It really does just feel like a mausoleum of soul death to me. I hate it.
Succubi are female demons but sounds like these ones were male? Sorry it was such a grisly experience just to try some perfume. UK SAs are mostly pretty nice.
They are! And so are British ones on the whole. The Japanese often get perfume SO WRONG. At heart it is an Arab/ western concept and they just don’t understand it yet they treat you condescendingly in the midst of their cold-hearted ignorance
Tell us how you ‘really’ feel, Neil.
Oh goodness, this cracked me up so much!! You sling nasty adjectives and scathing descriptors the way I wish I could!!
I haven’t tried anything from this perfume line, and the beachy one and the iris sound worth trying. If I do get samples of the line, I will send them your way.
Thanks for making me laugh!!
I’m glad you took it that way. Once I get going sometimes I can’t stop until I have excavated something putrid out of my system and yesterday REALLY BLOODY BUGGED ME
I was always puzzled by the perfume sales associates in Tokyo. I guess it’s not Japanese culture to spritz with abandon in public. Then again, the very idea of “with abandon” is definitely not Japanese culture. Hankyu is where I discovered Tom Ford’s line. The sales clerks of course gave me side eye when I dared to touch their sample bottles. I used to be nervous about it, but here’s where I took a page from my partner’s book, and just didn’t care and demanded respect because, well, what’s that expression about the o-kyakusama being a kamisama? I was never confrontational like my partner often was, but I surely sharpened my skill of killing with kindness at Tokyo perfume counters. Actually, I remember some nice ladies at the main counter of Hankyu. One lady who was an associate for the Different Company was very kind and so happy I wanted to sample Tokyo Bloom. Unfortunately, the likes of her were an exception.
You really need to get to NYC to sample. The associates are usually friendly and enthusiastic and, most importantly , offer sample size bottles (as well as sassy and flirty banter). Different cultures. I know we are not supposed to say one culture is better than another one, but when it comes to perfume culture, we have a winner.
You are right of course – you can’t ignore the power of culture, and I suppose you could even say that the Japanese worship of the spirit within things could even translate to the perfume culture: a bottle of expensive scent is invested almost with talismanic power maybe, each drop precious, and I can understand in a way how our own wanton use of scent might seem a bit slapdash and vulgar when some people here see it more as an objet.
Still, as you say there is the whole kamisama kyakusama, customer is king or queen aspect culture that you think would prevail more when it comes to service. And they act as if you are slightly outrageous to want to try the damn thing on, as if that pathetic little dosage on a scent card were enough to make an informed decision (as you know, they have a ‘right way’ of spraying the perfume on the customer’s hand, and thus THIS IS THE ONLY FUCKING WAY).
Anyway, I just had to rant and vent my spleen because on this particular occasion it just got my goat more than ever before. What I would actually like to do is have a pause button where I could stop time for half an hour or so, and then I would just ransack the department store and take home whatever I wanted in a big bin bag. And then I would press play and imagine all hell breaking loose.
Interesting about the Japanese worship of the spirit within things– that’s a Shinto concept, I believe. But I doubt the average sales clerk thinks in those terms at all. I think most Nihonjinron theories are bs in fact. I always rolled my eyes when people would say things like “In the Edo period Japanese had to come together as a community to do rice planting and harvesting, so therefore …… ” This rice-planting theory was used to explain everything from patriarchy to lack of individualism to mistrust of outsiders. I doubt the average Japanese has ever given it much thought. But what do I know?
We roll our eyes at EXACTLY the same thing. The peaceful rice farmers? Ever heard of Nanking?
I spent two wonderful holidays with my partner in Tokyo. On the whole sales’ persons were rather nice. Where the weren’t, I cultivated a rather over the top Dowager Countess froideur and wasn’t above speaking to them in German (my native language). That usually did the trick 🙂
Yes, that probably would because you are then showing them up even more, and losing face is the biggest no no. I agree that on the whole the service here matches Japan’s international reputation for excellence (though I think it is much better in restaurants than shops). And even if pathetic and obsequious, it is often quite good in department stores for perfume, where they hover about you following your every move. But unfortunately I am a very sensitive and reactive person easily offended, too much, obviously, and I just can’t take the icy meaningless (because that is what it is) at Hankyu any more. The main gripe I have is that I don’t understand how these fools can think they are so above everyone else when all they are doing is standing in a shop selling products; is the mere fact that they are working with a ‘brand name’ enough to confer such haughtiness on them? This worship of fashion labels is beyond embarrassing but is utterly, insanely, stupid.
Often, an air of exclusivity and haughtiness is just camouflage for insecurity and an inferiority complex. And that just about sums of the place and situation that Hankyu finds itself in, in Tokyo.
One thing to remember about Tokyo and so-called Tokyoites. Over half of the population are outsiders from the provinces, at heart feeling insecure and out of place. Whether they came to Tokyo for college, or for work after graduation, they carry within themselves values from the provinces and regional accents that they aren’t necessarily proud of, in fact, mostly try to keep to themselves. These “outsiders” once they step out of the house, have a task cut out for them, namely, the ordeal of desperately trying to conform to the “idea” of Tokyo, and to appear normal and street wise. That haughty bloke that offended you so much at Martin Margiela—who knows, he probably has lots of issues of his own, trying to live up to the image of Hankyu, which is his job for which he was trained—-I would have compassion on him.
I would also have a bit of compassion for Hankyu, too, not that I’m overly fond of that place. Hankyu is Osaka-based: they may very well be the most prestigious and exclusive department store in Osaka, but in Tokyo, they must feel out of place and insecure. The best families in Tokyo would not consider shopping there if they’ve been doing business for generations with more historically established places like Mitsukoshi, Isetan, etc. That extra degree of chilliness and refinement at Hankyu that you find so off-putting—consider it as Hankyu’s talismanic perfume, an aura that it uses to boost its insecure morale among the elite, a desperate attempt to appear suave and cool in the cut-throat milieu of Tokyo’s high retail sector .
Above all, don’t be disillusioned. Like a true cosmopolitan (which I imagine you to be), focus on the sunnier aspects of the experience that you had on that day you talk about. For example, smelling “most” of TF’s Vert collection! Keep your positive spirit. Adore your reviews!
Some very enlightened and interesting perspectives that I wouldn’t have necessarily thought of ( I didn’t know about the Osaka thing – perhaps they should have stayed there) but fear not, I was pissed off but not plunged into a general negativity about the experience (also I like to think that there is quite enough delirium, passion and positivity on here in general to allow the occasional infuriated rant – I think it makes a good contrast). When I am angry (and I was definitely right to be in this case, seriously, no matter what the reason for the behaviour, I was still the customer potentially parting with my money) I use heightened and excessive language as a kind of catharsis. I mean every word but it is also semi tongue in cheek, using my rage as a kind of comedy. It just makes me feel better, poisonous though it may be, and hopefully provides some kind of amusement for the reader. Hankyu can still fuck itself though.
Neil, whatever you think, I want to hear it!
I agree! Neil tells it like it is. Many blogs are twee–not this one.
That is one thing this blog will certainly never be (I just can’t be doing with it).
That’s a nice thing to say – thanks.
And in the states you can get them easily at Sephora in 3ml samples (3 samples per customer so if you bring Duncan you get 6) for free and so easily….and you can also spray them with reckless abandonment.
It seems unimaginable to me.
So vivid, this shopping expedition. Pity the atmosphere spoils it. Perhaps online shopping in future… R
No, because pretentious though it might sound, anthropologically and spiritually I find the entire phenomenon completely fascinating, even if it is just a total void of negativity. That people can choose to live this way in this morbid and silent vacuum of pious capitalism is strangely mesmerizing. It’s all just so WRONG.
Ah, I get you. Consumerism as self-validation.
And an empty worship of pure snobbery, made worse when it is imports from another culture.
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