The other day I was browsing used perfumes in a Yokohama recycling store. Should I buy heavily discounted bottle of The Essence Of Central Park by Carthusia? Or a refill 93ml edt of Guerlain Jicky? How about Lily Of The Valley by Penhaligons? (such a beautifully coloured box). Or one of the l’eaus by Diptyque (always very appealing bottles). And do I want that Caron Le 3ème Homme?
The thing is, I can very easily live without all of these smells. I just wanted them in my collection. For sheer avarice. Just to look at and gloat. I get a great deal of pleasure from surveying the goods, of seeing my cabinets and shelves replete with flacons, some boxed, some not (depending on whether I like them or not visually), but always a deluge of scent at the ready for my delectation.
As I looked at the lower priced perfumes on the bottom of the glass case in the store that sells second hand designer clothes (old Chanel coats and Dior handbags, Yohji Yamamoto pants for more freedealing Japanese locals) I saw a very boring-looking thing called L’OrBio by a brand called Melvita. Dulled by its visuals, I almost passed it over thinking that it couldn’t be worth trying.
(would you bother with something like this?)
(the oil strikes me as something less aesthetically unappealing).
In the interest of all options closed, I decided to try it anyway. And was immediately in love. I had, though, already picked out the perfume I was going to be buying (a big bottle of Geoffrey Beene’s Grey Flannel, partly because I love the label on the green flacon and it reminds me of my first ever summer in Greece), and we left the store with me saying I might have to come back for this one; smell this, D – wow what a perfect tiare scent!
It really is. This leaves thick, overarching wannabes like Montale’s Tiare Intense in the dust: so many tropical summer perfumes go overboard in the sweetness and vanilla coconut to the point you get furred lips. This : L’OrBio, is gentle and takes its time in unfolding; an almost clovey beginning – fig leaf, cedar and bergamot creating a taut and crisp contrast with the delicious tiare, vanilla and benzoin in the base (Catherine, if you are reading YOU NEED THIS). Soft, radiant and effortlessly beachy, by the time we had got to the end of the sweltering street and gone for ice coffees on the other side of the station I was saying oh my god D I think I might have to go back and get this one. I can’t live without it. Ultimately, knees and heat exhaustion prevented us from doing so, meaning that instead of buying a perfume I would drink up greedily and wear all the time when I get into mentalita tropicalia, I bought a scent that I will only put on once in a blue moon, meaning I am stupid and pretentious. Had this been packaged in a beautiful bottle and housed in a flawlessly embossed box, I would be raving all over this one (I am anyway, but in a different way). Inarticulate dross and chemical vats of nuclear level amberwoods get marketed with illiterate copy (honestly, some of the crap I have read recently – back to school, bitches!) and is put in a ‘tasteful’ container and a marketing ploy and the hipster brainwashed just lap it up, placing the perfume carefully in the corner of their exquisitely appointed ‘condo’, when it actually smells like shit and numbs all those who come into contact with it. THIS, delicious, voluptuous, like a beautiful creature from the Seychelles, gets ignored, left behind (by me, too, supposedly a scent connoisseur), because of its slightly prosaic packaging. There is a lesson in this.
L’OrBio can’t help reminding me of course of Nuxe Paris’ legendary Huile Prodigieuse, a product I ‘cannot be without’. The Black Narcissus is not a beauty blog (how could it be?), but I do try to look after my skin, and this oily, sweet tropical magnificence is perfect when I have turned into a knackered, eyeballed hag with sallow, desiccated complexion like a hounddog. I am very intuitive about what or what not to put on my face: most of the time my skin says no thank you and I just wash my face with water. It is enough. Cleansers, exfoliators, toners and particularly ‘masques’ do not suit me (rash inducing; too harsh) ; I don’t need them – too much chemical interference. I just need moisturiser, and the full list of the products I use is this: organic virgin coconut oil (nothing is better for eye bags); Huile Prodigieuse (bring on that glow and health look); and Kiehl’s products for men such as the macho sounding Facial Fuel energising moisture lotion and the Age Defender cream, both of which I use in emergencies for their tingling, minty, refreshing aspects that are different from the replenishing grease of the aforementioned naturals. Sometimes I get it wrong and end up too oily, but on the whole, these products – which last me half a year – save me from looking totally like the back end of a bus, particularly after a eucalyptus bath. When I first went back to work after the initial lockdown after shaving I was quite horrified by what I saw in the mirror, almost to the point of thinking that is not my face : a trip to Kiehl’s in Yokohama soon brought quantifiable results.
The eau de toilette of L’OrBio is so lovely I might have to now look into the oil as well as a skin moisturiser (and I am definitely going to go back to get the perfume or get it from the local Melvita stockist near the station). Huile Prodigieuse is a touch on the hysterically sweet tip, sometimes, like a full orchestra of Hawaiian ukuleles ; it can make me feel a bit sick in the morning when I am not in the mood. As I sat smelling the back of my hand where I had smelled L’OrBio, I sank into its mellow, natural effortlessness. I was enjoying it so much. Because really, after all, perfume love should be about the smell.