leaflets


In enjoyably mossy mode on Sunday evening; scented quite heavily – slightly against my will – with vintage Paco Rabanne, which has one of those old style hissy vaporisateurs that sometimes malfunction and stay on the spray button, even when you have angrily berated the bottle that you have had enough (particularly when the blighter fires straight for your eye, one area of my person I generally don’t perfume) : suddenly I had a yearning to put on some Shiseido Inoui.

Very forestry and green, mossed and languid jasmined, this is one of those once in a blue moon scents that I should probably keep as a future eBay sell rather than wasting – d got it me from a junk shop for about £3 but I am very aware that this 70’s chypre is highly sought after now by Inouisistas and goes for top dollar. I do like it, but some die-hard Inoui worshipper probably does need it far more than me. I had forgotten, though, that this Eau de parfum – I also have an extrait somewhere – still has a pristine secreted leaflet tucked inside.

There is something rather pleasurable, even fetishistic, about these little paper manifestos, reiterating the glories of the perfume located within as well as drawing your attention to the often vast ranges of auxiliary products that used to be easily available for most popular perfumes : with far fewer powerhouses in their stables, the houses would diffuse their jackpot recipe through full bathroom artilleries of soaps, bath oils , body cremes, deodorants ( both stick and spray; always smelling slightly distinctively different ), powders, hair setting foams – Aramis once boasted 40 different products that the discerning Aramist could collect and use enthusiastically each day, asphyxiating all in his officially Authoritative Presence.



Shiseido, in its own miniature inner pamphlet, makes the spectacular claim that Inoui is ‘by far the most luxurious, elegant, sophisticated international fragrance ever created’.

To me there is something cerebrally cooling, relaxing, about perusing these old, hidden leaflets : like the hush of an archaeological museum, or the clandestine papery pleasures of finding a particular book you were looking for in a university library. To my knowledge,the practice has faded out of use now ( do niche perfumes tend to have extra information about their contents secreted inside ?).

I don’t know. I slightly geek out on them.

22 Comments

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22 responses to “leaflets

  1. I think the leaflets with enchanting and brilliant ad copy have gone the way of the dodo. People don’t want to read to be entertained much anymore, especially fine print. Heck, people don’t even want to speak in full sentences or pronounce full words nowadays. We are romantics or relics of the past.

    I am also in a mossy mood today. These gray, mouldering, and mucky Monsoon days need something aridly ambered and resinously green to remind me of the cool, dry, mellow Autumn on its way. Unexpectedly, the Magiclean Crystal Shine Stone & Marble floor product the maid just mopped with has provided this! It smells surprisingly swank with fake but glorious oakmoss, patchouli, and a tinge of cedar. Bravo, Kao Inc. of Tokyo!

    • It sounds like a great product: sometimes one needs to get one’s moss on.

      As for words, there are so many of them- everywhere. And the stuff in these old leaflets was also a load of old nonsense. But compared to a lot of second or third rate commercial or niche fragrances, where the copy is needed to boost what smells mediocre, crap or unpleasant to the senses, there is a certain genuine ‘pride in product’ in these ‘inner notes’, as they knew they had come up with something that was definitely worthy of your attention. There was an obsessive collectible I liked : I remember being utterly rapt when reading and reading all the lists of products available for Calvin Klein’s Obsession. For me as a seventeen year old there was nothing more desirablez

      • At 17, my fragrance obsession was DVF’s Tatiana. I guess I should have realized then that I was a diehard white floral diva like my mom. I believe even Tatiana (not a global hit like CK’s Obsession) had a bath oil, body creme, deodorant, body powder, etc.
        Another literary fatality of the digital age, remember album liner notes?

      • Not only do I remember them, I still adore and obsess over them. Music geekdom is still powerfully strong : I am a nut job.

        I also regret giving away my bottle of reformulated Tatiana. I know Robin adored it as well.

  2. OnWingsofSaffron

    What a hoot! The leaflet is supposed to the „authority“ on the matter, „this, exactly, is what it‘s all about“. Yet reading the different language versions shows the hollowness of this authority! In English it says stridently: „Aramis—it means authority“. Ooh: severity, masculinity, muscles. In French it veers off into another direction: „est synonyme d‘efficacité“. Oh, hear we are more business-like: effectiveness & efficiency. And in German? „Aramis—heisst Masstab“. Now here we have a breakdown: it should have been: „Maßstab“ but the French printer didn‘t have the „ß“, nor did they know that the substitute is double s: Massstab“, yes with „sss“ a major no-no in French. And what does that wird mean: benchmark or (measuring) scale.
    In other words: Aramis is whatever you would like it to be: manly authority (politician); competitive efficiency (businessman); practical benchmark (engineer); whatever …

  3. It is funny how at a time when there were fewer fragrances, which made more people smell the same, the copy recognized “every man’s most individual needs” with its range of products.

    • Ha!

      I hadn’t thought of that.

      But god yes: fragrances were absurdly immediately recognizable. There was such a narrow range you could compartmentalize each human. Oh Loulou. Oh Beautiful. Oh Jazz. Oh Paco Rabanne.

  4. Robin

    Oh, Neil. Kindred spirit here. I’m a geek too!

    What I think I love most is the whole earnestness about it. It feels so genuine to me. They really did want to share their belief and enthusiasm in the fragrance. And of course they were working with the best possible ingredients. This stuff WAS good. I get giddy at the memory of all those ancillary products. (I loaded up on them back in the day. One of the best things ever was the old Shalimar bath oil. It blows the doors off the current formulations. Concentrated and a very pure and accurate reflection of the parfum. It mustn’t have been cheap to make.)

    Now — for the most part; there are some great perfume companies out there still — it’s just bullshit word salad made up by people who are concentrating on the most effective ways of generating profit. Maybe it’s just me, but do you think possibly the younger consumer has changed as well? That they’re more susceptible to vacuous hype and inferior ingredients? I just picked up a bunch of year-old Vanity Fair magazines from the FREE box in front of someone’s property by the side of Beach Avenue (I don’t think I’ve ever actually paid money for an issue), and I swear to god, of the celebrity profiles were they list their favourite this and thats, three out of five said their signature scent, of all the unique and interesting and excellent things they could have afforded on their generous budgets, was the banal and ubiquitous Le Labo Santal 33. Does that not say everything?

    • OnWingsofSaffron

      Unbelievable and depressing! There‘s an article in the NYT „Perfume You Smell Everywhere Is Santal 33“ from 2015, and yes, your comment says it all. Strangely, I don‘t know the Labo scents (apart from the one which smells like smoked ham). It‘s the same with Byredo: I don‘t own a single fragrance from them and am not interested in the least, even if it fell into my lap.

    • I think that one is well made, though. I have sat next to people and thought – yes, I can see why you are wearing this. It has a glimmer of something figgy and milky that is attractive. But yes – it’s a sheep mentality.

  5. I used to always adore the leaflets that came with fragrances in the past. One of my all-time favorite fragrances, of which I still own many vintage bottles, is Pavlova by Payot. When I was little, my parents bought me the fragrance, the body powder, the bath soap, the body cream, the shower gel, the foaming bath, I even still have one of the old beautifully painted black ceramic jars the foaming bath came in. Oh, how those days have gone now, far beyond our reach. At least I still have some of my vintage Kenzo fragrance leaflets, which let me imagine all the fabulous ancillary products I could only now dream of.
    Speaking of Inoui, such a gorgeous fragrance. I used mine up ages ago, and if I had known it would have become a Holy Grail type of scent, would have been more tempered in my usage. Who knew?
    Your neck must have smelt quite snuggle worthy.

    • So glad you empathize, and that you have back up bottles for such an obscure perfume as Pavlova by Payot. I have never heard of it before. What is it like ?

      • Big tuberose floral. Lots of white flowers with a glorious personality. Oh, how I adore it. Payot created the scent, because the prima ballerina Anna Pavlova was a dear friend of the founder of Payot skincare.

  6. JulienFromDijon

    I can relate.
    Numerous times have I refrained myself to throw away the booklet of a second-hand purchase.
    First reading it, then dabbing it with vodka to clean it, I ended up folding it back and placing it carefully along the perfume.
    They have a “time travel machine” effect. Fonts operate on us on a subliminal level. Also, the booklets speak of long extinct product. And, being luxury product (in think of Joy booklets), they represent what should be the epitome of life’s pleasure of said era. And they’re fun, too : price in francs, Lutens’s bel jar at 115 euros 😀

    The bath range is an underestimated part of a perfume.
    The company peoples that makes the decision may have been contaminated to think that care products are derivative to the perfume.
    But it’s a very privy part of owning a perfume : you don’t massage, clean, moist and fully prepare indoor with your perfume only. Perfume is more airy, when care product are very much about feeling good in your own skin.

    It’s a thing that I like from L’occitane, to compensate.
    Because by them it’s the opposite, it seems the care product comes first, and the perfume in the end. And in France, their price is high but not outrageous, with many occasions to buy small miniatures, sales at galleries lafayette, second-hand…
    I like the perfume and soap for the rose, the rich cade cream is nice too, the verveine perfume is a good cheap one, the almond range has a nice oil and shower gel, and the 5 oil repairing shampoo is an ylang-ylang pepper and geranium perfume on its own.
    Chanel is a good brand for that too. Without much noise, they kept a large no5 grooming product range. In a lot, I got a soap that I have yet to try.

    I forgot that Inoui was a perfume too.
    I recall the kitch-issime Lutens advertising for the make-up range.
    And I picture Uma Thurman in her “lost in translation” time of her career, with this very japanese ad.

    • I have never seen the Uma Thurman ad.

      And I adore your thoughts on leaflets and the ‘subliminal effects of fonts’.

      Any leaflet standout memories ?

      • JulienFromDijon

        Hi Dan! I’m sorry, for I did not answer sooner.
        Well, as I said, the “best” leaflets are the one that I destined to the trashbin, but were saved like little Moses from the Nile.
        As I’m a cheap-ass person, I mostly buy second-hand items and vintage stuffs. Sometimes they comes from sales persons, or people who received them as a press release.

        Lutens
        I cherish a fan-like depiction of Serge Lutens mainstream fragrances, written in German, French and Italian. It was an unexpected gift with an ebay auction, and a good occasion to learn german words, that would alienate me otherwise. I almost thrown it out, because I had to move out at the end of the year. It shows a change of policy, because Lutens was less shy to tell the olfactive pyramid to the final customer. The early “Palais-royal” booklet, paired with the fragrance wax sample, is also one that I kept, after some hesitation.

        Cartier
        For Cartier, “les heures de parfum”, I bought back a flat red box, the size of an A4 sheet. It held primitive 4ml vials, with a booklet with glazed photos, and depictions on transparent bible paper. This one was sort of a curse : the vials hold much less that expected (but the seller and I found a solution), and the booklet was to fancy and fragile for me alone. I kept my greasy finger from the booklet, for someone who would love it more that I do. (I put it back on ebay, but kept good photos of the thing.) Mathilde Laurent loves photography too, and it showed.

        L’artisan parfumeur, harvest millesime
        Fleur d’oranger, Iris pallida, Fleur de narcisse, had a nice silk paper around the bottle, and a booklet explained where, when and how the main ingredient was harvested. Too bad such a nice floral pattern served only for one product, one year, … and that nowadays the brand’s owners veered to a very funeral black aesthetic. Such seriousness bores me to no end.

        Mugler
        I think I got a relatively old Angel bottle, in a big square box. The seller joined a sort of booklet with it. It’s Mugler’s spirit condensed. It’s like an artistic photo album, a sort of catalogue for clothes and perfumes ads, but with no price, just for the jest of it.

        Leaflet with bath products
        Proper leaflet are like inactive virus from vaccines : the marketing buzz-words and lies are so obvious a decade later.
        When I think “leaflet”, presenting the wide range from lotion to soap, I think or the ones from Jean patou, YSL’s Opium, etc., and lately an old Hermès’s Calèche.

        Ambition and limitation, and tackiness
        Amouage also had little paper notes, from the woman who assembled the packaging, some boxes have their leaflets too. On the opposite on the price range, Parfum de Nicolai had view samples and leaflets. I got one from the disappeared “le temps d’une fête” (second reincarnation, the narcissus one).
        Leaflets are good testimonies of limitation and ambitions of brands.
        Lately I got another “noir premier” bottle from Lalique. (Mind you, 55€ for the bottle, the lacquer box, and a leaflet. The fragrances are so “middle of the road”, half-nichy, that the only thing I’m sure to keep for now, are the nice black lacquer boxes. (Still, I like to follow what Karine Dubreuil does, since her work for L’Occitane, at Mane). I read out loud the german, english, and french version, all speaking about heritage, inspiration, pioneering, innovation, high standard… all for a fragrance lacking proper formula budget.

        Thickness of the paper
        Diptyque “essences insensées” fragrancess have a little leaflet, of thick paper, multilingual, and with pages “wasted” for black and white wallpaper patterns. (Dominoté wallpaper?) One feels that it’s for the sheer artistry of it, and it’s nice. First thing first, it’s nice to the touch.
        I’ve got the Chanel les exclusifs one, a 10cm x 10cm x 2cm square, with some black and white design and photo and “gaufré” effect. It’s aimed at customers, and the customer are maintained quite dumb about the fragrance confection, but the item is fancy. Thick paper, folded on itself like a bandoneon, lot of wasted spaces, it screams “we have money” (and style too).
        I think I had the hermessence one, unexpectedly too, and this one met the bin. Same thick paper, too void of information, too big like the booknote that people kept near their home phones. All self-promoting, and close to no artistic ibput, good bye.

        museum pieces and memorials
        When the perfumer has died, or the bottle has some (minor) artistic value for the next owner, I keep the box and stuff.
        Manoumalia from Sandrine Videault has its box. I did not throw away samples of Mona di orio received last year. I think of Béatrice Piquet when I hold the “L’instant pour homme” bottle for Guerlain.
        90s reformulation of Vent vert by Calice becker still hold it’s damage box, and so on.

        But mainly, I record pictures on the web.
        As my pleasure is to browse ebay, and other second-hand virtual marketplaces, I record pictures of things that I like, but can’t purchase, or would not want to own. I’m only the curator for things that I genuinely love, and I mostly see my collection as a sort of library, not a thing to brag about.

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