I had a fantastic day yesterday. It was the first time in a long while to be out filming again with D and his crew, the penultimate scene before they start editing Spoiled Identity in earnest, and my job was simply to watch the bags and equipment in Isezakicho park, where all the flowers were out, and all the world was walking by, and the main protagonists were being assailed by two political parties on the street – The No Change Party vs The No Shame party (the whole is a great piss-take of ideologies generally and it was absolutely hilarious to see the fake, but really quite realistic, politicians shouting ‘ZERO CHANGE!’ on the streets as perturbed passersby were wondering what the hell was going on.) I felt utterly happy and relaxed, just taking in the scents all around me; free from any restrictions; the stimulation of meeting new people and chatting deeply with one that I did : this was bliss for me.

Starving, after filming was complete, we dragged the suitcase and bags of paraphernalia through the streets towards the old arcade at the north end of Isezakicho to find something to eat. The great thing about living here, and about coming up to this area of Yokohama particularly (it is pretty much our second home) is how varied the people are; of many different ethnic groups and ages, social status from hobo to middle class and beyond; a sense of life moving by with energy – a real positivity in the air – and knowing that it is extremely unlikely indeed that some white supremacist (or the local equivalent) will gun you down while you are out shopping for Korean sundries at the local supermarket. People live and let live here; but abide by the social contract (ie. wear masks and just shut up about it); you compromise a little for the sake of the society as a whole, and then you live your life freely, smoothly, happily. This is a political environment in which I can thrive.

A bakery in the arcade
I have a very exciting project coming up involving flowers which I will announce soon, and I had been thinking recently about my old Flower Fairies books that I adored as a child and could get absorbed in for hours.

Walking down a new street we had never been down before, we saw this old knacker’s yard which was half cheap bento snacks : and half junk (the clear plastic umbrellas were for free).

There, for 100 yen each, were the exact books – in their original 70’s editions – that I was looking for.

Settling on thisThai karaoke/ restaurant place, which we have been to several times before with its generous portions, a delicious red curry and tom yum gai soup that really did the trick, we sprawled here for a long while, relaxed by the family atmosphere – the owners hanging out with Japanese friends and FaceTiming a younger brother in Thailand simultaneously (I think a wedding was taking place) ……….we were zoned out; contented; and ordered and ate until very full; fully satisfied.

Afterwards, having had a look in an abandoned love hotel and seen that they were throwing away an orange Eames chair in the garbage, I hooked it up with my umbrella from beyond the fenced off area and instinctively nabbed it (it is illegal to take things from the rubbish in Japan, but we have got a great many books by ignoring this; Friday is great for finding treasures, as they are thrown away on each corner, neatly bound with string, and in any case now that we seem to be tentatively socializing again we do need more garden chairs and this one goes perfectly with all the others). It was hard to lug home, I will admit, especially when it started raining, but at the same time, I could just take a rest whenever I felt like it; under my umbrella.

No seat on the crowded train home? No problem! Just take a seat on your new orange chair.

Also: typical Japan style: a gaijin weirdo is sat in the middle of the carriage on a chair, but nobody is bothered, nor even looks.

Though it admittedly looks a little like a scene from a zombie film, in this picture, the live and let live style of living here – is personified.

Naturally, it probably goes without saying that before coming back to ol’ Kamakura, I needed to see if I could pick up some perfume or other as that is always an unstated part of the plan when we go out for the day; even just a cheap little gem I either don’t know, or else something I do and am stoked to find in some old antique shop. On this occasion, we took it in turns sitting outside (we had a chair) – on the pavement while the other one went in; D got a plate and a gold belt; I am still tempted for some reason by a bottle of Givenchy III edt even though I know I don’t like the parfum (is this the nature of a true optimist? You still always live in hope? That perhaps there might be a lighter, greener facet to the more diluted version of this much sung about scent that would make it click?),but I didn’t buy it; nor an old Montana, because I still have enough left for a couple of outings with Burning Bush in a leather jacket; I declined a Via Lanvin; some Madame Rochas as I have tons; some Baiser Lalique because it smells vile; and a few other things I can’t remember; but my eye did alight and glint on a miniature bottle of Jean Desprez’s Sheherezade, a perfume I may have smelled once before but I am not sure, as it may have been in this bottle –

.. the colour of which makes me ill and would never buy (and which I would therefore have to hide at the back of the closet).

The parfum though, wow : look at that. It is gaudy, sure, but if I ever (impossible) came across one of those dark tinctured chandeliers on felt plinth I would certainly be buying it without hesitation, although looking it up, this bottle is currently going for about $750, and no surprise: I am presuming that the extract version of this must be astoundingly glamourous and deep. Jean Desprez perfumes are quality: they are rich, dense, concentrated gorgeousnesses – I have written enough about Bal A Versailles; an utter masterpiece; I was less keen on the slightly tackier Revolution A Versailles (see my review) from 1989, and imagine that I probably wouldn’t much like Versailles Pour Homme, which I hadn’t even heard of until I started writing this piece even though the idea of owning it utterly fascinates me : in this ad it looks like a proto Paco Rabanne One Million with its manly bullion, although the sweet pomaded hairies of the 1980’s were always so multicomplex, leering overorchestrated – all the Lauders For Men and the Oscar De La Rentas, and their ilk and I imagine this being similar; I might feel that I needed to move to Texas and install myself in a side building, drink single malt in cut crystal; and swagger about, on thick carpets, in a half open bath robe.

While the ultrarare Jardanel – I am hoping that Queen Of Vintage Gabrielle will tell us more about this one, allegedly from 1917 (?) and the ur-Mother of the spiced orientalized amber a la Youth Dew – in its green box looks especially mesmerizing, I remember G also riffing on Sheherezade on here on some thread many moons ago, so I was really glad to finally pick up my own tiny bottle for a piffling 500 yen (£3.13) and give it a try ( as a child, I would dance to Rimsky Korsakov’s Sheherazade ballet in my room for hours at a time so this perfume’s name has a particular resonance).

While the opening notes of this obviously unpristine edition – unboxed, it may have been affected – are rather GOP (general old perfume), once this settles down on me, I get sent back to the yore days of all the spiced prima donnas- the dried spices here palpable, tingling in the Max Gavarry (Dioressence; this bears a resemblance but is less scathing) created myrrh and benzoin dominated carnation-cassia amber with its surprisingly masculine sandalwood depth that took me almost to the edges of Fendi Uomo; I see the seductive possibilities here, but imagine the full extrait version also having the full sumptuousness perhaps lacking in the lighter strength of the edt.

While Jean Desprez was still revelling in the past to some extent with this one, at the tail end of Opium, Cinnabar and the like, not entirely in touch with the spirit of 1983 when such fresh rose/floral innovations as YSL Paris and Diptyque L’Ombre Dans L’Eau, Annick Goutal’s criminally discontinued Eau De Camille as well as Ungaro’s more of the moment Diva and my personal favourite, Courreges In Blue were all debuting, there is still something quite enjoyable in Sheherazade with its calm, and its lack of spiked edges; a quiet, anchored, contentment. All is balanced and smooth, deep; confident; a perfume to go out and just let yourself go a little……. …basking in the richness of life.


Filed under Flowers

15 responses to “SHEHERAZADE by JEAN DESPREZ (1983)

  1. Robin

    Love this! You sitting in your orange chair on the subway, basking in the glorious sense of nobody batting an eye, the photos and ads of those remarkable old Jean Desprez, the story of your day. Nobody gives us this but you, Neil.

    I really like “GOP.” All those elderly minis from the sixties’ boxed sets of Perfumes of France, an Eiffel tower invariably watercoloured on the front, made exclusively for the Paris-besotted Canadian and American markets: after decades collecting dust, all smelling like this.

  2. Hilly

    Givenchy III was one of my signature scents, way back in the day when I was a serial fragrance monogamist (it came after a long love affair No 19) I’m surprised you don’t like it. I’ve never smelt the parfum but the edt seems as though it would be exactly your kind of thing – that beautiful patchouli note!

    • You have sealed the deal!

      I do love the patchouli note and the bitter leather a la Bandit – TO A CERTAIN EXTENT – but something about the extraits I have smelled have always annoyed me and I don’t know why.

      Is there something more floral in the edt? I am imagining that there is.

  3. David

    I actually found and bought the Sherazade parfum, in the fancy bottle, in an unopened box, sealed in the original plastic. I came across it in a junk store in Meguro in 2013 when I returned to Japan, to pay my outstanding tax bill. (I owed around 450,000 yen. Everyone told me I was a fool to go back and pay it since I had no plan to ever live in Japan again….I just couldn’t deal with the thought of all the letters from the tax office being sent to my last address, piling up….besides, I had the frequent flier miles….and I hate owing money to anyone or any entity….I already have bad enough insomnia, I need to sleep). At that time, the perfume was going for around 400 dollars on eBay. The junk shop charged me 1500 yen. On my skin, it was waxy and pleasant. Nicely blended carnation and roses. A safe wedding day fragrance. I didn’t get much amber (maybe the bottle wasn’t stored properly, despite it being unopened). My husband hates anything feminine on me. This he tolerated. It’s so soft, he would say. My skin definitely ate it up, so I just applied more and more. I didn’t care about its rarity. Easy come, easy go is my motto. Frankly, I didn’t care much for the bottle. The stopper looked cheaply made. I didn’t cry when it got lost in a move. Like I wrote, easy come, easy go.
    I love the chair on the train!

  4. georgemarrows

    > dance to Rimsky Korsakov’s Sheherazade ballet in my room for hours at a time

    I don’t think I ever danced to it, but I did love listening to it. It was on a cassette with a beautifully sexy Leon Bakst cover illustration. Though looking at them now I can’t remember which one, and that’s making me a little sad.

    • Me too – I scrolled down through pictures yesterday and couldn’t find my old record cover.

      It is rather a repetitive, heavy number in retrospect but still has a place in my heart

  5. Dance of the Hours and Nutcracker Suite were what I danced in my room to hours to. Probably would have loved Rimsky Korsakov’s Sheherazade, but I was limited to vinyl Disney albums then.
    Not a Desprez fan but I give the bottles & presentation 5 stars for style & originality!
    Aren’t all gaijins weirdoes? (Love the orange chair).

    • Way too many gaijin dullards here to bestow the honorific weirdo on them!

      There is another identical orange chair waiting. Not sure whether to push the luck (also: imagine the groundhog day deeply puzzling aspect of someone seeing the same foreigner walking down the street carrying the same orange chair…it could lead to a relapse).

      I had vinyl Disney albums then as well and became OBSOSSSSED with Alice In Wonderland in particular. I graduated onto ballet records and danced tragically in my room for years, sometimes roping in my brother’s friends to dance the part of the prince.

  6. I love everything about this post!!!! Everything!!! You in the chair on the Metro is priceless. Oh, and personally I like the sound of the No Shame Party,
    I have Sheherazade extrait in the fancy bottle, along with the parfum de toilette as well. I have owned them since the early 90s, and I cherish then so much. The scent reminds me of a long lost love from my younger days, so it is quite special. I always adored the bottle as well.
    Jardanel, which I am wearing right now, is a fabulous rich ambery chypre. I have the 1973 version, not the original from 1937 (different sources state different years, but his first “offficial creation” was Crepe de Chine for Millot in 1925 and he didn’t launch his own house until 1928) , nor the reissue from ’44, but this more than suffices. I will have to send you some, once I eventually go out again, I am still housebound, or bring some when we eventually go to visit Japan. I am sure you will love it.
    I only own it in the parfum de toilette, but someday will hopefully find an extrait at a reasonable price.
    The fragrance you have an image of above, Escarmouche, is one I hope to own one day, It is a nice floral scent from the 40s which is supposedly lilac rich, with a musky cedar base.
    I want all of these vintage treasures!!! I must possess them!!!!

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