The seemingly infinite well of cheap, but classic, beautiful, vintage perfume always formerly available in the recycle shops, flea markets and antique emporia in the urban, and suburban, labyrinths of Japan is now drying up, finally in the clutches of yen-eyed e-bayers cannily extracting all the juice they can. The days of just wandering into a place and picking up a Mitsuoko extrait from a shelf for a song are fading.
And yet. I have discovered a treasure trove. A blissful place full of highly covetable bottles of perfume that make my heart ache with the anticipation of ownership. An assuming little shop down a side street whose identity and location I am not disclosing for the time being as I first intend to drain it like a vampire.
The owner of this place seems slightly bemused by me and my reactions ( he also sells bags, accessories, beauty products, makeup, hats – probably what draws in the younger clientele ), rather than the glass cabinet of vintage Chanel – I NOW HAVE A SAFE SUPPLY OF VINTAGE NO 19 : the 7ml extrait goes for ¥ 1800 – twelve dollars, eleven pounds – so I will be snapping all of those up along with some edt, some 22, Cristalle, and Coco parfum as the months go by); much of the rest of the shop varying from reasonably priced pristine editions ( an Hermes Amazone here, a Monsieur de Givenchy there…) up to expensive essentials – I have my sights already on a giant half liter of Shalimar going for ¥44000 – that’s my birthday present sorted then – as well as 30ml of verifiably vintage L’Heure Bleue parfum WHICH SHALL BE MINE.
I have already also bought such greatnesses as Paco Rabanne Metal – as fresh as if it had just come out of the factory in 1979 – on Wednesday I got a Vent Vert extrait – searing green galbanum top note gloriously intact – for a stupid ¥400 (£2.40!!); a divine Ricci Farouche boxed set; I fancy acquiring some of The Disappeared, just for the hell of it – Cartier So Pretty Eau Fruitee; Tentations Paloma Picasso; a full, very potent original bottle of Calvin Klein Obsession.
And speaking of seminal formulations of scents that are no longer with us, on the shelf the other day was a splash bottle of YSL’s either Champagne – its original title- or Yvresse – I didn’t see the name on the glass ; but that bottle is unmistakable, and so is the smell. I inhaled it deeply, staining my nostrils, imprinting the inside of my mask and my smell brain and possibly spilling the tiniest drop on my work clothes….. and all I can say is that, though I was in the shop for only fifteen minutes ( a gloriously secret sneak from work …) it has been HAUNTING me ever since.
Champagne : when first released, my young self found it dated; passé; an enamel melting lychee effervescence of sick peaches and mouldering; floral oldness; the tedium of diva, the soignee hostess with the mostest; true, I could smell the inherent panache involved here: the neo grand classique; the last gasp of an era as the metallic anorexia of the ozones took over ; Champagne was a last ditch effort, alongside similar perfumes like Ricci’s Deci Dela, to hold on to some of the richer textures; the orchestrated fullness.
And this, being a Sophia Grosjman rose perfume, is certainly orchestral. Swooningly fullbodied, multiplexed: carnation, roses, all the flowers, but also aniseed, caraway, mint, and a full, woozy, sickly tipsiness base accord of patchouli, vetiver, cedsrwood, vanilla, coconut, oak moss, cinnamon, styrax…… if this sounds vomitsome, as though you had been at an all-you-can-drink on a cruiseship and are now chundering seasick over the balustrade, I wouldn’t necessarily contradict you ( the young me always found this perfume to be putridly overloaded while still somehow very predictably French and unbearably ‘tasteful’ – allowing a woman to be respectable, but vivacious, even a little bit ‘giddy’ just for the one special night when she can ‘let go’).
Time has altered my perceptions though. Rarely have I been so possessed by a perfume in recent times – this was interfering with my thought processes as I was trying to teach; the deep heartache of the warm, plaintive bed of chypric fascination ( pure genius), lilting with the mellowed apricot and greener elements to create a deep PANG of perfumed longing. So even if this just turns me into an old fruit, if I am not one already, you can be very, very sure that this will be coming home again next week when I hurry to my private assignation before school, a bottle of YSL vintage, tucked somewhere —ecstatically, on my person.