As I waited for the assistant to spray some of the new Chanel at the boutique in Yokohama’s Takashimaya ( for a more in depth ‘introduction’ to the themes and concepts of the perfume I would have had to wait in line for a ‘consultation’ ), I decided to reacquaint myself will the Chanel Les Exclusifs.
They smell really good. From the classics Cuir De Russie and No22, through Gardenia to Bel Respiro, Sycomore and Misia, my instinctive feeling was that someone is keeping quite a nice eye on quality control. Almost all of them smelled fresh, ‘timeless’, and alive.
The newest addition to the line, 1957, is also quality stuff : rigidly so, attaining an almost fascistic perfection, but for me, like 1932 and Gabrielle, from the mainstream collection, it is also wan – potently so – and uninspiring.
Citruses, some florals, white musks – in profusion; this ‘bridge between France and America’ is awash with them; an overdose of vetiver – although it is said to be cedar, and iris, form an enwrappingly, worryingly unintimidating perfume that, with its effacement of all flaws and vulnerability, almost fills me with apprehension.
Some popular perfumes – say Kenzo Flower, or Prada Infusion D’Iris, which 1957 reminds me of a bit, as well as soft vetivers like Jo Malone (and for a terrifying moment, the top notes made me heave slightly when bright, unnamable florals reminded of perhaps my most repugnant perfume of all time, Miracle by Lancôme), these perfumes exist, for me, despite their undeniable ‘niceness’, as almost passively aggressively ‘professional’, libido-less, officious and ‘amenable’ scents —– you know, at least on the surface, that they can do ‘no wrong’ ; infallible: the blinding white of the photocopier ……………………….the enemy: the people who hide behind facades, keep up appearances – – – – – – and reveal absolutely nothing.
1957, quite an insistent scent, intricately balanced in its genderless, clean, very affable manner, belongs very much to a recent trend of the major fragrance houses promoting dull, unaccusable perfumes – and feel free to argue with this if you think I am going too far with this – actual NEGATION.
In Japan, as sexual desire , according to researchers, is gradually dying ( more and more people choose to become single; lifetime virginity is the norm for a quarter of the population; sex is considered ‘troublesome’; most marriages after childbirth are celibate ; cyber alternatives are often preferable), and assertion, quite rightly in some regards, becomes taboo, perfumes like 1957 somehow compound this feeling of wanting to be just bland and anonymous; to blend in but be accepted; liked; but not to dare to express any kind of quirks or odd facets of individuality, god forbid feral longings ( I remember once, in an office I worked at, a woman in her fifties, who was having an affair with a younger male colleague , wore Rochas Mystere, and Christ did she smell sultry: it was like wearing the adultery in the air, perturbing; slightly dirty, but earthy, enigmatic, magnetic, troubling, NAUGHTY – and utterly amazing and memorable ) – and she had got it just right. She didn’t reek of it: it was only when you moved in close that you were ensnared ( and presumably one of the very reasons that he had fallen for her in the first place ).
Yes, there is a place for ‘pleasant’ fragrances : I have psychologically imbibed enough of the powerfully repressive work culture of my own immediate office environment to realize this intuitively, and dutifully also hypocritically opt for this route myself (recently I have been combining an appropriately green and very ‘shower fresh’ Japanese shampoo with a touch of the original Envy by Gucci for a clean and boring sillage ); but ultimately, perhaps for unprocessed and unresolved personal issues, I find the almost AGGRESSIVE, unrelenting pleasantness of a dense and opaque citrus musk perfume like 1957, despite its excellent technical olfactory precision, but BECAUSE of its indefatigably fake, polite smile – almost offensive – – you might even say damaging – – – to my spirit.