Category Archives: PERFUME AND PERFORMANCE

HEARTLESS HELEN by PENHALIGONS (2019)

9C41B23E-74BD-4CAC-9F88-B094C86018D5

 

 

 

I had promised myself I wouldn’t write anything today as I am feeling mind-wiped, but seeing this just-out-in-Nippon release in Takashimaya ( a take no prisoners, self confidently fresh and sharp mandarin tuberose neroli that she would never wear in a million years though I might ),  I am simply putting this up to pique the amusement of my best friend Helen – who is anything but heartless

 

 

 

 

 

0615CCE2-4132-4000-8A94-9078A469749C

 

 

 

– though she can be severe and cut to the core and tell it like it is because she seems to understand me better than possibly anybody else: a soul twin, telepathic understanding that, though we speak far too little ( as we are both lazy and crap ) we know, as long as we remain intact, we will always have.

 

 

 

 

 

 

( the picture above is H giving me a pep talk before my Perfume Lovers London talk of 2014 ….. god how time so quickly flies……)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helen has talked me through many a difficult situation: like my mother (in the earthquake, my operation, both were amazing ) they tell me just the right combination of reality and boost. A hotwire to my sensibility;  fraternal umbilical straight to my fevered, potholed  brain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

AFFF51F2-6C34-4876-9CB3-F7A26BC80213

 

 

 

 

 

We are also both hypochondriacs. So god knows how she would feel being here where I am today, in Yokohama,; the biggest China Town in all of Asia, where a cruise ship is quarantined off shore walking distance from where I have lessons with passengers coming down like flies with the coronavirus, and where, as you can see, masks are selling out and there is a very uneasy feel in the air – as there is globally – as people are wondering what to believe, and whether they are over or underreacting; where being on packed trains feels unpleasant and dangerous, and where tempers get frayed —

 

 

 

 

– —- my ragged own, especially ( I had an argument with my closest Japanese male friend on the bus earlier this afternoon. about a common colleague who was espousing theories the other day about only the ‘weak’ being in danger of contracting the virus and being very arrogantly ‘unconcerned’ about the illness –  —- so would that include me, then?  having had very serious pneumonia in my left lung twice before ; I didn’t like the almost Nietzschean Ubermensch implications of what he was saying (and what of the immune stressed sleep deprived students, just before the most important exams of their lives ?); my friend said it was a linguistic misunderstanding: I responded with something below the belt about the man’s appearance…., oh when I get on the defensive I can be very venomous ; bile slips from my tongue with slippered ease.,..  …. never mind Heartless Helen; it is more like Noxious Neil (so should I wear the partner in the set, then  : the devilish and dastardly woody tobacco scent, Terrible Ted? )

 

 

 

 

 

No : I think Helen would suit me much better : we need proud nosegays in these pestilential times; bright flowers (Penhaligons calls this a ‘fearless conquistador’), and everybody knows that I love oranges.  don’t think about it, H would say, rationalize, hone in to the very best perspective; reverse or brake my hysteria  —-   ———- or at the very least, just try and  steer me towards a more pacified lucidity

 

 

 

 

 

 

B4EB84BF-1AA8-4B09-ACAA-C69B2C59A7FF

 

 

 

 

306DE374-DBF0-495B-8C07-2C9CF7672E50

 

 

 

 

 

39CEA0E0-8D96-4F99-BA02-36CBE4170828

 

 

 

 

 

 

860F076F-C49E-4F1E-A9AB-900756276092

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EF896999-D82A-4FC6-9F3F-809A45E4A192

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20 Comments

Filed under art and politics, autobiography, B0RN TO BE TROPICAL, Bitch, Flowers, FUCK EVERYTHING, I really do have a bad feeling about all of this, incomplete perfume reviews, inexplicable happenings, Japan, JAPAN PHOTOGRAPHY, LUXURIANCE, Neroli, neurotic meltdowns, occasionally sickening scents, PERFUME AND PERFORMANCE, postcards from the edge, pretentious aesthetes, Psychodrama, Rare, religious hatred and death, SCANDAL, SELF-OBSESSION, this is not a perfume review, Tuberose, Uncategorized, Urine, Vietnam travelogue, when an artist spins in his grave, Writing

THE BLACK NARCISSUS FOR VOGUE JAPAN

 

 

CNJ_VJPR201906-1.jpg

1103068-800w.jpg

 

 

 

 

large.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

adut-akech-in-vogue-magazine-japan-november-2019-5.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

VJB2.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is with great pleasure and delight that I can announce that from next year I will be writing about perfume for Vogue Japan.

 

 

 

This is a turn of events that is extraordinarily exciting for me. I am daunted, but cannot wait. Frothing like a latte. Just call me Anne Hathaway, clutching her cappuccinos hysterically on her way to the offices in Shibuya to meet Meryl Streep. A rabbit in the headlights. Absorbing all the glitz. Smelling all the fumes. Foaming at the gills. An amazing way to start the new decade. Because although I have always thought that fashion is a double headed beast, at once nothing (it can be foolish, vacuous, pretentious, elitist; passive aggressive; ridiculous; disastrous for nature), and everything (profoundly influencing all the things I love most in the world – music, cinema, perfume; literature; the visual universe around us, the people on the street, how we present ourselves, the smell of the city; the tip of the iceberg)  – to a person to whom aesthetics matter almost more than anything else in this life –  the visual, the sensory, art, basically – creativity is of the most fundamental and sacrosanct importance. ‘Beauty’. I suck it up with continuous pleasure. We both do. Urban creatures. Living near the biggest city in the world (in the nature-surrounded refuge of zen temples, Kamakura where we cool off and gain calm) but I adore Tokyo. We are there all the time.I am addicted. I love the extremes. The quiet ancient beauty of this restrained, austere, but atmospherically profound place I live in, and the constant stimulation of the great metropolis of thirty three million people under an hour away that provides, constantly, never-ending, exhilarating stimulation and energy and is the coolest place I have ever known. It is beautiful to be there. Busy, crowded, maddening, but simultaneously serene. Gliding through neon at night; swimming in it; I love to watch people, photograph them, thrive in the energy. The gender blasting, outlandish and creative ensembles worn by people on the street; the sleekness; the style. Because although I am not such a fashion horse myself (as you know, the money goes on perfume)  I have always kept on eye on what is happening, in magazines and on television, since I was old enough to think. ‘Fashion’ leaves a vivid, temporal stamp on any given month or year…….it marks our passage. Without it, where would the pleasure be in dipping back into past decades, whole time periods? The beauty of an old zeitgeist captured eternally in celluloid? In a pop video, a film, a photograph, a news reel, all captured in the current…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As teenagers, Helen and I would leaf through Vogue at her house, marvelling at the bewildering, almost alien beauty of the models (we could never quite get over the beauty of Christy Turlington and Karen Mulder; the supermodel years of Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell – we would stare into the pages, feasting on it). My younger sister Deborah and I would rip out pages all the time and plaster them over our bedroom walls.  And the perfume adverts. The mystery and delirium of a new ad campaign (Coco, Poison, Anais Anais…..which are your most pungent memories?); the sealed enticement of the late 80’s scent strips you could rip open like glued velcro on the bus and release the latest fragrant sensation into the collective air….these were all very formative influences on my life. The photo shoots, the fashion stories, the faces, presented an almost obscene unattainability of covetable desire; I would buy Vogue Hommes, and Uomo Vogue when I lived in Italy; obsessed with this picture or that; pasted on my university bedroom walls……it always seemed like the apex of a rarified world that was in another stratosphere. Until now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

C5DDdlOW8AECsSo.jpg

 

 

x1080.jpeg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Madonna. When her single Vogue came out in 1990, after the complete transformation of Like A Prayer, and yet another vampiric, chameleonic shift into the gay underground world of Paris Is Burning and its ravishing capturing of larger than life queens and their vogueing balls in NYC, just the word Vogue itself is now synonymous with something fantastic and shimmering; we danced that entire summer to that song, my sister and I, like a million other people around the world mimicking the video, striking poses (: ‘on the cover of a magazine’), and to think that I might now actually be part of all that from next year is almost absurdly stimulating (feel the exclamation marks exploding in my mind and bloodstream…D and I went out to have a celebration dinner last night). It will give me great new challenges as this decade comes to an end and we enter the 2020’s; present opportunities to flex my flexibility as a writer. I am in the mood for versatility. My book: ‘Perfume, In Search Of Your Signature Scent’, is what got me into this position, and I have come to feel quite proud of it in many ways despite its flaws and lacks – I feel it is a moment in time; frozen in binding,  a diary that has been confiscated. I put my absolute heart and soul into that tome – my blood, sweat and tears if you like –  and I hope that it in some way inspires people and lets them dream a little; it was designed to be very immersive. At the same time, I relish the opportunity to be able to smell brand new things and report on them, to revel in the now, and to try my hand at different kinds of writing. The Black Narcissus will always still be perfume + , because I can’t help myself; I cannot be limited to a scent flacon. To me, perfume has always meant much more than that – it leads to so many other things; memory, life, experience, other art forms, culture, people and how I interact with them, politics, everything – to me it is inherently psychological. Having said that, a more society-wide olfactory objectivity based on what is going on in the higher echelons of commercial creativity is also appealing to me from a different angle – I will definitely be meeting a lot of new people through this venture – and since I plan at some stage ( I have already written several chapters) to publish an autobiographical book on my years spent in this fascinating, vexing, unleavable place full of the most superb contradictions, I cannot possibly say no to this new adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Japan Vogue here we come!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a0a5bd883acad69827221d9216175105.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VOGUE-JAPAN-Dreams-of-Glamour-by-Luigi-Iango.-Anna-Dello-Russo-March-2019-www.imageamplified.co_-47.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

5c635aab230000ed0222131b.jpeg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

eae0d8f88efa713d397cecab07cfea9d

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PS. D and I first properly laid eyes on each other when dancing, extravagantly, in tuxedo and bow tie to Vogue at a summer ball…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Beauty’s where you find it……”

 

 

 

 

44 Comments

Filed under Flowers, inexplicable happenings, Japan, LUXURIANCE, New Beginnings, operatic, PERFUME AND PERFORMANCE, PERFUME: IN SEARCH OF YOUR SIGNATURE SCEN, pretentious aesthetes, Psychodrama, SELF-OBSESSION

LIQUID ILLUSION by JULIETTE HAS A GUN (2018) + GOLD LEAF by DSH PERFUMES (2019)

 

 

32F91858-57A6-4692-A95A-BFE72B9D7088.png

 

 

 

I am increasingly questioning my subjective perceptions when it comes to perfume, realizing more and more that scent truly does smell quite different on different people and that when testing out new fragrances I need a model.

 

 

 

It is also always fun to give perfume to people as presents, so I took some samples along with me to the film shoot on Saturday, an absolute riot of a day that ended with a mayhem in a bar scene in Fujisawa via a quite outrageous one filmed in the woods somewhere outside Totsuka, but began with a serene and exquisite scene at a tea house in Kamakura ( pictured ), titled The Way Of Tears, a lesson in which the abducted students at the Academy are taught the correct way to cry – with homework – as part of their ‘sensitivity training’.

 

 

 

 

Michael, pictured left, has what I call a really good ‘canvas’: his skin brings out perfumes in a very clean and huggable way; we had a flea market sale a few months ago to raise money for Spoiled Identity, featuring clothes and bric a brac and a slew of perfumes I didn’t need anymore, and he decided to pick up some vintage Chanel Egoiste (1990), a sweet cinnamon spiced sandalwood that always smelled vile, even nauseating, on me but which on him was stunning : an entirely different skin interpretation with a warm, gentle aura I would never have recognized as being the same perfume.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A01DB5C8-0D3E-4859-BB0B-4C3ABDC127B9.jpeg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liquid Illusion is a another sweet perfume I somehow thought he would be able to pull off. Although I briefly considered keeping the small bottle for myself ( with almondy heliotrope over a dry, rooty iris note, what could possibly go wrong?), but there is something about the insistence of the dry amber, irone, iracine and obstinate tonka bean in the base note that I knew would just gradually grate on me : he loved it unhesitatingly straight away, though – a perfume you would  ‘inhale greedily in an elevator’.

 

 

 

 

 

Rumi, the kimono clad sensei in the centre of the shot, whose tears flowed almost too freely for the scene (I think she is actually something of a grande actrice but just hasn’t realized that about herself yet), had not eaten breakfast that morning, neither before nor after going to the specialist shop to have her dress fitting in Kamakura, in order to be able to carry off the strictures of her many layered kimono and feel right for the part. She felt faint ( and looked very pale ) when we all met at Kamakura station, just managing a small energy drink through a straw, and emitting a faint scent of incense powder that was beguiling and befitting her generally mysterious atmosphere. A perfume lover, embroidery teacher and couture maker, she told me that recently, rather than her usual French classics – she loves Ricci Farouche in particular – she has taken to wearing traditional Japanese incense in special powdered forms, as skin scent; and invited me to come round one day this month or the next to sample them myself – an invitation I am definitely going to take her up on. It sounds like the way to also perfume myself, come my month-long planned hibernation this December.

 

 

 

 

 

I proffered Gold Leaf to her, a new, very gilded, rich, mellow fruit of an autumnal ambered chypre to her that is beautifully blended, enigmatic and sure to be very popular addition to the Dawn Spencer Hurwitz  line of perfumes that covers the full spectrum of the fragranced alphabet; although I personally don’t enjoy East Indian or Australian sandalwood notes on my own skin, so would not be able to pull this one off myself,  I agree fully with Tora who sent me the sample that this perfume somehow takes her to the edges of a memory she can’t quite place; locating you in a ‘nostalgia of the present’.

 

 

 

 

 

The teashop, down a side street in Kamakura with a traditional room at the back, was a tranquil little place, selling glassware, wooden furniture, and all kinds of tea related paraphernalia; there were even gold-leaf covered chocolate ganaches placed on ceramic trays in the entrance which I thought was an odd coincidence. Rumi had found Gold Leaf a tad too sweet given her current more austere predilections, but after we had finished the scene – which, despite the dark sardonic comedy of D’s script – with the students learning various techniques of crying, from the one single tear rolling down the cheek of each attendee, to full wailing, but which despite the hilarity of those filming and watching left all the actors looking curiously, genuinely desolate by the end, I offered the sample of Gold Leaf instead to Michael. On him it smelled very complex, burnished, a little too ‘mature’, perhaps, I thought at first, but he was immediately intrigued by its obvious elegance, and the concept that perfumes really do differ tremendously depending on the individual ( an idea that he said he had never really  considered before). As the day of filming continued in different locations, the scent began to feel more at home on him, perhaps more pleasing, ultimately,  than the less emotional Liquid Illusion, whose name I hadn’t initially realized the complete aptness of until immersed, Saturday morning, in D’s strange, captivating, and poetic, vale of tears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

C7820AA4-48C0-4E49-8653-1B7CEF417AD8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6374B5E3-769A-4491-8D27-5E9556F45FEA

 

 

12 Comments

Filed under Flowers, PERFUME AND PERFORMANCE, Psychodrama, Voyeur

AN ALIEN TOUCHED DOWN IN SHINJUKU :: OPIUM VINTAGE PARFUM by YVES SAINT LAURENT (1977, in 2019)

 

29BF25DC-8988-452A-BDB2-1B2E59EB4B25

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Judd is a brilliant photographer, filmmaker and performance artist from Australia who lives in Nagoya and Osaka : like us, he has something of a double life, teaching in the week for four days or so then indulging in his imagination on extended weekends, where he absorbs the neon ghosts and soul of the city into his eerie, velours celluloid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Belgium Solanas, the mesmerizing alter ego that often has cabaret audiences ( myself included ) in tears – there is often something overwhelmingly dreamlike and touching in the distilled cinematic melancholy of the performances :  Michael  appeared in Duncan and Yukiro Dravarious’s hilarious comedy horror film Girl Goned from two years ago and is going to edit their new opus, ‘Spoiled Identity’, the first scene of which we filmed in Golden Week ; analytical, sincere and unflinching – his is a towering, formidable presence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Space Witches, an art performance event held in the bowels of deepest Shinjuku, Belgium came on stage, an hour or so after midnight, like an alien air hostess meets Judy Garland meets Sean Young replicant from Bladerunner, holding a copy of Bowie’s Heroes, to a medley of songs glitch-edited over Laurie heartbreaking Anderson’s O Superman, a spellbinding staging that culminated in a spontaneous hugging of my friend in the audience,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EB11F48E-BECB-4A53-83B8-1378376066E2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Laurie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A male and female pro-wrestling couple, jostling  in the throng of the most packed together electric honeycombs of Shinjuku had earlier spotted D and I  ( and smelled me) in Giorgio Red; the girl had apparently said to her boyfriend ‘Follow That Hair!  : they then jumped in the cab with us, and the man was soon in emotional floods of tears at the end of Solanas’ performance, which in its lack of tack and its deadly, heart rending earnestness left a black hole of emptiness and longing in the pit of your heart ( in a good way ).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An alien being emitting much needed empathy for this world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was standing next to Laurie when they embraced, and could smell commingled sweat (from all our dancing ), and traces of Van Cleef & Arpels’ Gem coming off from the silver dress, an elegant, spiced and long discontinued floriental from the late 80’s I had given Michael in lieu of a flacon of vintage YSL Opium parfum, which for some reason I had always thought he should wear on stage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opium, an almost mythical monolith of a perfume, stills smells sexy, and so FAMILIAR – almost too much so –  as though it were imprinted in our collective DNA, but inevitably the current formula is vastly thinner and less complicated than the original distilled tiger cordial of resins, spices, vanilla, flowers, mandarin oranges, and seemingly a million other ingredients doused in balsams and patchouli that for me is the very essence of late 70’s and early 80’s glamour. Scoring a sealed bottle of the extrait recently, I decided to send it to Michael. He won’t be able to wear it in the classroom ( where he usually is to be found in Gorilla Perfume’s Breath Of God), but as Belgium, I am excited to sense that opiate of Studio 54 excess drifting from the stage…….  perfume, in this context, can consolidate, re or de-emphasize an art piece, or simply take you to an added dimension.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Off stage, as guests and performers chatted and drank together in the interval before the next act ( a hypnotic, bald, female Buddhist stripper covered from head to toe in exquisite calligraphy), Michael took my hand and said we had to go and take some photos up on the streets outside. Handing me his camera, I snapped away outside ramen bars and coin lockers, and felt, for a few minutes, that we had actually gone back in time,  almost as though we were Jerry Hall and Helmut Newton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EA1D084E-93D0-428A-832F-2ECE0A0291DB.jpeg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

, like ripping through the fabric of time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

16 Comments

Filed under 'Orientals', Antidotes to the banality of modern times, cinema + perfume, JAPAN PHOTOGRAPHY, LUXURIANCE, PERFUME AND PERFORMANCE, Spice

ALL OVER MYSELF ::::::::: CRISTAL Pour Homme by AMOUAGE

 

37510921-43B3-4E80-AFF6-BC52679AF5D1

On Monday morning at Strawberry Fields in Kamakura I had a naughtyish splurge on a cache : for sixty pounds sterling, a vintage 30ml Opium parfum, a No 19, a Caron Fleurs De Rocaille extrait, but these were kind of thrown in, really, because the real purchase, and prize, was this vintage edition of Amouage Cristal for men ( or possibly Gold? Experts please weigh in ) that was roaring to me silently from the top of the glass shelf.

 

 

 

EAB88EF5-53E3-459A-A8D5-979AC538262C.jpeg

 

 

 

 

The bottom of the bottle says Cristal, apparently a rare perfume on eBay that sells for around 1,000 dollars  – the Japanese internet has one for half that

 

 

 

 

27298A2D-F777-49A5-9453-5699359C2024

 

 

 

but the notes do seem to match those of Gold, an intense ( though this word doesn’t do it justice, not remotely ; I have never known anything like it ), aldehydically animalic, musky soapy floral that smells just like a pristine extract of Madame Rochas parfum on United Arab Emirates steroids and cristillated to spectacularly nuclear strength.

 

 

 

************************************

 

 

 

 

The second I sprayed this oily, golden slick of perfume on the back of my hand I experienced a delirium tremens of being enveloped, head to toe, in regal downiness and flowers; rose, jasmine, but most specifically a powdery sandalwood and overall smell that reminded me very specifically of Imperial Leather soap – which I have always loved, and can use up a whole bar of in one long sitting…………….despite the swirl of richness gradually coalescing into one skin smell, the overall feeling is definitely that familiar scent; I use the talc and the deodorant spray, and having this too as the main event after all that initial background pampering will be orgiastically pleasurable for me. I was practically WRITHING on the train back home in olfactory arousal: tending and loosening like a cat in heat ……  perhaps the sublimated civet, that I experience without consciously sensing it: some secret code of sensuality immersed in the blend that makes it just so horny yet so MAJESTIQUE.

 

 

 

 

*************************************

 

 

 

 

 

 

6D063630-BC77-4BD9-A15A-3E6D58DB8F59.jpeg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To me, anyway.

 

 

 

 

D was having none of it.

 

 

 

 

 

“it smells……. pissy, or something” he said when we met in Ofuna : “I don’t like it”.

 

 

 

 

 

“UGH”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And on Basenotes :

 

 

 

 

“Musky, soapy floral, like taking a bath in the clawfoot tub of my gtandmother’s house in the seventies “

 

 

 

says one reviewer.

 

 

 

“I got through the initial blast of granny’s partially soiled bloomers, tiptoeing around the house trying to avoid my wife”,

 

 

 

 

says another.

 

 

 

 

Most other reviewers spin variations on this ‘old lady’ incontinence theme ( WHICH I DON’T GET AT ALL ::: I JUST SMELL SWOONWORTHY ARAB PRINCES IN WHITE ROBES )

 

 

 

– an (ageist, sexist ?), scaredy-cat reaction to a man’s scent that veers from the usual, ‘masculine’ brutality? Or maybe Duncan is right after all and I am just blind : though he does like the beginning, which is glorious: derailingly erotic for me personally, there is something in the base he can’t abide. A grimacing recoil.  It almost makes me fearful, like some dreaded halitosis I am unaware of, that my olfactory apparatus has gone awry. Why does it smell like that to him ??????

 

 

 

 

As another reviewer of the perfume says,    (as I mentioned I think this perfume must be Gold, (though please correct me if I am wrong) / could the ‘cristal’ on the glass be just referring to the material of which the bottle is made? It does feel ludicrously expensive]]

 

 

 

 

04ED9DE9-A990-42B2-80D3-8C8A4791A8D9.jpeg

 

 

 

 

Yes. That was what I was wanting to say.

 

 

 

 

Wow is precisely the word I would use to describe this extravagant creation.

 

 

 

Which obviously I am only going to be able to wear indulgently alone, doors locked and bolted ,at home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

37 Comments

Filed under amber floral musks, Antidotes to the banality of modern times, Civet, Classics, Floral Aldehydes, FUCK EVERYTHING, Hairy Masculines, LUXURIANCE, Masculines, Musk, New Beginnings, occasionally sickening scents, PERFUME AND PERFORMANCE, pigs, postcards from the edge, Powder, Psychodrama, Urine

A DISASTROUS END TO A DAY OF VINTAGE PERFUME SHOPPING

 

 

IMG_1613

 

 

 

 

On Monday, I hooked up with my perfume-adoring friend Catherine for a day of scent hunting in Tokyo. Having moved up to Yokohama from Osaka, where she lived with her husband for a long while, she was yet to visit any of the troves I occasionally frequent to plunder for old vintages and any other bargains of that nature, and was eager to see what we might find.

 

 

 

Me too. The excitement of finding a beloved classic in some cabinet never abates, even if such moments are getting rarer these days as the sources gradually dry up. Still, although I was worried about disappointing her in case she had grandiose images in her mind of veritable Aladdin’s caves overflowing with abandoned, boxed, pristine Guerlains (“Will there be L’Heure Bleue?” – no there will not, of that I am sure; only Mitsouko in all its possible vintage forms, if ya pleasey – but neither of us is particularly bothered by Mitsouko); I was a little apprehensive that the day was going to turn out a big bore and that there would be nothing to buy.

 

 

 

First stop was the arcade in Jiyugaoka, where Catherine immediately found a pristine, perfect Caron Narcisse Noir extrait for 500 yen. She had never smelled it before and proffered it up for my inspection to check if this is how it should be (me being The Black Narcissus and all), and it was – a sickening bargain at five dollars. Beautifully glinting, fresh, and as unique as ever, she snatched it up without a second thought. Now let’s get the slightly gruff  shop owner to open up the very cabinets. Where all of the main treasure is to be had….

 

 

 

 

Not having worked out how we would, er, divide any of the loot were we to come across any, only a few minutes had passed before the linguistically-envy-inducing polyglot interpreter’s hand alighted wantonly on a Le Galion Violette parfum (exquisite! sheer powdery, swooning violets cold as the earth), also for 500 yen. I also wanted it but no I want it insisted Catherine in a tone I couldn’t argue with – we were like siblings arguing over cake, getting ready to shove each other out of the way in the event of coming across a Vol De Nuit – but no, only Mitsouko-ko-ko-ko, always that bloody perfume……. but I had found a  vintage Obsession parfum (heaven! can’t wait to apply it to a cashmere scarf) and a Rochas Femme parfum, a scent I like to wear at night sometimes for its deep tapestries of fur and fruit; C had spotted an unopened Givenchy Interdit, a scent I had never really liked for some reason, not entirely, until we later retired to a coffee shop and she prized open the wax top of the bottle and the most gorgeous ylang, rose, jasmine and iris top notes wafted out and I was in heaven, finally appreciating this perfume for the first time in its beautiful, pristine edition. Audrey and Hubert would have been proud.

 

 

 

 

 

The scent of aldehydes that had been released from decades of imprisonment in their glass bottle and floated their way across the mille crepe and cafe au lait of the table was joined, and contrasted, in an anti-intuitively stunning blend of that Interdit and a rare bottle of Donna Karan Black Cashmere that Catherine had bought in a shop in Asagaya,  the frankincense and dark woods and musks of which Catherine was sniffing at her arm like a madwoman in love, and whose sillage, from a mere spritz, filled up all the air around her brilliantly. What a great scent ! (and why, on earth, are such perfumes discontinued? We all know the usual tedious answers, but still – women in woods, yes please; so much more intriguing that the vulgar, IQ lowering pink sludge that is the current scent trail of many current ladies’ favourites). She smelled great and was enjoying the proceedings : yes, we were pleased with our bargains – this was about 35 dollars, but considering how much this scent can go for on eBay now, it was definitely a steal. Plus, the way C was swooning over the perfume on her hand – such fun to be out with a true perfumaniac like her- the pleasure is real – you know that this is going to be a perfume that she wafts about her as she interprets for the upper echelons of society, politicians,  and even the visiting European royalty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So. Where next. I had been saving the best til last. We would do bargain recycle stores in Asagaya, and then there would be the crowning glory, the legend that is MARISOL. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

52631655_10156442801752991_5902524652395167744_n.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is strange, but I haven’t written about this place before until now for some reason, even if I have mentioned it in the introduction of my book as an incredible old vintage perfume emporium that stocks practically anything you might want as a teasing detail of how much fun it can be in Tokyo; floors and floors of precious Carons, Guerlains, perfumes from the eighties and nineties; wrapped Jacomos, a repository of your teenage dreams. Still there. Tantalizing stacks of boxes reaching up the stairs to forbidden floors; the most amazing old perfume shop in the metropolis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

52415925_10156442801762991_4917729170143838208_n.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had also been a bit disingenuous though. The big (and it is a big, a really big) problem with this shop is that the owner, pictured, is an extraordinarily ‘difficult’ woman, to say the least. Famously so. I was of course aware of this, but as I have bought a couple of things from the shop before – Jacomo Parfum Rare Extrait and Lancome Trophee, I know that once you butter the old bag up a bit, or if she happens to be in the right mood, she becomes more personable and guides you around the contents of her treasure house and introduces you to some of her fabulous wares. Also, seeing that Catherine speaks impeccable Japanese, of a level I could never attain in a thousand years, with all the nuances of register, politeness, grammatical accuracy – I come across like a grunting chimpanzee in comparison – which Madame Marisol scorns openly, pretending not to understand a word I am saying – I thought that as I was gingerly entering the holy premises with not only a bona vide perfume connoisseur but also someone with the language skills to negotiate the croc-infested waters, we would succeed in gaining access to some of the hidden preciousnesses – I dream of a Caron Poivre parfum with the studded glass tears; or even just to look at and gaze with my retinas at some magical Guerlain extracts glowing silently from their boxes begging secretly to be opened and worn on the skin, but………………………..…sadly this was not to be. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having been in Marisol before, which is situated in completely the wrong area of Tokyo – bang in the middle of the youth district, where twenty year old couples smooch on down from the 109 department stores geared to their age group, and pancake houses and cinemas and jean shops and cheap izakaya to get drunk in – and, passing the inviting windows full of cute looking perfumes, once entering, quickly get sent packing, I kind of know what to expect.  I have seen this happen before: an innocuous and sweet young couple came in and politely asked the proprietress if she had any fragrances that smelled like tea, only to be told nai’a very abrupt way of saying ‘there aren’t any’, that NO regular person in any form of customer service would dream of uttering in a million years, this being the apex of refined, artificial politeness in the world, comparable to none, which is what makes it all so surprising and even upsetting: I remember the look on their faces (but what did we say wrong? ).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The answer is nothing. The woman is as bitter and twisted as a hag in a fairy tale: the witch in the forest you feared as a child, just that this is a perfume shop instead, and Catherine wandered in as innocent as Red Riding Hood knowing none of this. Should I have warned her? As I said, I honestly thought that given her Japanese and fragrance credentials, that we would be fine. Also, I didn’t want to spoil the surprise : I thought that we would enter, gaze in awe at all the potential perfumes we could buy, and then charm the fuming, chuntering  psycho-hag into ‘letting ‘ us buy one of them.

 

 

 

 

 

Watching two young people go in as we climbed the street towards the shop, I waited for the expected thirty seconds before they were sent out (!!I know – what kind of shop IS this?!!), and out they came, right on cue, looking perplexed – what just happened?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We entered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

52051173_10156442694977991_6212313814457647104_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the air was immediately hostile (in fact, it felt as if there was no air). Unwelcoming. Compressed. Sat on her chair, the owner of Marisol sat leviathan-like, unmoving, emitting  silent, noxious fumes of hatred – like an old cobra awaiting death.

 

 

 

 

Despite the plenitude of cabinets of perfumes we were both fascinated by, she clearly didn’t want us in there. You felt an uneasiness in your chest, a strong sense of discomfort, her eyes piercing into yours and yet clouded over at the same time with foregone, spiteful conclusions.

 

 

 

 

 

‘How much is the Leonard Tamango?’ I asked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘I don’t know’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(?)

 

 

 

 

Catherine:

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Do you have L’Heure Bleue?’

 

 

 

 

 

‘I do, but it’s expensive.

 

 

 

 

 

(?!!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘How much is it, if you don’t mind my asking’?

 

 

 

 

WE DON’T HAVE IT.

 

 

 

 

NOW SHUT UP AND GET OUT !!!!!!!!

 

 

IMG_1616.jpg

 

 

IMG_1627.jpg

 

 

 

hissed the creature vituperously to Catherine’s utter shock and astonishment. Completely taken aback, I could feel her heart beating just standing behind her; the sheer stupefaction of the situation, and I immediately regretted not having given any warning or instruction on how to proceed in ‘Marisol’ beforehand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘But what did I do wrong? Have I said something untoward’? said Catherine in very polite, even poignantly soothing tones.  ‘This shop was recommended to me by a friend who said you have some wonderful things to buy, which is why we came here’

 

 

 

 

IMG_1625.jpg

 

 

 

 

‘then you should have asked that person why I am such a bitch beforehand and learned what to do in here ‘  spat back she at Catherine’s gobsmacked face; with really horrible breath, too, which only added to the true vileness and rudeness being displayed in the ‘shop’

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1619.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘I just wanted to know if you have any L’Heure Bleue!!” protested Catherine.

 

 

 

 

If you really wanted that perfume, you wouldn’t say it like that 

 

 

 

 

spat the witch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

–  – – and I wanted to show you this, said I stupidly , taking my book out of my bag, which mentions this vile komodo in the introduction as a place to look for vintage perfumes if you are ever in Tokyo – now I kind of wish it could be redacted-

 

 

 

 

 

TAKE. IT. AWAY.  !!!!   

 

 

 

 

 

DON’T SHOW IT TO ME !!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

shrieked the crone as Catherine was getting more and more upset and trying to reason with her, asking why she was being so hated in her fluid and intelligent Japanese, at which point the woman was momentarily silenced –  perhaps even slightly embarrassed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was obvious we would have to leave (the drama queen I am, I was partly loving all of this, I have to confess – am I a terrible person? I let it linger on than I should have; but it was as though Catherine was slightly hypnotized :::::::::::::)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was the language. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which she kept repeating.

 

 

 

‘SHUT UP.

 

 

 

LEAVE!’

 

 

 

GET OUT!!!

 

 

 

 

SHUT YOUR MOUTH !!!! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Urusai‘, which literally means ‘noisy’ in Japanese , is used as a way of saying ‘shut your mouth’ when said in a certain way; only with family members in a moment of anger – never, never never,  to a stranger, and certainly not to someone who has come to your shop, with only the best intentions, to peruse and possibly buy your wares.

 

 

 

 

 

‘Kaette !literally means ‘go home’, but in the context of where we were, it would probably be better translated as GET OUT for its rawness, particularly when combined with her dismissive, and very aggressive, waves of the hand towards the exit………….. and though dumbfounded, gobsmacked and horrified by the incredible rudeness we had just experienced – ‘I just want to slap the bitch!‘ exclaimed Catherine as we finally pushed the glass doors open, one final kaette and urusai was enough to convince us to leave (which we should have done, really, from the first moment).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the street, Catherine’s heart was beating in rage so badly I truly regretted having taken her there (even though I was doubled up in hysterics on the street – I don’t know, I just couldn’t help finding the whole thing H I L A R I O U S); but then I suppose I kind of knew what might – potentially – happen. Catherine had gone in as innocent as a doe, and been ferociously attacked and reviled by this obviously desperately sad woman who owns the entire premises and thus doesn’t need the money, but opens up each day so that she can insult people and make them feel dreadful: the camp side of me loves this: I often find the drabness of daily life so tedious that any drama, particularly surrounded by perfume bottles I so badly want, is curiously stimulating and at the moment, outside, as we gathered ourselves, I must say that I felt 100% alive. And couldn’t stop laughing.

 

 

 

 

 

But I couldn’t leave Catherine. She was too upset. I had been planning to part ways there,  and go to a club I know in Ebisu called Enjoy House as I want to book it for our Love Goddess Of The Cannibals party that we want to hold in June; a disco/ art performance event, something tropical and lush and amazing, based on the film Papaya from 1978 by Joe D’Amato, because at that point in the term I am always ready to really let loose and do something mad and amusing, gathering all our friends up and creating something lurid and exciting and memorable –

 

 

 

 

 

– but it was obvious that Catherine really didn’t want to be left alone. She was simply so  furious, shocked, and outraged by the terrible treatment she had experienced that she said she was about to burst into tears (what can be done about this monstrous woman, do you think? If you ever come to Tokyo, will you give it a go?!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So we took the train back to Yokohama together; processing and laughing, imagining glitterbombing the place and temporarily stunning Marisol (possibly even tying her up) while we scamper up and down those mysterious stairs making off with bags and bags of unbelievable loot (imagine the Nahema parfums I would run off with! I know she has it, because she has told me, as has her poor assistant, who occasionally works with her, but naturally she wouldn’t show it to me, as it is ‘too expensive’………)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

644F9624-E459-4CB0-A157-E37D3BE34EAF.jpeg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘It was like Catherine and Neil’s Adventures In Perfume Heaven and Hell’ , said Catherine. One minute I was so zen and relaxed from the pleasure of buying all those perfumes and from just hanging out, and the next I was being harangued by a wicked witch, just out of the blue, and it shocked me to the core.

 

 

 

 

 

Horrible. I can’t believe it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I AM NEVER SETTING FOOT IN THERE AGAIN. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

60979025-8D98-4152-9ECE-5685A6B2AD77.jpeg

 

 

 

 

 

 

62 Comments

Filed under Bitch, PERFUME AND PERFORMANCE, postcards from the edge, Psychodrama, Rare, SCANDAL, Uncategorized, Witchy

‘PERFUME : IN SEARCH OF YOUR SIGNATURE SCENT’ – RELEASE DATES AND PERFUME SOCIETY READING EVENT

 

CE20D827-7103-44E7-884D-05C4D5419C7B.jpeg

 

84EFDF07-9A79-48EB-8B34-E3586B87D22F.png

 

E0F12B15-3408-4529-9375-326A5801EC84.png

 

 

 

FBCC0E4E-68D5-4D3B-BB1E-CAB975C2EA1F.jpeg

 

 

7C3085B1-A85F-4ABA-9B1B-4B655276A549.jpeg

 

 

 

21B23B5D-B09A-4E41-91AF-CBBCF1FF9C00.jpeg

 

 

FB873861-B786-4BA8-8724-7581BE120541.jpeg

 

 

CAE4E8EB-E2F3-4D67-A35A-A7F78BCB3064.jpeg

 

 

F5EA87EC-68A6-4A4B-B1A8-ABEFDFCA9495.jpeg

 

 

Well, here it is !

 

The only reason I haven’t done this before  now is that I wanted the cover and the physical reality of the book to be a surprise for my parents, who finally got their hands on an advance copy on Wednesday ( ‘look, Roger ! It’s arrived!’ shouted my mum as a book-shaped parcel was carried by the postman down the driveway and they weren’t quite sure how to proceed ::: should there be some kind of special ceremony or ritual for removing it from the envelope and bubblewrap? In the end they just released the book from its package and were, I think, thrilled.)

 

 

 

 

They love it ( how it looks, anyway : I don’t know what they will make of the florid nonsense inside), and spent the exhilarated day clutching and caressing it and carrying it around the house with them everywhere they went

 

 

( as did I ::::  :: the design team have done a great job I think, and I had no idea it would all turn out so sumptuous.  Initially, there were many things to be worked out – inital concepts were too fey and girly; the title was different, so was the essential composition of the book, but from the back and forths  over the spring and summer we eventially settled together on a contemporary Art Deco feel, which reflects the luxuriance of all the perfume reviews quite well,  my love of vintage, and it is all just something I can’t help but feel rather delighted about.)

 

 

 

 

The book is HEAVY: a proper tome. Like a book of spells, or a volume from an old library,  and though not as lengthy as my blog ramblings nor quite as personal, hopefully the new concision and the new taxonomy of the world of perfume I have come up in this guide with will appeal both to perfume people and also the curious neophyte. My goal is to induce passion for the subject – obviously there are just too many perfumes in the world to be definitive : the book is called ‘In Search Of….’ for good reason; I wanted it to be immersive and indulgent and also a little strange…

 

 

 

 

Anyway, the book comes out in the UK on March 21st, published by Hardie Grant, and on April 2nd in the US, distributed by Chronicle, as well as being available to order worldwide on Amazon. I also have an event being organized by The Perfume Society at Rouillier White in south London on March 28th, where I will be doing a reading and a book signing (!); I am really looking forward to gathering family and friends and mingling with perfume maniacs while sniffing the marvelous selections of Michael Donovan ( this really is one of the best perfumeries, so I am delighted the party is being held there).

 

 

Unfortunately, though, space and tickets will be quite limited, so I can’t make this a big thing I can invite everyone to, much as I would like to. I was wondering, though, if any UK people, particularly London people, reading this,  can think of any venues where I might have a more casual sip and sniff type of affair -or even just straightforward event with books and bubbles –  Hardie Grant will ship books there if it becomes an event. I would love a Black Narcissus hook up !

 

 

 

I don’t know. I am just so excited ( if daunted : you never know whether anyone is going to like what you have created), but this time last year, when I was still wallowing in self pity with all the aftermath of my operation and arduous rehabilitation, I had no idea whatsoever what was just round the corner – nor the year of extraordinary pressure that was ahead of me, with a full teaching schedule and book deadlines constantly looming)

 

 

 

– but I DID IT

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I want to C E L E B R A T E

 

70 Comments

Filed under Antidotes to the banality of modern times, LUXURIANCE, New Beginnings, PERFUME AND PERFORMANCE, Perfume Reviews, Psychodrama, Vintage Bonanza, Writing