THE DANDIES : : : ARSENE LUPIN LE DANDY by GUERLAIN (2010) + AURORA by CHARLES WONG (2018)

 

 

 

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The D is something of a dandy, and recently we re-discovered that we even had a perfume of that name in the collection that we had totally forgotten about :  “Arsene Lupin – Le Dandy” (a bit of a mouthful ), but which is also a dark leather glove of a violet patchouli fougere that he wears most suavely and insinuatingly – the perfume he was donning at the museum in Tokyo on Saturday (my own aroma being Roger Et Gallet’s The Vert combined  with Brossas’ Jasmin Lilas); a scent that was not out of place in that self-consciously chic 1930’s environment, the period when the famous French detective novels were still being written by  Maurice Leblanc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I  remember the first time I smelled this final creation by Jean Paul Guerlain (for his former house) at the  boutique in Hibiya I was a bit nonplussed: as this, and especially the Voyou (or ‘hooligan’) part of the then newly released Arsene Lupin  duo, just seemed too traditional and obviously of an overly familiar ‘certain ilk’ that traces back decades; immediately recognisable as just ‘one of those’: however, I must admit that meeting up after work the other day, all I could smell, from particular distances, was a luxuriantly held back incense, and dense slightly powdery patchouli with a provocative warmth to it (I wasn’t sure at first if it wasn’t just the regular incense sticks I burn all the time at home: often, the balsamic powder and aromatic elements, and particularly the patchouli,  in that blend fuse with the clothes in his wardrobe and it is hard to sometimes tell where the incense or the perfume begins or ends).  However, once my nose sharpened its focus and I honed into the realities I realized that what I was detecting was definitely a perfume. The warmth, the manly depth, in this effortlessly put together blend by a master perfumer comes from sandalwood, cardamom and leather – – smooth, unfetishistic – while the piercing green top accord, which is what makes Arsene Lupin so distinctive (within its genre) – a  bracing violet leaf and artemisia coupled with coriander and pepper and bitter orange, gives the perfume its undeniable gravitas. Although a little on the potentially ‘gravely self serious and self important ‘ tip on the wrong person, on D, the aura of the perfume is rather elegant:  all velvet breeches, brogues, a monocle, and a fine library to match  –  and very seductive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Also founded on a study of striking contrasts is the recently released Aurora by Charles Wong, a fresh, green tea-like aromatic scent that would make a nice signature for a young, uncomplicated fop. It seems to me sometimes that men’s fragrances – although this is billed as unisex- rely on the olfactory prototype of gradually reconciling clashes more than feminines, which go more for harmony and ‘general attractiveness’ : a sharp grasp and assertive space staking at the top, followed by a sturdier, more cosy-uppable base that instils confidence and makes you move in closer and, one imagines, eventually  ‘relent’. Like Le Dandy, this is a perfume with undeniable charisma: Charles Wong is an author, fragrance enthusiast, and France adoring bon viveur from Hong Kong who travelled to Grasse to create this, his first perfume  – a fresh, modern clothes horse for the new age (Arsene is definitely a few decades his senior): a juxtaposition of  oak moss, amber and sea moss in the base (quite potent), with greener, more limpid and sparkling top and heart notes of water lotus, bamboo, fig leaves, blackcurrant bud as well as aquatic notes of ‘rain’, ‘fresh water’, and ‘sea’ throughout the heart and top – all tenacious, if never entirely  aggressive. As you can imagine from the note description, this fragrance is quite reminiscent of the nineties’ style of perfuming men in blueprints such as Giorgio Armani’s bestselling Aqua Di Gio ( which I almost miss, now in comparison to the newer Neanderthals) although Aurora is more subtle, and less ‘everything all at once’ than the aforementioned aquamarine juggernaut.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like Guerlain’s Le Dandy, which is a tad smudged and too intense when bunched all together on the skin up close, the concentrate of fresh intensity in Aurora is, for me, too much to lean in and kiss. From a distance, however – used judiciously in beknownst-to-you-only locations on the body, in tandem with a crisp white shirt, nice grooming, and dandyish vestments, this is a scent that I know I would be drawn to if the right person was wearing it, as the central olfactory conceit –  a constantly evolving play between the lower and higher octaves that hints at intimacy (from the space left in between), as well as the optimism of the clean, lotus-fresh top accords –  is insistent,  youthful –  and, in its own way, curiously passionate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE FOUNTAIN (part two)

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Just for some contextualization,  lest I be seen as bashing the country I ( kind of ) call home.(I don’t want to be misunderstood….)

 

 

 

 

Although I meant and mean every word that I wrote today about the fascist palace of Meguro ( although it occurred to me later that in some ways you could argue that Kissler, in one way, triumphed : that his art remained and is on display when all of that 1930’s and 40’s vileness and heinous slaughter is long gone ( but again……. is it ? Is it not in fact menacing the world all over again, from Brazil to Hungary and America, and is that not why I was so ferocious in my feelings about the atmosphere of the museum in the first place?  A BONE MARROW DEPTH OF REJECTION?)

 

 

Despite this, I do feel I have a tendency sometimes to crystallize things sometimes into the most intense, fierce basic elements that capture my reality for me but might still contort perceptions of people who don’t know the surrounding context; that something reductive might be decided upon as a stereotypical viewpoint of a whole society and culture that is as varied as any other, and so I want to clarify, and widen the topography.

 

 

 

‘Art’, and ‘Culture’, in a highly sophisticated city such as Tokyo, where the arts flourish uninhibitedly in all spheres, both overground and underground – this a citadel of fanatical subcultures – is a complex beast : on the one hand there is an extreme liberalism  and openness to all forms of artistic expression from theatre to cinema to orchestras and koto players to Kabuki and Noh, alsu cabarets – which, as you know, we also ourselves sometimes perform at

 

 

 

 

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(Duncan performing on Friday night to a enthusiastic crowd…….although I wasn’t there as I was working til late and then feasting on deliciousness at a local restaurant alone while reading a biography of Dorothy Parker

 

 

 

 

 

 

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…. a mind bending cornucopia of stimulating things to see and do you could never get tired of, at the same time there is often – particularly when it comes to western cultural imports – a kind of tedious overeverence I personally can’t stand. The extreme lack of critical thinking in the Japanese education system, which is so passive, and requires intelligence and great diligence but doesn’t really teach you to have an opinion, has the result that plenty of people literally often don’t know what they actually think of something ( the other extreme is maniacal aficionados of one particular artform who have consumed every last drop of information about one particular facet of European or North American culture ; be it Scorsese, Schubert or Salinger – and then proceed to tell you all about it, though the reverse is not often allowed…..)

 

 

 

In any case, a trip to a museum is not quite the same as it would be in Paris or London ; Tokyoites often seem to almost ERASE themselves, somehow, in a gallery space: but what I personally find overbearing – as I just can’t stand meaningless solemnity; I have written a similarly excoriating and infuriated opinion piece before about the excruciating experience that was smelling Martin Margiela perfumes at the Hankyu department store in Ginza – others might, for all I know, actively seek that element out as an enjoyable part of the entire experience : as a silent pocket of appreciation and ‘tranquillity’ after the hassle and effort required for the daily commute; a ratified void of respectable, and ‘edified’ contemplation.

 

 

 

 

Whatever the case may be, I am not apologizing for the (for me) very accurate description of the Teien Art Museum ( seriously : FUCK ALL FASCISTS, THEN AND NOW – actually I forgot to mention one amusing detail which will stretch your incredulity perhaps even though it is completely true : there was, in fact, halfway through the designated ‘route’, a rattling tremor, an earthquake as we ascended the polished stairs, and the noise was really quite startling for the visitors and gallery staff, who were momentarily wide eyed and terrified (and I must admit I found it all rather thrilling, in such elegant surroundings – ‘trapped in the Art Deco rubble’,) but it was only a fleeting one, and the ripples and heartbeats soon slowed down to the deadening, and stultifying,  previous pace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SAYONARA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In any case, prior to going to the Kissling exhibition, in that quite sprawling and varied area of Tokyo, we had been to an excellent Indonesian restaurant, down to earth,  relaxing and homely, bought spices at an Indian tradesman’s, trawled the thrumming side streets at sunset with all the sushi shops and bars and seated people in tapas bars spilling out onto the pavement, and then made our way on to Ebisu, to the club we have had several events at over the years, in order to book an event for our next party ( can it really have been three years since we held one of these stravaganzas? Sometimes I think that is the only time I see quite a lot of my friends ).

 

 

 

 

As usual, Enjoy House, an excellent place to hold a celebration, was as convivial as ever

 

 

 

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and we have booked it for Duncan’s birthday in September. We talked with some new people and danced for a while, then made our way back to the station for the hour’s ride back to Kamakura – Ebisu is HEAVING on a Saturday night, really energetic and in full swing; and though we were tired and a bit drunk by the time we had arrived back at our street at midnight, I remembered ( and heard from the noise), that our local izakaya, or pub, which opened just after the Earthquake in 2011 when everyone was traumatized – and which was an excellent boon to the community – was celebrating its eighth anniversary.

 

 

 

 

It was carnage in there – only a small space but everybody dancing, and later taking their clothes off but the batteries on my phone had run out by that point so sorry : i sat talking to some people I knew as the carousing got worryingly noisy ( the police will only tolerate this up to a point …. after all, our neighborhood is dead quiet, which is precisely why we chose to live here), but I did sit there thinking to myself about what a vivid and memorable – cinematic, actually – day it had been; the perfume fountain and the shocking ‘revelations ‘ of its owners’ poisonous history just a granite chipped mausoleum residing coldly and sinisterly ( and quite fascinatingly, in fact) at the heart of it all.

 

 

 

One minute from home though, where we were at that particular moment, was, undeniably, precisely, and gratifyingly, the opposite

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE PERFUME FOUNTAIN

 

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Meandering in Meguro, Tokyo, yesterday – an area we don’t know – in the hot sun, the first full day of summer, the pounding light

 

 

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we came across an exhibition by an artist we had never heard of – Moise Kissling – at a gallery and building we had never heard of either : the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum.

 

 

 

Its grounds inviting – we could see families and young lovers politely picnicking on the grass, children running from pools of light to shade – we decided to buy tickets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hypnotic in the afternoon, we rested on a bench for a while watching the quiet play of the respectful, almost hushed members of the public recreationing on the premises

 

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– the sound of the elevated highway beyond the perimeter low, but constant against the foreground of bird song, voices, and insects.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Couples in kimono took pictures

 

 

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and we took took pictures of them

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before beginning to feel, after a while, like entering the interior cool of the prim, but not uninviting, white building that housed the paintings, and drawings, of the unknown artist.

 

 

 

 

 

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Ice cold airconditioning did not detract from the gelid attractiveness of the Art Deco mansion, which it quickly transpired was the former royal home of Prince Asaka and his family in the 1930s, who had relocated to Meguro after a three year stay in Paris, where they were inspired by all things European, thus building their homage – Lalique windows inside; crystalled, spreading angels of glass filtering trellises – but you were not allowed to take pictures of them

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(        the royal toilet       )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

– never have I known a more anally retentive, almost furiously passive aggressive museum, where a surfeit of security guards and waxen, bloodless women guided you with swift and disciplined hand; gritted chin, through the ‘suggested route’, admonishing you if your clammed skin should graze against the walls or railings or furniture ( the claustrophobic, mahogany childhood bedrooms of sequestered and cloistered princelings and maids and childrens’ books a perfect setting, in some ways, for Kissling’s Modigliani-like portraits of the rich and the decadent alienated ; some quite brilliant, particularly when he found his own voice; many of flowers – peonies, mimosa – some too lavish and almost tacky, others oil painted in splashes of colour that offset the lonely dreams of the imperial ancestry, cosseted in their European blue lace, their lives foregrounded by duty, protocol, and expectation .)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intriguingly, the young princesses even had a magnificent, if slightly grotesque, almost Hollywoodesque perfume fountain in the atrium of the palace ( what a delight ! To fragrance the ambience when guests would arrive in the drawing room to dine or listen to string quartets !)

 

 

 

 

 

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( this you were mysteriously allowed to photograph, but each exhibit was obsessively and maniacally divided into those you could, and those  – the majority – you could not )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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( ‘Portrait of a Fascist Perfume Fountain with Stiff’, Neil Chapman, Saturday May 25th, 2019).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yet much as we enjoyed the aesthetic culmination of the artworks and the cold precision of the setting, after a time, the silent reverence and absurd REPRESSION of the place had me bursting at the seams (I could not refrain from goosestepping like a Nazi after a while and contaminating the place with my scent and my foul language, much to Duncan’s hysteric)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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– the fittings and furnishings on some levels pleasing my sensibilities even when they simultaneously made me want to SCREAM

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even when confronted with undeniable beauty :

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

( the exquisite tea house : rendered by me here in black and white ):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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No, by this point we had to leave – my blood was beginning to heat up in protest with all the security guards and almost vicious courteousness, and I had started joking about lobbing grenades.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Retiring to a bench on the way to the exit, delighted to be pawed and leached by the four O clock sun (let it RAIN on me after all that sphinctered insularity !)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

we decided to find out more about Prince Asaka and the house ( as you know: when we visit somewhere, be it Laos, Cambodia, Korea, anywhere) we do no research:: just go, absorb, feel, observe, and then get all the ‘factual information’ later – I find this a more valid form of experience, more immersed and honest; unprejudiced. You experience it pure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And it turns out my instincts, on this occasion, were undoubtedly very right : with its heavy, small rooms devoid of sufficient light (poor children!); its design, some of which reminded me of Mussolini’s Cinecitta futurist district in Rome in its mathematical concision;  this, it turns out, was the royal house of the hyper nationalist imperialist, and (alleged/probable) instigator of the Nanking Massacre ( an INCREDIBLY contentious issue here you cannot talk about in public: a subject as  full of fury as the most ardent Holocaust deniers …..I might even get into trouble daring to touch on the subject here…..) – a person who,anywhere else, would have been executed as the worst kind of war criminal, but who instead, went on to live freely, at his leisure, playing golf for many years in Atami.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving the environs behind us,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I couldn’t help, despite the beautiful, searing blue sky, thinking of the ‘dark clouds of fascism’ that were brooding and percolating then in the race- hate-filled hearts of the many who were plotting to bayonet and decapitate the founts of our liberty, and the currents of now, not dissimilar: isolationist, ‘patriotic’; ultra-conservative, founded on limitation, control, ethnic hatred…………ironically, cruelly; and problematically, given the setting of the exhibition it occurred to me later (would the painter really have wanted his works to have been presented in this place?) – precisely what Kissling – a Bohemian Polish Jew who managed to escape with his life to America and then France, given a death sentence by the Nazis, but who instead went on to his freedom and to make some beautiful and riveting art, – was so utterly desperate – and determined, to escape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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i need to pirouette

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a week of yuzu and lemon : : : featuring the solid perfumes of KOUSAIDO, KYOTO

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Although in theory I am in favour of solid perfumes – more discretion with application, a more controlled sillage; ease of carriage – in practice I rarely buy these concretes as  they just don’t pack enough punch; are not concentrated enough for the money ; lack duration.

 

 

 

At the same time, I am constantly scenting myself subtly throughout the working day, usually in the form of my tinted vaselines that I mix up with citrus oils : in the winter it was Japanese iyokan orange: right now I am in lemon mood. After a week or so, once the essential oils have been absorbed into the grease you get a delicious, instantaneous boost- to the lips, the hands ( to stave off chalk : as a germ barrier).

 

 

I have been doing this for years and years – a non negotiable part of my monthly ‘budget’: not only do these gels or balms smell lovely, the kids in the class often express mini wonderment and start looking round to see where the invisible non- lemons are suddenly appearing from.

 

 

Charis, one of the aromatherapists I frequent in Fujisawa, often also stocks various scented curiosities from across Japan and the rest of the world, and recently they have started selling little mini solid perfumes that are pleasingly potent for a midday dab yet also display something very Japanese in their delicately heldtogether erotica.

 

 

 

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Osmanthus – see packaging above – is a very apricotty, almost animalic gardenia tinged kinmokusei with a slurry finish that is proper, yet suggestive, something like Rush meets Patou Sira Des Indes. Cosmos, the one I took to first, my eyes I am sure brightening in glee when I inhaled it, is probably COMPLETELY unsuitable for a man my age ( and yet I loved wearing it last week ; just a touch on the back of the hand after lunch ); a sakura blossom meets morello cherry meets peachy soapful innocence and a shine of the early dawn that sets the good mood racing.

 

I wasn’t quite so keen on the sumire, or violet, because I couldn’t smell the violet in it – often a problem with me – nor the matronly lily-of-the-valley, might I might have to go back for Camellia, which is a red silken ointment like a sheening, craven Samsara – not quite sure when I would wear it but I do think I need it ( after all, these are only ¥800, about five pounds); I will certainly be stocking up on the Cosmos – and the Yuzu as well.

 

 

 

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Yuzu anything in Japan is often founded on a blunt and musky ‘grapefruit’ molecule I can’t abide – after all, these citrus fruits are so different – but as yuzu essential oil is so readily available here – only marginally more expensive than lemon and bergamot – I knew that, though perhaps a little of that aspect lurked within the cheerful pot, it could easily be doctored.

 

So back I went to Muji, got my yuzu oil, and went to work mixing and spooning into different containers with added vaseline ( for solidity – it was a bit liquid ) until got the smell I wanted.

 

 

Refrigerated, the result : a beautiful, fresh yet gentle yuzu balm; perfect to touch gently anywhere on your person ( “wow, you smell really nice – like yuzu”) he said after I had walked back up the hill the other night. You couldn’t get this effect with a spray perfume – it would be too all-caressing and immediate. With a solid, secreted in your pocket, there are quieter, more synergistic, possibilities.

 

 

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SYCOPHANT by TIGER MOODY + THE MALDIVES ADVENTURE by ROYSTON ELLIS

 

 

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There are a lot of wacky perfume names out there, but Sycophant strikes me as one of the most hilarious. So when a friend of Duncan’s, ordering some vinyl from an independent US record and book shop, kindly asked if I would like to get some fumes – all tied up with actual book releases

 

 

 

 

 

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how could I possibly resist ?

 

 

 

 

 

Choosing the above unhesitatingly just because it made me laugh ( only 13 dollars for the ‘pure perfume’), other possibilities from the Kick Books range include

 

 

 

 

 

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and

 

 

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which I also went for for the boring and simple reason that I have always wanted to go there

 

 

 

 

 

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In fact, curious packaging aside, the Maldives perfume makes absolutely zero impression on me. I was hankering after something tropical but instead it smells just like a pale and nondescript mouldy rose. Rubbish ( it will look good in the house though).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Its sycophantic stablemate is not much better in olfactory sensibility or intelligence ( are people, myself included, going actually for the smell , or just the novelty value?) Whatis happening here, clearly, is that people’s sense of irony, visual and intellectual selectivity – all very Grindhouse Tarantino / Rodriguez 50’s kitsch – are being appealed to when the smells themselves, sidelined, are at the brain stem level of sophistication ; this sounds snobby and arrogant I know, but you sometimes forget that the vast majority of people are simply not scent literate. It’s the amusing or even titillating label on the bottle

 

 

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that brings in the chortling and inquisitive punters.

 

 

 

 

 

Funnily enough though, despite saying this, I might actually wear Sycophant to work. It’s actually really rather pleasant : a sort of muguet meets Body Shop Oceanus meets modern Chloe by way of turn of the century cleaner than thou floral :the  kind of scent that is still very popular in Japan, – particularly for men, believe it or not – shampoo fresh and unaggressive – and though I don’t have an obsequious bone in my body, a touch of this grime-eroding fragrance on the wrists under my work uniform, as I bow and acquiesce to the best of my ability each day will, I think, work kind of perfectly

 

 

 

 

 

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( why does this perfume come with black and red dice ?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Flowers

La Bohème: DIVA by UNGARO (1983)

 

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via La Bohème: DIVA by UNGARO (1983)

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May 14, 2019 · 12:31 pm