Tag Archives: Jean Patou

An almost unsurpassable elegance………Moment Suprême by Jean Patou

 

 

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I will confess that will power is not my strength. Chocolate; booze; tightly sealed bottles of vintage perfume. And coming home late last night after my first day back at work, and reading the exhortations to open and experience the beautiful bottle of Moment Suprême that I discovered the other day in an out of the way bric-a-brac shop in Yokohama, I had no choice: my pitifully low levels of resistance were destroyed.

 

 

Usually when I find a flacon of vintage preciousness I have some idea of how it will smell. Not so with Moment Suprême: I had vague remembrances from  somewhere, but had no concrete conception of the perfume that was locked within the bottle, and box, an undiscovered perfume that spoke to me, in its subdued presentation, of the twenties or thirties in the most elegant, and simple manner possible.

 

 

 

I was told that Moment Suprême was an amber lavender, and it is, in a sense, but not at all what I expecting (something more sensual, oriental and ruddered). Plying open the strings around the papery, waxen hymen of the bottle’s opening – it felt like a sacrilege, if I am honest, like greed – the perfume’s pristine aureole of immaculately preserved top notes rose up instantaneously from the vapours and assured me, immediately, that this scent was in fact in perfect condition. You can just tell. When a perfume’s orchestration has that fresh and flawless equilibrium – boxed, in all probability, for decades until I tore it from silence – you know that it has been preserved, waiting timelessly for its moment. (For good measure, I also twisted and snipped at my beautiful Vol De Nuit treasure as well, for comparison, thirst, and a deep desire to know just what it smelled like driving me to ravage both at once (also extraordinarily pristine: exactly as it was intended, I am sure, by Jacques Guerlain)).

 

 

 

The first impressions of Moment Suprême: of purity, of an almost sacrosanct, uncontaminated fineness of English lavender, touches of green, and a fresh, sudsy translucence, as clean an escape from vulgarity as it is possible to be. Beautiful, but I regretted violating its integrity, all the same, like peering, voyeuristically, through a keyhole into a dream garden I had no right to be in.

 

 

From underneath, what then, rose up, slowly, through the cold and mirror-glassed lake was : Joy.

 

 

Joy? But there was no mistaking it: Joy is there, at the heart, within:  the rose, the jasmine, the civet, the green-laced musk, but in embryonic form, as though she were a drowned nymph reaching up, lost in the hermetically quiet dream of an arcadian pool.

 

 

Oh no, I think to myself (why  did I have to open it?) Is Moment Suprême merely going to be  Joy plus lavender? That is not what I want. Joy is Joy, it is beautiful, really, but so not me; a sourness, a petulance, as it resolves itself in that prideful orgy of flowers, that implicit tension that I sometimes lack the patience to reside with. Fascinating, though, from a perfumed genesis viewpoint: Henri Almeras, the creator of all the classic Patous, clearly finding something inspiring within this ’29 creation that he could then use, to douse and plunder with excessive quantities of May rose, tuberose, and jasmine, and thus produce one of the most successful perfumes of all time – Joy, that exorbitant, luscious,  exuberance.

 

 

 

 

 

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But wait. Despite its name – suggestive, perhaps, of the pleasures of the flesh, Moment Suprême, beyond its interstitial allusions to Joy, soon veers down a quite different path. Soon a carnation, jonquil and clove ingress appears, otherworldly,untouched, faint, ambered, skinnish undertones notwithstanding.

 

 

 

 

She has a secret. You cannot touch her. And I realize quite quickly, with my perfect Vol De Nuit now blooming on my other hand (sultry, dark, me), that this really is a perfume from a Golden Age, a time when things could be left unuttered, to speak, silently, for themselves. For a moment, as I glide, haltingly, from one hand to another, I feel sentient apparitions of two, beautifully dressed women arise in my mind.

 

 

 

I see them, in some imaginary, colonnaded garden, other guests fading into background, as they brush unknowingly past each other, lost in their own illusions. Two, beautiful people. And for a moment this lost, unmitigated elegance makes me feel almost tearful. The touch of real beauty that transcends. Cloves: le parfum giroflé – we are now in the chimeric, astral l’air de temps of the angelic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

She is an enigma.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The original magazine advertisements for the perfume reflect this. In one, in spite of the claims that the scent is un succès retentissant, a resounding success, the perfume is nevertheless presented in silhouette, in blurring, receding shadow, as it retreats to the recesses of the unconscious, the place, perhaps where this ‘supreme moment’ first takes place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In another, the perfume is described as being ‘l’irréel d’un rêve, la realité d’une joie’ – the irreality of a dream, the reality of a joy, and this, in truth, is how I experienced the perfume last night.

 

 

 

It is not a perfume I am likely to wear (though the insistent clove facet is an aspect of the scent I am deeply drawn to), but I am very glad, despite my simultaneous regrets at opening it, that I have now experienced firsthand, this exquisite, almost peerless encapsulation of abstract emotion in perfume.

 

The supreme moment, it would seem, is love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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HOT BANANAS!!!! LADYBOY by GORILLA PERFUMES

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Greetings everyone and a very happy 2013 to you. Thanks for being part of The Black Narcissus: I am meeting some lovely, really interesting people on here and am very much looking forward to some more exchanges over the next twelve months and beyond. Don’t be shy! Let’s rant, wane and wax together…

I hope you had a lovely Christmas/holiday period and are rested and ready for the new year. Myself, I emerged, reluctantly, from my cocoon yesterday and went off into Tokyo to research vanilla perfumes for my latest Sweet Little Thing guest post over at Olfactoria’s Travels (it will come out on Friday, so please have a look if you are interested in the various discoveries of my bean odyssey). Stopping at Lush in Shinjuku, which was SO packed with people bargain hunting at the sales it almost precipitated a claustrophobic panic attack, I tested their sandalwood-heavy Vanillary, which is an effective little perfume in its heavy-hitting, jasmine absolute, coconut-incense-stick kind of way, very erotic and in-your-face, but then came across a small perfumed sensation and forgot all else: LADYBOY.

That name!!  The pungent, rotting bananas of the top notes!
The bubblegum, nail polish and eyelash-heavy violets! I simply had to get a bottle – and it just so happened, on that day, to be 50% off as well (only the Shinjuku branch stock this perfume, which shows its oddness): I suppose it was never likely that a large chunk of the populace would go for a perfume that smells of melting hot bananas and amyl nitrate.

Now, the banana is not a note we often find in perfumery, and my Ladyboy has the most overt banana as its main note I have ever smelled…..

But what other bananas are there?

Probably my first exposure to the note of the genus musa was in J Del Pozo’s Quasar, a blue-sporty fragrance from 1994 that nevertheless had a very innovative top note of fresh green banana leaf that I always thought should have been the mainstay of the fragrance (it wasn’t – what came later was always a disappointment). It imprinted itself on my brain nevertheless. A brilliant banana did come, later, in the form of Vanille Banane by Comptoir Sud Pacifique, a scent I discovered while staying in Paris: fresh, delightful banana, halfway between the clean, unripened fruit, and those chewy, artificial, 2p banana sweets you grew up with from the local shops – dry, fresh, a touch acidic- but it then folded, unfortunately, into the ‘classic’ Comptoir vanilla, which always errs on the side of the sickly and plastickly sweet. You would have to be a really cute party bopper to pull that one off effectively, and I unfortunately couldn’t, on my skin.

A very unusual banana tree note was later to be found in Jean Patou’s Sira Des Indes, a very languid, almost sardonic, tropical perfume that features a top note of banana leaves before turning to a more voluptuous, if beautifully blasé, animalic floral: I wish this perfume had had more success because the combination was very interesting, though clearly ultimately too decadent to ever find mainstream success.

One perfume I own that combines flowers and banana delightfully is a rare scent I found at the flea market one Sunday – Jazmin by Le Jardin De Jimmy Boyd, a Barcelona-based perfumer whose jasmine flowers morph effortlessly into banana leaves and then morph back again….an effect that is either simply the quality of the jasmine flowers used (which might have a fruity-tropical facet) or is a trick by the perfumer….either way this is by far my favourite jasmine and the watery, luscious banana green of the top notes only makes it better.

Aside these, I know of few banana perfumes, so please let me know if you are aware of others.

So….Ladyboy. But before we get to Ladyboy, let’s talk some more about bananas.

For me, I am not sure if the banana would necessarily feature in my Fruit Top Ten (would it yours?), but I do love the taste and smell of the fruit and am also somewhat obsessed with the banana tree growing in our back garden (which has grown to unexpectedly monstrous proportions), as well as the smaller ones growing in pots on my balcony and in the hallway upstairs. Kamakura is strange in that it has winters not much warmer than England but fully tropical summers, as hot as Borneo and equatorial Africa, which means you see snow on palm trees in February, and frost on the poor banana trees which tower back up again in August, never to fully bear fruit as they die on the vine at the beginning of November; a sterile frustration I always feel as the baby bananas start to cluster in June…..

But to that fruit top ten:

(I would love to hear yours as well by the way, as I am a fruit freak. I basically love all of it, though I am somewhat less partial to kiwi and melon than other fruit (which is why I never go for those appallingly melona melona scents like Eau Emotionelle and Après La Mousson….and why I wasn’t overstruck on the kiwi perversions of Amouage Interlude…)

Off the top of my head:

1. pineapple

2. papaya

3. grapefruit

4.  lemon

5. strawberry

6. apple (not Japanese: English, or the like)

7. plum

8. cherry

9. orange/satsuma/Japanese iyokan

10. rhubarb?

Basically I go for the tart, and the fluffy dessert flesh of the banana doesn’t even seem like fruit to me, somehow, more a species all of its own: a beautiful alien: creamy, pulpy, feathery (goodness writing this is really making me crave a banana….!), and yet Duncan and I, despite this, did have a whole party one summer based around the fruit.

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Before your minds turn toward filth and assumptions, let me say that we also had a beautiful wintery party in Tokyo called Kirsch, but I can see that I am digging myself into ever deeper holes by talking about cherries and bananas, oh dear.

Kirsch was held at a 1950’s café-diner in Ebisu called Kissa Ginza, and all was red, and all was cherry, and it was sublime, if chaotic… Delicious Banana, meanwhile, came from a postcard we found one day. As is well known, Japanese English is often hilariously, atrociously bad on a daily basis, or else almost surrealistically strange and simple, like the innocent declaration ‘delicious banana’ which is so saturated with itself and its nothingness we quickly picked it up and turned it into a party, which I must tell you about here if you have nothing better to do.

Delicious Banana was one of our strangest festas (and we have had many), for a number of reasons. Firstly, the venue: a curious, three-storied art café called Mogura (mole), which was as tight a fit as a fairy-tale, and had very poor air conditioning, which brings us to the second point: it was, or seemed like, the hottest day of the year, seriously, seriously boiling: sweltering like you couldn’t imagine (around 36 degrees, though hotter in my memory, with about 80% humidity). I remember us carting records, cds, decorations and white Casablanca lilies all the way from Kamakura (at least 90 minutes away), and arriving covered in lily powder, our clothes ruined; we bought heaps and heaps and heaps of bananas and hung them everywhere……the guests came all in yellow, and we had little kids running around in banana hats, plus the menu, all devised beforehand of course, was exclusively banana (it’s a wonder I ate a banana ever again…)

There was banana salad; banana tacos, banana desserts… bananas were coming out of our ears and we were wilting from the heat along with the bananas that were stringing the stairwells…

The music, which I spent a lot of time on, was all tropicalia-tastic, and I remember almost swooning with pleasure dancing to ‘One Day In Your Life’ by MJ with my beautiful friend Takako in temperatures that were not fit for human beings upstairs….the heat, the sun pouring through the skylights…we almost became our very own banana flambée of human melée; the climax being when I ended up trussed and decorated by five or six women ( the other strange thing about that party: for some reason it was exclusively female apart from Duncan and myself, hilarious given the name of the event) and, in some kind of fertility ritual, all of which happened spontaneously, I was dressed up and made up by the women in some Wicker-Man-like sacrifice (though in honesty the end result was more like Carmen Miranda….)

The party is imprinted in my memory as fun and banana bliss, and as the place it was held no longer exists, just writing about it here feels like some sad, beautiful tropical resurrection…

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So there I was in thick makeup, anyway, covered in fruit, and here I am now wearing Ladyboy. And like the Delicious Banana party with the women congregating around,  and showered with the fruit, is there an internal joke to the perfume?: the lack, or the covered-up fruit of the Thai transsexual or ‘transvestite’ an implicit feature of the creation?

Who is to say? Simon Constantine, the perfumer at Gorilla Perfumes, strikes me as a very nice kind of person and I can’t imagine any gender or homophobic malice; strangely, the rich banana of the top note segues beautiful with a powdery, thickly scented violet that might recall makeup, but also those delectable, hot, coconut, banana and tapioca desserts that Thai cooks make so exquisitely, and the ‘invisible banana’ is an interesting sexual motif dangling enigmatically in the mental void of this ladyboy in any case; it is possible that I put too much stock in the name of perfumes sometimes but then I think that the names of scents, like the names of paintings and mixtapes, are crucial, making linkages in the mind that  involve the participant and open vistas and connections in the soul that when truly inspired…

I have also been to Bangkok and it was dizzying; being driven at night in a tuk-tuk bicycle taxi to a restaurant where the delicious smelling lime-chilli fish had me drooling and weeping hot involuntary tears it was so spiced as the lights on the water bobbed and the mysteries I could never understand lay mercilessly on the other side of the bay….

While we were there I don’t know if we actually ever met any real ‘ladyboys’, but I have met my fair share of Asian crossdressers or whatever term you find most suitable, and I am happy to wear a scent in their honour; the humour, the true beauty, the confusing gorgeousness; all of this is served well in this perfume…

The smell of nail varnish, of hair spray, of the little cabaret’s dressing room and its fairy lights on mirrors conjured up by the acetatey sheen of the initial, artificial banana smell; the bizarre addition of seaweed added to the mix, which I can’t thankfully detect ( I HATE seaweed, the smell and the taste of it, which is a problem living in Japan! ) but which I imagine adds some leathery temperance and wearability under the banana banners; the perfume becoming, eventually, an eminently wearable perfume of oakmoss, patchouli, and labdanum, the scent definitively no longer a joke if, in fact, it ever was one.

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Filed under Banana, Fruit, Jasmine, Perfume Reviews

THE DANDY

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Charles Baudelaire categorized the dandy as a man who has ‘no profession other than elegance….no other status but that of cultivating the idea of beauty in their own person. The dandy must aspire to be sublime without interruption…. he must live and sleep before a mirror….’

Yet the true dandy was no mere clothes horse. In cultivating a skeptical reserve with his direct opposition to the unthinking bourgeoisie, these beautifully coddled individualists were following a code which ‘in certain respects comes close to spirituality and stoicism’.

 

Dandyism was also not limited to the male of the species. There was, of course, Beau Brummel, but there was also Marlene Dietrich. And then Cora Pearl, the ‘quaintrelle’ (woman-dandy) courtesan, whose extravagant income was apparently sufficient to allow her to dance nude on carpets of orchids, bathe before her dinner guests in silver tubs of champagne, probably mildly bored as she did so.

 

Naturally then, the true perfumed dandy wears perfume for the beauty of the perfume alone; trends and petty concerns over seduction are of no concern. He might therefore wear any perfume in the pantheon; the flowers, the musks, the powders; she might pick a scent from the roaring masculines, a brisk citrus aftershave, and carry it off beautifully. This notwithstanding, the more established image of the powdered, exquisite gentle man or woman and her peacock consorts is served pretty well by some of the following scents and their decadent, nonchalant, graceful ambiguity.

 

“I wish to be a living work of art.’

 

(Marchesa Luisa Casati, renowned quaintrelle).

 

 

ACIER ALUMINIUM / CREED (1973)

James Craven at Les Senteurs told me that there’s a small but steady band of ‘epicureans’ who come to his shop for this obscurity from Creed, a most eccentric seventies’ concoction that is the perfumed equivalent of the decadent’s unlaundered nightshirt. A curious, metallic-noted orange blossom begins; then, ochred-acacia leaves of Autumn; musky, yellowing powders: leather: and a corrupt (but subtlely: this creature has taste) end of civet-hinged musks.

 

POIS DE SENTEURS DE CHEZ MOI / CARON (1927)

 

A collection of old-fashioned flowers for the modern dandizette; she or he who wants to spoil themselves in musky, forlorn sweet-peas, those fragrant flowers scaling trellises in summertime. ‘The sweet peas from my garden’ are powdery, rosy, infused with heavy, trembling lilacs.

 

 

EAU DE QUININE / GEO F TRUMPER (1898)

Trumper is the ultimate emporium for the London gent (really, you have to go), and this, to me, is one of their crowning glories. Echoes of the Empire and tropical malaria cures are conjured up by the curative sounding name, and the scent – a gorgeous, luminous and powdery thing laced with rosemary – is odd and beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SIRA DES INDES / JEAN PATOU (2006)

A warm, overripe breeze. A foetid satiety, and a perfume perfect for the bronzed, sybaritic woman who wants nothing more than to lie down flat on her sunlounger with her gin. One can’t help but think of Sylvia Miles in Morrisey & Warhol’s Heat.

 

A pronounced banana-leaf top note conveys the sense of the tropics: full bananas, unswaying in the dead, still air: champaca flowers with their drowsy torpor, and an apricot-hued osmanthus over a salivated sandalwood/civet, these listless ingredients adding up to the most ennui-imbued scent I have ever smelled. Sira des Indes is smooth yet enticing, almost angry; and devastating on a woman over forty who just doesn’t give a shit.

 

 

 

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PARFUM D’HERMES / HERMES (1984)

Recast as Rouge (which see), Parfum d’Hermès, which has the same basic structure, just dirtier, can still be found in various corners of the world, and I know an antiques shop near my school that has a 400ml bottle that no Japanese person would ever touch (I will, eventually). I know they wouldn’t buy it because the rude animalics here are so blatant that all the flowers, spices in the world just can’t hide its intent. It smells of a dirty mouth covering yours; a Sadeian perfume that would work shockingly well on one of his followers, female or male.

 

CARNATION / MONA DI ORIO (2006)

Mona di Orio, the perfumer behind Carnation (pronunciation: in the French manner – meaning ‘complexion’ not the flower) seemed to be seeking here the smell of a virgin’s face after a day in the sun – easy prey, perhaps, for the creatures above from Parfum d’Hermès (or Pasolini’s Salò). It is a weird smell at first, something paint-like and sour in among the dirty blooms (wallflower, geranium, jasmine, tinted with musks and styrax), but progresses to a heavenly maiden’s cheek, white; the thick, healthy skin just ready to pinch.

 

HAMMAM BOUQUET / PENHALIGONS (1872)

The maiden’s male counterpart is Hammam Bouquet; fresh from the Turkish baths with a blush on his face.

Hammam is musky, powdery and pink, with rose otto, orris and lavender over the more manly exhalations of civet and musk. Once the boy gets his breath back, he dons his white powdered wig, his cape, and rushes back earnestly to the Old Bailey.

 

 

FRENCH CAN CAN / CARON (1936)

One of the lesser known perfumes from the illustrious stable of Caron (surely one of the Dandy’s favourite parfumeurs…)is French Can Can, made especially for the post-war American Market for a bit of imported ooh la la: a strange, naughty, and now rather anachronistic perfume that treads the line between coquettish and coarse without descending to banality. Can Can is of very similar construction to En Avion (a cool, spicy, violet leather) but overlaid with more garish, extravagant bloom: rose, jasmine and orange blossom kick out from under the tulle. Behind faded, musty curtains lies a decadent heart of lilac, patchouli, iris, musk and amber.

Thinking of a candidate for this perfume (who wears tiers of fluffy petticoats that I know?) I hit upon my friend Laurie, who is never afraid to dress up in extravagant numbers – I can even see her actually doing the can-can – and with the slogan ‘Dancers: powder, dusty lace’ presented her with the scent. She came back to me later (after I had sprayed her bag with the stuff) ‘No: greying crinoline’.

 

 

 

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POT POURRI / SANTA MARIA NOVELLA (1828)

Only the dandy would wear a perfume called Pot Pourri. Bizarrely, this has recently become a massive hit with the art crowd in Tokyo (the brand’s reputed naturalness is popular with the refined eco-conscious). It is unusual, androgynous and beautiful: spiced roses, herbs, berries and grasses from the fields of Florence, fermented in Tuscan terracotta urns with darker, interior notes of resins and balsam. The result (medicinal, meditative, aromatic) is very individual; very…..dandy.

 

 

 

What else should be placed in the Dandy’s wardrobe?

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Filed under Flowers, Herbal, Musk, Orientals, Perfume Reviews, Powder