Sunday, 19 February 2012

Spend it like the 70s 7: Smelling like the 70s

I usually write about perfume elsewhere, but this week it's crossed over into this part of life.
As soon as I get onto eBay to sell things - which I'm doing at the moment, honest I am - I start to glance at other stuff.
And I got it into my head that I wanted a bottle of 1970s Diorella perfume, the one I discovered when I was 16 and wore for years, until it seemed to disappear and I forgot about it and bought something different. 
In those days most people rarely had more than one bottle of perfume at a time, and you wore whatever you'd been given for Christmas. Generally I got something in a twist-up stick from Avon, then there was Aqua Manda, with its daring ad slogan "Love me for my body". It comes up on eBay occasionally but I can't bring myself to pay £50 for it, so I'll wait for a car boot find. My gran - my dad's mam - used to give my mother Lentheric's Tweed for Christmas. My mother, with her perverse way of looking at the world, decided that this was because Grandma McCartney didn't like her. I think it was because she used to thank her so convincingly that my gran was convinced, so she went back for more every year.
My mother also had a bottle of Chanel No 5 which had come from my French penfriend's family. It was MASSIVE, and it just sat there. I think she somehow didn't feel that she was the Chanel No 5 kind of person. So she saved it for best and best never happened. Later they bought her Givenchy III and L'Air du Temps. By that time she'd actually started to wear them occasionally.
Perfume has changed in lots of ways, physically with reformulations, and in the way we buy it. We would dab it on carefully, on special occasions because it cost loads of money. It came from smart department stores, with cream carpets around the well lit perfumery booths. These days, pretty much everyone can afford a bottle of scent and you can get it at Boots and Superdrug. Posh brands and bankable celebs licence out their names to massive marketing companies. The materials costs have been cut to be competitive and the individuality and character have been sucked out of scent. They are now mass market, so they've got to be innovensive to 98% of scent buyers.

Back when I first got my Diorella (as described elsewhere) I'd saved up my holiday money, and a lovely Scottish women at a Dundee department store helped me choose. It was so beautiful I fell in love at once. I'm still in love with it. I was delighted to find out that it's recognised as one of the all time greats, but that's not really the point. The point is that I can't live without it.
Your scent shouldn't be something you can just try on and throw out, something you quite like on paper (in both senses of the phrase), shell out £15 for then get bored with. Your perfume should be something you feel passionately about. And let's be honest, women wear perfume because they love it, not because they think it'll help them be more attractive. Frankly, we don't give a monkey's about that. In fact, I know women who only wear perfume when they're out of their partners' smelling distance.
I now own some reformulated* Diorella, newly released by the LVMH empire. It's OK, pretty good even. But from eBay I got my hands on half a 150ml bottle of the 1970s stuff. Its bright top notes might be a little less buzzing, but after 10 minutes you've got the orignal beautiful smell. It's supposed to be Eau de Toilette but it lasts all day. That's another difference between now and then. Now, give it 20 minutes and modern commercial scent has all but vanished. They call it "fine fragrance" but most of it's not.
So now we have a handful of bottles hanging around until we give them away or pour the juice down the sink and recycle them. There's no connection between the nose and the heart. So I ask you only to buy scent that sings to you, that murmers "love me love me love me" when you put it on your skin. Forget the paper. And wear it to please yourself, every day if you like.

Right, that's where it started,  but then I'd put some searches into place. And I got a little obsessed with smelling the before and after versions of perfume reformulations. EU regulations and US recommendations have all but forced perfume companies to take oakmoss out of scents; this is vital to the depth and darkness of classic 60s and 70s formulas.
The accountants have forced perfumers to find less expensive ways to create something that smells almost the same as the original. And let's be fair to the health and safely people; some very early scents had beautifully smelling materials in them that were plain straight poisonous, and some that weren't biodegradable.
If you used to like Coty's L'Aimant in the 70s you will hate it now. The current version is a despicable shadow of its namesake. Likewise Chantilly, the creamy, fruity, flowergarden of a scent made by Houbigant, now a heartless stink made by Dana. (Who? Exactly.)
So this week - even though I've sold my university probability theory book on Amazon for £30, dropped stuff off at charity shops, been to the recycling centre and got 16 things up on eBay - I've had a bit of a setback. Because in California is a man called Jaime who's inherited his grandfather's perfume warehouse, which had stuff in the back corners that had been there since the 1930s. A small box of those will be crossing the Atlantic heading for Ealing very shortly. The man even had some original Trophee Lancome.
But it's not just for me. My plan is to decant it into little bottles and share it with the scent lovers of the world.
And if you do want to find the perfume love of your life, it's still possible. Just bear in mind that if you want a really top pong, you'll probably have to spend time searching, and save up your pence like we did in the 70s.
That way, it's been something worth the bother; there's a connection to it. It's a relationship that's going to last, not just one more forgettable purchase on the road to filling the unfillable desire for more stuff.

Maybe I'm kidding myself, but I do think that if a thing's worth having it's worth trying a bit hard to get the right one.

1 comment:

  1. Lady Rose for me please, sounds wonderful!