Dear readers it is time to celebrate the opening of The Perfumed Dandy’s blog with a guest post by none other than the Dandy himself! Today he takes us to Paris where he fist fell in love with women’s perfumes. Now I ask you, where else but in Pairs would a dandy fall in such a way for such a thing.
Without further ado and such may I present Monsieur Dandy and his little friend Mademoiselle Arpege!
Arpege by Lanvin
She appears at first to be such an unnerving child, though she is not a child at all really.
You arrive at the neat counterfeit of a country cottage that is her parents’ home. Your dear friend Andre and his wife Jeanne’s ‘little piece of the Languedoc ‘ in Paris’s Beaux Quartiers. Not far from the Musee Marmottan, a little before the Bois de Boulogne.
She greets you: all gamine beauty but wilful and headstrong, almost unhinged.
Her mother asks her to collect flowers for the house from the Fraysee’s beautiful garden.
She – Margaret is her given name, used exclusively by her mother when upset with her, which is often – turns more than a touch feral.
A teen on a chemical kick she rushes around the manicured borders that pretend after the style of rural meadows pulling up plants careless, or perhaps all too conscious, of their complexion and the destruction she is reeking.
Her mission completed, she dumps the result of her floricultural firestorm: a frenzy of Jasmine, Rose, Iris, Lily, Lily of the Valley, even the precious camellias from the cloche, in a series of unwashed carafes still sour with the stench of last night’s rough white wine.
In the music room, where she places three bloom burdened vessels in a row atop an apparently out of tune upright piano the smell is approaching the unbearable.
You notice that it is her playing and not the instrument that is off-key. Then you notice that she is doing it quite deliberately.
You catch and then return a sly smile with the daughter of the house. She is affecting inability as acutely as only a true musician can.
What feels like a moment’s conversation of an hour or so follows. She excuses herself to change for dinner.
Whilst the women are preparing themselves you talk politics and the economy and the desperate state of things since the Great Crash and Andre teaches you a new aperitif – vanilla Martinis – the latest American way of forgetting.
Jeanne enters, elegance as ever.
And after her mother, the daughter appears. Her ebony hair tied up to reveal her ivory neck, the style held in place with artist’s pencil.
At dinner she grows, with a glass of wine in hand, into what you realise she now is: a beautiful young woman.
Well read, she speaks eloquently of Eliot and that woman Woolf.
Her fragrance? Is it her mother’s sandalwood or father’s vetiver that envelopes her, or both?
After eating you retire to sweet Amarettos and honeyed Chopin played by the same delicate hands that earlier tore up roots with angry urgency and blundered through elementary piano exercises.
Then she is gone: upstairs for an early night.
She is merely on the cusp of womanhood, holding within her the promise of future greatness, perhaps even an echo of her mother’s magnificent past.
Arpege, even in her reigned in contemporary form is a perennially prickly perfume, quite impossible to get to know at once.
Her behaviour in the opening notes is by most measures quite unseemly and to some noses downright upsetting.
But forbearance and a little understanding see this slightly acidic aledhyde blossom first into a full-bodied floral and then a warm-hearted almost wooded amber scent that never loses her edgy integrity.
Arpege can give the best in class – including the biggest names – a run for their money.
People speak in hushed tones of her family heritage and I would have loved to have met her mother in her vintage days.
The part of Arpege played by Francoise Hardy
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