A STRANGER IN THE NIGHT ~ Atelier d’Orient Rive d’Ambre by Tom Ford



The great amber dragon skimmed and curved north from Hong Kong through the mountains of Guangdong province, its glowing cyclopean eye never wavered from the silver twin silk threads that were the path to Shanghai. Within the mechanical beast Lily Chu had fallen asleep to the clickety-clack of the dragon on the tacks. She was dreaming on the edge of sleep. Slowly she realized she was not alone in the bed. There was a body pressed up against her back. It was not human and not of this earth. She tried to roll over but the thing kept her pinned against the wall. As it pressed harder its hot breath was upon her neck just behind her right ear. She tried to scream when she felt the claws moving up along her spine.


(Fan Bingbing as Lily Chu)

Eyes flashed open. A large strong hand instantly covered her mouth. The nightlight gave his eyes a terrifying neon glow. She tried to scream again and pushed against his muscular arm that held her paralyzed as if caught in a jade vice.

“Were you having a nightmare?” He smelled of bitter oranges and cognac. “Don’t scream Margaret and I won’t have to hurt you. Do you understand?”

She nodded in the affirmative.  He uncovered her lips slowly. He still held her pinned as securely as a prized exotic butterfly in a glass case.

“No Margaret, my name Lily Chu.” She said. “No Margaret…”

His low baritone laugh filled her ears blotting out any hope of pretense. “Now that is the worst Susie Wong impression I have ever heard.”  He unpinned her. “Sit up.”

She did as he commanded. “I am cold, may I have my coat?”

He tossed her the mink. As she pulled it on over her shantung silk pajamas she fumbled at the empty pocket.

“Looking for this?” She looked up to see her gun pointed precisely at the bridge of her nose.

“I have a great deal of money I can…”

His icy smile cut her resolve. “Your get right to the point, smart girl. The usual question would be, who are you and how did you get in here?  It is my job to get into locked rooms and who I am is not important. What is important is I know what you have done and that there are men after you because of what you have done.”

The gun pulsed ever so slightly to the beat of the blood running through his trigger finger.

“Are you a cop?”

“Not a cop, not a, what is it you call it, a private eye?  No, nothing as simple as that, I am here on an unofficial basis.”

“You’re not American… you’re Australian.”

There was a tiny quiver in the gun. “British.”

“Are you going to kill me for the money?”

“I don’t need the money.” He lowered the gun and with the index finger of his left hand touched her nose. He smiled almost warmly as his finger deliberately moved over her lips to her chin.

“I am here Lily Chu to help you get away with it.”

-0dragontrain agenteyes


Rive d’Ambre from Tom Ford’s his Atelier d’Orient line is a light elegant take on a classic eau de cologne with a twist tied up with a silken rope of mystery. The nose behind its creation is perfumer, Olivier Gillotin. He is known for creating 10 Corso Como, Cristobal for Balenciaga and Notorious for Ralph Lauren. Among his many perfumes is one of my favorites, Fath Pour L’Homme for Jacques Fath. (See my review Falling In Love With Fath)

Classified as an Oriental for men and women Rive d’Ambre opens with a sparkling pop of citrus notes like the clash of cymbals and wind chimes in an exotic modern symphony. These notes are linear and come at you in a heady bright jumble of lemon, bergamot and bitter orange. This plays around on the skin for about 20 minutes and slowly the course of the opening they calm and are absorbed into a cocktail of cognac and amber. Spices of cardamom and tarragon add dimension to the fragrance as it falls to the skin at about 5 hours.  In the dry down there is the warmth of tolu balsam and patchouli to cover and comfort the bones of what remains of the fragrance.

This is not a complex or challenging fragrance but that does not make it uninteresting. On the contrary it is surprising in where it goes from that familiar eau de cologne opening into an exotic warm range.  It is a perfect fragrance to wear in the tropics where the heat will open it up and add to its projection. In more temperate climates it would work best in summer. Rive d’Ambre is a light bright smart and sophisticated addition to the Atelier d’Orient collection by Mr. Ford.




ESCAPE TO SHANGHAI ~ Atelier d’Orient Shanghai Lily Tom Ford


rain w hotel hong kong

Margaret Fong watched as the typhoon rain made watercolor neon dragons race down the windows of the W Hotel Hong Kong. She sat in the window wrapped in a mink coat unable to sleep from the residue of adrenalin that had fueled her escape from San Francisco.  She could never go home again. What a strange circle completed its cycle to bring her to the place where her great grandfather many times over had left for America. 

She touched the hard as a diamond cold glass that protected her from the storm. Emerald skinned rain dragons with sapphire and ruby eyes seemed to turn a look at her from Victoria Peak.  Steam billowed from their nostrils as they took flight above the city then turned out over the harbor their glowing neon wings lighting the underbelly of the typhoon that battered Hong Kong. She smiled. She didn’t even know how to speak Cantonese.

skyfall dragons

(Dragons borrowed from Skyfall)

She was rich now, richer than anyone in her family had ever been. The large canary yellow diamond on her finger winked at her with cool confidence. She brought her hand down from the window and licked the surface of the diamond then polished it with the sleeve of her mink. Perhaps it had been foolish to have bought it in the jewelry store downstairs. An impulse purchase when she arrived that morning just hours ahead of the storm. She glanced up at the television to see her face on the screen. She was the big story on a slow news day for CNN. She muted the sound.

Her next move had to be to stay on the move. A train would be better than a plane. But where to go, where does a woman who has just embezzled forty four million dollars from one of the richest high tec companies in the world hide?  She opened her purse and pulled out her newly forged passport and ID. The best that hot money could buy, Lily Chu Beijing, People’s Republic of China. She dropped the papers on the table and took out her scarlet lipstick and compact. The most beautiful girl from Galileo High School looked back at her in the tiny mirror.

Fan Bingbing as Lily Chu Escape to Shanghai(Fan Bingbing as Lily Chu)

That face had gotten her pretty far, her brains brought her the rest of the way; she decided not to freshen her mouth. She snapped the compact shut and looked back at the television. She was still on the screen. She grabbed the remote and changed the channel.

An old movie flickered in black and white fuzzy close-up glamour and filled the screen. She smiled in recognition of the images from the past. It had been one of her mother’s favorite movies because she loved Anna May Wong. Anna did nothing for Margaret; it was the glamorous blonde with the funny accent that had captured her imagination as a little girl. It was odd to see her now with her dialog in Cantonese subtitles at the bottom of the screen. The movie began to work its magic once again, even without sound. She flicked the mute button on just at Marlene Dietrich spoke to Clive Brook,

 Shanghai Lilly Marlene Dietrich

“It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily.”

The new Lily that was once Margaret laughed out loud. Maybe that was why she chose Lily for her alias; the name had stuck with her all these years. And Shanghai, that would be an interesting stop along her escape into the land of 1.3 billion. One quick phone call and she was booked on the midnight express to Shanghai.

The storm had subsided to a mere tropical annoyance as Lily Chu in dark glasses and wrapped in her new mink hurried though the Hung Hom station to catch her train to her future.  “Pardon me” she said as she brushed past a man in a black wool overcoat. He turned to watch her with icy sapphire eyes. Then with measured ease set out after her. Just as Lily settled into her compartment he train let out a low growl and then its high piercing whistle screamed.  As the wheels ground against the steel rails pulling the train out of the station, Lily had no idea that she was being followed to Shanghai.



Tom Ford’s Shanghai Lily from his Atelier d’Orient line is an exotic, stunning entry into the Oriental Floral garden. It is languorous, lithe and liable to lead to trouble. I have no idea if the inspiration behind this perfume is the Marlene Dietrich character of Shanghai Lily from the Josef von Sternberg film “Shanghai Express” (1932). If not, well, this perfume certainly carries all the mystery and intrigue that is found in Dietrich’s portrait of a lady who one character describes as a “Coaster, a woman who lives by her wits along the China coast.”

The perfume is loaded with more notes than Lily’s steamer trunk is filled with French unmentionables.  They come at you all at once in a locomotive rush. Bitter orange, pink and black pepper, cloves, spices and incense kick of the exotic journey, I get a definite mince meat pie accord here that is delicious and long lasting.

In the center of the perfume there is exotica galore as the perfume continues its excursion along your pulse points. Floral notes push in on the opening notes layered over with a sensual labdanum, jasmine, rose and a hint of tuberose. It goes together with the spicy mix so well. And the peppers and cloves laid out in the opening meet up with olibanum, a light layer of barely perceptible vanilla and benzoin keep it from being too pretty.

The dry down at journey’s end is a solid base of cashmere wood, sassy castoreum, guaiac wood and vetiver. This combo keeps this perfume sexually ambiguous and as enticingly daring as Marlene Dietrich was in a man’s tux in the early 1930’s.  It is a well blended perfume that works to the advantage of both men and women. Lasting on my skin a good ten hours and leaving a va va voom sillage for those looking to make an entrance. And what an entrance this perfume makes. Pure star power all the way from opening credits to fade out, as directed by Tom Ford this Shanghai Lily is a box office hit.




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