THE SECRETARY OF STYLE ~ Cassini for Men by Oleg Cassini

“Fashion anticipates … elegance is a state of mind.”

He was born in Pairs the son of a Russian Count and an Italian Countess. As a child he moved from Paris to Florence Italy where his mother opened her own design house. “I had to change my taste from caviar to linguini” He quipped later. As a young man he fled Italy after winning a duel arriving in New York in 1936 “with only a tuxedo, two tennis rackets and talent.”



By the time he appeared in Hollywood in the early 40’s his talent at tennis lead him to a meeting with the head of Paramount studios who was looking for a new designer for his studio. The first film he designed for was the famous “I Wanted Wings” staring Veronica Lake and her peek-a-boo hairdo, which he claimed to invent. Some of his other films were, “The Razor’s Edge”, “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir”  and “The Shanghai Gesture” all staring his soon to be wife Gene Tierney. Over his lengthy career he designed for films such stars as Rita Hayworth, and Marilyn Monroe all the way to contemporary luminaries such as Kim Basinger and Taylor Swift. All of this would be enough to put him in the ranks of the greats yet the greatest achievements were yet to come.


After World War II he opened a ready to wear design house in New York while still working in Hollywood. In 1961 he was appointed by Jacqueline Kennedy as her personal couturier for her new position as First Lady of the United States of America. He created a look for her that was international and timeless which resonates today as the look of Camelot. “All I remember about those days are nerves, and Jackie on the phone ‘Hurry, hurry, Oleg, I’ve got nothing to wear’,” (She loved French haute couture but was told that as first lady she would be wise to wear only American designs.) “I dressed Jackie to be a star in a major film, which she was, the most famous first lady of all time. I became her secretary of style”.


In his time he married a movie star and had a famous affair with another star who would one day break her engagement to him to become her serine highness Princess Grace of Monaco. He created a look so classic that it is emulated by many today and he was the innovator of designer licensing. He brought color to men’s dress shirts. Vibrant hues where before only white was allowed.  He was in all essence the very first modern superstar American designer. He was the great Oleg Cassini.



One of the other things Oleg Cassini did in his pursuit to leave no stone un-turned was to create a few fragrances. One of which is Cassini for Men introduced in 1994. This is an Oriental Woody that opens brilliantly with notes of chamomile, mandarin orange, exotic apricot like osmanthus, basil and Brazilian rosewood. This rush of delight lasts about ten to fifteen minutes and it is really a glorious promise of things to come. The middle notes are sadly short-lived and the promise dies on the vine, Lavender, jasmine, lemon verbena and geranium become a muddle and die within an hour. The base notes for me barely make an appearance. The sandalwood is nil, with only traces of amber, musk and vanilla. The vetiver and incense for me never got a chance to dance by the time the ball was over. At best it could be used as an after bath or shower spritz. Within two hours the entire fragrance disappeared like a carnival in the night with the town sheriff in hot pursuit.

It is really a shame to see such a gorgeous presentation wither like the sunburned petals of a morning glory. For truly the bottle is a glamorous deco creation worthy of any star dressing room. But like too many Hollywood dreams it is made of smoke and mirrors and is forgotten by the time the lights come up.

“St. Francis of Assisi has always been an inspiration to me. He was a playboy, too.” Oleg Cassini



ON THE TRAIN TO VENICE ~ Armani Eau Pour Homme

The uniquely plaintive train whistle echoes thought the huge train shed of
Stazione Termini Roma.


The doors with an airy whishing close and with the second  whistle blast the sleek Ferrari red Italo bullet train begins to wheel like a  silky sliver of light from the cocoon of the station. Suddenly, like any city in the  world, the backside view of Rome appears. Across the rows of polished steel tracks the walls and roofs of the city begin to slide away with increasing
speed, crumbly, golden and eternal, farewell Roma. Onward the train glides toward the final destination of Venice.

The train at top speed cuts with  surging power and grace though the beautiful central valley of Italy that lies  between the Apennines and the costal mountains. This deep lipstick red machine  is now speeding along at a smooth imperceptible 250 miles an hour. Quietly it  banks like a private jet gently and with much less noise it takes a turn. With
each turn left then right it becomes a waltz across the landscape Train  attendants move along in their chic uniforms with carts overflowing with snacks  and beverages. Everyone on the train except the tourists are thoughtfully and  beautifully dressed. Outside trees, and farms and hills and towns fly buy in a  beautiful kaleidoscopic whiz of green light and terracotta shadow. The glamour  of train travel is alive and well in Italy.


In no time at all the Duomo  of Florence appears on the right side of the train. In the station and out again  and on over the pass in the Mountains between Florence and Bologna.


There are  high towers in the city of Bologna that lean too. Pisa has no exclusive rights  on leaning towers in Italy. Bologna’s can be seen high against the sky as the  train rolls out of the station to cut across the Po Valley and into the Veneto.


As the train leaves the mainland and ventures like Cupids arrow straight across the causeway  for the heart of La Serenissima the city shines on the lagoon. In moments the  passengers are descending from the train and moving caught up in the bustling  throng, though the station and out onto the Grand Canal. The whole world has  changed with this startling view of Venice accept the legendary style of Italy  and her people. They like Rome are eternal.


In its classic men’s perfume  from 1984 Armani Eau Pour Homme, the fashion house of Giorgio Armani captured  all the style and refined polish one finds in a train trip across Italy. Sleek,  elegant and powerful this fragrance has it all. It pops on the skin at first spray, the top notes of mandarin, green orange, basil, bergamot, lemon all  conspire to create what I can only describe as jalapeno peppers. This surprising  accord almost lost me the first time I tried it on but it was as it turned out  just a little lurch of the train leaving the station. I was willing to overlook  this in anticipation of the journey ahead. Up from the bottom notes comes the  sandalwood to smooth and calm the top notes. This note like a good train  conductor stays always present for the rest of the journey.

As the opening notes die away and leave the sandalwood to greet the most powerful of the heart notes jasmine, and lily it moves to its restrained presentation which  makes it stand out against the other overwhelming power fragrances of the 80’s.  These two notes hold court over the more subtle rose, nutmeg cumin and clove.  Here it is close to the skin and will remain so. As the journey though the  heartland continues enter the notes of cedar, oak moss and musk. This lasts a  good four to five hours. As the train begins to loose steam in the dry down  there is just a whispered memory of jasmine and sandalwood left and they find  support in a hint of patchouli musk and vetiver. At about 6 hours the ride is  over.

The first time I tried Armani Eau Pour Homme I found it to be a  bit of a disappointment. That was two months ago. As time went by I would come  back to it and try it again. Finally I was in tune with its subtle style. Like  the extraordinary suits and elegant gowns of Armani it is all about understated  elegance.


SPLENDOR FLORENTINE~ Salvatore Ferragamo

FLORENCE! Firenze la prima città del Rinascimento; The first city of the Renaissance.  A city so fabled in its history of art, religion, money, power and beauty. Here you smell leather in the streets from all the shops and street vendors selling Florentine leather goods. Everywhere you walk in this magnificent city you are bombarded by this scent. It is wonderful. Towering above all the famed leather workers in this city none is more renowned than Ferragamo the great Italian shoemakers. To visit Florence and not visit Ferragamo is a sin. Here you see the shoe elevated to an art form.

(Katharine Hepburn’s Ferragamo foot form)

Casual elegance with a sophisticated flair as embodied within the spirit of the Florentines that is what the house of Ferragamo has come up with in this sumptuous fragrance  Salvatore Ferragamo Pour Homme.


(View from the gardens of the Pitti Palace.)

The wonderful notes in this perfume are like postcards from Florence. The florals mixed with the woods and mosses carry me back to a spring day in the gardens of the Pitti Palace. As it moves into the dry down the leather emerges which is a brilliant touch coming from this master Italian shoemaker. With its arrival you are immersed in the workshops of Ferragamo warm and comfortable. In the dry down, rich deep base notes rise up in a masculine yet subtle blend of oak moss, musk, cedar and vetiver. With the arrival of these notes one is transported to the top of the hillside at the foot of  Basilica di San Miniato a Monte. Here in full view of the Tuscan countryside out of which Florence emerges in its entire Renaissance splendor you can embrace all that this wonderful fragrance embodies.

It last about six to seven hours in my experience and expounds a delicate but noticeable silage. This is a brilliant rich and reserved fragrance that will stay in your memory long after it has faded with one last romantic whisper.

Five gold stars!*****

ROME ADVENTURE! ~ Gucci Envy for Men

The seven hills at sunset, a swarm of reeling starlings black against the amber sky. The sounds of voices from high windows in narrow streets are like battling arias from an opera by Verdi.  Hundreds of Vespas beep a high urgent call as they careen past the Vittorio Emanuele II monument to shoot down the Via Imperiale at top speed toward the Coliseum and a night of fun. In the museums you see faces in stone thousands of years old. Faces of men and women of astonishing magnificence and authority, only to step out into the sunlight and see the same faces warm and alive and in the flesh.  Every where you turn there is beauty. Beauty in color, textures, architecture, music, smells, sounds, tastes. This is a city that is more about being in the moment and alive than any place I know.  Welcome home, welcome to Rome. Benvenuti a Roma!

Envy by Gucci is an intense experience. Like your first trip to Rome, it like the Eternal City is layered beautifully, with the smells of food, and gardens all rich aromas of red Italian wines. Florence smells like expensive warm leather,Venice smells of sharp crisp sea salt and grappa. But Rome is unique and Envy takes me back to Rome every time I put it on.

The oriental ginger, incense, amber, patchouli, along with anise, nutmeg, gives it a gourmand glamour.  The deep sensuous musk, Cedar wood and cardamom bring in the feeling of the Borghese gardens on a steamy roman summer night. The color, did I mention the beautiful color of the juice? It is arrestingly beautiful, like the new green of the sycamore trees in early spring along the Tiber. You could get lost in the fresh promise of that sycamore green.

Envy is a stunning masterpiece that does not disappoint in the areas of silage, projection and longevity. Lasts on me around 8 hours, it really delivers.

I am just swept away by this elegant and supremely Italian fragrance that is as gorgeous as the men and women of Rome. Ché bella città, quello che un buon profumo!

Solid Five Platinum Stars *****

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