A GLITTERING RIBBON OF CELLULOID ~ “You Or Someone Like You” Fragrance Review

When the light hits just right at sunset, Hollywood Boulevard looks like a 70mm strip of celluloid unspooling with memories of the Golden Age of the movies. As dawn breaks in the high bleak valley between the distant eastern peaks of Mt. San Jacinto and San Gorgonio the rays of the Sun race westward toward the Pacific.  About seventeen miles before the sea the morning sun slams into the ivory top of the Deco step pyramid that caps Los Angeles City Hall. In its faded splendor at first light the old building that cradled that famous last shot in Mildred Pierce eclipses the modern Manhattanized towers that surround it. By noon when the summer sun is baking the City from Boyle Heights to Santa Monica beach the City Of Dreams is more alive, more exciting, more dangerous than any femme fatale that every walked the pages of a Raymond Chandler novel. Los Angeles is a city of hidden treasures. A city that only shares its veiled beauty to those who take the time to look past her endless prairie of post war tract houses. The very prairie which at midnight from the top of Mulholland Drive becomes a jewel box of lights more spectacular today than they were when James Mason told Judy Garland that all of the city below was hers when her star was born.

It is the city where I was born under the shadow of the walls of M.G.M. The city that gave me my first taste of life in the false lush simi tropical green that would be gone in one summer were it not for the water it syphons from the north. The Los Angeles of my infancy the major exports were Airplanes, Oranges, and Movies. As a child, my grandmother would take me to Clifton’s Cafeteria in downtown L.A. and there in a fake redwood forest I would eat strawberry Jell-O with wiped cream wrapped in a day dream of Johnny Weissmuller swinging through the trees. There were trips to the Alligator Farm in Buena Park, to the Huntington Gardens, the L.A. County Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits which have bubbled there for hundreds of thousands of years. Who knows how many Saber Tooth Tigers lay entombed in its sticky goo?  Then most wonderful of all, were the high walled movie studios full of secrets and the old movie palaces that lined Hollywood Boulevard filled with escape.

Every Friday night and Saturday afternoon I would go to the movies. They were my textbook of life. They taught me all about history, religion, and love, Hollywood style. Everything a kid in L.A. needed or wanted to know. To me Andrew Jackson was Charlton Heston, David and Bathsheba were Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward. Marylin Monroe was cotton candy and lipstick glamour yet somehow sad around the edges.  And Elizabeth Taylor? Well, she was not only the Queen of Egypt but Queen of Everything. In the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theater I would wander among the hands and footprints of my personal Gods and Goddesses. At ten my hands fit into Shirley Temple’s hand prints. By twenty they fit perfectly with Clark Gable.

As I grew older and began to explore Los Angeles on my own I began to put my Movie star fueled ideas of the world into perspective without losing the dreams.  This is when I began to realize that the Spanish words and world that Los Angles grew out of were so very important to the fabric of the city. A major part of what made it so magical. Real History.  Then there was the architecture. I began to see the beauty of the unique way in which Los Angles embraces the architecture of the world. The revelation was clear, all of Los Angles is one mega backlot. You can find the walls of Babylon at the old Firestone Tire Company. In Beverly Hills, Italian Villas snuggle up next to Elizabethan country homes. The Japanese gardens in San Marino.  Hong Kong re-imagined in Chinatown butts up next to the glorious Spanish Revival cathedral that is Union Station. All at once in one epic sprawl, all of it is tacky, beautiful, insane, and wonderful. Knit together with freeways and festooned with imported Royal Palms. A city like no other on earth. The city where the past is tomorrow.

I have not lived in Los Angeles for a very long time. I miss it often and sometimes I will pop an old movie into my DVR that will take me back to different times in its history from the 1920’s to today. Some of the images I see of the city tug at my heart and whisper to me “come home. The dream is still here.”  That opening shot in “Strangers When We Meet.” In particular, reminds me of my childhood. But something is always missing in my movie visit to Los Angeles. The smell of the place in summer.  It was the most unlikely mix of smells that could make up a memory, but it is none the less one of the strongest and dearest memories I have of the place. In the summer, the scent covers the city in a loving embrace. The smell of honeysuckle and jasmine, white flowers, and Max Factor red roses caresses by the hint of a Santa Ana wind from the north. Burning Eucalyptus leaves and sharp Italian cedar. Wet freshly mown grass.  And everywhere the smell of entire Orange trees from the blossoms to the waxy leaves.  This is complemented by the slight burning of carbon monoxide and dangles in the smog, and the clear clean nearly antiseptic sent of chlorine from a million swimming pools.

It is the smell that takes me home.

*******

The new fragrance by Etat Libre d’Orange was inspired by a novel by Chandler Burr and in fact shares the name of the book. “You Or Someone Like You.” The fragrance came into being when Etienne de Swardt, founder of Etat Libre d’Orange read the novel and called Chandler Burr to ask if he could make a perfume based on the book he had so loved. He wanted to base the perfume on the setting, Los Angles, and the narrator Anne Rosenbaum wife of a powerful Hollywood film executive. The story revolves around her resulting transformation when she is asked to create a reading list for the head of a studio. That leads to an unexpected interest from screenwriters, agents, and producers around town. A Hollywood book club is formed where Anne blooms in the process. Then when a religious crisis in her husband’s life occurs when their son journeys to Israel , Anne is challenged to save her marriage.

(CHANDLER BURR)

For Chandler Burr who not only wrote the novel but was also the New York Times fragrance critic and author of “The Perfect Scent” and “The Emperor of Scent” this was both a challenge and very exciting. Over the course of the creation of the scent it became tremendous learning experience for him.  The experience was so profound he has noted that he feels that he should have made a fragrance before becoming the critic for the New York Times. For the creation of the scent Chandler as creative director for the Eau de Parfum teamed up with perfumer Caroline Sabas and together they came up with “You Or Someone Like You.”

For me this is an extremely emotional fragrance, moving and nostalgic. Chandler Burr says it is not Los Angeles stuffed in a bottle but to me, it is like coming home to my long-abandoned home town.  It carries all and more that I wrote about above in the memories and feelings this fragrance brought up for me. It inspires me to dream of spring and summer in the city of angles. A spring that comes in February and a summer that ends in November. It is a uni-sex fragrance that carries in it the DNA of classic citrus colognes of the past. Yet like the city of Los Angeles it is layered with facades of modernity over a historical base.  There is in “You Or Someone Like You.” Elements of the sage brush of this Hollywood hills baking in the heat, of tropical flowers and swimming pools, high above the exhaust clouds of the 405 freeway. Peeling eucalyptus bark and dyeing orange blossoms and the wonderful scent of night blooming jasmine. All it comes together in “You Or Someone Like You” in a bright opening. It carries and holds for me this feeling, this L.A. sensation all the way through the fragrance to the end. Yet it does evolve as it goes along from the “morning” of the fragrance all the way through to the “evening” and finally into a “magic hour” drydown. It swirls, rises, and falls in intensity only to rise again on my skin.  I found this aspect of the fragrance to be delightful.

For those to whom such things matter about a fragrance, it projects at about six inches, the sillage is soft. The longevity is substantial, being that is an eau de parfum over an eau de toilette it lasted on my skin nearly to eighteen hours. And even then, the next morning there were faint traces of it.  It wears best for most in spring and summer, but I’m sure that I shall be visiting “You Or Someone Like You” in fall and winter for a brief trip to my past, to the land of the lotus eaters, the place where dreams are manufactured and Hollywood Boulevard at sunset looks like a glittering ribbon of celluloid.

(CHANDLER BURR TALKS ABOUT THE FRAGRANCE)

THE MAN IN THE SILVER BENTLEY ~ Bentley For Men Intense

Ivory white in the moonlight the poplar trees in their winter nakedness seemed to be leaning in over the road that lead away from town.  Reaching their arms overhead to hide the moon from view of anyone under their cover. The effect was that of theatrical branch shadows cast down upon a platinum ribbon of concrete. Edward Henry Porter the forth pressed his foot down hard on the accelerator pushing the British engine into a well-tuned purr. The headlights of the 1959 Silver Bentley Continental S1 reach ahead though the night all the way to the curve looming ahead next to the entrance of the long-abandoned Newport estate known as Wicker Hill.

As the car took the tight curve at 47 and a half miles per hour the tires screamed, the high beams flashed across the old lion gate that blocked the drive up to Wicker Hill.  Edward laughed contemptuously as he pushed the peddle to the floor heading for 80. The leather seat next to him still smelled of Sage Benton of the Newport Benton’s. that smell precisely being of her crushed geranium corsage and spilt rum from the flask in her Mark Cross purse. To Edward, in fact, it reeked of her silly, spoiled, entitled Bryn Mar bitchiness which when pressed she insisted was merely “being cute”.

She was drunk more times than not and only then would she show just how rotten money had made her. Tonight, was the capper. She had mocked a busy boy and called him a dirty Mick to his face from the center of the dance floor where she was doing a sloppy rhumba with Carl Everett. Another example of monied inanity. Incensed by her outburst Edward left the dinner dance with her stumbling and calling after him. In the car, she opened her flask to take another drink.

“What’s the matter Eddie Honey? Aren’t you having a good time?”  Edward snatched the flask away spilling most of the liquor on the leather car seat and the rest on her Ceil Chapman evening gown.

“Eddie my dress! You’ve ruined it. Daddy is going to kill you!”

“Get out of the car.”  He said just loud enough for her to hear.

“What?”

“Get the hell out of my car!”

He was through with her, with the country club, with Harvard Law, and most of all with his parents mansion on Belleview Avenue. He couldn’t stand any of it. Of the privileged life that had always seemed somehow wrong but everyone told him was so right. So them, so him.

When he reached the New England Turnpike he turned the Bentley south toward New York. By dawn he was driving over the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey. Once he reached New York he realized it was much too close to Newport. Where he was going had to be somewhere far away. Where he could be free, write like he always wanted to. Someplace where people did something with their lives, where there was a different beat. The clip of the tires on the concrete seams of the road seemed to match the beat of his heart. The Beat. The West, The Beat.  The West.

A week later Edward sat in a sunny window of Vesuvio Cafe on Columbus Street. He had found a job as a door man at the Hungry i. As good a place as any in San Francisco to begin an alive life. He was finally going places, the kind of places with the kind of people he belonged to. The Beat was in his soul. The only thing he had left of his past was the 1959 Silver Bentley Continental S1. He would have to sell it soon not that he wanted to. But for the first time in his life, he needed the money.

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Bentley For Men Intense was created as a flanker to Bentley For Men in 2013 by perfumer Nathalie Lorson for the prestigious British car company Bentley. Lorson is a prolific nose who has a massive number of perfumes in her credits. She has designed for everyone from Lalique, Encre Noire to Yves Saint Laurent, Black Opium.  In fact, she is the nose behind every fragrance in the line for Bentley.

(NATHALIE LORSON)

So, I was intrigued to try a fragrance from this house to see how it stacks up against some of her other fragrances and against other automobile perfumes such as Jaguar, and Ferrari. (Porsche is out of the running as I have not yet tested it.)

I must say I am pleasantly surprised in some ways and not so much in others. First off, the bottle is simply amazing, elegantly heavy glass on a luxurious level. Beautiful silver topping of the top fourth of the glass with the Bentley winged B logo deeply etched and very hefty silver cap. The design echoes the lines and beauty of a Bentley, just as it should. Here the house has trounced its competition in Jaguar, Porsche and Ferrari who’s bottles overall are a disappointment.  The bottle is smart, sleek, and chic. Simply put, the chassis is classy.

What is under the hood? Well this is where it gets interesting. At first sniff I was sold. As well, on initial wearing is was humming along quite nicely. Then on my second outing in my new Bentley For Men Intense there were some potholes in the tarmac. Then on the third through fifth test drives it was much the same thing. I loved it some of the time and I was sometimes put off by it. What can be the problem?  The only thing I can say is that it dances between something brilliant and gorgeous and then slips at other times into a kind of ho hum slump. Dust in the carburetor?  Or maybe it is simply the driver?

1959 BENTLEY CONTINENTAL S1

Let’s concentrate on the good things, on the best test drive, today in fact. Bentley Intense opens with a great peppery African Geranium that is speckled with, black pepper. This makes it sharp and attention grabbing. Which is what fragrance houses want their top notes to be. (the notes that sell a fragrance to the average customer) But that isn’t all, added in is a rich, boldly thick dose of incense.  Intense incense if fact gives it elevated wings. I loved that combo of the incense match with the overdose of pepper and geranium. A stunning opening.

This opening that becomes almost boozy lasts 30 to 40 minutes before it evolves into the cruising speed of mid notes.  The lux interior of the Bentley automobile in perfumed notes. Super fine, highly polished Leather of the highest quality. The kind of leather you can sink into for a nice long ride is enhanced by a leathery aromatic clary sage which adds a sexy depth. Labdanum is brushed over these two notes bringing in a fine combo accord of even more leather steeped in an amber like wash.

The dry-down is an exceptionally fine with noticeable dose of patchouli, and silky sandalwood finishes off the base with cedar shavings giving it a kind of somber aromatic heat.  This ride is indeed smooth and well-appointed, leaving Jaguar and Ferrari in the dust. (Of those I have sampled at least.)

So that is Bentley For Men Intense when it is purring along on my skin on a rainy day like this. So, what is the problem. Why am I of two minds about this EDT? Perhaps is it simply the season in which I am testing this fragrance. Early Spring. On the sunny warm days, Bentley For Men Intense battled with my skin until well in to the late middle notes where it finally ran smooth. But on a rain cool day like today it works beautifully. So, the lesion I have learned thanks to Bentley For Men Intense is this.  Some fragrances really do fall into seasonal boxes. When I love Bentley, I am very much in love, and when I hate it, I am reminded of Rita Hayworth in “Gilda” when she says to Johnny Farrow, “Hate is a very exciting emotion. Haven’t you noticed? Very exciting. I hate you too, Johnny. I hate you so much I think I’m going to die from it.”

Well, lets not get that dramatic, I’m not going to die from this fragrance. But, with Bentley For Men Intense, it’s, what else can I say? A classic love/hate relationship. And at this moment, I love it.

LE ROI DES DIAMANTS ~ Rahele by Neela Vermeire Creations

 

A thick blue mist clung to the tall trees like uncarded wool and muffled the predawn calls of the forest birds as they fluttered and fussed themselves to wakefulness. It moved slowly, lazily, like a taffeta silk encased courtesan through the lower wilder gardens making its way up to the chateau of Versailles. With cool fingers it caressed the cream-colored stone and pressed against the wavy glass of the windows. There it condensed into impersonal tears and sensuously slid down the glass to puddle on the windowsill. At one glowing window the little puddles reflected the candlelit room within the palace. A tiny image of the scene within shimmered in the puddle  of the only room in the palace where the occupant was awake. The Sun King was up before the Sun.

Louis XIV King of all France was sitting up in bed. Beside him gently mumbling in her sleep was his mistress Madame de Montespan. He paid not a note of attention to her and had completely forgotten to wake her to send her off before the courtiers were to arrive to  Rituality  wake and dress him.  The thing that held him in rapt attention, that had kept him awake since three in the morning was pinched between his thumb and index finger. A 115.16-carat blue diamond. It fascinated him by its uncut beauty.  The story of its travels and how Jean-Baptiste Tavernier had brought it and along with it  many fabulous tales from the court of Shah Jahan, the Emperor of Mogul India.

He turned the diamond this way and that to see how the light from the candles danced a merry minuet within the stone. The King threw back the bedclothes and slipped into his brocade robe then walked to the window. He held the diamond toward the blue misty imperceptibly brightening eastern sky to study it. He squinted his eyes and tired to pierce the heart of the diamond with his mind.

“Your majesty, this stone is but a pale shard in comparison to the beauty of India.” Louis recalled the voice of Jean-Baptiste Tavernier when the afternoon before he had presented the king for a certain price the priceless stone. “There are colors in India unknown in the west, the music of the court is like nothing you have ever heard. It is like the universe is singing with golden bells and  flutes of sandalwood and ivory. The women are unsurpassed in beauty and grace. The cities are vast and teaming with vibrant excitement. In the midst of all of this cacophony of smells and sights and sounds there is the great Taj Mahal. An edifice of such sparkling splendor that I am left with nothing but a melancholy  whisper in my heart when I think of it.”

The King smiled to himself and pressed the stone against the windowpane and moved his head toward it as if he were about to look into a spyglass. The world took on a violet blue hue. Cool and calm and of such beauty he wanted to live within the diamond forever.

There he stood his face pressed against the window lost within the magic of the stone.

“You shall my symbol of France, of the enduring monarchy that shall last forever.” He said softly to the stone. “You shall bring glory to my rein and prosperity to my people.”

“And how will I do all of that? I am just a woman.”

The king startled turned to see Madame de Montespan sitting up, her knees drawn up to her chin, arms encircling them. She was sleepy eyed and smiling.

“Indeed, how shall you do all of that my dear.” He put the diamond in his robe pocket and patted the pocket for luck.

“Come now my dear, the courtiers will be here any moment and you must be gone. After all there is my wife to consider.”

“What do you have in your pocket?” she demanded coyly.

“Nothing of consequence.”

“It’s that diamond. Oh, Louie please let me hold it.”

He laughed and walked to the edge of the bed and handed her the diamond. Her eyes danced across the stone in glittering madness captivated by the stone.

“Louis may I have it. Will you give it to me in a necklace or on a pin? Oh please!”

“No… I am the State, and this diamond is, in essence the heart of France. It belongs not to me but to France.”

“Oh! You are hopeless!”

“On the contrary, my dear. I am filled with hope.”

At that moment, the door to the King’s chamber silently opened just as the King leaned down to kiss Madame de Montespan. Three aristocratic heads of the King’s bedchamber peeked in. Eyes widened, the three heads then retreated and very gently closed the door. The royal dressing would have to wait.

***

Neela Vermeire Creations with perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour have over the years since the House was launched created perfumes that are inspired by India but with a French Flair and chic. The new fragrance Rahele (2016) is no exception. Travel is what Rahele means and this fragrance was sparked by three 17th Century French travelers to India. Jean Thévenot, Francois Bernier, and the man responsible for bringing the premier crown jewel of France to King Louis XIV and what became finally the Hope Diamond, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier.

Rahele is a foral woody and earthy fragrance that rises to an interesting level of stylish sophistication. It is bright, pure and ozonic to my nose. It does remind me of travel, that wonderful smell you experience when you first exit an international airport and breath in the air of a strange foreign city. It has a blend of both Western Europe and the Asian sub-continent. It is fluid each time I wear it. Some times I am in Paris and other times I am in  Jaipur.

We begin our trip with a bright almost ripe yet on the edge of green mandarin. Cardamom which falls on the spicy side complements the citrus.  Then from Ancient markets comes the once rare and precious spice note of cinnamon. I love how this plays against the slightly metallic violet leaf note in the opening.

The midway point of the trip with Rahele is a pure lush Indian garden after the monsoon. A peachy exotic Osmanthis is surrounded by the reddest of rose, a velvet rose in fact and completely devoid of thorns. A fleshy sensual magnolia note hovers above this garden, It is moist and nearly dripping in the heat and there in the heart of this rises up a sweet almost hypnotic jasmine.  The kind of jasmine that lifts the senses in the night. The earth below is introduced with purple notes of violet and rooty dry Iris. At this point the flower notes shimmer and move forward and recede in the most interesting way.

When we reach our final destination in the base there is a somber smooth finish of patchouli leaves that are packed in layers of oakmoss, silky aromatic sandalwood and resinous crisp cedar. This nearly finishes the perfume but all is not over. The dominating note here and what constantly rises though out the fragrance is a refined supple leather note. It never over powers the perfume but rather carries the perfume in subtle grace. It seems in the first hour to suddenly die, yet by hour two and beyond it returns to tease and tantalize for many hours to come. It in fact it  undulates on the skin. This is pure magic and quite interesting.

Indeed, subtlety is the hallmark of this elegant fragrance. By no means is Rahele ever overpowering or demanding. It is suggestive, intuitive, and lightly sensual. A perfect fragrance for both discerning men of taste and chic women of elegant refinement.

 (photo above and below from Fragrantica)

(Neela Vermeire)

THE MAN IN THE BLACK MUSTANG ~ Feu Secret by Bruno Fazzolari

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The dead never return.

On the morning of March 27, 1964 Marie-Anne Lefèvre was started to see her husband in the small café in Megève. After all he had been dead for five years.

Claude was in the resistance during the War and it was his job to report on possible Nazi collaborators. He had mistaken Marie-Anne for a woman he was assigned to follow. He tailed after her expecting that she was going to meet her German lover at the Ritz, when in fact she was simply going to 31 Rue Cambon behind the Ritz to buy a bottle of perfume for her mother. As he followed he tried to ignore the sway in her walk and how her chestnut hair bounced as it caught the late Autumn sunlight. When his mistake became clear to him that he was after the wrong woman he followed her to the Place de la Concorde where with clever machinations around one of the fountains he managed to bump into her causing her to drop her shopping bag breaking the bottle of Sycamore. He took her back to Chanel and bought her a new bottle. Within the month, they were married.

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Since the end of the War they had lived a life of small luxuries and great charm for 15 years in Paris on the Rue d’Édimbourg. It was an exciting time they shared, He a leading actor in La Comédie-Française and she with her little art gallery L’oeil d’or on the Avenue George V near the Café Francis. It was a whirlwind of openings both theatrical and artistic that keep their relationship alive and vibrant. For each of their passions gave them an exciting day away which afforded a meeting in the evening filled with shared stories of glories and sometimes disappointments. Equal but separate lives that encompassed love without suffocating it. Then quite suddenly in the winter of 1958 Claude became ill. Within mere weeks he was gone.

Marie-Anne stayed on for the next five years in the apartment on the Rue d’Edimbourg until at fifty-eight she decided she had enough of the lights of Paris. She sold the gallery to a young assistant and transferred her life to the small ski resort of Megève. She moved in to a modest Chalet near the Résidence Maeva Le Mont d’Arbois. It was a quite solitary life of reading, a little writing to friends in Paris, afternoon walks and always the café in the morning for café au lait and croissants. And every day, each day without fail she thought of Claude.

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But this morning her somnambulistic existence was shattered. The trip bell over the door chimed, there was a shiver of cold air on her cheek as the door swung open. A crunch of snow encrusted boots as a man walked past her where she sat, his coat brushed her shoulder.  There was the conversant smell of Eucalyptus, pink pepper and vanilla. His smell. She ignored the olfactory recognition and continued to read her book as her coffee cooled.

The man ordered his coffee and even though he whispered his voice, a warm baritone nearly filled the room, It tugged at her right ear and she looked up from her book. At first, she only noted that he was a handsome man of about fifty-two. Well-proportioned and of medium height with wavy black hair that was slightly silver at the temples. She looked back down to her novel. The scent of the man grew slightly insistent and blended with the smell of roasted coffee beans and fresh warm pastry.  She looked up again, he was sitting facing the window as the sun broke through the clouds momentarily while the snow fell beyond his profile.  It was Claude’s profile almost to the exact slope of his forehead down to his strong neck and prominent Adam’s apple.  She starred only long enough to drink in the sight of this man who so resembled her love, her Claude. She pulled her eyes away and let them rest on the page of her book without reading a single word.

She sat there until he left without looking up again.  The trip bell rang and the door swung open, a blast of winter air and then it swung shut with a dull crunch of snow and old wood. She looked up again and watched as he walked across the square and got into a black Mustang. Sleek and wild surrounded by Peugeots, Ferraris and Citroens it rumbled a steamy exhaust and the red glow of its taillights winked. It was strange and beautiful and seemed to be made of sacred fire. When he drove away, Marie-Anne looked back down to her book. She re-read the top line on page 156 then closed the book.

Maybe she would see him again. But she hoped she would not.

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*   *   *

Someone asked me recently how I would compare classic fragrance to what is being made today and I immediately thought of Bruno Fazzolari. He is one of the new perfumers of the last five years who is on to something wonderful. A creative process in perfumery that is both modern and classical at the same time.

I first met Bruno at the SF ARTISAN PERFUME SALON 2013 where he was launching his line. I was immediately taken by the beauty and sophistication of his work, especially in Au Dela.  His work for a new perfumer was eons ahead of everyone else at that event. What I smelled in that particular fragrance was a time machine to 1947. I was smelling a timeless new perfume by Christian Dior. I was smelling a master’s work. Lighting in a bottle, and I knew I was there and very lucky to witness the birth of a star.17125439_1766590433656861_2798002693187043328_n

(BRUNO FAZZOLARI)

What Dior did in fashion by bringing glamour and yards of fabric back to the forefront of fashion after the horrors and austerity of World War II was to create the “New Look” a term coined by Carmel Snow of American Vogue to describe the romantic new movement of the mid-20th Century.  Bruno Fazzolari in a very real way in the early 21st Century, is doing what Dior did. He is creating the “Nouveau Sens” in perfumery. He is bringing romanticism and glamour to the niche market in a way that is both classic and modern. And I for one could not be more thrilled.

In his new fragrance, Feu Secret I find the magic has reached a new level of beauty and artistry. It is a dry and warm beauty. Opening with dangerous and bitter touch of hemlock which is punctuated with a sharp jab of green Spruce. This is a fleeting tease to the arrival of a warm burning leaves note of the most amazing eucalyptus. A smell I grew up with in Southern California where in the summer the Eucalyptus trees seem to give off a smoky smoldering scent.

The middle gets even better. A light spice not leaning toward ginger is provided by a turmeric note, spiced up with pink pepper. But here is the kicker, Iris. This note that usually takes on a lip stick, Max Factor quality is this time not in the back-stage dressing room on the dressing table waiting to go on at all. No, this Iris is wrapped up in that burning eucalyptus and the combination becomes the sacred heart of this fire. The supporting base notes of Himalayan cedar, burch tar and a rich thick as butter vanilla round out this fragrance and bring it all home in style.

It is completely wearable for any occasion from day to evening, Full enough for the colder months but certainly something I would wear in the height of summer, that fire, that smoke is so perfect for the season.

So to answer my friend who wanted to know what I love that is both modern and classic, J’dore Feu Secret. And I adore the work of Bruno Fazzolari, the master perfumer of San Francisco.

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IDENTIKIT ~ A FRAGRANCE TO DIE FOR! CHANEL No. 19 Parfum

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“It takes one day to die, another to be born…” Elizabeth Taylor reportedly said those words to her director Griffi when she came on the set the day after she left Richard Burton for their first divorce. So with that mindset she went to work on one of her most unusual, daring and controversial films. From the moment “The Diver’s Seat” begins you know you are in a strange place. In Europe the movie was called “Idendikit” so, with two names tagged to it thus making it schizophrenic from the first it easily falls into the realm of the ambiguous art film genre of the late 60’s and early 70’s. It’s star, Elizabeth Taylor, appears here in one of her most remote and dangerous roles. She plays Lise a woman who is consumed by insanity and the desire to find the ultimate lover, the be all and end all of boyfriends you might say.

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As the film opens you are presented with a shattered view of a woman on the edge of something terrible. The camera moves in a disjointed way, past naked mannequins heads covered in tin foil. Is this Lise’s view of others or is it a reflection of her inner life? Or possibly her future.  Upon being told to take a holiday from work after causing a scene in the office the film opens with her preparations to take flight to Rome. The film jump cuts from past to present as the police in Rome try to reconstruct the mystery of her holiday in terrorist gripped Rome. Even Rome comes off as off kilter. This is not the Rome of Audrey Hepburn or Marcello Mastroianni but a city one hardly recognizes from the lack of typical filming locations one associates with “Made In Rome!” movies.

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(Lise meets Andy Warhol at Fiumicino International Airport)

Director Giuseppe Patroni Griffi succeeds in presenting a inimitably Italian cinema verite film of the Muriel Spark novel. This is a unique film and very much of it’s day. Its non-linear, experimental, almost documentary style will be hard to get into for any one not used to movies of this sort. But it is well worth the effort. So strange and challenging a film it is that it left the opening night audience at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival in stunned silence.

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(with Ian Bannan)

The cast is well chosen and gives some oddly memorable performances. Ian Bannan as the macrobiotic sex-nut who tires to pick up Lise on the plane to Rome seems almost as mad as she is. It is a wickedly off kilter wild-eyed performance. The charming and always wonderful Mona Washbourne is sweetly touching as the woman who befriends the mad Lise and in doing so leads her to meet the man of her dreams.

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(with Mona Washborne)

But the glue that holds it all together is provided by Miss Taylor who tops off her short list of insane characters from Susanna Drake (Raintree County) to Catherine Holly (Suddenly Last Summer) with this daring and shocking portrait of Lise. She opens up as an actress that at the time would have been unthinkable to most of her contemporaries from the old M.G.M. days. That’s one of the wonderful things about her film career. She came from an era in old Hollywood where she was trained and groomed to be glossy and perfect. But as times changed so did she and in doing so became much more than an MGM glamour girl, she became an actress with guts. In “The Driver’s Seat” she shows her chops as an actress and her willingness to accept challenges in her roles and in Lise she found a great one. One stunning image of her is when in her loud madwoman dress and raccoon painted eyes she challenges the airport security to frisk her. In that scene she seems totally there, totally gone, and totally in control as an actress.

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Even the sweetest perfume has a hint of madness in it. That darkness must exist in a perfume or it has no chance of being complex or perhaps even a classic in time.

Perfume played a huge part in the theater which was Elizabeth Taylor’s life. A life lived before us all which unfolded in a flurry of purple and glittering diamonds in the center of the strobbing glare of paparazzi press for the last half of the twentieth Century. She was famous for wearing Bal a Versailles when she conquered not only Rome in 1962 but but also the denunciation of her by Pope John XXIII. Later in the 1980’s she created Elizabeth Taylor’s Passion and thus launched “Celebrity” Perfumes in to a realm yet untested.  Her perfume “White Diamonds” is still to this day one of the top sellers on the market.

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(Elizabeth Taylor and Andy Warhol
at the 1974 screening of Identikit ~ The Driver’s Seat at Cannes)

It is interesting to ponder what perfume Elizabeth Taylor’s character Lise might have worn in the film “The Driver’s Seat”? Symbolism and nonverbal signals are an important aspect of her character, from her wardrobe, the way she applies her makeup and even the book she carries with her on her travels. Every visual aspect is covered in her quest. So, there must be a fragrance she employed to attract that which she seeks and in the end finds in the darkest part of the Borghese Gardens in the heart of Rome in the dead of night.

This fragrance must be green and full of life and promise and yet carry a dark heart and of the period, the early 1970’s.  For Lise it would be Chanel No. 19 Eau de Parfum (1970).  The last perfume made during Mademoiselle Chanel’s life, named for the date of her birth and a personal favorite of hers.

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It is known and loved as a superlative Green fragrance. It is in fact onion like in its layers upon layers of facets. Like enfiladed rooms opening one upon another leading to an unknown end. In fact, it is the marriage between the fresh crisp smell of grass and the opposing heavy indolic white flowers all wrapped up in a fine supple leather which only hints at its complex schizoid nature.  It is like slipping on a fine pair of white kid gloves be they for horseback riding in a French wood in spring or driving gloves for that mad getaway drive along the Amalfi coast in winter.  Both rides are just on the edge of losing control.

Then the darkness comes. It comes from the interior of that leather where deep under its folds you find nestled a dark dirty vetiver and a deadly serious oak moss. And deeper still below that there is the deeply sensual and frankly fleshy sex of Iris or perhaps full blown oris butter. Slipper smooth and intoxicatingly drenched over a softly sweet and green narcissus. The rose that lies in there near the heart is bleeding and barely alive encased in a coffin of sandalwood. And upon this coffin, is placed a wreath of lily of the valley and ylang-ylang. There under all that green rebirth in its beginning is the solemn promise that it will die.

No. 19  is in fact like Lise very beautiful and hides a complicated inner world of Belle vie et mort inéluctable. As Lise moved ever closer to her rendezvous in the dark gardens of her soul in the center of the eternal city she must have smelled the clean green of the grass and the bereavement in the decaying flowers where she lay down.

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One of the most wonderful aspects of No.19 is that anyone, man or woman can wear it. and at any age. It is timeless, ageless, classic and yet very modern.

OVER THE TOP ORGY IN ROME! (Movie Memory)

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Che bella citta Roma! Vincent Minnelli’s “Two Weeks In Another Town” is pure glamour, trash, camp and Hollywood glitz. In other words it is great fun. Don’t go into it expecting anything more than over the top soap opera with the suds on overflow and you won’t be disappointed.

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Rome takes center stage in the film and is shown in all its “La Dolce Vita” glory of 1962. So much was happening there at this time. The birth of the paparazzi, the filming of “Cleopatra” and the international “Jet Set” had just landed in Rome to make it the fun capital of the world. The film captures all of this with high gloss and a tip of the fedora to Fellini who had first shown a light on the goings on along the Via Veneto a few years earlier.

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Kirk Douglas plays a down and out movie star just released from a mental institution / rehab center when he is invited to fly to Rome by his old director and ex friend Edward G. Robinson to take a small comeback part in his epic being filmed at the famed Cinecitta Studios. Well I don’t want to spoil the fun so all I will say is that there are plenty of gorgeous Italians running amok and lots of fabulous jewels bedecking Cyd Charisse. Tons of locations throughout the Eternal City and even an orgy! But the highlight of the film is the climactic scenic drive through the streets of Rome that Douglas takes Miss Charisse on after the orgy. That drive has to be seen to be believed! Words fail me at the sheer joy of this over wrought fun fest.

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Trust me, it isn’t anywhere near the brilliance of “The Bad and The Beautiful” of which it is a kind of follow up on, But it is beautifully bad in the very best way.
The DVD says remastered. But don’t expect Blu-ray quality, it is fine nothing spectacular in it’s re-mastering. But the color is good and the picture is clear.

***

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All those jewels and great gowns on Miss Charisse lead me to wonder what perfume her character would have worn? Well, it has to be nothing less than, Caleche Parfum by Hermes, a heady floral aldeyhyde with seductive notes of Iris, Gardenia, Jasmine, Ylang-Ylang, Sandalwood and Amber. Those are just the notes that stand out to me. A lush, even cinematicly dramatic fragrance that is perfect of a night of abandon in Rome.

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THE POET ~ An Interview With Perfumer Mario Tomas

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It is always very exciting when a new perfumer hits the scene and doubly exciting for me when that perfumer is a local Bay Area artist. I have known Mario Tomas Gomez for about two years. I was privileged to be at dinner with him, Mik of Mik Moi and Hilary Randall when he decided to take the big leap and start his perfume house.

His official brick and mortar launch is this Saturday at Tigerlily Perfumery here in San Francisco. So to honor his blossoming as an olfactory artist I asked him a few questions.

Lanier: Where were you born?

Mario:  Born in Oklahoma City, OK raised both in OKC and Mexico City, Mexico

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Lanier: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Mario: I always wanted to do something which allowed me to help others.

Lanier: who introduced you to perfume?

Mario:  I remember smelling different fragrances on different family members. These various olfactory experiences helped build my love for fragrances/perfumes.

Lanier:  What opened the door to your life in the perfume industry?

Mario: It was the experience of blending my own creation at Perfumer’s Apprentice when they had a shop open in Santa Cruz, CA. It was a small shop that provided tea service while you created your own scent. Afterwards, I searched for a local perfume making workshop. I saw one offered by Yosh Han, the rest is history.

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Lanier:  what is the inspiration behind each of your scents?

Mario: El Poeta (The Poet): This fragrance conjures up another era; a time and place when debates on beauty, style and technique were hotly discussed over drinks at a crowded and smoky cafe. It too is unconventional. Artistic expression and flair is flaunted and appreciated. For those who walk a different path, it represents the cultural, artistic mavericks of a time gone by. It is Absinthe inspired, Bohemia in a bottle.

Corazon Blanco (White Heart): Corazon Blanco is my love note to my family and heritage of beautiful Mexico. I have deep and unforgettable roots in Mexico: the exotic flowers, spices and culinary delights of this region have lent themselves to my fond memories and recreation of such moments with this scent. They include my Grandmother making cinnamon tea, my Mother’s enjoyment of Cajeta (caramels) and adoration of gardenias, or the recollection of tequila from my cousin’s distillery.

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Lo Mejor di Mi #1: This citrus fragrance is homage to the citrus, aromatic family. Its great diversity of revitalizing notes will offer a fresh embrace that is meant to lift one’s spirit. It will envelop you in notes of bitter orange, pink and white grapefruit and blood orange that will delight and recharge your essence. Its hint of floral, woods and musk adds to its complexity and will have you fall in love at first smell.

Lanier:  Who was your mentor in the world of perfume?

Mario: It was Yosh Han and Shelley Waddington who helped me explore the art of blending.  Michael Coyle of MikMoi who gave me the helpful nudge to launch at the 3rd SF Artisan Fragrance Salon.

Lanier: What is your process in making a perfume?

Mario: Normally, first I will explore the single individual notes alone without any other notes.  Sometimes this can take less than a minute or sometimes days. Once I have all the fragrance notes I will be using, I explore fragrances already out on the market.  If I can bring something new, then I move to blending and testing out Jerry my husband or friends.

Lanier:  Do you have an idea of whom you are making your perfumes for. Who is that person, what is he or she like?

Mario:  I am creating scents for anyone who enjoys them. I may be inspired by a specific person, but I try to create scents that are enjoyed by both genders.

Lanier:  Where do you want to be in five years?

Mario: Getting my bottling and packaging finalized, transitioning from my State job into making perfume into a full-time event.

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20 smelly questions. (inspired by the ten questions asked by Bernard Pivot on the French television show “Bouillion de Culture”.

1.Who inspires you?

Anyone in my inner circle of friends and family.

2.What makes you want to get out of bed in the morning?

My Nespresso machine.  Just kidding, gratitude for life.

3.What is your favorite sensation?

Smell and taste, they are connected.

4. What is your favorite word to describe a perfume?

Lovely.

5.What is the most over used world to describe a perfume?

Lovely

6.What is your least favorite perfume note?

I do not have one.  All notes can be blended to create a wonderful experience.

7.What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

I think of myself as a very spiritual person and so that enters by thought process while creating.

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     8.What perfume turned you on this month?

Les Parisiennes Mademoiselle Eau de Parfum by Guerlain. If I was just to judge this perfume by only it’s notes or by the name alone,  it would be something I would have ignored.  Having experienced this scent without knowing what was being spritzed on me, I was able to enjoy the development without any prejudgment. I love wearing by itself or blending it with many of my other fragrances.

9.What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

My biggest turn offs are acts in which one is inconsiderate of another.

10.Who excites you in the world of perfume?

The growth in interest of the art of fragrance making.

11.What turns you off about the industry side of perfume?

Some of the restrictions being placed on ingredients that have been used to create some of the most amazing perfumes.

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12.What natural smell in nature do you love?

I love the smell of cement and rain after a heavy rain in any season.

13.What smell in nature do you hate.

The smell of public urination one gets when walking out of some of the BART/Muni stations.

14.What historical person do you imagine would have smelled Wonderful and why?

Either Cleopatra or Marie Antoinette.  Cleopatra was known to have the sails of her ships soaked in fragrance oils, so I can just image what “lovely” oil collection she owns. It was said that Marie Antoinette was know for her signature scent(s), when she tried to escape, it was her scent that was recognized which lead to her capture.

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(Conceptual painting by John De Cuir for Cleopatra’s Barge “Cleopatra” 1963)

15.What is your favorite language other than your native tongue?

Spanish.

16.What is your favorite curse word in that language?

Mierda

17.What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Ballet dancer.

18.What profession would you not like to do?

Anything that would not allow me to work with people.

19.If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

“Welcome, you will enjoy this fragrant garden and all of its wonders.”

20.What perfume would you like God to be wearing when he says that to you?

She will be wearing Guerlain’s Sous le Vent.

I would like to thank Mario for a wonderful and thought provolking interview The Launch for his perfumes witll be Saturday, November 1, 2014 from 5 – 9pm. If youi are in the San Francisco area do drop in and explore with me the wonderful olfactory world of Mario Tomas.

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TIGERLILY PERFUMERY

973 VALENCIA STREET

SAN FRANCISCO CA. 94110

510 230 7975

EMAIL INFO@TIGERLILYSF.COM

LE GRAND PRIX ~ Perris Monte Carlo Perfume Event San Francisco

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Fall is the time when fashion and film present there best works. The same is true for the world of haute perfume. At least it seems so here in San Francisco. Last week we had the launch of Penhaligon’s Iris Prima at Saks Fifth Avenue and yesterday amid the Beaux Arts splendor of Neiman Marcus on Union Square we very lucky San Franciscans had the great honor of being presented two perfumes from the house of Perris Monte Carlo.

The event began at one o’clock. I arrived with Hillary Randall, my muse extraordinaire and guide through the looking glass of perfume. The theme for us was old world splendor and in tune as always we both dresses accordingly for a very regal and warm presentation by our visitors from the principality of Monaco. As Hilary and I walked though the rotunda we were greeted as always with friendly smiles and hellos from the associates at the Creed and Jo Malone counters along with the always lovely folks at Tom Ford. The delightful Suzetta across the way at Estee Lauder waved to us. And of course the ladies and gentlemen of the Dior Boutique looked smashing in there signature black and made us feel welcome with great warm waves and smiles.  Going to Neiman’s is always fun and part of the fun is the friendly people who work there. I know that much of this charming atmosphere is due to the General Manager of Neiman’s Alan Morrell. I have even seen Alan on the sales floor bringing coffee to patrons of the store and seeing to there comfort. That’s warm friendly Neiman Marcus for you.

 Nieman Marcus Rotunda, Plate 3

   The Perris Monte Carlo event took place just beyond the rotunda in the heart of the fragrance department. The S.F. Sniff gang were already there and being introduced by our host Michal Gizinski to the stars of the event. The buzz was that of pure joy and excitement and it was infectious. Michal presented Hilary and me to Elisabetta and Gian Luca Perris. Elisabetta is a stunning blonde with a most beautiful smile. And Gian Luca is athletically handsome man with open warm eyes.  This brother and sister team  of the house of Perris Monte Carlo could not have been more gracious and kind to each person they met.

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Gian Luca, Elisabetta, and Michal

As the event began to unfold I broke off to take some photos then popped over to say hello to Mik from Mik Moi perfumes and catch up a bit with Tama Blough, Brooke Baird, and Mario Gomez from S.F. Sniff along with the rest of the gang. Good friend Mary Edington popped up and there were hugs for everyone. Mary and I insinuated ourselves next to one of the three tables displaying the two new perfumes being launched by Perris Monte Carlo, Rose de Taif and Oud Imperial. There was a bit of sniffing of perfume blotters but in no time flat we got down to business and hit the flesh with the spray. You know how it is with perfume lovers, there is no fooling around. Like Tama said to me “You just have to have it on the skin to really appreciate perfume.”

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Hilary, Mary and Mik

The Rose de Taif was one of the most wonderful and true rose perfumes I have ever smelled. Gian Luca explained to us how the rose oil is extracted. The delicate roses are picked at dawn in Taif Arabia to ensure there purest beauty in fragrance. Like Grasse Jasmine that is the only time these precious roses can be picked. They are distilled in an alembic water process. For this perfume this water process is a bit different than elsewhere. The flowers are placed directly in the water and not separated by a filter. This method is what gives the unique and beautiful quality to the Taif Rose oil which it produces. It takes thousands upon thousands of roses to create just a tiny amount of oil for the perfume. The notes are, lemon, nutmeg, geranium in the top. The gorgeous Taif Rose is the heart of the perfume and the base notes are Damascus rose absolute and Rose Musk.

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He also shared with us some pure oils to smell that are used in the making of the two perfumes. This was my first time smelling pure authentic oud. It was the most amazing fragrance full of mystery and fifty centuries of history. You could sense the ages shift and shimmer as visions of the Middle East came into view in the minds eye. It was a magic carpet unfurling before me filled with all the tales of the east from Algeria to India.

So of course my next stop was Oud Imperial. Cumin and jasmine open the fragrance beautifully; the heart is Oud, incense, patchouli and saffron. And in the base is a beautiful sandalwood, Virginia Cedar, Vetiver from Java and Blackwood. On my skin there is an initial blast of petroleum that mellows quite fast into a warm mix of woods and incense. It carried me off to the deep spiritual sanctuary of an ancient Imperial Roman temple filled with mystery, gods and grandeur. It reminds you of how the smoke and incense of the East came west to conquer Europe again and again.  It has both a religious and sensual aspect to it that I find fascinating. It is eastern, enticing, and enchanting.   Oud Imperial is simply the best oud perfume I have ever encountered.

 Perris Monte Carlo Rose de Taif and Oud Imperial

Hilary asked Gian Luca about the oil concentration in the eau de perfumes. The rose is twenty two percent and the oud is eighteen percent. Yet these eau de perfumes were like pure perfume. Simply put they are stunning, lush and long lasting.

At this point Michal directed us to a very comfortable seating area behind the presentation display and with sparkling water and delicious homemade cookies we got to talk and compare the two fragrances. It is always so interesting to me how different a scent can be on my skin as opposed to others. Elisabetta and I talked with Mary about this phenomenon. Elisabetta told us that the chemistry of the skin can enhance a perfume. One persons PH can bring certain notes to the fore where as on another person entire new story is told.

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Mario and Brooke

Slowly people began to drift away and the event began to wind down. Michal invited me to stay on and chat one on one with Gian Luca and Elisabetta. Well I was thrilled to be asked and charmed by them both so of course I accepted. I asked them how they got into the business of fragrance and discovered it is in their blood. The business has been in existence for fifty years and was founded by there father Michele Perris in Milan.  Gian Lucca entered into the industry in 1989 and Elisabetta early in this century. Talking to them I learned just how passionate they are about perfume when I asked Gian Lucca how he thought the sales for the event were going.

“That is not so important to us.” He told me. “What is important is the journey we are on. What we have learned along the way, and how much fun it is to create these beautiful perfumes.”  Now that was the answer of a true artist and visionary.

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Elisabetta and I talked about the history of gender in perfume and the changing perceptions of masculine and feminine beauty in the last five hundred years.  We both agreed that gender assignment to fragrance is a bit silly. Everyone should wear what they love. After all flowers are both male and female and the bees do the flirting and the hard work.

I discovered that Gian Luca is also an accomplished sailor in the team sport of Mach Racing. In 2007 he was awarded as helmsman of his team the UBS Match Race Award. The trophy was awarded to him by Prince Albert of Monaco. We talked a bit about sailing and he told me he learned to sail from his Father Michele who gave him his love of the sea. I told Gian Luca if he loved sailing he must take a look at the stained glass ceiling of the rotunda of Neiman’s. The rotunda and ceiling are all that remain of the old City of Paris department store that once stood on the site of Nieman’s. The central figure if the ceiling is the old City of Paris ship that brought the founder of the old department store to San Francisco from France in the 19th century and is forever commemorated in this work of art.

 Gian Luca and Prince Albert

Elisabetta and Gian both talked about how much they loved to visit San Francisco and how unique it is among American cities. We all agreed that it is very European in its style and feeling. The told me how much my city is like Monte Carlo in the fact that both cities are melting pots of many different peoples, cultures and cuisines. Throughout our talk Michal brought over patrons who were purchasing perfumes from the house of Parris. Gian and Elisabetta most kindly signed bottles for every person. One lovely woman told them how much she adores Quelques Fleurs Royale.

That reminded me as did Michal that the Perris’ also owns the house of Houbigant and 10 Corso Como. There were bottles of Quelques Fleurs, Fougere Royale (2010), Duc De Vervins, and Orange en Fleurs on the display behind us. So with their permission I asked them about there involvement in these perfumes. It was most interesting to learn how they went about recreating the famous 19th century Fougere Royale which was the first fougere in history created in 1882 and became the standard to which all fougeres are compared.

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Gian Luca told me they employed the considerable and brilliant talents of perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux who has created so many wonderful perfumes for everyone from Tom Ford to Arquiste. It was a long journey until they came to what is now Houbigant’s Fougere Royale. I asked them how they knew what the original smelled like. The Osmothèque at Versailles has samples of the perfume and were very generous in helping them in there quest to bring back this classic. Gian praised the talent and work of Rodrigo Floes-Roux and was very appreciative if his talents as an artist. You can’t speak of Houbigant without mentioning that it was the parfumeur of Marie Antoinette and it is said that during her attempted escape from Paris she had the coach stop at Houbigant to pick up a few bottles of perfume for the road. The house was also favored by Napoleon, Queen Victoria and Tsar Nicolas II of Russia.

 

Elisabetta and Gian Luca signing bottles of Perfume.

Before I left the event the wonderful Rami Zardeh who is always so welcoming and helpful in the fragrance department of Neiman’s assisted me in my purchase of a bottle of Oud Imperial. With my signed bottle of Oud Imperial in tow I bid a fond and reluctant farewell to our guests of honor and with many thanks to them and to Michal for a most wonderful afternoon of perfume, stories, and new friends. We all agreed as we shook hands that perfume has the unique ability to bring people together in the most wonderful way.

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Thank you Michal for a wonderful event!

Perris Monte Carlo Facebook :  https://www.facebook.com/PerrisMonteCarlo

Houbigant Webpage: http://www.houbigant-parfum.com/

10 Corso Como Webpage: http://www.10corsocomo.com/

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