Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Monday, April 25, 2016
When erotic authoress Anais Nin reminiscences about her relationship with Henry Miller's wife, June, it is a bottle of Guerlain's Mitsouko she is asked for as a gift by the statuesque yet destitute woman amidst sapphic caresses.
When Séverine, the bourgeois heroine of the cinematic adaptation of Joseph Kessel's novel "Belle de Jour", sets out to work the afternoon as a prostitute, it is a bottle of Mitsouko that she accidentally smashes in the bathroom, immersed in her sadomasochistic reveries.
When Jean Harlow's husband, Paul Bern, allegedly driven by impotence, took his own life, a mere short week after his wedding to the silver screen goddess, it is Mitsouko by Guerlain he was drenched with; her perfume.
Originally meant for brunettes, Mitsouko took the gentle but poignant star-crossed lovers of a Japanese brunette and a Russian naval officer meeting at wartime, to inspire women (and men) of all hair colors and ethnicities ever since. Always implicated in sex in a "screw in the brain" sort of way, Mitsouko, with its tender peach skin heart and troubling inky base, is not just Belle. She's Belle Toujours.
You can find my entry on the Best in Show on Fragrantica. Please share in the comments here (and there, if you like) which is your own pick for Best in Show Guerlain perfume! I'd love to read during the holidays for Orthodox Easter.
Fragrance review & perfume history for Guerlain Mitsouko on this link.
Thursday, April 21, 2016
The perennial and elusive question of how to describe a perfume has risen at one of Spain's top style magazines, EL TOCADOR and journalist Ana Fernandez Parrilla accosted me to provide her with some insights.
I'm pleased to see the published article and hope that it is of some enjoyment to our Spanish-speaking readers. You can take a glimpse using this link. (click on arrow > to read the next page)
Friday, April 15, 2016
"Since she had exchanged one of the most luxurious Courts of the Middle Ages for that of Aragon, chiefly concerned with the ceaseless tumult and turmoil of war. In the fortress-palaces of her husband's kingdom how often she must have pined for the garden-isle of her birth, for its groves of orange, pomegranate, citron, mulberry, acacia, olive, and palm, for the vision of the happy valley of Makaria, across whose far-famed loveliness she was to gaze no more from the casements of her brother's palace at Nicosia! How she would pine to hear once more the merry laughter and the jingling bells of the huntingtrain " sport made ideal in that land of " the richest and most generous lords in Christendom " of their day, one of whom, the Count of Jaffa, alone, kept no less than five hundred hunting dogs. Memories of scented waters " rose, jasmine, and many another of which the secret has long been lost to the distiller " would be wafted to her with the lifting of every lid of her cypress-wood coffers, with their metal inlaying, with every breath of her perfumed " oiselets de Chypre " " that favourite toy of the mediaeval boudoir which she was probably the first to introduce into Aragon. These pomanders of scented paste, generally moulded into the shape of a bird " hence their name " were hung in the apartments of great ladies, in cages or similar receptacles, to serve the double purpose of purifying as well as of perfuming the room. A heavy and disappointed heart beat, we may be sure, beneath the royal robes, thick with " ors de Chypre, o Ma o Aragon ; heavy, because of its homesickness, disappointed, because of her childlessness. Her sumptuous wardrobe itself would grow to be a weariness, since she might not wear it in that Cypriote setting which alone might have fitly framed it."
[source, Miron E.L The Queens of Aragon: Their Lives and Times. Reprint. London: Forgotten Books, 2013. 152-3. Print.]
I wrote a concrete piece on Oiselets de Chypre, the Cyprus scented birdies of the Middle Ages on Fragrantica. Please check it out on this link.
Friday, April 8, 2016
We've all been brought up in the legend of Chanel No.5. Books have been written about it, it topped best-selling lists and the rumor that a bottle is sold someplace in the world every X seconds has trailed sales pitches for ages. And yet there are two disturbing facts about it: one is that Chanel is exceedingly secretive of actual figures of sales; the other is that the perfume routinely performs badly in blind tests. What gives? A new fragrance is out later this year so as to combat this double-edged knife in the ribs of the French house. This is a PerfumeShrine rumor article. But let's take things at the top.
|via wikimedia commons|
The sales of No.5 have been steadily dropping, no matter the glossy campaigns. The French sales of No. 5 dropped from No. 1 in 2010 to No. 5 in 2015 in favor of Lancome's La Vie Est Belle, the incontestable top slot since its introduction a couple of years ago. The American market has been worse still. Young women find it too strong, too "matronly" in its odor profile; something they revere as a myth but not as a personal fragrance for themselves, perfume "for old ladies".
But it's also the rest of the Chanel fragrances which haven't been going that well either; Coco Mademoiselle seems to have run its culmination arc with a drop of 3.9% last year, the original Coco de Chanel perfume dropping a rather predictable 5.2% (nothing is as obsolete for young women now as 80s spicy orientals) and Allure dropping a whopping 8%. Only Chance and its various flankers are doing really well, woe to the discerning perfumephile: they have risen up to 6% only last year. Bleu de Chanel, another mainstream lukewarm soup, has become the prime choice of the banlieu, i.e. French suburbia material.
Chanel has always been meticulously attentive to their treasured heritage. No.5 has been the emblem of the house and its advertising, stirring the fantasy and solidifying the reputation of a classy yet sexy fragrance, especially as boosted by Marilyn Monroe's infamous quote. In later years a string of advertising campaigns have tried to re-inject interest in the formula of No.5, sometimes with impressive if a tiny bit laughable results (the Luhrmann commercials, first with Nicole Kidman, then with Gisele Bundchen), other times with spectacularly laughable results (Brad Pitt...I'm looking at you) and on some occasions with truly fantasy-cart-wheeling side-effects (such as the Jeunet commercial with Audrey Tautou aboard the Orient Express).
The introduction of No.5 Eau Première a few years ago indicates that apart from rejuvenating the brand, through targeted advertising using the faces that people love to look up to, the jus needed its own rejuvenation as well. Highly praised critically, this new edition by then in-house perfumer Jacques Polge, however, didn't do as well as had been expected commercially.
According to reportage from Fortune, seeing the light of the day in late January 2016 and brought to my attention by an eagle-eyed friend, CEO Maureen Chiquet, one of the precious few women CEOs in luxury brands (a fact she was meaning to stress in an upcoming book, which might have created an unfavorable stir at Chanel) and a force to reckon with regarding the inspiring growth of the company at large in the last few seasons, stepped down "due to differences of opinion over the strategic direction of the company" after a 9 years long tenure. Alain Wertheimer, chairman and grandson of the original owners but also a recluse billionaire till now apparently, is taking control of the company's operations for the foreseeable future.
With La Vie Est Belle cornering the top spots reserved for Chanel and with contesters Christian Dior (with the new Poison Girl fragrance heavily promoted) and Yves Saint Laurent (with the rather bad Black Opium as well as the rectified, while still very approachable Black Opium Nuit Blanche) Chanel has entrusted a major bet on the slender shoulders of its newer perfumer at the helm, Olivier Polge.
The new No.5 flanker must therefore reflect the legend, surely, but it should also get a slice of the pie of La Vie Est Belle buyers. September 2016 has been the rumored date of the introduction to the market, although Polge is said to have been working at the wings ever since Olivier's tenure starting in 2013, funnily the creator of...La Vie Est Belle. It's a battle against one's self. A William Wilson tale, if you will. A Chanel for millenials, that prized segment of the market aged between 20-35 whose tastes influence everything.
There is no concrete info on the finalized name yet: Chanel has re-copyrighted the old 1929 name of Une Idee, which could be a good fit for a No.5 flanker, as in "Une Idee de No.5, which has the added aventage of working equally well in the French and Anglo-speaking audiences, but this is pure speculation on my part.
It thankfully remains doubtful whether the extra strong, extra syrupy tentacles (don't get me started on Repetto or Flowerbomb) are going to engulf everything. Polge's Les Exclusifs Misia eau de toilette is super refined excelling in the "cosmetics accord" fragrance genre and his Chanel Boy sounds mighty interesting too. With No.5 holding its own in at least the "spirit of Chanel" maybe the bet won't be against all odds. Come September we will see, I guess.