Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Satellite “Padparadscha” ****


As a native Bay Arean, I’ve lived my whole life simmering in a bastard stew of every known world religion and cultural influence. Don’t get me wrong—that is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a very, very good thing. The diversity of San Francisco and its environs is one of the reasons it will forever be my home.

However, since I was raised here, I’ve aware of our propensity to treat the rest of the world as our treasure chest, full of shiny, beautiful things that it is our privilege to appropriate: food, clothing, spiritual practices. We Bay Areans, as Californians do in general, travel the world to distant lands, spend some time among the locals, rip off surface aspects of their culture, and bring them back with us to show them off as if that somehow makes us cool.

(For the record, before I get accused of hypocrisy and alienate, like, practically everyone I know, conscious travel, encountering people different than you with an open, humble heart, is one of the great gifts of life that we can give ourselves and the planet. We need to learn more about one another. But there is a lot of ego involved in travel, I’ve noticed. What I listen for, when hearing about other people’s trips, is do I learn all the reasons why a place they went to is so fabulous, or why they are so fabulous for going there?)

So it was with considerable skepticism that I decided to try “Padparadscha,” from French boutiquer Sandrine Dulon, who was inspired to create this fragrance by her world travels. The Padparadscha sapphires of India are very rare, prized for their pink and orangish hues. (Wikipedia reports that the word “Padparadscha” derives from the Sinhalese word for “lotus blossom.”) Armed with this information, what can this Parisian-born person tell us about the scents of India?

Well, as it turns out, what she can tell us is quite true. I am NOT making the claim that she’s captured something correct about India—I’ve never been there. And I’m not in any hurry to endorse the notion that a perfumer can bottle the essence of another culture. However, what “Padparadscha” does achieve is a blast of deep and pure sensation that connects the wearer to one’s own breath.

Out of the bottle, “Padparadscha” is saturated at about 9 on a scale from 1 to 10. As the scent notes promise, freshly cracked peppercorns and strong green juniper wood. After a few minutes, the pepper blows off, the juniper bows out, and fresh cedar wood steps in seamlessly joined to the most flawless, unforgiving sandalwood I’ve ever smelled.

There is fillip of amber at the tail, to sweeten it one tiny little bit and to give it finish. Deep under the fresh woods is a sturdy base of campfire coals. It is stiff, bracing, and uncompromising. The only sweetness is the amber—just enough to make it wearable. These are not refined "perfumy" components-- this smells like how dry and fresh woods and incense smell. This is most definitely a "scent" not a "perfume": it sits on top of the skin, not interacting with it. The sillage is huge- applying one quarter of the amount I usually use to sample, I can still smell it on my arm as I type. It stays on my skin until the next day, on my clothes for several more.

“Padparadscha” has been described as arid, and I think that is an excellent quality in a fragrance. It’s as rough as a cat’s tongue, and to breathe it in deeply dries out the back of my sinuses. Named after a sapphire, there is nothing crystalline, cold, or static in this fragrance. When I smelled it, the hot pepper slap, the fresh cedar sap and sandalwood fireworks going off, I said to myself, Oh, Sweet Shakti.

As in the great goddess Shakti, (from the Sanskrit “to be able,”) the personification of divine feminine creative power, agent of all change, dependent on no one and nothing, but interconnected with the entire universe. To breathe in “Padparadscha” is to be inspired: to be filled with the Divine Feminine, the Breath of Life.

“Padparadscha” is so good, if you told me that it kills the germs that cause bad breath, I’d believe you. It might just freshen your aura. I think that to sniff it aligns several hard-to-reach chakras.

Seriously, though. Enough about what a snark I can be. Let me tell you how good this scent is: This is a scent to wear to watch the sun rise on the first day of the year. The day you decide to sit down to write your great novel. The first day you realize it’s time to stop grieving, and time to start living and loving again. It is the scent of mindful ritual, of resolve, of the best of yourself that believes in yourself.

In the movie Harold and Maude, it was the great San Francisco yogini Maude who said “Greet the dawn with a breath of fire.” I’d like to think she was dabbing a spot of “Padparadscha” behind each ear as she said it.

Available at LuckyScent. $80.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ormonde Jayne “Ormonde Woman” ***

Perfume has the power to transport us. Some perfumes evoke a certain place, like Hermès“Un Jardin en Mediterranée;” others a certain moment in time, such as CB I Hate PerfumeBlack March.” These are miraculous scents.

But Ormonde Jayne’s “Ormonde Woman” does something else wondrous and strange: it tells a story as it wears through time.

First, the opening. It comes out of the bottle saturated at about 6 out of 1 to 10, sharp and green. It smells like all manner of wet leaves and needles—ivy, cedar, pine.

Within 3-4 minutes, everything green is gone, and the woods take over: cedar and sandalwood. The huge sillage sets in, and I can easily experience it from my bare elbow as I sit and type.

Somewhere about the 30 minute mark, the woods have caught fire, and for
the next few hours, OJOW smolders. I love this phase—it could stay here forever for all I care. It’s not the smell of “incense” that constitutes an Oriental perfume—there’s nothing exotic or perfumey about it. It is the smell of burning twigs and char and soot, and it is terrific.

For 2-3 hours, OJOW goes through an all-consuming wildfire phase; then, by some other miracle, it relents. We’ve started up in the dewy forest canopy, traveled to deep within the bodies of the trees themselves, through their fiery deaths, and now, in the drydown phase, down to the forest floor: soft, tiny woodland flowers poke through. (The scent notes say violet—I struggled to place it, and finally settled on freshly cut rose stems and leaves.) How that delicate floral note manages to survive through all those smoky hours I can’t say.

It’s a heartbreaking arc. But for all the drama, while I’m wearing OJOW, the word “austere” is never far from my mind. There is absolutely nothing sweet about it. As a scent, it’s wrapped as tightly as an English school mistress’s bun. Which leads me to the business of rating it.

First off, it’s not a head-heart thing, because I really do love it. It’s much more a head-body thing. As in, there is this thing happening on my arm, this sort of cinematic event that is happening on me, not of me. Put another way, being made aware of a flora lifecycle progression is slightly discordant for the fauna (me) that’s wearing it. OJOW is most definitely a “scent” and not a “perfume” as I define those terms.

Furthermore, I find the sillage disconcerting in the middle note phase. I’m not opposed to a big atmosphere in all perfumes, but OJOW projects an uncompromising hauteur that a large sillage betrays. A woman wearing OJOW would be a study in understated chic and not overtly draw attention to herself, in my opinion. I would be happier if OJOW were toned down a notch or two.

Finally, it was OJOW that made me realize that stability is a characteristic I do prize in perfume. I should say, a perfume does not have to smell the same hour after hour for me to love it. In certain scents, I appreciate the fact that I don’t have a specific, fixed notion of what it “smells like” in my mind, instead having a lot of separate phases. Examples: Tom Ford “Black Orchid” and Chanel “Coco.” They are constantly changing one minute to the next, like a piece of music you listen to over and over again, continually finding new nuances in it. I like that experience of sniffing again and again, saying to myself, “Oh—what’s that? What’s that now?”

But that smoldering coals phase is so marvelous that I find myself resenting the first opening stages (“Hurry up!!”), and then disappointed when the drydown capitulates and softens at the end.

OJOW is like that brilliant if flawed film that you mostly love: it starts out slowly and has a weak ending, but for that wonderful middle part, sitting in the movie theater in the dark, you’re enveloped in the most magical glow.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thierry Mugler “Angel” 0 (No Stars)


A Story of Two No-Stars in Two Parts: Part II (Read Part I HERE)

I was talking about the difficulties in imparting useful information in perfume.

If esoteric flower and spice notes are out of reach for the amateur sniffer, it does seem to me that the one set of scent guidelines we can all agree on is food. After all, we all know food. We’ve all eaten it, we’ve all smelled it. Most of us won’t know what “oppotomax” smells like in our lifetimes, but at least we can agree on cinnamon.

But even when it comes to food scents (known as “gourmand” fragrances, which refers to candy, chocolate, nuts, flour and cereals, coffee, honey, booze, and so on), great noses, it seems can disagree, or come up with wildly different interpretations of the same perfume.

How about Thierry Mugler’s “Angel,” which theperfumedcourt.com explains thusly: “This sweet Oriental vanilla fragrance has top notes of fruits, dewberry, and honey; middles notes of chocolate, caramel, and coumarin [the smell of sweet hay]; and base notes of vanilla, sandalwood and patchouli.”

So is that what "Angel" smells like, an obvious gourmand fragrance, with chocolate, vanilla, fruits, candies, spices, woods? I suppose, in a sense, it does.

Here is how Chandler Burr, who adores “Angel,” describes it in “The Perfect Scent”:
“The secret of Angel’s formula is a juxtaposition of two diabetic-shock-inducing sweet scents, marzipan… and cotton candy… Alone, this would be a tooth-rotting confection but Cresp [the perfumer] threw in a huge dose of natural patchouli, a grasslike plant grown principally in Indonesia, and its strange strong green/organic smell cuts through and freezes the sweetness (p. 159.)”
So this is how Burr would have you understand “Angel”: cotton candy, almond paste, and patchouli. No chocolate, no fruits. And despite the slightly scary warning words, (“diabetic-shock inducing,” “tooth-rotting,”) not too sweet, and wonderful, simply wonderful.

However, when Yves de Chiris, a key artistic consultant for “Angel,” talks about the patchouli element, he calls it “crushed ice in Grand Marnier.” This makes it sound cool, refined, classy, citrusy, and above all, if it is a gourmandy scent, then a grown-up one, not defined by the smells of childhood excess.

Let me tell you what I smell when I smell “Angel.” It is the scent of bees, of a swarm of tiny, little, sugar bees. But they are angry, because they’ve come back to their hive and found their hard-earned honey missing. It has been replaced with an artificially-flavored orange syrup. The bee-keeper is trying to calm them down for the mean trick he’s played, swapping out nice honey for nasty sticky hell-paste. He wafts a smoke-pot over them—that’s supposed to soothe them, but the smoke is incense laced with angel dust. (What’s in a name?)


The bees grow even more agitated; they’re having lurid, violent hallucinations. The bee-keeper can’t control them, they are everywhere, swarming faster and faster- he reaches for a box of insecticide. But the nightmare is never ending—it’s hot powdered sugar spiked with rabies he’s sprinkling on them. The bees begin frothing at their tiny, rage-filled mouths.

“Angel” is the scent of powdered sugar, the inside of an aluminum orange soda can, patchouli, and raving rabid homicidal bee froth. It is the fragrance the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse would wear if the Four Horsemen were War, Pestilence, Death, and Tooth Decay. It is the scent of a terrible emergency, and no one should ever smell it.


Is there anything “right” you can say about perfume? “Angel” is one of the best-selling perfumes of all time.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Victor & Rolf “Flowerbomb” 0 (No Stars)

A Story of Two No-Stars in Two Parts: Part I
What’s in a name? And in a set of scent notes? Here’s theperfumedcourt.com’s write-up for “Flowerbomb:” “Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb eau de parfum features notes of bergamot, Sambac jasmine, orchid, freesia, and rose. Beautiful.” Sounds lovely.

What’s in a recommendation? The nice lady at the Chicago Bloomie’s perfume counter swoops in like a Navy Seal. I guess I had been spending too much time on my own, geeking out, looking over my notes, marking up scent strips, and trying things out.

“Are you just trying stuff at random?” a nasty salesman had asked me just a few minutes earlier.

“At random?” I said, genuinely offended, glowering at him, showing him my notebook.

“Because I see you have selected quite a few of the classics,” he backpedaled.

“That’s right,” I replied, turning my back to dismiss him in my very best Helen-Mirren-as-every-single-reigning-monarch-in-history impression.

Did I mention? Not a living soul in the entire perfume department other than five aimless salespeople lounging about and myself. I was wasting nobody’s time but my own.

(Some day I will write the 1,000 reasons I hate perfume counters. Reason #1: There is already such a cacophony of smells, I am overwhelmed before I even get started. I feel like a pampered couch dog dumped into a city pound when I get there. The result? A primal mix of bewilderment and terror. Reason #2: Unfriendly perfume salespeople. Reason #3: Friendly
perfume salespeople-- why will become clear in a minute.)

“I love this—have you tried this?” she’s asking me, whipping out a strip and spraying it with David Yurman’s no-name scent. Yum! Not here to smell that, but a nice unexpected recommendation. Note to self: Give “David Yurman” a full whirl.

A nice recommendation, yes, but now I have to interact and deal with her, and I am not here to do that. She is spritzing all over what I came to smell, and I am no longer in control of my experience. (See Reason #3.)

“This is the one,” she says, reaching for “Flowerbomb.” “This is the one I wear when I want to feel sexy.” She sprays the strip, waves it dry, and sticks it right up under her nose, inhaling deeply, and then offers it to mine. “Mmmmm.” “When I wear this, I always get all kinds of compliments.”
I want to smell just like this!!!
Why did she have to pick “Flowerbomb”? And why did I feel compelled to give her my honest assessment? Not just my opinion, which is that I hate everything about “Flowerbomb” from top to bottom—that I’m sure she would have understood and respected— everyone’s taste is different, she would know better than most. But no, I had to give the reason why I hate “Flowerbomb” so much, and I regret even as I am saying it: “All I smell when I smell that is bubble gum.”

In slow motion, I watch her eyes narrow. The effect of this comment is immediate and devastating. I am no longer the sole prospect for a sale this sleepy Monday afternoon. Now it is clear that I am unbalanced, untrustworthy, perhaps even slightly dangerous. I smell bubble gum when I should be smelling erotic floral explosions, and I am crazy enough to say it out loud so that other people can hear me.

Realizing my truly horrendous error, I can no longer conjure imperiousness to save me, and a few moments later, I gather up my sample strips and beat a hasty retreat. (Reason #4: Having to talk coherently with other human beings about perfume. Actually, now that I think about it, it’s not 1,000 reasons. Just those four, actually. And they are reason enough.)

---
My faux pas was as dire as if I sitting in a wine bar, the bartender was pouring me a glass of red, saying “this Cab Franc is plumy, full-bodied, with a touch of oak,” and I had said, “This tastes like beer.” I wasn’t taking the obvious cue from the name of the perfume and using it to describe my experience.

But it’s the truth! I do not care what the name is, and it makes no difference what the notes say. I smell cotton-candy bubble gum—horrible, horrible serial killer clown candy when I smell “Flowerbomb,” and I’m not going to claim otherwise to make it seem like I know what I’m talking about.

And this leads me to this question: Is there anything “right” you can say about perfume?

I used to think so, but the more I read about perfume, the way that people talk about it, the less I think I know. And the less I think we communicate real information.

What about scent notes? They can be extremely useful—how many times have I had that happy “aha!” moment when I read the name of the element that I’ve been trying to place in vain. And sometimes they do serve as a useful roadmap. I find myself “looking” (with my nose) for ingredients in the recipe. Much of the time, however, I just have to shrug: “Violet leaves? Nah. Don’t get that.”

But my biggest problem with scent notes is that I believe they are actually not there to impart truthful and useful information, but instead, to throw up bullshit commercial obfuscation. To tell us the pretty little lies that advertisers tell to make us buy things.

Let me put it this way. I happened to work for a few years at a large, fairly comprehensive nursery, so I feel blessed to have a scent memory for most common, domestically cultivated plants. And having spent time with the living things, I feel as though I know a little bit about the smells of different parts of the plants, buds and leaves, roots and stems, rather than just thinking about the most obvious showy parts.

Even with that modest but useful background, I have no clue when I read about “Tahitian Lily,” rather than the Turkish variety. Is it truly better? Or does it just sound better than “Central African Republic Lily,” which, for all anyone knows, may be the very most heavenly on earth? (Another thing—all these names and connotations—sadly, the language of perfume is freighted heavily by the history of race and imperialism—and that truly stinks.)

Then there is the game where these scent names imply wonderful, exotic ingredients, but what it is truly telling you is the commercial name the lab gave an artificial compound. (If I have to look up on the Internet to determine whether a certain thing even exists, then using it as a scent note is not telling me anything I need to know to understand how it smells.) All these fancy notes sound exotic and deluxe, but if they convey any true scent distinctions, it is only for the most highly-trained noses.

To Be Continued... Read Part II Here

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bella Bellissima “Perfect Night” **

Perfume is often characterized as having the power to allure or seduce. When you start reading about perfumes, there is a quality folks talk about, which is that a perfume is "naughty" or "dirty." Theperfumedcourt.com describes it thusly: "We refer to skank as the base in an otherwise beautiful perfume that gives it a bit of flirt. It may smell a little bit of skin or have a slightly musky smell that shows up after you put on the perfume and your body's natural warmth heats it up. It's not a bad thing at all!"

Naturally curious, naturally, I had to check this property out. A lot of perfume makes the claim to sexy muskiness. Theperfumedcourt.com’s review of Bella Bellissima’s “Perfect Night” says this: “This opens all incense and quickly unfolds into a sensuous and very, very naughty perfume.” I like naughty—naughty is good. Bring it on!

Out of the bottle, “Perfect Night” is about a 4 out of 10 saturation. Fresh pink grapefruit flesh wafts under my nose for the time it takes to dry on my elbow (and on paper), and is gone. Woody notes dominate for the first 5-10 minutes.

Then, I perceive “Perfect Night” clicking into a two-tier scent structure: a lovely but ethereal, almost retreating floral poof over the heat radiating from the fur of a wild, panting animal. The musk-and-incense base of PN is so smoky hot, it smells like the spent phosphorous and pine char of a freshly extinguished wooden match. It is a terrific smell, every bit as naughty as promised. PN most definitely reacts with skin chemistry-- on paper it has no heat at all.

My problem with PN is that pretty-princess top note—when I first smelled it, the image that popped into my mind was the little pink rose lingerie designers put on cheesy garters. A dainty signifier of feminine virtue that says “Oh, when the lights are out, I might do a few bad things, but don’t be fooled, I’m really a good girl.”

Nuts to that! When I want naughty, I want naughty—I want a perfume that distills the essence of whatever was in that Carl's Jr. burger that made Paris Hilton rut like a stoat and decide to take a bubble bath on top of a car in her Versace one-piece.

There’s a primal “wow” in this scent, but over the top of it is too “pretty to please.”

“Perfect Night” is one of those frustrating disappointments that has an element I truly love but isn’t fully actualized. (Another frustration—the scent breaks down to just the incense element after 45-60 minutes. No lasting power. Naughty wants to go all night!) The orgy of musky coals in this scent has set a standard that I will judge all future dirrrty scents by, but it gets me all fired up, then leaves me wanting more.

Monday, October 12, 2009

L'Artisan "Dzing!" **

I’ll let the “inspirational notes” explain the concept for Olivia Giacobetti’s “Dzing!” done for L'Artisan: it was designed to capture the experience of being at the circus. The musk and fur of the big cats. The leather of the whip. The sawdust. And a faint waft of sweetness from the concession stands. You have to at least try that, right?

Out of the bottle, it’s modestly concentrated. I smell leather, ginger, woods, grassy hay, and dust. On my skin after a few minutes, it flirts with burnt rubber, as a lot of masculines and musks do. It does manage to steer clear of car bomb territory, however, and for about 45 minutes, I can clearly smell all the conceptual elements (cat, leather, sawdust, caramel), starting from the bottom and moving on up, in four-part harmony. In drydown, it melts into a soft sandalwood, leather, vanilla bean, and caramel glow, with some trace masculine spices (cinnamon? allspice?) I did not notice before.

For all the fanfare of the concept, “Dzing!” is a tightly delimitated leather/musk, and I appreciate the fact that it doesn’t try to do anything else: it’s not “green,” not citrus, not incense, not sweet, certainly not “clean.” It never achieves transcendence on me, though, and so I can only give it a “weird but worth it” two stars. I should mention, however, that I put it on two lovely men at a dinner party. Half an hour later, it had died on one—I couldn’t smell it at all. On the other, he smelled so sexy I was ready to throw him down and do him right on the dinner table. (Not sure his husband would have appreciated that…) Hmmph. Chemistry.

Image Credit

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Tom Ford "Private Blend Noir de Noir" ***

The most happening 1/20th of a mile in San Francisco right now is 18th Street running from Guerrero to Dolores Park. It’s the closest thing to Williamsburg we have here in the City. On that one short block you’ve got Tartine, Delphina, Bi-Right Market, and now Bi-Right has opened an ice-cream parlor on the northeast corner of 18th and Dolores. Hipster kids lining up out the door all day and all night, hipster dogs, tied up outside, waiting to get to frolic off-leash at the park. Their top-selling flavor by far: salted caramel. The immediate up-front little-kid satisfaction of the burned sugar, followed by the very grown-up slap of the salt at the end. To die!

Grown-up sweet sensation—that’s the theme of Tom Ford’s “Private Blend Noir de Noir,” which I actually think should be named “Brun de Brun,” since everything in it smells like a happy brown thing to me.

Out of the bottle, moderately strong saturation. The scent notes call it a chypre—okay, fine, I won’t argue. But most chypres, in my experience, are about contrasting, almost warring smells—the citrus getting a rise out of the florals while the oakmoss ties them both to the ground. Instead, I immediately experience NdN as fully shaped and stable with no sharp edges—harmonious rather than atonal, a major rather than a minor chord: dark caramel, vanilla, roses, freshly-cut blond tobacco leaf, yummy woods, rum. If there’s a citrus in there, I don’t find it. And then, as promised, black truffles over the top, and a curlicue of saffron. After 45 minutes and for the next 4-5 hours, the gooey center of a vanilla-saffron rum ball.

Attention all aspiring confectioners! Translate this smell into a bonbon, open shop on 18th Street, and your success is assured! Actually, it is the sweetness that keeps this most excellent masculine from earning four stars from me. I am extremely fussy about smelling like food, especially fruity and sugary smells. But make no mistake, this is a scent to wear when you want someone to taste you. I’ve got another name for NdN: “Man Candy.”

List of Smells to Trade

Things to Trade


All of these are new(ish)-- bought in the last 4-5 months-- gently used and well-stored. Unless otherwise marked, they are all a few sniffs shy of 1 ml.


I'd like to treat the PerfumedCourt's prices as a *rough* blue-book guide so that it feels like it's an approximate dollar-for-dollar trade.


I like adventurous things, unusual things, things with silly names, or "pure" accords ("Oppotomax." "Civet." Both of which I have. But stuff like that.)


If you would like to trade, contact me at leftcoastnose at gmail dotcom.


~**~+**~++~**~+**~
AbdesSalaam Attar
"Gringo"
"Gypsy Queen"
"Persona"


Amouage
“Jubilation 25” (1/2 ml.) "Tribute Attar" (1/4 ml.)
“Al Shomukh Attar” (1/4 ml.)


Armani/Prive
"Ambre Soie"

Balenciaga
“Cialenga” (1/2 ml.)
“Le Dix” (1/2 ml.)
“Quadrille” (1/2 ml.)

Bella Bellissima
“Perfect Night”

Boadicea the Victorious
“Noble”

Bois 1920
"Sushi Imperiale"

Caron
“Yatagan”

Cartier
"XIII La Treizieme Heure" (1/2 ml.)

Clive Christian
“No. 1” (1/4 ml.)

Frapin
"1270"
"Passion Boisee"

Gucci
“Rush”

Hanae Mori

JAR
"Shadow" (1/4 ml.)

Kai

Keiko
“Hanae”
“Sanguine”

Kenzo
“Flower” (2.2 ml. spray)
“Amour” (2.2 ml. spray)
“Eau de Fleur de Soie” (2.2 ml. spray)

L'Artisan
"Fleur de Carotte" (2.5 ml. spray)
"Iris Padilla"
"Tea for Two"

Laura Tonatto
"Ambrosia"
L de Lolita
“Lempicka Parfum” (1/2/ ml.)

MDCI
"Enlevement au Serail" (1/2 ml.)
“Vepres Sicilienes” (1/2 ml.)

Michel Roudnitska
“Ellie D Parfum” (1/4 ml.)
“Ellie Nuit” (1/4 ml.)

Molinard
"Habanita EDT" (Modern Version)

Montgomery Taylor
“Ambra di Venezia”

Monyette
"Paris"

Paul & Joe
"Blanc"

Pilar & Lucy
"To Twirl All Girly"
"The Exact Friction of the Stars"
"Tiptoeing Through Chambers"

Sarah Jessica Parker
"Twilight"

Serge Lutens
"Ambre Sultan" (1.2 ml., spray bottle)

Solvohle
"Underworld" (1/4/ml.)

Strange Invisible Perfumes
"Fire and Cream"

Thierry Mugler
“Angel”

Versace
“Versace EDP”

Parfums DelRae “Amoureuse” ****


This is a story of one of the loveliest perfumes I have ever encountered in four parts: a first-time personal achievement, a miracle, a magical illusion, and a conflagration of coincidences. Another DelRae Roth and Michel Roudnitska collaboration, this scent was designed to capture the scent of the blooming Victorian Box trees that line so many of San Francisco’s streets.

(Note: Roth calls it “Victoria’s Box tree” on her website. I’ve also seen “Victoria Box” used. All of these are common names that refer to the Australian native PITTOSPORUM UNDULATUM. I’m going to call them “Victorian Box” trees, because I link the name in my mind to a style and an era—like the Victorian architecture that is rampant in San Francisco-- not to a queen.)

Part One: The scent notes provided for “Amoureuse” list the following components: “Tangerine, Cardamon/French Tuberose, French Jasmine, Tahitian Lily/Oakmoss, Sandalwood, Honey.” For the first time since I’ve begun paying close attention to what I’m smelling, I was honestly able to say that I could discern every one of those elements. (I can’t speak to how “French” or “Tahitian” anything is—I was using the flowers I’ve encountered at the florist as reference.) How many times have I read a list of ingredients and strained to pick up notes I never found. So it felt like a small triumph to be able to read and sniff down the line: “Tangerine--check! Cardamom—check! Tuberose, Jasmine, Lily- check, check, check!”

Part Two: The miracle of the scent itself. Out of the bottle, it’s 5 on a scale of 1 to 10 saturation. As I said, the elements roll out smoothly and in order as promised. Roth calls “Amoureuse” a “modern chypre.” I find the chypre genre challenging as a whole. A scent structure based on tension and contrasts is appealing to me—in theory. In practice, I don’t find oakmoss to be a compelling enough element to have a whole corner of the perfume universe devoted to it. Then, Roudnitska chose tuberose, the single most controversial note imaginable, as his basis to recreate the Victorian Box flower. (I’ve often walked the streets of San Francisco, enjoying their lovely fragrance, thinking about what those trees smell like. In my opinion, Victorian Box tree flowers sit squarely between gardenia and orange tree blossoms, with a hefty handful of fresh chamomile flowers and a sprinkle of earth thrown in.)

Tuberose and oakmoss—those are big, challenging, opinionated smells going at one another. But the results are a symphony. In wearing “Amoureuse,” I’ve recorded the following impressions: “sparkling pink tuberose and pale green cardamom bubbles;” “marvelous hot buttered Kettle Corn;” “the loveliest lightly-mulled chamomile tea and honey you ever tasted.” And finally, “the happy intersection where cinnamon meets champagne.”

Part Three: The illusion. “Amoureuse” has all these heavenly scent impressions flowing through it for about 45 minutes, and then, just like turning a radio dial
through random stations and finally landing on the one you want, there’s the Victorian Box flower, ringing clear as a bell. It’s almost eerie. (In the interest of complete honesty, I will say that there is always just one tiny bit too much tuberose to be a perfect match, as I smell it. I have a thing for tuberose, I freely admit—I’m just too sensitive to it. In my mind, I imagine taking an Emory board and filing off one tiny titch of the tuberose element to make it align with my impression of the Victorian Box flower.) But I’m picking nits. If you’ve never been to San Francisco, or don’t know the Victorian Box tree, this is a super spectacular simulacrum. The scent holds strong and long, for at least 4-5 hours on me.

Part Four: Coincidences. “Amoureuse” means “She who is in love,” and it was created to conjure the sweetness of the San Francisco street air. It happens that I am one that fell deeply in love while living in San Francisco. This last time, some years back in the early fall, it seems for good. And when I did, when I stepped outside, the air smelled like heaven to me—the smell of those blooming trees and falling in love will always be linked in my mind. (As I was trying out “Amoureuse” in the first week of October, I was walking along a street in the Russian Hill district, thick with mature Victorian Box trees. I was smelling my wrists, imagining and remembering. Suddenly I snapped erect—there it was! I looked up, and the first few blossoms were opening. ‘Twas the season.)

Part Four-and-a-Half: An avatar. This is now, and will remain for the foreseeable future, my touchstone chypre. It is hard to imagine another that will make me happier.

Milestones, miracles, magical illusions—isn’t this really a five-star perfume? I’ve wrestled with this, and perhaps, truly it is. It’s a head-heart call—I just can’t get past the fact that it’s a chypre, with tuberose, no less. Packing last minute for the desert isle where I’m going to spend the rest of my life, would I really reach for this, along with “Bois de Paradis” and “Unidentified Fragrance Object,” instead of “Coco”? That would be an excruciating call. Maybe in time it will prove indispensable. But for now, I don’t round up—only down. Four stars. The sweetest stars imaginable.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz “Prince” ?????

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has a rabid cult following, and she produces two main categories of scents: true types (her “Pamplemousse” smells like… grapefruit. Hey!) and abstracts. “Prince” falls into the second category.

Saturated at about 5 from 1 to 10 out of the bottle, I smell the tea rose, iris, narcissus, lavender, star anise, chamomile, and leather of the scent notes. (There’s a whole lot of other stuff in there that I don’t have the nose to pick up: tonka bean, tobacco, ambergris, cocoa, oppopanax, castoreum, tolu balsam, blah, blah, blah.) Ok, so far, so good. And for one shining moment, all those crazy elements swirl around for supremacy and it is just… giddy good. Magical sorcery smell. If Gandalf had a smoking hot younger witch sister, this is what she’d smell like.

And then….? Ten minutes later, every element snaps into line, and what’s left behind is what I can only call “absinthe ink.” As in fennel/star anise/herby/wormwood soaked in violet-black ink. On paper, the woods and spices stand up for themselves more and the ink is less pronounced, but I stand by my story. Deeply, deeply weird. Unsettled and unsettling.

Some smells I like to have around me, but I don’t want to wear them. Chandler Burr quotes a French perfumer in “The Perfect Scent”: “Ça sent bon, mais ce n’est pas un parfum.” That smells good, but it isn’t perfume. I feel that way about Fresh’s “Sake,” or Stella McCartney’s “Nude” for example. Those are “scents” to me. I don’t mean it as an insult—scented candles and aromatherapy can make me very happy. “Perfume,” in my book, has to interact with skin and be worn by a living, breathing human being. “Prince” fails on both of these scores.

I do not know what to make of this. I especially don’t know how to rate it. I give two stars to “weird but worth it” scents—scents that may have difficult stages, but eventually settle down to something marvelous. “Prince” produces such a short flash of brilliance—it’s like a firefly—you see it, then you keep looking in the same place in vain to catch it again. Instead, I’m left with a drydown that smells like Toulouse Lautrec’s despair. I don’t think I can give that two stars.

Many scents might behave just fine on someone else but blow up on me (I call these “car bomb” scents—the ones that go straight to burning plastic/rubber/metal.) These I just have to set aside because I have no way to rate them. Experiencing “Prince” on paper doesn’t give me confidence that its difficulty is a function of my individual chemistry. I suspect it would be odd on just about anybody.

It doesn’t belong in my no-star (“Yuk!”) category, like Gucci’s “Rush” or Thierry Mugler’s “Angel”, where I can’t even go near the unopened bottle, let alone contemplate it touching my skin.

And I save one-star ratings for two kinds of scents: ones I just don’t like, and ones that make me that make me go “Eh.” Either they make me say, “Not for me, don’t need to smell that again,” or, “Why bother? Where is the vision, the distinction, the passion?” So many scents on the market are watered-down, muddled derivatives of brilliant smells. A great perfume, the first time I encounter it, has that "Eureka!" property that makes me say “Yes! I know what you mean.” “Prince” has that: a point of view, emotion, even distinction. As truly confounding as I find it, I now have a scent memory that I know I will never forget. I also think I may not be able to live without it. I can see myself pulling it out from time to time to say “Does that still smell the way I though it did? Yeah… it does. Huh.”

That’s not a perfume. That’s not even a scent. What it is is a singular olfactory event. Five ????s (Out of ?????)

Parfums DelRae “Bois de Paradis” *****

You are in a cedar forest, five minutes before the sun rises under a glowing amber, rose, and fig sky. Dry, dusty needles under your feet. Standing right up under a tree, just as you snap off a branch to release the scent slap of the green wood, you bite into a fresh orange peel.

I did not know that I needed to know what this smelled like, but now that I do, I would travel to the ends of the earth to smell it again. Michel Roudnitska made it for DelRae Roth—how perfect that she’s a San Franciscan, and that this perfume was designed to capture her impressions walking in the woods in the Presidio. (I’m guessing about the Presidio part…)

This is my only five-star perfume so far. If I hadn’t experienced it, lots of others would be five-star in my book. (For the record, my list of known four-stars: SJP’s “Lovely,” “Coco” by Chanel, “B de Boucheron” by Boucheron, “Couture!” by Moschino, D&B’s “Light Blue,” Michael Kors “Michael Kors for Women,” Parfums DelRae’s “Amoureuse,” and Tom Ford’s “Black Orchid.” Jo Malone’s “Pomegranate Noir,” and L’Artisan’s “Bois Farine” are strong contenders but still on probation.) Four-stars are flawless at every stage, distinctive (have a strong point of view), stay smelling nice on me for hours, and are accessible enough to say even to someone who doesn’t like perfume, “Just try smelling a little of this one.”

But somehow, “Bois de Paradis” is just that much better. It deserves its own rank. Truly great works of art wrestle not with what is pleasing or easy—they grapple with conflict and extremes to produce arresting beauty. BdP marries two difficult elements: not the soft caress of a cedar chest, but the astringency of the fresh sap, with the oil, the skin, and the white flesh of a bitter green orange rind. (See scent notes here.) Like a ravishing passage of music that sticks in your mind and won’t let you go, I want to reconcile that cedar sap/citrus rind conundrum over and over and over again.

BdP is saturation is about 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. As I experience it, is highly stable—while the notes soften and blur on the skin and over time, even after 4-5 hours, I notice all the major notes in the same order and the same proportion as five minutes after I put it on.

I cannot...live...without it. BdP is a Tyger, burning bright, in the woods of paradise.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

LCN Glossary

Smell as a sense sometimes seems impervious to language. I’ve come up with terms that I use to describe certain scents or perfume attributes. I will do my best to link these terms in my blogs as I use them. Several other sites have nice, comprehensive glossaries for standard perfume terminology. Try nowsmellthis.com for a thorough list of terms; theperfumedcourt.com has a highly useful discussion on the meanings of various taxonomies, or breakdown of fragrance into families.

Big White Flower Syndrome (BWFS): A scent that has a whole bunch of sweet-smelling floral notes (especially rose, orange blossom, honeysuckle, and jasmine) that just wash together for me. Usually not a compliment.

Blow-up: When a scent that smells fine out of the bottle and on paper, but turns foul when it touches my skin.

Car Bomb: A scent that “blows-up” when it touches my skin and smells like burning rubber, burning plastic, and/or scorched metal.

Eureka!: A “where have you been all my life” quality when first encountering a new scent. A feeling of instant discovery, connection, and understanding.

Indole (or) Indolic: Refers to a chemical, present in human feces, rotting meat, and coal tar, that also, in low concentrations, is naturally present in many flowers, such as tuberose, gardenia, jasmine, orange blossom, freesia, lilies, etc. A challenging property that can be used both for good and for evil. (IMHO)

Kitchener: Refers to a scent that is so good, it knocks other scents out of the wearing. As in: "X is so good, I know I'll never reach for Y again." Y has been kitchened.

Perfume: (See “Scent”) While I can use this term rather loosely, at times I contrast it directly with the notion of “scent” (another loosey-goosey term.) Strictly defined, I use “perfume” to mean a “scent” that is designed to interact with the human body, rather than just sit on top of it. If you rub a lime rind on yourself, the lime oil is a scent, but it is not a perfume. All perfumes are scents; not all scents are perfumes.

Pretty Water: A scent that smells nice, but has no point of view. No story. If I can’t remember a scent 15 minutes after I smelled it, no matter how pleasant, it’s pretty water. Not a compliment.

Purple: Purple flowers are pretty self-explanatory: wisteria, snap-pea, lilac, violet leaves and violets. I also include the tea rose in this taxonomy, completely arbitrarily, I admit. I find purple floral notes to be challenging, because, on the one hand, they tend to be retiring and receding. On the other hand, pumped up to smell loud, they don’t blend well with other elements—they don’t “play well with others.” (IMHO)

Saturation: Similar to the accepted notion of sillage, but I use it more narrowly to connote the concentration of a scent as it goes through several stages: when it first comes out of a bottle; initially dries on the skin; is present on the skin after 45 minutes or so; after several hours. A scent can be quite saturated—and still only be smellable close up. Perhaps the best distinction is between “big” and “deep”—“sillage” is how big a sweet-smelling force-field a scent produces. (Only you can smell it? Someone who hugs you? The whole elevator? Everyone who uses the elevator for the next two hours?) “Saturation” is how “much” you smell when you get close and deeply inhale. (In my review of Apothia “If” I discuss the properties of a low-sillage, highly-saturated scent at length.)

Scent: (See Perfume) Something that smells. In the context of LCN, it’s usually something liquid that comes out of a bottle, and its sole stated purpose is to make people and/or things smell nicer. But it can also refer to smells in general, such as “coffee” or “geranium,” or “cat pee.”

Snap: Certain smells start out smelling like one thing and then—snap—smell like something else entirely. Some scents snap hard, like clove, pepper, and rosemary. Some snap softly, like cucumber and lavender.

White-whites: (See “Big White Flower Syndrome) The flower family that makes up the sweet floral backbone of many perfumes, specifically rose, orange blossom, jasmine, and honeysuckle.

Yellow: Completely arbitrary term I use to describe the slightly bitter smell of a whole family of floral smells, specifically iris/orris, carnation, daffodil/narcissus/jonquil, and peony. Oakmoss is not a floral note, but contains a strong yellow property. Two other ways to describe “yellow”—akin to the smell of celery leaves (or) smelling the way soap tastes. A very challenging property. (IMHO.)

0 (No stars out of *****)

Acqua di Parma "Iris Nobile" Smells like: Angry Garbage
Gucci "Rush"
Issey Miyake "L'Eau d'Issey" Smells like: Lemon-Scented Handwipes
Never To Busy To Be Beautiful "Lady Boy" Smells like: Banana + Seaweed + Violet= 'Nuff Said
Pilar & Lucy "To Twirl All Girly" Smells like: Watermelon/Coconut/Bubblegum Lip Gloss
Thierry Mugler "Angel" Smells like: Rabid Homicidal Bee Froth
Victor and Rolf "Flowerbomb" Smells like: Serial Killer Clown Candy


* (Out of *****)

"Ambra di Venezia" Smells like: Venetian Sunset Soap + Semifreddo
Amouage "Tribute Attar" Smells like: Heavenly Roses + Really Dead Cow
Balenciaga "Le Dix" Smells like: Ivory Dish Soap
Bois 1920 "Sushi Imperiale" Smells like: Soda Fountain
Bvlgari "Blv II" Smells like: Violet licorice candied orange peel underpants
CB I Hate Perfume "Memories of Kindness" Smells Like: Memories of Cannabis
Clean "Warm Cotton" Smells like: Necca Licorice Wafers
Diptyque "L'Eau de Tarocco"
Hermès "Kelly Caliche" Smells Like: Cheap Rose Cake Soap
Kai
Kenzo "Flower"
L'Artisan "La Chasse Aux Papillons Extreme" Smells like: Why Do You Need Your Butterfly Kisses EXTREME?
L'Artisan "Fleur de Carotte"

** (Out of *****)

AbdesSalaam Attar "Frankincense"
Bella Bellissima "Perfect Night" Smells like: An Early Night
Byredo "Baudelaire" Smells like: "Men with bodies vigorous and slender"
Caron "Tabac Blond"
CB I Hate Perfume "Tea Rose Water" Smells like: Tea + Rose= Grandma
Clive Christian "No. 1" Smells like: "Big White Flower Syndrome" X "Big White Powder Syndrome" X 10
Comme des Garcons "Odeur 71"
Juicy Couture "Juicy Couture" Smells like: Teen Spirit
Kiehl's "Original Musk Oil" Smells like: Honeycomb
L'Artisan "Dzing!" Smells like: Big Cats in Leather Spats
Marc Jacobs "Daisy"
Marc Jacobs "Marc Jacobs"
Narciso Rodriguez "For Her"
Parfums DelRae "Début"
Tom Ford "White Patchouli" Smells like: There's No There There
Versace "Versace EDP" Smells like: Trophy Wife
Yosh "U4EAAH" Smells like: 45 Minute Spa Experience

*** (Out of *****)

Abdul Samad Al Qurashi "Water Lily Oil"
Apothia "If"
Balenciaga "La Fuite des Heures" Smells like: Dry and Tidy Barn
"Brooklyn Bunny Lettuce"
CB I Hate Perfume "Black March Water" Smells like: Happy dirt
CB I Hate Perfume "Wild Hunt"
Chanel "Cuir de Russie"
David Yurman "David Yurman" Smells like: Champagne, then Sadness
Diptyque "Philosykos" Smells like: Fig + Cedar + Salt Air
Guerlain "Rose Barbare"
Hermès “Eau d’Hermès” Smells like: Pepper Sauce and Private Parts
Jo Malone "Red Roses"
Juliette has a Gun "Midnight Oud" Smells like: Pistol-packing lipstick lesbian femme power
L'Artisan "Tubereuse" Smells like: Tropical Flan
Miller et Bertaux "A Quiet Morning" Smells Like: Sunrise on the Ganges
Ormonde Jayne "Ormonde Woman" Smells like: Tree on Fire
Penhaligon "Lily & Spice"
People of the Labyrinths "Luctor et Emergo" Smells like: Play Doh + Almond + Cherry Chapstick
Robert Piguet "Bandit" (Vintage Formulation) Smells like: Scent Track to "Les Fleurs du Mal"
Tom Ford "Private Blend Amber Absolute" Smells like: Not giving a damn
Yosh "Ginger Ciao" Smells like: Best Summer Vacation Ever

**** (Out of *****)

Amouage "Lyric"
Amouage "Reflection" Smells like: Prima Ballerina
Michael Kors "Michael Kors For Women"
Dolce & Gabbana "Light Blue"
Tom Ford "Black Orchid" Smells like: Dérangement
Tom Ford "Private Blend Amber Absolute" Smells like: Absolute Bad-Ass
Boucheron "B de Boucheron"
Chanel "Coco"
Parfums DelRae "Amoureuse" Smells like: Streets of San Francisco
Sarah Jessica Parker "Lovely" Smells like: Clean Glowy Girl

***** (Out of *****)

Frapin "Caravelle Épicée" Smells like: Sexy Pirate
Parfums DelRae "Bois de Paradis"
Kenzo "Unidentified Fragrance Object" Smells like: Vanilla + Frankincense= Heaven

About LeftCoastNose

About LeftCoastNose: LeftCoastNose is a personal journey through the experience of discovering new scents, with ruminations on the nature of sensibilities along the way. LCN seeks to entertain, inform, and enliven the online conversation about perfume.

About Rita Long, amateur perfume reviewer; LCN author and editrix: I’m a 41-year-old San Franciscan, living with my husband and our gay dog, Rocky. I’ve got no formal training in taste-making or the arts, and I make no claim to having above-average olfactory sensitivities—just a come-lately perfume crush and a raft of opinions. You will notice, from time to time, however, that my life-long interest in social justice will come shining through in discussions on the beauty and luxury industries (See LCN’s Manifesto below.)

Why the name “LeftCoastNose”? I’ve lived for spells in New York City, the Southwest, Buenos Aires, and Chicago, but I am a Bay Arean at heart. LCN is an exploration of finding the things that I like to smell, while asking the question “Why?” along the way.

Why the star ratings? I got interested in perfume through reading Chandler Burr, the perfume critic for the New York Times, and author of “The Emperor of Scent” and “The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York.” It was how he talked about the scents that he favored that got me started on this whole quest. In his perfume reviews, he uses a zero-to-five-star rating system. Naturally, I wanted to try first what he liked best, so I hunted down samples of his four- and five-star scents. As I developed my own opinions, I started to rate the scents myself as one way to think about them. I stole his zero-to-five-star ratings shamelessly, and without thinking much about it at the time. I have given it considerable thought since, however, as I started this blog, as you can read about HERE.

Does “LeftCoastNose” sell any posts or links? Do you receive any incentives, material or financial, for reviews? No, and no. “LeftCoastNose” is solely a forum for my opinion, and my opinions are not for sale. At this time, LCN is ad-free. If and/or when that changes, I will state my advertising relationships and policies clearly.

Do you write negative reviews? Yes, but unless something is truly awful, I don’t usually bother. It’s what I like that gets the creative juices flowing. Something that leaves me flat is hard to write about. Part of the goal of LCN is to steer folks in the direction of things I think smell good. And, as I was taught as a child, if you don’t have anything nice to say….

Copyright and permission: All original written content, as well as photos taken by me are copyrighted © 2009 Rita Long/LeftCoastNose.com, all rights reserved. All LCN content is protected by applicable copyright laws, prohibiting the use of any of its content for any commercial purpose, without express written consent. I welcome all non-commercial links. However, if you quote me, please credit me!

LeftCoastNose photo credit and written content citation policy: The Internet is frequently talked about as the lawless New Frontier. Honey, I don’t care where you are—Karma—she is everywhere. LCN only uses photos found on the Web that are expressly shared and are used with the intent to entertain and inform. LCN is dedicated to giving full photo credit whenever possible. (I keep a running list of photo credits, such as I am able, along with semi-snarky commentary on the images I use HERE.) It is LeftCoastNose.com’s policy to cite other writers when they are quoted on LCN, along with links to websites LCN deems appropriate and/or useful.

LeftCoastNose commentary policy: LeftCoastNose welcomes comments, opinions, and lively debate. LCN operates under a Golden Rule policy: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Please be civil. LCN will not tolerate any language or discussion deemed to denigrate others due to their race, religion, age, nationality, gender, or sexual orientation. Requests to link to personal blogs and websites within personal comments are fine; however, the use of LCN for commercial or advertising purposes is expressly forbidden.

LeftCoastNose privacy policy: LCN is committed to keeping all personal information obtained through comments private. LCN does not share any personal information (i.e. email addresses) with third parties. Subscriptions lists are managed through Blogger.com, and subscriber identities or any other personal information are not revealed to LCN.

LeftCoastNose Manifesto: The LeftCoastNose was created to chronicle my journey through the vast and multi-faceted world of perfume. I keep this blog to record my experiences along the way.

There is an ocean of scent out there, and it can be overwhelming and expensive to explore it. Other people’s writings have been terrific guideposts for me, steering me to things I might never have encountered otherwise, and enriching me with their impressions and opinions. I hope to be a constructive voice in the on-going conversation about scent.

I promise to always give my honest, straightforward opinion about what I smell.

However, I believe that in our culture, connotations of beauty, luxury, sexuality, and excellence-- all fine reasons to be interested in perfume-- are heavily freighted with casual, breezy, but utterly ugly notions of race, class, age, gender, and sexual orientation. (Oh yes, you read me right—I’m that chick.) I don’t believe that these connotations are poisonous enough to make perfume not worth wearing (I’m not the Birkenstocks-and-hairy-legs chick, although I went through that phase), but, as you read, you will notice me calling this out from time to time.

I believe the beauty and luxury industries, just like any other facet of modern life, needs to be tweaked, queered, questioned, called out, made fun of, and whatever else it takes to break down the destructive disparities our culture perpetuates due to accidents of birth and accumulations of privilege. Perfume, in the grand scheme of things, may be frivolous, but the effect of how we talk about it isn’t.

Running Credits & Commentary on LCN Images

This credit & commentary section runs from newest posts to oldest, and is continually being updated.

Never To Busy To Be Beautiful "Lady Boy" (3/11/10): All three of these images were copied from a book of National Geographic pictures and sent to me. The first one is entitled "Transvestite," the subject is Thai, and the photographer was Jodi Cobb, taken in 1996. The second was taken by Adam Warwick and is of a young Ainu woman in 1922. My friend shares this helpful tidbit: Ainu women were tattooed with mustaches, although the practice was banned in 1871, the Ainu rejected this prohibition. The last woman bearing these traditional markings died in 1998. Read much more here. The final image was taken by William von Gloeden of a young Sicilian lad some time in the 1920s.

Frapin "Caravelle Epicee" (3/8/10): Big problem for this posting: which of the multitudes of beautiful images of Juanito to post? Most are taken from his various movies, natch. The moody one of him in a hat found here. The, uh, not moody one of him shirtless (oh, my!!) found here.

Check out her website for many more fantastic images:

Jared Leto in mascara image found here. Drag king photo found here. The final photo was taken by Catherine Opie. (Strangely enough, she doesn't seem to have own website- here's the link to her faculty page at UCLA.)

Bvlgari "Blv II" (2/25/10): First picture of hair pulling found here, the second, here, the third here. The pix of the hair on fire is super cool-- It's by Jayan Saputra, and I found it here.

Michael Kors "For Women" (2/15/10): Elizabeth Taylor as Martha found here, and as Maggie, here. Catherine Deneuve in Belle De Jour here, and Helmut Newton took the other shot. I found it here. May I just say right now, I am not now and have never been a fan of blondes, but Ms. Deneuve is just so smokin' hot, there ought to be a law. Or an international treaty. Something. Her hotness is a matter of national security. Man!

Tom Ford "White Patchouli" (2/1/10): The pix of Queen Badu can be found everywhere. If you don't remember her, maybe her hair done up in her trademark headwrap will spark your memory. But never fear-- she doesn't need hair to be fierce:
Wow.
Technicolor dream swirl found at MergingSpirit.com. Patchouli found here. The LCN WIKY To "Have More Interesting Looking Models" Award image is from an old United Colors of Benniton's ad, natch. I mean, say what you will about UCoB, and believe me, I will, at least there are some truly original faces in their ads.

The bun-buffing car wash I found here. Tom and his mirthless band of tan, platinum blond enforcer robots seem to be running their own corrections facility somewhere in Tom's fevered imagination, as witnessed here:

Both Ends of a Carrot... (1/28/10): Our lovely Ferry Building at night-- I found the photo here. The day interior, here. I took the pix of the bunch of red carrots. The other groovy multi-color carrot pix I got here. The image of the beautiful flask I got from the Abdul Samad Al Qurashi website, and the other two images from the Brooklyn Bunny website. (I have to say, all snark aside, transmissions of Roebling are remarkably soothing.)

This posting came together organically (pardon the pun...) Had I to do all over again I might well have framed this posting in terms of what Scotty the Blue Bunny might like to smell. I never saw him perform when I was living in Brooklyn (sadly), but I have a feeling he would be just my cup of tea...

Apothia "If" (1/25/10): I can't be 100% positive, but I believe all of the Mad Men pix are stills from the official website, several times removed, of course. The painting is "The Italian Woman" ("L'Italiana") by Picasso.

House of Balenciaga (1/14/10): I couldn't trace back any of the older images to their original sources-- I got them all from secondary sources, found here, here, here, and here. There *may* be some confusion on my part-- the second pix might be a Dior...? Um... I don't really care. I just want to BE her. I apologize-- the pix of the cone dress, I found it fair and square several months ago. Now due to the shifting sands of the interwebs, the link is dead. Sorry. Portrait of Mister Himself found here.

If you didn't know about it, there's a crazy online rivalry between Ginger and Mary Ann-- whom you "choose" is supposed to say something deep about you. I guess it's like the whole Angelina/Jennifer thing of today. I find the whole thing worthy of the time it takes me to wait in line at the check-out counter. If you're actually bringing that stuff home with you and dwelling on it...? Try doing some volunteer work.

Modern Balenciaga spread with Jennifer found here; Lucy here.

Robert Piguet "Bandit" (1/11/10): Unbroken "Bandit" bottle ad found at Fragrantica.com; broken one at the PerfumeShrine. "Well of Loneliness" cover found here. The last image is a drawing entitled "The Lotus Eaters" by ChangeWeaver and I found it here.

Parfums DelRae "Debut" (1/7/10): Yellow carnation; lily of the valley; jasmine; wisteria; lilac. The sublime Ms. Leontyne Price. I did not attend the wedding pictured here, but it was just so adorable, I couldn't resist. (Although it's tagged "dsjphoto.com," I found it at http://forums.canadianbride.com/Topic389137-27-1.aspx.) Those old "Charlie" ads just take me all the way back...

Miller et Bertaux "A Quiet Morning" (1/4/10): The first two images are from Jasmine's art installation that can be found at www.jasminevalandani.com. The other two of men praying the Ganges were found here at www.ariana-hariom.blogspot.com and at www.maryellenmark.com.

CB I Hate Perfume "Black March Water" (12/21/09): Lead image is from an Hermès ad--lovely, neh? The copy in English is: "Winter-- at last!!" Almost beautiful enough to make me believe...
CB photo found here from a hip little boutique up in Portland Oregon named LeTrainBleu. Check out their website-it looks kinda fabulous! Dirt found here. Crocus found on SillyWizard's MySpace page here.

Lead image taken from Beyoncé's album, of course. May I just use this opportunity to put up a completely gratuitous necessary shot of Ms. B.





Image of Antony found here. I think I'll take the opportunity to put up an equally necessary image of her. Image found here, and it looks like you can download the MP3 of her "Crazy in Love" cover there, too.


Silly Juicy Couture ad art can be found just about anywhere, but in my search, I think I found the thing that incapsulated everything I hate about JC all in one place: It's the "Juicy Couture Barbie Gift Set," retailing for $99, and crafted on the images of the "celebrity founders," Pamela and Gela. Those b*tches have their own Barbies now. Kill me.

David Yurman (12/14/09): Most of these images were stills taken directly from the AMC website or from their promo campaigns. The one photo that is not like the others is the image of actress January Jones, of course, her hair all frazzled, kissing a green sucker. It was the very last image I found for this piece-- I wasn't even looking for it-- it just landed in my lap-- I swear!! What I might have done if she was kissing a cherry sucker, I just can't say. I found it here.

And, having spent wasted several way too many hours trolling for Mad Men images, I can tell you that the bulk of the send-up stuff really isn't that smart or funny. That show is screaming out for excellent satire. I did like this one, though, found here:
Clive Christian "No.1" (12/10/09): I love the lead image, which was sent to me by my dear friend, Jasmine, and is a poster for an avant-garde art show in Mexico City. Scent-free zone poster found here. So, I love Camryn Mannheim-- I don't care who knows it. Runway diva-- yeah!!

And did y'all catch the Calvin Klein Ralph Lauren scandal where this attractive young lady pictured here got airbrushed into some crazed anorexic's wet-dream oblivion so that her SKULL IS WIDER THAN HER PELVIS!!!!
Then, when Firedoglake.com called them out for it, RL
1) tried to intimidate FDL into taking the image down (FDL's response-- Suck it, RL-- we're hosted in Canada. Pow!!)
2) fired the lovely Ms. Hamilton for being "too fat."

Ralph, congratulations- you have inspired a new LCN Award. I have, on several occasions, handed out the LCN Burger award to designers that use models that are too skinny. You used a lovely young woman who looked healthy and beautiful and carved her into a freak. You are now the proud recipient of the first-time-ever (pray to god let it be the last) LCN "Ralph Lauren: Take This Burger and Shove It Up Your *ss" Award. Bon appétit.

Perfume for the "Special People" in your life (12/3/09): Lead image is an ad for Seekingarrangement.com found here. Have I mentioned lately that every morning I wake up and kiss the ground because Bing is in the world? Image of cruel Mistress Anna found here. Massage image found here. City by the Bay Heart image found here.

Presents for People who HATE Perfume: (11/30/09): Lead image found here. Mr. Brosius's image found here. Ms. Wintour's image found here. Mr. Hulot's Vacation poster found here. Dandelion here. "I Hate Chanel No. 5" lifted from perfumeheretic.zarathud.org. With a rant worth reading, BTW... Stop sign found here.

Presents for People who like Perfume (11/27/09): Most everything this time is taken directly from fashion ads. The crops of Xmas bling were taken by Coppi Barbieri, and featured in last year's NYT Style Magazine. Baudelaire graphic credited to here. Person holding hir nose found here.

Hermès “Eau d’Hermès” (11/23/09): Lead image found here. Second image of Justin found here. Image of pepper-- if you haven't seen this website yet, do yourself a favor. Nature is filled with so many wondrous things!!! And as for that Time Out poll that listed JB as the sexiest person in NYC? Check that out too. (Not safe for viewing at work.)

CB I Hate Perfume "Musk Reinvention Absolute" (11/19/09): I got the two bottle images from their respective websites. The Brokeback boys I got from here. (I could watch the first hour of that movie on a continuous loop for the rest of my life.) Lots of sophomoric spoof of "Brokeback" on the Interwebs, but I'm rather fond of the notion of Brokeback Sims.

According to wikipedia, in the movie “Daria,” Jane says, in reference to Warhol's movie "Sleep": “Andy Warhol filmed eight hours of a guy sleeping, and people thought it was brilliant.” Daria replies, “These people felt different after they got into twelve-step programs.”

I got the still from "Bl*wj*b" here. If you haven't checked out the 16-second version, here's another chance-- you really must try.

CB I Hate Perfume "Musk Reinvention Absolute" (11/16/09): Lead image: From Andy Warhol's movie "Sleep" found here. First male nude found here. Second: A Horst P. Horst portrait, naturellement, found here.

"Ambra di Venzia" (11/12/09): Lead image found here. Glass-blowing image found here. Sunset found here.

Tom Ford "Black Orchid" (11/10/09): Lead image: Here. Champagne pedi, here. Menage, here.

Trying to put together an assemblage of images of partying for a Tom Ford perfume-- there was an embarrassment of riches to chose from. One of the very many things I love about Tom Ford is how spoof-ready he is. Here's a good one: I got it from here.
As for Sister Sharon Stone, you know, surprisingly, considering the saturation of that scene from "Basic Instinct" in the collective memory, there aren't any truly good shots of it on the Internets machine. Again, lots of sophmoric spoofs, and LOTS of murky pix obviously shot by photographing a video freeze-frame of what can be seen of her uncrossing her legs. Perhaps the best tribute to the importance of that scene is another image from the same movie-- the reaction shot found here:
Amouage "Reflection" (11/5/09): The lead image is the chorus of the Moscow Ballet company. Maria Tallchief was so beautiful and fascinating. You can read more about her here. I found the image of her as the Swan in Swan Lake here. And finally, the shuffleboard image I found here. Just a side-note: I never knew this-- I thought that shuffleboard was a relaxing, laid-back retired gentle-person's dalliance. No. Way. Those seniors are serious about their shuffleboard, and if you cross them, they will cut you. Don't believe me? Check out their raft of terms and rules here.

Parfums DelRae "Mythique" (11/2/09): Diane de Poitiers caused quite the stir in her day, I gather. Her ability to keep Henry II happy gave her influence that often even eclipsed the queen. The painters of the day seemed fascinated by her, too. We have a hefty handful of nude portraits of her-- I guess she sat starkers for about anyone. (Just bing her-- you'll see what I mean.)
I feel like she deserves a posthumous LCN Tom Ford "Treating the World Like It Was Made For Grown-ups" Award, oh you wicked French royal mistress, you! (Actually, it seems to me Tom's award ought to be named after her, since she was so far ahead of her time. But I fear no one will get the reference.)
White shirt found here.

Diane de Poitiers is still looming large in the public consciousness, I gather, from the most excellent send-up I just found here. Diane, your mad sex appeal continues to expand through time AND space!!



Satellite "Padparadscha" (10/28/09): It wasn't my intention that this post would be so color-
coordinated, but I'm thrilled that it turned out that way. The lead image is a yantra, a Tantric diagram of the divine. I found it here. The image of Shakti I found here.

The image of Maude just makes me ever-so happy. I found it here. There was a Harold, too. The set is sold, but we have a picture of what the two of them look like together.


Ormonde Jayne "Ormonde Woman" (10/25/09): Wet leaves: by David Hornsby. Tree rings: here. Fire: here. Violets: here. Autumnal tree: here.

Thierry Mugler "Angel" (10/21/09):
Lead image: "I hope I can find self-love in this bottle."

The "Hazard" signs are from a website dedicated to extolling the dangers of "Angel." (See here.) So I'm not the only one who feels the way I do about the stuff.

I wrote about Brothers Victor & Rolf first, so they got the WIKY To? award named after them for silly clothing. But Mugler could have easily gotten there first.

Both V&R and Mugler make so much coin bottling Satan's mouthwash and calling it perfume that neither needs to make clothes that human beings wear. So you can just IMAGINE how happy I was to find this:

Congratulations, Thierry! You turned a LCN Victor & Rolf WIKY To? award for Insultingly Unwearable Clothing for Women award into a new award we'll name after you: the LCN Thierry Mugler Equal Opportunity Award for Designing Clothing that Neither Sex Any Human Can Sit Down In. Yay for you!!

To celebrate, I am going to post this Thierry Mugler number from 10 years ago, apropos of nothing, but because I think it's hot:

Victor & Rolf "Flowerbomb" (10/17/09):
I love the lead image. I love the spoof of it even more. You can actually own it-- I found here. It's by an artist named Gil Gonzalez, and all clues point to the prospect that he's a starving Brooklyn artist hipster. Didn't run across him while I lived there...

And those hideous hell flowers? Part of the legit V&R "Flowerbomb" campaign. So there IS some truth in advertising after all...

V&R definitely require a LCN WIKY To? ("Would It Kill You To?") award. Here are a couple of guys who take it upon themselves to dress like this:




Then, they have the audacity to dress their models up like this:
For this, they earn the first-ever LCN Victor & Rolf WIKY To? award, as in Would It Kill You To Make Clothes That Actual Human Women Would Actually Wear? award.
Your alien clone moms would be so proud...

Bella Bellissima "Perfect Night" (10/14/09): This was fun on so many levels. First off, not that I actually saw this ad run on t.v.-- I only heard about the hype surrounding it and then saw it online like 200 million other people.

When I wrote this piece, I thought it was a Burger King Whopper that had Ms. Hilton taking a bubble bath on top of a Bentley, and the truly hilarious thing is, that's what lots of other people remembered as well!! Search "Paris Hilton burger car" or any other comparable key words, and you get to dozens of websites that let you believe she was doing a Burger King ad. Nice going, Carl's Jr.!! There has to be an advertising term for a campaign that so effectively saturates the public's consciousness, but doesn't....quite....bring your brand name along with it.

Next up, time for awards! Paris, you and the whole team at Carl's Jr. clearly deserve a Tom Ford "Making the World a Teensey Bit More R-Rated Everyday" award-- never stop!

Finally, normally this would be the time to award an LCN "Burger" award to you, Paris, because, well, you're too skinny. But the beautiful thing it, you already appear in this ad... eating a burger!! You mock your own way-too-skinny body image, along with your bad-girl image, by eating something on t.v. that you clearly never eat-- to sell something you would clearly never buy. It's, like, meta!!

Paris, I misunderestimated you. For your work in the Carl's Jr. "The Combination of Car Washes and Burgers Make Me Lose All Control!!!!" campaign, I award you the first-ever LCN "Paris Hilton Self-Referential Parody in Advertising" award.

Eat up, P. You've earned it.


L'Artisan "Dzing!" (10/12/09): Glam shot of Ms. Giacobetti I found at http://feelgoodstyle.com/files/2009/03/picture-4.png. Her website isn't up yet ("Bientôt" it says-- "Soon.")
This is what I really wanted to use, but I thought better of it:

Thank you, PETA, for a silly visual reference to S&M-lite to protest the maltreatment of circus animals! You win a LCN "Tom Ford" award for treating the world like it's made by and for adults.



Parfums DelRae "Amoureuse" (10/11/09): I took this lead photo several years ago-- to be honest, I can't tell if those are Victorian Box trees in front of the Seven Sisters, or boxwood trees. Oops! They look a lot alike! Fortunately, the good people at the Friends of the Urban Forest have a more authentic (if less aesthetically pleasing) pix here. I got the close-up from here.

Tom Ford "Private Blend Noir de Noir" (10/11/09): Let me start by saying that I wrote this review before I found the image to go along with it. When I put the two together, a bunch of the things I wrote now had more than one meaning. Ha!

This particular image was deemed too hot for print and bus ads-- Imagine! However, it is rather tame by the standards set for the campaign as a whole. (See here and here. Also, there's a female-equivalent of this ad that did make the mainstream ad buys-- Boy, if you ever needed proof that there's a double standard in this world... check it out here. Warning-- unsafe at work at any speed.) This, of course, makes everyone run home and checkout the ads on the Internets machine. Tom Ford, Naughty Media Genius!

Word is, he did his own ass work for this shoot. For that, and for all the rest of the campaign, I am naming an award after him, the "Tom Ford Treating Other Adults Like Adults Award," honoring ad campaigns that stubbornly refuse to treat the whole world like it's a fourth-grade class room. Bravo!


Tom is also the first-ever awardee of the the "It's OK to be Gay" award, given to excellence in queering the world, one fashion image at a time.

However, Tom, you don't get off that easy. I'll devote more to your ad work at another time, but you also are the recipient of two LCN "WIKY To?"
awards ("Would It Kill You To?")

As in, WIKY To... have more interesting looking models? All the women look exactly the same-- cookie-cutter cut outs. Boo!

And WIKY TO... offer them some food? I notice all your male models look fully fed. You get a LCN "Buy the Models a Burger" award, and you don't want that. Try harder next time, Tom.



Dawn Spencer Hurlitz "Prince" (10/11/09): Close-up from Toulouse-Lautrec's "At the Moulin Rouge; Art Institute of Chicago.

Parfums DelRae "Bois de Paradis" (10/11/09): From Flickr http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3317/3506837488_78e8f28539.jpg

People of the Labyrinths "Luctor et Emergo" (10/6/09): Lead image: Cy Twombly's untitled 1961 masterpiece. I could look at it all day. And doesn't it make you think of almonds and cherries? Cherry Chapstick image: Not sure if this was a real Chapstick ad, or just a riff from the Kate Perry song "I kissed a girl." Either way, this is a much better shot. Bottom image: If this story is to be believed, a woman in France (an artist herself) was so overtaken by this Twombly, that she kissed it, leaving behind the lipstick print. Upon leaving the police station, she said "This red stain is a testimony to this moment, to the power of art." I think it adds quite a bit, neh?

Parfums DelRae "Eau Illuminee" (9/29/09): I used a shot from the iconic 1993 Vanity Fair spread, obviously. Herb Ritts was the photographer.

Parfums DelRae "Emotionnelle" (9/29/09): I cribbed this from a website devoted to the "art of Thai melon carving." Who knew? This stuff is fabulous-- you should check it out!

Versace "Versace EDP" (9/27/09): Michelle Damon, wife of Johnny Damon. I won't go into how I found this image, but it can be traced back to http://www.hogwild.net/Rants/hottest-sports-wives-pictures-kobe-bryant.htm.

Sarah Jessica Parker "Lovely" (9/27/09): First let me say, I do love SJP. And I know that images on the Internets shouldn't be copied without credits. But I'm giving free advertising to the SJP empire-- I think I've done enough. (BTW @ SJP-- Fashion IS a luxury. Wake up.) Finally, I came this close to not putting any images of Herself up at all, but a pix of a big, juicy burger. Honey, you need to eat.