…Who would you be? And as ever please do join us in this fantasy and write in with your own suggestions. Certain fragrances have such definitive personalities of their own that one can instinctively assign a celebrity to them. It is immaterial whether the perfume is contemporary with that person: one just mentally pairs the scent and the individual. For instance, think of Malle‘s Une Rose: who could that be but a portrait of Ingrid Bergman? The luminous beauty, the integrity, the apparent innocence hiding a deep woody earthiness and sensuality. Pure and radiant; but disconcerting and unpredictably erotic.
Then two legendary blondes: when I smell Coudray’s Musc and Freesia and Pierre Guillaume‘s Brulure de Rose I hear the whispery throaty voice of Marilyn Monroe: the early Marilyn of the 1950’s, in a dusky pink angora sweater and black pencil skirt. Sweet, coquettish, effortlessly feminine fragrances that are playfully sexy,kittenishly soft and exquisitely fragile, while their musky bases hint at something a little darker and troublante.
Diana Dors has to be Isabey‘s Fleurs Nocturne: a bewitching bouquet of white animalic hothouse flowers, creamy and slightly fruity with notes of peach flowers and peachy skin…accords of narcotic night-blooming flowers exuding golden nectar and fatal attraction. Opulent, fleshy, exuberant but still retaining a certain innocence and candour.
In the male line-up I thought of Casanova and the trail of ruined maidens and broken hearts he left across 18th century Europe, and so impulsively assigned the rather obvious Secretions Magnifiques, that bizarre and notorious blend of bedroom bodily smells and effluvia. But on thinking it over, I find Heeley‘s Iris de Nuit infinitely more appropriate: mauve + sweet, powdery and faintly sinister, highly intellectual (remember Casanova’s memoirs and his ending up in that terrible library) and snakily seductive. A sexy enigma with a massive amount of panache and elegance. Secretions is a sketch of a far creepier character: maybe Hitler (who loathed scent) with his notoriously impenetrable but reputedly lurid sex life? Or the supremely decadent 19th century writer Huysmans who explores a jaded mind and exhausted senses in his novel “A rebours” : the chapter on perfume experiments is especially fascinating, and the book is readily available in an English translation.
All this whimsy leads to more serious speculation about the way a perfumer creates a bespoke scent for a client, especially if he is painting a portrait of that person in scent. Without knowing the exact circumstances of its birth, Creed‘s Fleurissimo has always had close associations with Grace Kelly and it flawlessly reflects her image: cool, gracious, chic, glowing, poised and immaculate. A work of art to be sure; but, I wonder, who decides whether to capture the public persona or the (often more interesting ) private? For instance, would a perfumer creating for Garbo have evoked the unapproachable goddess of the screen; or the sporty peasant Swede who played with toy trolls and whose favourite topic of conversation was grocery bills? I think we shall return to this theme on another occasion.
Image from newsxu.com