Friday, May 4, 2018

Battling the Bodily Stench or Embracing the Feral and the Ripe?

Battling bad smells has been a millenia-long battle for humanity. Fighting body odor specifically has been a battle against our very own human make-up. With the exception of those carrying the gene ABCC11 (which makes for no armpit smell), common amongst the populations of the Far East,  the vast majority of us of European, African, Central Asian and Native American descent have the sort of apocrine glands in the armpit and groin which secrete a sort of sweaty liquid that when mixed with surface bacteria develops body odor. The ecrine glands, situated throughout the body, secrete just water and salt.



The quest for deodorisation brings us to the American contradiction of a malodorous past coupled with an almost sterilized present. The pioneer settlers, coming from Europe driven out for their strict Puritan religious beliefs or our sheer need for greener pastures and personal growth were not accustomed to washing up too much. Popular westerns, films chronicling the adventures of the Wild West, have long exploited this very notion, having the lone cowboy bust into the odd saloon and demand a cigar and bath in the back quarters after months of herding cattle all alone in the wilderness.


The very interesting thing however is not the invention of deodorant (and anti-perspirant, which debuted in the early 20th century based on aluminum chloride first marketed under the suggestive name Everdry) but the power of marketing. Women, American women in particular, were especially targeted in typically sexist campaigns which implied that their natural odor was repulsive to heterosexual men, therefore they had to rely on a deodorant or anti-perspirant in order to land the man of their dreams. An advertisement from the Walter Thomson Archives, at the Duke University, proclaims in the very title "Within the Curve of a Woman's Arm. A frank discussion of a subject too often avoided." Including lines asking "Would you be absolutely sure of your daintiness?" and "Does excessive perspiration ruin your prettiest dresses?" The agressive campaigns by the Odorono Company, giving their address as Ruth Miller, The Odorono Co., 719 Blair Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio, promised the "so simple, so easy, so sure" solution for that "problem", imaginary or real.

Please read the entirety of my article on Fragrantica.

Guerlain Meteorites Le Parfum re-issue (2018): fragrance review & comparison with vintage

Tempus fugit and with it tastes change. This is the contemplative conclusion I arrive to from comparing my vintage, original Guerlain Météorites Eau de Toilette (2000) bottle and the re-issued limited edition Météorites Le Parfum (also an eau de toilette) sample I just got. There is no accounting for the huge shift that has happened in the last 18 years and not just at Guerlain. If only by looking upon the chasm between the launch of both I realise I'm getting old; imagine, I had bought the original back then. And undoubtedly a part of my disenchantment with the new has to do with that comparison.

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The new fragrance bears little relation to the old powdery floral version, although that's not programmatically a bad thing; one has to stay open for modern masterpieces and the polishing of older concepts being elegantly successful after all. Keeping one's self open for pleasant surprises is the essence of youth. In this case nevertheless it makes for a newer scent that's rather limp-wristed, a bit of a wallflower. Don't get me wrong, it's very pretty, but it could never conjure either retro glamour (like the Guerlain Météoritespowder beads themselves do), or nostalgic reminiscences about women in one's past. It's as if a girl is playing with her mock tea set.

Guerlain Météorites Le Parfum is quite the girly scent, upbeat, with a fruity-floral opening that's like apple-scented shampoo dissipating very quickly, and a rosier tint than its predecessor overall. The violet is present, though it feels more like the refreshing violet leaf we come across in scents like L'Eau de Cartier and Goutal's La Violette than sweetened Parma violets; this violet has a rather mineral feel about it and a flanking of clean musk for whisper soft longevity on the skin.

Thierry Wasser succeeded into translating the retro vintage vibe of the beloved Météorites powder pearls into a contemporary soft clean fragrance and in that no one can't fault him. Indeed the re-issue of Météorites Le Parfum feels like a composition which would equally make the scent of a posh shampoo, which is half the market right now. It's no coincidence that it's accompanying a seasonal makeup collection; it feels a bit of a prop rather than a mainstay in the line.
It's very pretty and very safe, people that feel chocked by powder would probably get lots of mileage out of it, wearing it in the office and on afternoon shopping sprees. People who would expect the heliotrope-violet powder that characterises some of the classic compositions of the historic house, such as Apres l'Ondee and L'Heure Bleue, on the other hand, will be rather let down. Which is rather odd considering Guerlain is well aware that the powdery sweetness of its classics is covetable, judging by their Secrets de Sophie and various incarnations...But it's all down to the times they're a-changin' I guess.

The re-issue of Guerlain's Météorites Le Parfum eau de toilette (2018) is at the time of writing available at Neiman Marcus, the Guerlain boutique at Las Vegas and Place Vendome Haute Parfumerie online.

Related reading on Perfume Shrine:

Top Violet Fragrances by Type
Powdery and Dry Fragrances: Definition and Materials
Parfums Lingerie: Intimate Femininity

Monday, April 30, 2018

Vintage Powder Glamour - Guerlain Meteorites: fragrance review

Although most powders are scented with rose and iris to give a feminine impression that would tie with the intended audience (women who groom themselves with gusto), some brands do manage to render editions beyond the lovely into the cult. One such brand has been Guerlain. For their Météorites range of powders they rendered a compact or loose powder product into the innovative notion of small caked beads that one dips a fluffy brush on and then smooths on the face and decolletage. The product has been a hit for its velvety, subtly illuminating effect that never looks dried out, but, crucially, also for its unique and beguiling scent.

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The idea translated well in a separate fragrance for perfuming one's self with the lovely scent of those powdery beads the Météorites. And thus Météorites eau de toilette by Guerlain was born in 2000.

The predictable rose scent that lives in lipsticks and powders is here eschewed for violet, which is the predominant note of the fragrance. The intermingling with dry orris effects gives a starchy quality to vintage Météorites, it's the way I imagine rice powders completely devoid of talc from another era should have smelled. It gives me a totally groomed feel, not only the sense of cleanliness and dryness, but thanks to its retro violet vibe it's rather coy too, almost genuinely shy. This is a quality which I find fascinating, exactly because shyness doesn't come across as exhibiting its nature, and because in feminine iconography it's so often caricatured into a manipulating coyness.

Furthermore, the vintage fragrance is expounding on one of the signature notes in the Guerlain canon: heliotrope. The almondy, fluffy, powdery sweet smell of heliotropin (also used in mimosa scents) immediately recalls the hint of the patisseries that many Guerlain perfumes possess. L'Heure Bleue and Après L'Ondée are both characterized by it, and though they both lean towards melancholia in their wistful tension, the rapport with Météorites is another story. In the latter the warmth of heliotrope and the coyness of the violet note are allied into giving a newly found serenity. The drydown is soft and clean with notes of musky warmth. It's powder but more contemporary than L'Heure Bleue's powder. One of the few vintages that can be effortlessly worn as if it weren't. As silky nevertheless as being powdered with those large, goose down puffs we only see on film these days...

The vintage Météorites is retro like Parma violets, but not difficult to wear at all. It's subtle, yet lasts well. It's rather simple, but it's not simplistic. I genuinely like it very much.

The company has just launched a new limited edition fragrance (alongside their spring 2018 makeup collection) called Guerlain Météorites Le Parfum reissue 2018 with a different formula that leans more fruity floral. Read the comparison of the vintage Meteorites perfume with the new HERE.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Smell of War: Beyond No Mand's Land

Writing about chemical warfare and its smells doesn't come easy. The prompt was a quote I came across in a letter to Siegfried Sassoon, just a month before his death in November 1918, written by Wilfred Owen: ‘My senses are charred.” The European terrains of World War I (1914-1918) were the fields where the olfactory terror of warfare consolidated itself on a large scale. It was unquestionably during World War I that modern chemical warfare began.


The significance of the toxic gasses' odor is not highlighted enough. The psychological effect of smell on the brain is documented and it often was the anticipation of suffering produced by the alerting odor of toxic fumes which wreaked havoc with the soldiers' psyche.

"Lieutenant Colonel S.L. Cummins, consultant pathologist with the British army in France, concluded that all divisions that were continuously exposed to chemical attack showed a significant drop in morale. The medical officer Charles Wilson was even more emphatic in ensuring that most of the men that had been gassed were frankly left in shock. By 1915, after studying its effects, the English had concluded that although they had not been designed to sow terror, the violent sensation of suffocation caused by chlorine and phosgene undermined the will of even the most determined soldiers. In fact, the mere rumor of a chemical attack even had an effect on troops that had not been previously gassed." [source]

Having being composed two years before the break of WWI, Guerlain's L'Heure Bleue is probably the most iconic perfume of the -by 1914- lost forever Belle Epoque era. The Great War saw the end of that all right.

Please read the rest of my article on Fragrantica. It revolves around the smells of warfare and associations the mind creates in times of terror with references to WWI and the Russian Revolution.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

In Memoriam: Hubert de Givenchy 1927-2018

Heaven will be richer with Givenchy joining the ranks and meeting up with his favorite muse Audrey Hepburn...


A true noble man Count Hubert James Marcel Taffin de Givenchy founded The House of Givenchy in 1952 after stints as designer at Jacques Fath, Robert Piguet, and Lucien Lelong. Interestingly enough, the lineage goes back to Italian roots (Venice) but he embodied French chic like very few designers ever have. The perfumes line will be fondly remembered.

Here on PerfumeShrine we have written about Givenchy and reviewed the following fragrances of the line:

Givenchy Ysatis fragrance review and history
Givenchy Le De Givenchy fragrance review and history
 Givenchy Ange our Demon fragrance review
Givenchy Eau de Vetyver: the history of a classic vetiver scent
 Givenchy Amarige: a tuberose of drama

Let's play tribute to the iconic designer. Which Givenchy fragrance is your favorite and why? Please share it in the comments. 

 

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