vintage perfume blogs

illustration by the incomparable Rene Gruau (also Vent Vert, above) from c 1972.
See excerpt below from Yesterday's Perfume
I dont think I would have believed there was a perfume called Snob... in English...
"Good Hunting, Good Fighting, Good Loving"
Gri Gri, from about 1948, is named for a African "voodoo amulet" but it also meant "bewitched" in 19th c. Louisiana Cajun dialect. This ad is striking-- it somehow reminds me of the Scalamandre Zebra Hunt pattern.
Truly singular; a very unusual name ("In Flight") and campaign

Completely by chance, I stumbled into the world of perfume blogs. And there appears to be a subset of these dealing exclusively with vintage or discontinued scents*, which I find intriguing on many levels. There are dozens—scores!— of them: Some bewilderingly chemico-analytical ("The hydrocinnamic aldehydes are another family of materials from the manipulation of benzene..."), many overreaching and jammed with florid prose, but a few are evocative while still being informative and fun. Deconstructing the olfactory predilections of times past can offer interesting cultural and business insights: why did some eras featured simple, decorous floral scents, while some revealed more exotic, bold and "oriental" penchants, for instance.** Sometimes the discussion of vintage perfume is just about exploring the reminiscences of the woman (mother? grandmother?) you first remember wearing it.

Typically the best vintage blogs review specifics of the scent and talk about its marketing, bottle, design.

My favorite blog thus far, Yesterday's Perfume, on the perfume Diorella:
Fur rubbed with mint toothpaste (Chandler Burr). Vietnamese beef salad (Tania Sanchez). Like fruit on the verge of going bad (Luca Turin). More than any other vintage perfume that I've encountered so far, Diorella provokes the most outrĂ© metaphors from perfume critics, all of them tripping over themselves to be more hyperbolic than the next about this fresh, yet funky-ripe scent by the legendary Edmond Roudnitska.... Honestly, does anyone do "funk" as well as Roudnitska? It's as if he's reminding us that these ripe smells connote death as much as they do life. It's profound, really, this reminder in his perfumes — that it's the mortality of these bright and alive things that makes them beautiful.
The most immediate draw of the vintage perfume blogs for me was, of course, the advertisements— illustration in particular. The quirky hand-lettered scripts! the gorgeous fashion silhouettes! the odd Surrealist-inspired dreamscapes! I've written before about the loss I believe the beauty and magazine industries perpetrated upon themselves when the marketing department decided photos of "celebrities" were better selling tools than trying for something risky, more artful or thought provoking...

* While I love the idea, I dont quite understand the traffic in antique perfumes. I always thought perfumes went bad— or at least were greatly altered—over time and with exposure to air?

** I am fascinated by the history of smell, and the smells of history. The Foul and the Fragrant: Odor and the French Social Imagination, a pretty great book I need to reread, discusses the evolution of scent within French society in conjunction with the dawn of the concept of personal space, and later, the importance of (Victorian) moral rectitude:
The arbiters of 19th century morality placed modesty above all other feminine virtues, and the prohibition on cosmetics as well as on indiscreet perfume was part of a complex system of visual, moral, and aesthetic perceptions..... The thick vapors of impregnated flesh, heavy scents, and musky powders were for the courtesan's boudoir.

1 comment:

sourav barik said...

the pictures are wonderful.


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