I took a stumble through our local mega-mall recently, looking for something that didn´t bore me to tears, and buried in the dross were some gems. Join me.
First stop — Bloomingdale´s, where I was assisted by an SA who was informed but laughably unfriendly. Fortunately I keep in fighting shape by browsing at Neiman Marcus (where an SA recently shushed me!), so I was unfazed.
Emporio Armani Diamonds – the bottle is pretty but less striking and sparkly than it looks in the ads. What´s inside? The same crap in Remix, City Glam, etc. I just looked it up – lychee and raspberry. Next.
Marc Jacobs Daisy – it´s so cuuute! Those white flowers? They look like hard plastic in the pics, but the petals are soft and bendy, and they don’t show it in the ad but the bottle’s wearing a matching white belt with more flowers. What´s inside? Who cares?!?! It´s so cuuute! I´ll probably buy one for Diva for Christmas. (Okay: it´s an innocuous musky floral.)
Marc Jacobs Essence – it was sitting right there, so I tried it – this isn´t me, but it´s very nice. Less gardenia/greens than the original MJ, which never grew on me, Essence has a mother lode of jasmine, as well as gardenia and orris. The opening would give Fracas a run for its money in terms of bomb-throwing sillage. But it´s a clean jasmine, even though it´s heady; those of you who gag on the indoles but like the jasmine concept might want to check it out.
The New Badgley Mischka Fleurs de Nuit – look at that gorgeous bottle. The same shape as the original with silver embossing. Seriously, seriously stunning. What’s in it? Big White Flowers (magnolia, jasmine, orange blossom) in their amber/musky base. Not me, and not particularly innovative (plus the lasting power was just okay), but if you´re looking for a present for a white flower queen it would be hard to top the presentation.
Judith Leiber – You don´t smell something like this every day. Notes: bergamot, mandarin, osmanthus, rose, jasmine, mimosa, gardenia, cedar, amber, musk, patchouli, vanilla. Much is made in their advertising fluff of the osmanthus, and FYI, the woman behind the counter rolled her eyes and threw the piece of paper at me when I said I wanted to write those notes down. I think she´s ready for a job at NM! Anyway, the in-store blurbage evokes the uncompromising, meticulous individual who knows her own mind. This fragrance not just unsexy, it´s anti-sexy – in other words, to me it´s a perfect adjunct to Leiber´s fussy, absurdist, eponymous Swarovski-encrusted minaudieres. The first few seconds are a sour mishmash that is barely recognizable as fragrance. I was so fascinated I didn´t scrub, and I´m glad I didn´t scrub, because the osmanthus is lovely when it emerges from that miasma, and the drydown was a dark, dense tapestry of patchouli and florals. It lasts forever on my skin, and comes in an interesting lay-down jewel-shaped silver and glass container. I wouldn´t wear it if you gave it to me, but it´s different.
Then off to Nordstrom, where a much nicer team of SAs (they do generally train them well there) honored my request to ignore me while I sniffed around – and then insisted they make me sample vials to take of whatever I wanted.
Guerlain My Insolence. Directions: take Guerlain Insolence. Subtract everything Guerlain about it. Et voila. It´s citrus-y while being less interesting than either D&G Light Blue or Moschino´s I Love Love, and that´s saying something. Next.
SJP Covet – I tried it on, finally. The bloggers are right – it´s much better on. The top notes still smell like bug spray to me, but the base is a woody, slightly gourmand musk. That bottle, though. Cripes. It´s a poisonous green with a transparent brown plastic cap, and it is a truckload of ugly. I´m still not clear where she was going with this.
And, most exciting saved for last:
The new (old) Givenchy gang of four fragrances! I sniffed and my heart soared. Now here´s a selection that says: I Want To Be a Grown-up. Full disclosure – except for Le De (which I sniffed a vintage sample of awhile ago but can´t remember) I didn´t smell any of these back in the day. I have no doubt someone can/will write in that, like most everything, they used to be so much better. I´m assuming these are EDTs, since they´re $85 for a huge 3.3 ounces, but at that price you can bathe in them. I can only compare them to themselves and the sea of mediocrity around them – and they come out smelling pretty darn good. If you look on the Nordstrom website they admit to “reworking” L´Interdit (horrors!), and Eau sounds a lot different than what people describe on Basenotes. Also, Le De isn´t listed on the Nordstrom site, for some reason.
Eau de Givenchy (1980) – hesperidic floral – bergamot, grapefruit, honeysuckle, jasmine, sandalwood. A wonderfully low-sugar floral for women who like their fragrances tart and dry.
Le De (1957) – My personal favorite. An antidote and an open rebuke to every hackneyed, market-driven tweener fragrance out there: look, you can make a fragrance that smells joyous and transparent and still be worthy of an adult. Coriander, LOTV, jasmine, sandalwood, olibanum. If tender floral scents like En Passant or Ineke´s After My Own Heart give you the shivers (in a good way), try this one. Up close to the skin it goes a little bitter on me in the drydown the way Chanel´s Cristalle does, and I wish it wouldn´t.
L´Interdit (1957) – floral aldehyde – powdery, reminiscent of Piguet Baghari (new version). Notes: aldehydes, Bulgarian rose, jasmine, pink pepper, orris, tonka. If you like the genre, smell this one. More elegant than Le Labo 44, softer than Baghari, a welcome smell in a sea of fruity-florals.
Givenchy III (1970) – chypre floral – dry, green, green, green. Cigarettes, high heels and a cocktail dress in a bottle. Galbanum, hyacinth, rose, jasmine, oakmoss, patchouli. Lord. Again, this isn´t my sort of thing, precisely, but it´s lovely.
of the four givenchys, i really liked the eau on my skin, along with the givenchy III which i wore decades ago. my only gripe with the III was that it didn’t seem to last on my skin. the eau was gorgeous – jasmine but not jasmine.
I’m the other way around with Covet – I thought the topnote was a lovely lime, but the development into generic sweetness on my skin made me disappointed… And I don’t think the bottle is THAT ugly (I like poisonous green too!), although I agree the cap is horrible… Actually, if I would spontaneously call a bottle “a truckload of ugly” it would be the Daisy one… :d It’s sort of potentially cute, cute-by-association since daisies are cute, but the design is just too clumsy and cheap…
The bottom of the bottle I like a lot. You’re right, it’s the cap I think is so wrong. Caps are hard — at any reasonable price point they’re usually plastic, and they’re not going to be stunning, but I’m thinking the brown was a mistake.
Have you seen the Daisy in person? It’s silly, I admit, but I like its bouquet form, if not the actual bouquet of the fragrance… Robin at Now Smell This has pointed out to me, though, that she believes the belt accessory is only on the testers in the store and not on the bottles for purchase. 🙁
I adore reading your battle stories of the dept store fragrance counter SAs because we go to the same stores and have similar experiences. I was just at that Bloomies the weekend before because I got a postcard from corporate offering me a free carded sample of Leiber, so I figured why not? I’m pretty sure that extra-rude SA was there, because she immediately went all “oh I’m sure we don’t have that fragrance in the store yet” before another SA stepped in and pointed out the bottle of Leiber sitting Right There on the counter in front of us, then dug around and found a carded sample for me. The cranky SA then scribbled something big and scrawly on the card, I presume so I couldn’t give it to someone else to get another sample…because everybody is going crazy for those Leiber samples! Ha. On me, it was okay but reminded me more than a bit of the current version of Je Reviens. Oh how I miss the lovely Bloomies SA from last December who, when she heard me attempting to educate my friends about the dwindling remnants of the “classic” Guerlains in their display, sidled up to me and stage-whispered “I have Jicky parfum!” Yes, of course, I bought it, much to her great joy. I just wish I could get reliably good service at the Tysons Nordstrom. One weekend, I get a lovely SA who gives (gives!) me one of their metal atomizers filled with the same Le De that I am buying. The following weekend, when I go back to buy L’Interdit, I get another SA who spends 15 minutes trying to make me buy something from Thierry Mugler instead, and then pawns me off onto another SA who can’t be bothered to get off the phone during the entire transaction. Feh.
Thanks for the intelligence reports! Which Boomie’s were you at? There used to be a woman at the Bloomies in White Flint who I knew from Nordstrom, so I’d go looking for her, but she left. (And in that store, more than once I have had them tell me they don’t have something new, when it is right there. They are either lying or too lazy to look.) In the new Friendship Heights Bloomies — avoid the blond with Too Much Work done on her face, shilling for Cartier like her life depended on it…
Tysons Nordie I like because they’re generous with the samps and their selection is much better, but you’re right — SA-wise it is sometimes quantity over quality. I have not managed to forge a relationship with anyone there. The thing they do which I *hate* — TMP00 blogged on it once — is they keep spraying random scents onto strips one two three four five and handing them to you, like eventually you’ll beg forgiveness and buy something just to get them to stop.
How funny, March! Great post. It’s weird. I live about half an hour (in traffic) away from Neiman, Barney’s, Saks…and won’t go. I just can’t stand that thought of those sales bitches. I might go if I had a great bitchy gay man friend who loved fragrance, and could wither those women with a few words. Sigh. I have great gay male friends, but alas, they’re not as crazy about fragrance as I am, and are only sometimes bitchy. I am so grateful for Luckyscent. The people there are very nice.
Yesterday I braved the MAUL (aka Glendale Galleria mall) and went sniffing at Sephora. Smelled Kelly Caleche…wish it had more leather.It’s just “ok”. Smelled the Marc Jacobs Daisy, thought the bottle was very cute indeed, but the juice is kind of…well, very appropriate for a teenager or pre-teen. Smelled a couple of the Bvlgari Omnias. The one with the brownish color on it, it’s kind of interesting. Incense-y.
The Omnia is totally underrated IMO and deserves to be in some “underrated” post. Woods, spices, peppery — yummmm. I think it’s the bottle holding it back. The crystalline is nice too — subtle, but interesting if you give it a chance. I’m not wild about the new Amethyste one, which — check this — the SA actually told me with a *straight face* that Bvlgari “uses more scented crystals in the Omnia scents than any other manufacturer” blah blah blah. Which, basically … WTF?!? That makes no sense at all, even by perfume BS standards.:-w
I don’t even mind the SAs that much. I get such great stories out of it! If I were shy it would be terrible, but as it is I just make a mental note to include them in future posts.
March, I’m LMAO at “scented crystals”, HA, WTF?! Eventually, when I’m done teaching at night, I’ll do a sniffing in the realm of Barneys and the like…when I have time to make it funny, if that makes any sense. Right now, my free time’s so limited, it’s tough to want to go and be talked down to, and not that I’m shy about snarling right back at them. Anyway, about the Omnia, I didn’t like the Amethsyte at all, the crystalline was ok, but the other was right up my alley. The bottle is completely hideous.
You can get regular ol’ Omnia online from a fragrance dealer for like $25. Just sayin.’ I think it smells excellent on — distinctive but not overly strong — and is perfect for fall. Plus it’s got all those great scented crystals.
That bottle is a love-it-or-hate-it. Some people think it’s really cool. I think it’s wildly ugly, and my other complaint is it seems to squirt the fragrance in a thin stream (did you notice this?) rather than an atomized spray.
I did notice the stream…thought it was because it was a tester…don’t know why I thought that. I think I might have to hook myself up with some Omnia, 25 bucks, why not? I’ll really enjoy all those scented crystals, I’m sure.
Went back and tried Omnia again today, picking up the ol’ mascara. Bottle just peed on me. Maybe the crystals get stuck in the nozzle?:-?
Well, looks like I can cross the Badgely Mischka Fleurs thing off my ‘worth a long tube ride to find the one store that sells it’ list. We still haven’t got the original BM yet anyway. I’m with Helen on being amazed at your American Tales of Sales Assassins – US service culture is constantly held up as an ideal here. Clearly an urban myth. But I found a great SA recently when I phoned Selfridges and spoke to a guy called…David, I think. When I told him that perfume was my passion he simply exploded with joy and information; we had a long, breathless conversation of the kind only perfumistas can have, and I’m planning to go see him in person at his counter soon!
Oh, those are the best conversations! I remember when I met Louise, we literally just started chatting in front of some shelf in Sephora. Sniff, chat, sniff, swap phone numbers. I was hitting on her, she seemed like a great potential perfume pal. And the rest? Is history.\:d/
Nina, is David at Selfridges in London (guessing so from the Tube reference). I’m going in on Thursday so will attempt to track him down, in a non stalkerish way. Was he on a particular counter, or, hopefully, just in the fragrance area?
Always good to hear of great people. And lets hope that that “what happens in the US, happens here” doesn’t hold true for some of those new style training techniques from Nordstrom et al!
Like Marina, I’m very intrigued by the Leiber. You basically sold me on it w/ “dark, dense tapestry” – I could seriously use a perfume that matched that description right now. I somehow doubt that there is a boutique in this God forsaken state, so am currently pacing around trying to decide whether to get it from their website. It’s not that expensive. I’ve made far worse mistakes. I feel an unsniffed purchase sin coming on. Well, maybe not. Just got the Parfum d’Empire samples from TPC. Must try them first.
Those SAs sound so awful they seem to have crossed that fine line into the territory of being just amusing (well, to me at least). I haven’t had the time or inclination to go out perfume shopping for centuries. Maybe I will try to find some time and pull a Tom at one of the ruder stores. Could be rather soul satisfying.
I visited their website and am interested to see that the notes look rather different. You’d think there’d be more consistency. Or … maybe not./:) You’re right, I’ve made worse unsniffed purchases. Although given my reaction I have trouble thinking you’ll love it.[-(
PS Am I imagining things, or have we been missing you?
I was good and refrained from placing that order – in part because you didn’t care for it and in part because I think I’m going to save my unsniffed purchase sin for one of the Roja Dove scents.
Yes, I’ve been MIA due to some ongoing personal crises, but I’ve missed my blog reading!! Trying to get back. Was going over back posts and I *have* to have Andy’s rose incense scent. Great review! Want to fly to Switzerland and camp out on his doorstep until he releases it.
Am intrigued by the Leiber.
And…there was something Guerlain about Insolence? >:)
The Leiber is such an oddity on my skin. But you should definitely try it — cute ‘n cuddly it ain’t.
Naughty! I love Guerlain (have I ever mentioned this on the blog?:-") and to my nose, once you get past the razzleberry blast of Insolence, the drydown is very Guerlain-ish, that powdery smell that’s the heart of Apres and some others (including their cheapo Meteorites). It’s not everyone’s cuppa, and it’s certainly not dynamic, but it’s Guerlain comfort; I really like it. The new one is a waste of shelf space.
I really want to try the Givenchys…
I saw the Marc Jacobs bottle and it’s waaaay cuter in person than in pictures. It looks like a confection with the squishy, gum-paste looking daisies on top and it’s little matching belt. It looks as if should come with its own dream car and little wardrobe..
T – – you are right. I mean, I already thought it was cute, but in person I wasthisclose to just buying the stupid thing, without smelling it! They don’t usually work their wiles on me. That belt! I’m gonna buy it from my long-suffering SA at Nordstrom, though.
Eau de Givenchy was my signature scent for many years — so glad they picked it for this collection as I’d hate to see it get discontinued.
Now I’ve got to go try that Leiber!
R — thanks, and I’ve emailed you. I will be curious to hear your impressions of Eau, having loved and worn the original.
Also, I cannot imagine you wearing JL, but I do wish you’d smell it if you get a chance, given your love of osmanthus. The clear note of osmanthus that emerges is a stunning effect against the rest of the scent.
Great post, thank you!!!! I’ve been anxiously awaiting a review of the Givenchys, since my town’s Nordstrom isn’t getting them. I love Le Dix, and Madame Rochas, and #22–I’m on a serious aldehydic floral kick lately. I’m hoping I will love at least one of the Givenchys. Speaking of perfume SAs, mostly they are harmless, clueless nags rather than truly evil here in Austin. But just yesterday I again harrassed the lovely Sue behind the perfume counter at Saks, as I regularly do without buying anything, and she was gracious and knowledgable as always!
Well, then, L’Interdit is right up your alley. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them turning up on The Perfumed Court in the not too distant future. By the way, since you are in TX, have you tried Le Labo Aldehyde, exclusive to Dallas? Yum.
That Daisy bottle is cute as a button and there’s nothing bad about it, it’s just… well, it’s Marc Jacobs doing what he does, making a pretty little floral that’s very wearable if you like white florals. I’m glad to hear they haven’t mucked up the Givenchys. I was so worried that they’d turn into an amped-up overwrought thing.
P, I can see your name on the Eau and the III, oddly enough. And that Daisy — okay, it’s not genius, but honestly, that bottle should win some sort of happy award.<:-p
In France, I believe only designer clothing-store SAs have high-enough security clearance to receive terror-training — that, or they are skilled in self-induced trances that actually block their perception of certain combination of body/credit rating types. No, our French perfume SAs are often charming, but Stepfordized into repeating their marketing spiel about perfume X or Z: if you bring up, say, an unlisted note or a comparison to a scent by another house, the words bounce off (bringing to mind the automated taxi driver in Total Recall).
There are, of course, wonderful exceptions: either knowledgeable and passionate about the subject, or, as the young woman I met recently at the Old England department store, new to the field and eager to learn: she interviewed me and noted down a couple of book references.
But when I start getting all geeky and pedantic, a few glaze over and give me the samples already, in case I make them miss another, easier sale.
And the Givenchy won’t be available in France for another couple of weeks, whhhhhhhhah! Chypre lover that I am, I’m very eager to smell Givenchy III.
You can laugh — one of the best retail afternoons I ever spent was a rainy weekday in February a couple of years ago at Bon Marche. There were all sorts of fragrances I’d never seen before, and I had the attention of a gorgeous, terrifyingly chic young woman who took me around and showed me everything, with enormous charm and patience (and I speak absolutely no French). It was lovely. I finished it up with a trip across the street to the food hall.:@) If I’d been run down by a Smart Car that night, I would have died happy.
Thanks for this March, I think I’ve finished laughing for a while! Not at the fragrances, although think have ruled out which ones not to smell, but at the “help” at each store. In the UK, USA customer service gets held up as the shining example of everything we should be aiming for. I am so loving the “shushing” technique at NM, just dropping a line to the training team now :d
Customer welcome at its best, obviously.
If only there were more Les Senteurs in the world, fragrance shopping would be a much happier experience, almost regardless of the fragrance. At least you could guarantee them to give you completely honest feedback if you drifted too close to the nearest celeb/dullsville, completely uninteresting offering.
Glad I made you laugh. It’s hard to find the right balance, and I am sure if you took a survey people would have wildly different ideas of what constitutes “good” CS. I want to NOT have random crap thrown at me (which is why I hate them repping particular lines like Cartier) and I wish they weren’t on commission. But I do like and appreciate guidance when I ask for it, and some of the SAs are great at that. Who knows? People complain about the folks at Barneys and Bergdorf in NY pretty regularly, and I’ve gotten great service the few times I’ve been (although the gals in Guerlain could use a little … lubrication? Thawing?)
The shushing technique is part of their new CS rollout, now that back-turning and sighing can be found elsewhere.
Yep, got to keep that service differential rolling along! Hmm, wonder what they are planning when everyone catches onto this one 😕
Reaching across and physically slapping you down?
Stun guns. Pepper spray. Or, worse, Angel.:-“
Aren’t the high end sales associates great? I love paying to be abused and have my dignity smushed in a little ball and tossed out the door. Good times. My Wish List is getting longer and longer, esp after your review, March. Greatness!
I still don’t get it. If I want to be b!tch-slapped and strip searched I’ll go to Macy’s (I am beginning to suspect their parent company is responsible for the terror training of Macy’s and Bloomie’s SAs).
If/when I go to NM or Saks I want my butt smooched as part of the price point. I generally clean up beforehand — I look like the sort of suburban creature who might spend a grand on a purse or whatever. I think the only solution (observed while taking my late mother-in-law shopping) is their “real” regular customers have relationships with a particular SA. She used to call whoever and they’d have a pile of stuff to leaf through in a private dressing room — picking through racks is for peons. But I can’t see how that’s supposed to work in the accessories/jewelry/makeup dept, etc., where they were often very rude…
I’ve trained the local SA’s out of rudeness. The last one who was rude to me I specifically made serve me for like a half an hour, then told her point-blank that since she was so unpleasant I was having someone else ring up the purchase and get the sale. I thought she might have a stroke, and since then she’s been far more pleasant.
Oh! I’ve got enough cojones to try that! I’ll let you know how it goes…
March-you’re such a brave girl. That Bloomies rivals any NM in nastiness-I go there when I feel guilty about something, and need to be punished. If you were more into cosmetics (and atonement) I’d direct you to the Lancome counter, where you could be really abused. The Nordies is nice, as always-but I cannot beleive you cheated on Gail! After all she does…
I have been wanting to try the Givenchys, and of course they are in limited distribution, so I guess I need to head to said mall.I’ve been guessing that I might like Le De and III-but they sound so grown up. Having recently started down the floral path, I might have to try the MJ Essense as well.
Happy Monday to all!
L — that’s funny — what is WITH those women? Wait, which one are you talking about? White Flint? I was at Tysons (which has both Nordie and Bloomie) because I had to pick up something at LL Bean. I swear I wasn’t unfaithful to Gail – if I decide to buy something I always call her. But (have you been?) the fragrance selection at Tysons Nordie is much, much bigger than pathetic Montgomery. They even have testers of Guerlains like Vol de Nuit! And Jicky parfum! I am pretty sure they don’t/won’t have the Givenchys at Tysons, but I could be wrong…
PS I went to the new Bloomies’ opening at Friendship Heights last week. Hilarious encounter there with this woman flogging Cartier (very annoying) and finally I recognized her — the SAME WOMAN I fought with 3(?) weeks ago at NM when I went during a sales event to smell the Kelly Jardin and she wouldn’t show it to me unless I smelled Delices! Yep, she reps Cartier. When she’s not worshipping Satan.>:) Ah, the perfect emoticon!
PS What I *meant* was, Givenchy is AT Tysons, not sure if it will be coming to Montgomery.
Nah-it’s the Tyson’s Bloomies that I loathe. White Flint is just moribund. But now-that new Bloomies-ach! I tried to deck the 72nd spray girl in their frag section-and just left the store. Yup-the perfume selection is much better at Tyson’s Nordstroms than Monkey Mall, must make pilgramage, then order from Gail.
You’ve made me want to go out and sniff some trash – I’m off.:d
Lee — the sniffing opportunities in London make me =:), particularly interspersed with treats from that patisserie.<:-p
Department store scent sniffing is always entertaining! Even if you don’t find something you like, you always get a good laugh out of it. It makes me feel a little better about myself to know that I am not the only crazy one that would consider buying a bottle based on how cute it is, but that Daisy bottle really is adorable, isn’t it?
I dunno who came up with that bottle, or why (I guess horning in on his share of the younger audience) but this may be one of the rare, lame purchases I make because of it. Hey, people have spent more for less pleasure.:d
I’m almost embarassed to admit it, but I really like the Covet bottle. Poisonous green is one of my favorite colors :d However, I despise the perfume it contains. Have no desire to try most of the others, except maybe the L’Interdit. Love aldehydes in general and Baghari is a favorite so it sounds right up my alley. The Givenchy III sounds like it might be worth a try also, what with you invoking the magic word “galbanum”.
I forgot about your aldehyde love — you should definitely try L’Interdit, gosh, it was charming. Someday I may become a bigger fan of galbanum, but now it’s more an appreciation of the artistry than a heartfelt love.:”>
March, you’re a brave woman! Thanks for trying all these yawners and saving me some of the trouble (I did sniff Covet, Daisy and that Armani punch, with exactly the same results). The original Badgely Mischka was one of the biggest scrubbers I’ve come across. I’m not trusting them again with my skin (gorgeous bottle, though).
My money was/is on Le De. I’ll be happy to see Givenchy returning to the golden age. We could all use that old magic.
Armani Punch — perfect. Expect to see that on their next bottle in six weeks.
The original BM was a total scrubber on me as well, so they’ve obviously changed the formulation pretty significantly. Not that you don’t have plenty of other choices…
My guess is everyone’s gonna say the same thing about the Givenchys — they’re a bit thin and where’s the EDP (or parfum?)