Months ago, before the pandemic, I was wandering around our flagship Anthropologie sans mask, looking at cosmetics and smelling fragrances indiscriminately… sigh. Remember those days? Seems like a dream. The building used to be a Barnes & Noble and is a fantastic space – a soaring three-story atrium lets in natural light, and the expansive floors include Anthropologie home, an in-house florist, and a restaurant. Anthropologie merch can skew toward twee or useless (or both) but they often have things I’ve not seen elsewhere in their Beauty department, as well as bins of little, inexpensive treats like lip balms and hand salves.
On a tall shelf that day was a lineup of fragrance bottles I didn’t recognize, and the first reason I noticed them was they were various fetching shades, frosted like beach glass, with attractive lettering and named things like Shells and Leis. I selected one randomly – I think it was Falls – and spritzed, mildly curious, and … that moment. You know that moment, right? When everything else recedes into the background and you are focused on something lovely and unexpected? Yeah, that. It happens a lot less often than I’d like, and certainly less than it used to.
I stood there awhile, speechless, and then reached for another bottle in the lineup. And – here’s a moment of fragrant levity – I was thinking to myself, I kind of hope the rest of these suuuuuck, or I’m in trouble. I think I stood there for almost an hour, slowly spraying (and re-spraying) the testers. There were five of them, and I’d never smelled anything like them.
I didn’t know anything about the line – Regime des Fleurs, although I think the following week they came out with their collab with Chloe Sevigny, which tells you much of what you need to know about their exclusive-yet-artsy aesthetic. The ones I was testing were their Personal / Space fragrance line (priced at $125 for 100ml, use as perfume or as room spray), less fancy than their line of $200+ bottles that I’m not going to try, because I can’t afford to fall in love with them and I suspect I would.
The Personal/Space series is done by perfumer Mathieu Nardin, they’re inspired by smells of Oahu’s flowers and landscapes. Here are the notes from the Regime des Fleurs website, with my thoughts on each.
“Crushed herbs and beachside buds, ti leaf, saltwater, ocean froth, lava rock, sea minerals, mango wood.”
This one has a slight ozonic tang to it, usually not my thing, but it’s also kind of wet/dry and mineral-ish if that makes sense, and herbaceous, and I was struck by how odd it was and yet … how much I wanted it. Here’s a link to a fabulous Vogue article about the line’s inspiration; apparently Waves scented the air in an exhibition at the Whitney.
“Tropical spices, hapu’u tree ferns, rushing water, green mist, wet jungle moss, monkeypod bark, manoa red clay.”
Yeah … this is definitely the one I smelled first, where the background got dim (tough to do on a Saturday afternoon in the middle of a huge store) and everything around me became suffused with a soft aura, no kidding. Falls is just … so uncommon. Slightly sweet, slightly mossy, slightly earthy.
“Butterfly ginger lily, pua kini kini, frangipani, tuberose, jasmine sambac, black salt, ambergris.”
I’ve no doubt this is the most popular in the lineup – it’s sweetly floral, frangipani and jasmine are what I can identify, but yet again, I don’t have anything this reminds me of, and I have a lot of jasmine. Pua kini kini is the perfume flower tree and popular for making leis. There’s a quote in the Vogue article about how they wanted the floral scent, but also the chill of the scents together in a florists’ cooler, which I love, similar to that florist’s-chiller aspect of Malle’s Carnal Flower.
Healing herbs, overripe citrus, indigenous fig, stephanotis leaf, ambrette seed, forest musks.
Okay, I get a bit of fig, but mostly I get green, but not haute-perfume green… more assertive and jungle-like than grass? Damn I wish I’d been to Oahu! Is this what it smells like, walking around? I want to be buried there.
“Li hing, liliko’i, teak resin, macadamia seed, sandalwood, vanilla oleoresin.”
The thing I can identify first is sandalwood, which I tend to prefer in very small doses in the far background of a fragrance, and muzzled by something sweeter. There’s a dry, damp-clay aspect to this, almost bitter, but it’s so compelling and interesting I couldn’t stop sniffing it, and it makes a great base for the other more diffuse scents. Lovers of the roasted-seashell choya nakh would appreciate this earthy wonder.
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These are clearly designed to be worn/used in combination. It’s surprising to me how well it works, actually — the individual fragrances aren’t faint, and they’re quite distinctive; you aren’t standing there thinking, which one is that again? But I put one scent, then the second, then a third scent on my arm and revel in how beautifully they layer, like painting with watercolors.
So, here’s the punchline. I’ve been sleeping on these for, what, seven months? Watching for bottles on eBay, on discounters, other secret sources… and they don’t pop up often, and when they do it’s never much of a discount. I spent this unending quarantine (we’re still pretty locked down in my area) trying to talk myself into choosing one or two bottles at $125 a pop, without any progress, until my samples were used up. And I didn’t want to write this post until I’d made my decision.
Once again I went to the RdF website …. and realized to my horror that they were gone. The website has been redone and the remaining scents are more elegant and really do sound and look amazing. But no more Personal/Space, maybe they were just done as a limited edition.
Suddently frantic, I googled and, miraculously, the complete line showed up on Cos Bar’s site, marked down from $125 to $50 per, lending credence to the idea they’ve indeed been d/c’d. So I suppose you will not be terribly surprised to hear that, finding all five in front of me like some deep-discount mirage, I threw up my perfumed arms in surrender and bought them all. I hope they’re still available when I post this, and I don’t think they will be around much longer. I also told Patty about them; they seemed like something she’d love. She bought them and is also stocking them in discovery sets at Surrender to Chance (Patty is one of the OG online decanters and owns StC, if anyone here didn’t know that) and I’m thrilled she has them.