Alityke asked an interesting question on last Monday’s thread which I wasn’t sure was related to Tom or my comment. But given I was planning on writing on the topic anyway I start off with her query.
“… are the ones (ie, perfumes) you have a strong memory of buying ones that stayed the course?”
Short answer: no. But really the answer is not necessarily.
In fact, thinking back to the really strong, solid purchase memories, only one of the fragrances is still within my collection (granted, my collection ain’t that big at this point).
So, four ‘stories’ of buying and what happened after.
My first solid adult memory of buying something was Goutal Eau d’Hadrien. But in that case I recall the purchase only – not where I bought it and not the experience itself – just that for a time I owned a bottle of Hadrien. First real memory goes to l’Artisan Mure et Musc. It would have been mid- to late 1980s, walking from work in midtown Manhattan up Madison Avenue to the tiny l’Artisan shop somewhere in the 70s (ie, streets, probably somewhere between 73rd and 76th because I know it was above 72nd). Jewel box of a shop, gold and black. I went thinking I wanted Mure et Musc but the SA was savvy enough to have me sample other things as well. No one else came in while I was there and I did end up with MetM. Beautifully wrapped and packaged in a l’Artisan little black stamped bag. Out I went into the gloaming, gently swinging my new purchase. I expect I got on the subway and went home. That I don’t recall. I wore Mure et Musc exclusively for two or three years, repurchasing from that same shop several time. Got a lot of compliments when wearing that fragrance. One morning I sprayed it on as usual and realised I was done: it didn’t do it for me any more.
Next ‘big’ memory is probably early 1990s and Bergdorf’s perfume/makeup hall, which at that time was on the ground floor (why did they exile it to the basement???). Bergdorf’s frontage is 57th Street at 5th Avenue. I always went in the 5th Ave door. Guerlain. My first experience of Guerlain and I went back multiple times before I bought what I was planning. Again, the SA was good and patient and got her sale in the end. Not Mitsouko or Shalimar, but a half ounce of Vol de Nuit perfume. And I recall the whole shebang once the decision was made: the beauty of the bottle (it was the unusual bottle, not the regular VdeN — I couldn’t find a pic of it I felt confident stealing), the credit card coming out and the whole signing thing (you don’t do that much here any more), the wrapping and bagging in a small Bergdorf bag. This time, for reasons I can’t recall, I took my purchase and went for a walk in the darkening evening – on to 5th but then left towards Madison and down Madison for a while. Maybe savouring having been able to fork out what was then a fair bit of money for my first ‘real’ perfume. I know I wore it – it was beautiful – but I have no clue if I finished the bottle.
Final NYC memory is Santa Maria Novella Melograno from the concession in Takashimaya on 5th. This would have been late 1990s, right before I moved away from NYC and when I was working at the ill-fated Deutsche Morgan Grenfell. Takashimaya was such a special shop – a department store but very specialised and much more of an experience than Bergdorf or anything else nearby. Upmarket but unique. The guy in front of me at the till was buying Patchouli (which I switched to once living in London) and made some big faff about how it was the best thing in their line. I guess that stayed with me. Anyway, I wore Melograno for a year or so. It was very pretty and the SMN bottles are great. But one day on the bus to work I smelled someone wearing patchouli and was reminded about the Santa Maria Novella version. The next time I went to the Walton Street shop I tried that instead of buying Melograno and that was that. Hooked for the next few years (actually swam in the stuff – I am now surprised that no one I worked with told me to tone it down). Once I got pregnant patchouli stopped working. Which made me rather sad (it still doesn’t sit well on my skin).
Finally, there’s the recent significant birthday purchase of an ounce of Guerlain Shalimar perfume. This tied in with a trip to London. I had other things to do and wouldn’t be able to fit in a visit to the shop in Covent Garden (or any other that stocked Guerlain), so I called, got a weird not-clued-in SA who nevertheless managed to take my order. Thing was I asked that the purchase be delivered to my hotel. All over central London you see people (mostly young men) delivering (ie, couriers) multiple bags of stuff from luxury shops. I figured it couldn’t cost me that much on top for the Guerlain woman to bag my purchase and get someone to deliver it to the hotel. Silly me. Turns out she delivered it herself. Who does that in luxury retail in London??? In any case, the bag finally got to the hotel on Friday night (I’d ordered it on the Monday of the week I was going to London) — I was checking out Saturday morning. Waiting there at reception in the evening. I thought about telling her there were other, easier ways to do this but in the end didn’t. The bag, another lovely fancy stamped one, included the beautifully wrapped Shalimar box (I still have the ribbon somewhere) plus a load, and I do mean a load, of samples. Took me several weeks once home to go through all of them. The Shalimar is the only one on the list I still own and wear.
I really have a thing about these luxury bags. Doesn’t matter what I’ve bought – perfume, macarons, fancy chocolates, something from a place like Liberty – I always get a thrill from wandering around with these fairly small beautifully designed bags which hold something I’m really excited about.
So, how about you. Have there been perfume shopping experiences that have stayed with you for years? Do you still own any of the fragrances?