Better Than Free

I was originally going to title this essay “Nava Sniffs TIFF”, but alas, time got away from me this week, and the “TIFF” to which I refer, The Toronto International Film Festival, is over tomorrow. I was looking forward to heading downtown to combine two of my favourite activities: sniffing and voyeurism. I was hoping to eyeball some celebs, stop in at Holt Renfrew and some of the other fragrant establishments in Yorkville, and have lunch at one of the trendy hotspots. I´ll definitely try my best for next time. 

All I could manage was an uninspiring trip to Yorkdale, and I came up empty. There was a new Lolita Lempicka scent at The Bay, in a funky butterfly-shaped bottle, but I couldn´t get near it, unless I interrupted a pleading SA, trying like all get-out to sell something to a very resistant customer. I´ll definitely try my best for the next next time.

Then, it was on to Sephora, where I convinced an SA there to bust open a bottle of Stella McCartney Nude for me to smell. The tester had gone missing and I was counting on this one since I wasn´t able to get near the new Lempicka. Nude was a disappointment in every sense of the word; it left me muttering about the wastefulness and utter lack of imagination we perfumistas must contend with. I´d love to print up a t-shirt along the lines of the “Got Milk?” ad campaign. Mine would scream, “Another Flanker??!!” Flankers are really starting to get under my skin, similar to how unauthorized biographies, celebrity tell-alls, and ghost-written memoirs by disgraced professional athletes make me shake my head every time I wander into a bookstore. Do they have any idea how many trees must sacrifice their lives so they can put their worthless drivel down on paper?

Just as I was contemplating a sushi snack from the very yummy Mac Sushi kiosk, I stumbled upon the eco-chic emporium, Pistachio. I had heard from some friends and family members that Pistachio had some cute, supposedly earth-friendly products, including toiletries and such. The first thing I noticed when I walked in was the 50% off table. There were lots of goodies looking for a home, and the most surprising items (at least to me), were the kesu_miniTsi-La line of organic fragrances. I´ve always liked these, especially the scent, Kesu. I bought the set of four minis from BeautyHabit a while back and found them interesting and wearable. Kesu was the standout; its notes of amber, smoky incense, woods, jasmine petals, davana, spices and lime were right up my alley. There was one lonely bottle of Kesu, marked down to $24.00, and at first I passed it up. I walked over to the Fruits and Passion store, and then to The Body Shop, assaulting my nose with the overwhelmingly sweet, fruity stew emanating from both establishments. It was back to Pistachio where I grabbed Kesu; my one regret was that it was the only bottle they had. The girl at the cash said she was sad the line never caught on, and it made me sad as well. Are we destined to exist in a world full of unimaginative, mass produced fragrances and their even more embarrassingly inferior flankers?

Autumn is upon us here, and I´ve got on some Kesu today. I´m marvelling once again at how my sense of smell has evolved and how wonderfully comforting this scent is. I´m trying to ignore the fact that my skin is freaking out and that I keep hatching zits like a factory farm chicken. I´m sure my agitation will pass and I will again embrace the thrill of the hunt. In the meantime I am revelling in my latest purchase; practically free in our world, and better than free in mine, because I love it so much.

Is there a flanker out there that you love? Have you recently found a new scent that was practically free or better than free?

Happy New Year to my Jewish friends; May it be the start of a sweet, healthy and prosperous one for all of us.

  • Maha says:

    It’s not really a steal to brag about, because the price starts so low, but I have a lot of love in my heart for Stetson–$12 retail and layers nicely with my dear SL Ambre Sultan. I also love those Lauders that remain around $30 retail (Youth Dew, White Linen, Cinnabar). I’ve yet to get any really brag-worthy finds on eBay (though a $15 bottle of the terrific and discontinued Youth Dew Amber Nude fulfills both the cheap and flanker categories).

    I am a shameless non-patron of Sephora–every time I pass one, I have to run in and ask for fragrance samples. I like that they use big spray vials and fill them up pretty well; sure, there’s a lot of garbage to sort through, but there’s also Coco and Shalimar and Fracas and Bvlgari Black in the men’s section. And I was finally able to get over to NYC’s perfume treasure, Aedes de Venustas, where the owners of the store gave us a shopping bag full of amazing samples to take home after our first visit, before we bought anything–L’Artisan, Diptyque, SL, Amouage–and another on our next, after we did. AND a discount on the Montale I was buying, as they were phasing out the line in the store.

  • Masha says:

    I’ve seen those marvellous Niki de Saint Phalle Eau Defendue bottles (with perfume inside) for $25 on Amazon, those are the bottles with the astrological signs designed by Niki, enameled on the round cobalt bottles. I collected them ALL! Love them, love them….

  • Tara C says:

    Oh yeah, don’t use your CC at TJ Maxx, I had the same fraud problem! As for flankers, another vote for the SL Bois variations and Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere.

    L’Shana Tova!

  • March says:

    Happy new year, hon. I think I’ve taken up enough room on your post already 🙂

  • Aparatchick says:

    I’ve been enjoying a number of the Pacificas this summer and at the price of $22.00 a bottle, it’s like they’re paying me! 🙂

    Since I lack carter’s stealth and patience (and sniping software) ebay hasn’t been working for me. But the discounters have come through: 100 ml of Bvlgari The Rouge at TJMaxx for $15.99 and 100 of Balmain LaMome (which has apparently been discontinued and dumped on the discounters) online for $17.99.

    • March says:

      Will butt in here to say 1) I’m jealous, all they have is crap at mine, and 2) this is the only store I religiously do NOT use my credit card at, having had my cc pulled and replaced TWICE because of consumer fraud at the store. They have trouble keeping trolls out of their cc files.

      Those Pacificas rule.

      • Nava says:

        I’ve never found anything worth bragging about at TJ Maxx. Last year when there were tales circulating of bottles upon bottles of Lacroix Tumulte pour Homme to be had at TJ Maxx, I never found a one. And there were four TJ Maxxes under a half-hour’s drive from my house.

        Pacifica scents are fabulous. I love their blood orange and Temple something or other.

  • Disteza says:

    Um, let me preface this with my assertion that I don’t tend to stray into department store fragrances, so my idea of flankers may be slightly askew. I do like the SL Bois et Whatever flankers, though the Bois et Musc is my fav. Also, when lines like L’Artisan and Parfumerie Generale launch an ‘Extreme’ version of an existing scent, I’m more likely to be interested in them (stupid smell-eating skin). Other than decants, I recently scooped up two ‘lil bottles of Rosine (Rosa Flamenca and Poussiere)that were well below the $100 threshold at Art W/Flowers; they’re trying to phase their old inventory out so they were on sale.

    • Nava says:

      I can relate to that; Mure et Musc and Premiere Figuer in their EDT strengths don’t last a New York minute on my skin.

      I’m not sure what it is that keeps me going back over and over (and over) again to the department stores. Lately, I’ve become obsessed with all the mediocrity out there, not just fragrances, but life in general. It all seems so wasteful to me. I think what I’m attempting to say is that I prefer quality, not quantity.

  • Robin R. says:

    Nava, I don’t notice ANY of your Canadianisms. But then again, I’m from Vancouver. 😉

    My latest practically-free score: 100mls of Balmain Ivoire from a sweet girl in Kelowna, B.C., $25 Canadian including shipping. I know that Ivoire is inexpensive for you Americans who have access to online discounters galore, but with that !&$%!@* border between our two countries and Customs guys happily slapping on duties and fees and taxes, all we usually do is drool. . .

    • Nava says:

      I’m on the prowl for someone I can befriend in Buffalo to receive packages for me. 😀

      If it makes you feel any better, some of the online discounters are less than reputable. There are horror stories galore over on Makeup Alley.

  • Nava says:

    LOL! Flank steak for lunch?

    Eau Premiere is probably the only version of No. 5 I would consider wearing. There are a few good ones out there, but the majority of them aren’t worth the time and trouble.

  • Shelley says:

    Aw, Nava…no fun to miss the fest…I had daydreams of going, myself. (From way over here.)

    Flanker, flanker…ever have one of those days when your brain won’t quite get on the right track? I’m getting flank steak, walk the flank, something about armies and flanks…mmm, methinks perhaps because I have yet to feel I’ve fully tackled the core (corps?) of perfumery, I’ve got nothing yet to say about the flanks.

    That said, I did rather like Eau Premiere.

    Scores, I’ve had a few. The vintage Arpege bottles I refer to in my reply to Carter, all $15 or less, and only one kind of off. $10 Balmain by Balmain. Not much more for d/c’ed Eau de Patou.

    Arrrr, I’m wishin’ y’ll be havin’ a happy Talk Like a Pirate Day, afore any of ye scurvy perfume pirates sail off an’ celebrate a New Year.

  • mals86 says:

    And happy New Year!

    • Nava says:

      Thank you. Shalimar Light is a good one. It’s very lemony on me.

      I always love to hear when someone finds a vintage whatever on the cheap.

  • mals86 says:

    Best flanker, hands down: Shalimar Light.
    Better than free: 100ml tester bottle of Gres Cabaret, $17 including shipping.
    Best I-can’t-believe-my-luck ebay find: vintage 1950’s No. 5 parfum, the big 1 oz bottle in all the packaging except cellophane – slightly used, no more than 2mls gone – $33, including shipping. Gorgeosity in a bottle.

    Note to self: check out DelRae samples… and congrats to Anita on your book find! (Man, Carter, you excellent budget hound – every time I go trolling for vtg J Mme, it gets ridiculously expensive.)

  • Musette says:

    Hmmmmmmmm….I would think my inexpensive bottle of vint J Madame that I won at auction would count(Carter, we should talk – I would feel so stooopid were I to bid against you 😮

    My best FREE was a vintage storybook that I’ve been looking for lo these past 30+ years. Problem was, I didn’t quite have the schematics down – kept coming up with really expensive near-misses. Very frustrating. Drove past a Goodwill in Peoria a few months ago – something said “stop”. So I did. I thought I was gonna score a bottle of Doblis or something absurd like that. Nope. But on the way out, stopped by the books….just leafing through…..and whammo! My beloved childhood friend. For $1.07, tax included!


    xo >-)

    • Nava says:

      That definitely makes up for all the rooting around and disappointment. May I inquire as to which book it is?

      • Musette says:

        Of course! These were from the early 60s ‘Living Story Books’ – these two Japanese puppeteers shot these photos of cloth puppets in fairy tales – lots of variations abound from that era but mine was a Very Particular One (of course) – and I know now why folks ‘hunt’ for stuff – Nava, that moment of discovery……..well! Anyway, the two I loved most were Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty (the Queen is absolutely gorgeous in this little cardboard book). The key to these are the costumes – I think Izawa and Hijakata (sp) were frustrated costumers, to tell the truth – the bizarre attention to detail in some of these, coupled with really weird lapses …’s fascinating!

        Probably more than you wanted to know. I’ll email you a photo or two.

        xoxo >-)

  • Christine says:

    The Parfums Delrae sample set that I bought from their site for $10….shipping included……is free to me! I already owned a bottle of Amoureuse and absolutely love it but with the samples I discovered ( quite inexpensively) that I REALLY love Bois de Paradis as well! The samples are huge and tucked into individual sealed envelopes with a page detailing notes and intended imagery. The whole thing just made me so very happy.

  • Francesca says:

    Do we count decants as “almost free”? TPC had a special on The Party in Manhattan and I now have enough to last me til, oh I don’t know, Social Security? Unless I keep wearing it to bed every night.

    And I’d like to add my good wishes for the New Year. May it be happy, healthy, and fragrant.

    • Melissa says:

      So I’m not the only one who finds TPiM kinda snuggly? Okay, maybe a bit skanky/snuggly. But I shoulda ordered some while they still had it. Out of stock!

      • Louise says:

        it does have a sort of warmth too it, along with the nasties….

        • Nava says:

          I would definitely count decants in the “almost free” category. Especially if they’re from bottles that retail for well over $200.00.

  • Louise says:

    Sounds like a disappointing outing, perfume-wise. But the Tsi-Las are very pretty, and the parfumeur is very sweet-I met her at Bendel at some point. But, surprise, surprise…the line has no longevity on my skin.

    The best group of flankers I know are the Opiums-the summer LEs are really nice. And while it isn’t exactly a flanker, the Opium for Guys, in edp, is fabulous-tons of pepper, spice and a rich, sweet balsam-y drydown. The trick is to spray lightly, or it goes waaaay sweet. It has the longevity of, say Onda on me-all day goodness. It also layers well with the CdG Original for a pepperbomb.

    L’Shana Tova!

    • Louise says:

      Oh, and Nava-you’ve already gone so Canadian…”the girl at the cash”…I remember having to adjust to this phrase lo so many years ago when I lived up north 🙂

      • Nava says:

        You missed my spelling of “favourite” in the beginning. I am working in Microsoft Word set to Canadian English! I am a creature of words and expressions; what can I say? 🙂

        I like the LE Opiums as well. I’ve always found Opium way to heavy, even in the bitter cold.

        L’Shana Tova to you as well.

  • carter says:

    “Free” as in, March’s “free”? Actually, it never ceases to amaze me at how cheaply one can pick up a sealed, boxed bottle of vintage Jolie Madame extrait, and things like vintage Arpege. I just won an auction for a full, unevaporated, sealed bottle with its original box and outer wrapper for $15.50 plus shipping. Also Quartz, which I last purchased on Amazon for under $20. These are terrific fragrances all, and worth much, much more.