A Tale of Beginner’s Mind
Every now and then I’ll meet someone who admits to lurking on the Posse but won’t comment, afraid that they don’t know enough, thinking I , The Great Musette, am so knowledgeable about perfume. (wait. the Earth just shifted off its axis from the Posse’s collective stop/drop/roll of hilarity). I know next to nothing – but I delight in having a Beginner’s Mind, always open to new information and experience.
And so it is thus with Parfum de Therese. When I first was introduced to the Malle line, I began with weird scent beauty Fleur de Cassie. I then got seduced by Angeliques and Carnal Flower and somehow Parfum de Therese just floated on past my consciousness. Recently, though, March and I had a conversation about Dior and in the way those conversations go, she mentioned PdTherese – “I would think you would really like that one, as you are such a fan of the vintage Diors”. Huh? Oh, yeah. That Roudnitska feller. Dior? Oh, yeah. That’s right: only the creator of two or three of my Holy Grails. Yeah, that guy.
Sampled it once. “Hmmmm….I see what she means…wonder why this smells so ‘different’ from the other Malles (stop snickering – yeah, I knew the story, I know Edmond Roudnitska…I know, I know….I just didn’t ‘know’). I sampled again – and the little dominoes that comprise my rattly mind slowly clicked into place. Sampled a third time, this time at Barneys…and this shimmering veil of “Holy Cow! How did I miss this one??” descended over me, along with the gobsmacking beauty of the perfume, of course. The ever-patient Lydia. le sigh. How she keeps from just slapping me is a mystery.
This Is Perfume. Old School Perfume. Nicknamed ‘The Plum” by Roudnistka’s circle of perfume pros, it is comprised of many notes, including Mandarin orange, melon, jasmine, plum, cedar, vetiver, leather, rose, nutmeg – and like all Roudnitska perfumes it smells to me like all of its notes and none of its notes. It’s almost impossible to pick any one of the notes out, so seamlessly is this constructed – don’t let the plum fool you – this couldn’t be further from a fuity-floral if you put it on the moon. There’s an obvious connection between this and vintage Diorella and Diorama, both Roudnitska masterpieces, but even more striking is, to my nose, the parallel between this and the vaunted, vintage Femme ( an early Roudnitska), with its plush, plummy, sexual self. Both are the Old School intimate perfume versions of ‘skin scents’ (plums smell like sex to me. Not ‘having sex’ – just ..sex) but with serious heft and structure. One really needs to rise to the occasion with these (I can’t imagine throwing on a pair of shorts and wearing either of these scents – then again, I can’t imagine throwing on a pair of shorts! The mind boggles) Angela has a gorgeous review of vintage Femme here. M. Roudnitska took the sexbombaliciouness of Femme and dialed it back a little, creating a bespoke scent for his lady wife that hints at womanly sensuality – but in a very private manner.
Parfum de Therese is a ladylike scent. But not some rarified spun-sugar doll. A real woman, who probably washed the dinner dishes every evening and then sat down to work through complex chemical formulas – or to help her son with his math homework or just enjoy a cognac with her husband – an effortlessly chic woman, comfortable in her own lovely skin (I see her making an incredible French Potato Salad, then sitting down to enjoy it, on the terrace, with a glass of Chablis). Looking at pictures of Mme Roudnitska I suspect her husband, in creating Parfum de Therese, did not create an homage to her. It is an homage of her. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to wear this and will try to be worthy. Thanks, March, for giving me a reason to stand up straight and do my hair! I need no reason to drink the Chablis. Or the cognac.
image: detail from Delisa Summer, all rights reserved