How I Met Your Uncle Karl

Funny how things come about on this blog.  Today we’re going to discuss Your Uncle Karl – and how I met him.  This is happening because of the Comfort Zone posts of the past few days, at least tangentially.  Also because it’s a Really Funny Story.

Okay.  To be honest, I don’t really know how this post came about.  But we’ll discuss it – and Uncle Karl – anyway.  I mean, why not, right?  It’s got perfume! It’s got attitude (LOTS! of attitude) … it’s got fans!

So.  This did kinda come about because of Divine (the perfume) – and sweatergawd, I haz NO idea how I came upon Divine – but it is, in a word, Divine.  However I came upon it, I ended up on Fragrantica (Floyd bless them) to read up on it and in the comments was an answer to a question I didn’t know I’d asked:  what does Divine remind me of?

The answer:  Chloe by Lagerfeld.  lots of other commenters reference Ysatis but that wasn’t what I was smelling because I couldn’t remember Ysatis – whereas Chloe… ho, yus!  I wore Chloe for eons and loved it beyond all loving. Launched in 1975, it defined the late 70s/early 80s for me (AnaisAnais was my ‘lighter’ fragrance)  – it is a rich, unctuous-but-not-cloying, Big Haired perfume, possibly the only perfume in (my) existence to combine coconut in a way that doesn’t suggest suntan lotion.

Divine came about a decade later, with many of the same notes and that same 80s focus, dialed down from 11 to … say..9.5?  Yeah, we’ll go with that.  Richard Ibanez (Azzaro, Cabotine, MDCI among others) was the nose for this – and it’s a slightly greener, thinner (that is not a criticism) perfume, less unctuous and more lightly floral.  Considering that Herr Lagerfeld was at the helm of Chloe at the time of the eponymous perfume, I am not surprised.

Which brings me to How I Met Your Uncle Karl.

Herr Lagerfeld came into the general public eye at a time when designers were just beginning to become global icons beyond fashion’s 1% – and to celebrate (and market) themselves as a brand.  And, boy howdy, was Lagerfeld ever LAGERFELD!  The queue, with its black velvet ribbon, the fall of lace from neck and wrists, the waistcoats…the Lagerfeldian glower… the ‘tude…the fan.

Oh, the fan.

So.  What y’all might not know about Musette is this:  I used to constantly be in possession of A Fan.  I have a lovely collection, from silk-printed Chinese fans to carved woodens, woven silks, even some ‘church’ fans (those are always fun)…… and, along with my silk wraps and bespoke gowns and coats, I employed them to great effect.  And I was the Advertising Manager at Marshall Field & Company, right when it was at the last of its apex (bought by a succession of retail congloms, it quickly devolved)… Bill Blass, Calvin Klein, John Saladino (who was so elegant – omg.  Adored him), Martha,  Thierry Mugler (before I knew who he was)…I met them all.  All of them fabulous… but NONE of them were anything like Herr Karl.

And I was young.  And truly clueless.

So.  We were all at this cocktail party, where senior management and bigwig customers were invited to meet the vaunted Herr Lagerfeld.  Honestly, I still don’t know why I didn’t do my homework – (hint:  young.  and clueless) … but I was arrogant.  And I didn’t.

And I carried my fan.

Folks swirling around Herr Karl, bowing and scraping and cheesin’ like lima beans…. he was the guest of honor in the receiving line …and by some weird confluence of insanity I, dressed in black (with a white blouse) and a faaabulous wrap, was placed about 2 away from him.  Two people.  Between me and Herr K.  Two.  Which makes this even more horrifyingly hysterical.

You know where this is going, don’t you?  Yes.  Yes. You. Do.

So.  The room is getting a tad …warmish.  I’m carrying a fan.  So, of course, is Herr Karl.

And, as the room heats up… we both snap open our fans … At The Same Time.



okay.  so.  Lemmetellya.  Wait.  Even better, let me give you a comparison.  Let’s pretend you are swimming in a lagoon and a Great White is cruising by.  He doesn’t really see you, isn’t looking for you…and you’re pretty much safe…

Cartoon Shark Mouth Images – Browse 4,406 Stock Photos, Vectors, and Video  | Adobe Stock


…until you do something stupid, like snap open a fan.

Pretty much everyone in the room froze.  Including me. I was beginning to form an apology but the ferocious look lasering out of The Karl just shriveled the words to dust.  My boss was busy trying not to have a heart attack and…well, the only reason I didn’t get fired (or killed) right there on the spot is the CEO was a good friend – and he (and his wife, bless them both) were not above seeing the humor in the ridiculous situation.  They were too busy trying not to bust out laughing .  My boss?  Not. So. Much.  But she couldn’t kill me right there and then, so she just hustled me off the receiving line and pretty much THREW me out of there.

And I was happy to be thrown.  That shark up there?  He ain’t got nothin’ on Herr Lagerfeld.

It’s now eons ago – but do you know! when I spritzed my sample of Chloe, that whole debacle came rushing back and for juuust a minute… well, he was a pretty terrifying personage, lemmetellya.  I think I’d rather have dealt with that shark.

But I still love Chloe.

And now I love Divine, too!

Herr Karl?  Not so much.  And I’ll bet the feeling was mutual.

  • Rina says:

    I don’t know. I probably would have tipped my head at him and given a “you know!” demure smile and fluttered my fan. That being said, I’m not too bright and don’t get star-struck or intimidated by celebrity… I do love the story, I’m sure you have a million!!

  • March says:

    I admire Divine more than love it, but I LOVE Chloe, or at least my memory of it. I also love this story; you can work a fan, I’ve seen you! But yeah, you’re lucky his death-laser glare didn’t vaporize you on the spot!

  • Kathleen says:

    I love your stories Musette. I have not sniffed Chloe, but adore Ysatis and Anais Anais, and all the perfumes that smelled like perfume from that era. I need to find a sample of Divine, I’ve read about it. I also miss department stores, shopping and purchases always felt like a special occasion.

  • cinnamon says:

    I think I tried Chloe an age ago and it was not for me. Your bosses shouldn’t have cow-towed to Karl. He struck me as someone who had too much of that in his life already. I love your story though. I know there’s a Divine I love, tested at Liberty a long time ago. Wish I recalled which one … In any case of Parisian designers YSL left old Karl in the dust.

    • Musette says:

      Well… it was their job, after all. And it was mine, as well. Had I just done my research (which was also part of my job) all would’ve ended happily – but then I wouldn’t have this insane story to tell.
      I have a YSL story to tell, too – but that is a post for another time.

  • Maya says:

    Love love love your stories! I liked Chloe and Divine too. I did prefer Divine L’Ame Soeur and happily used up a 10ml decant. Don’t think I would have liked good ‘ole Karl.

    • Musette says:

      Apparently he was imminently ‘not likeable’, or so it is said. But he could make (or break) a career in a nanosecond.

  • Tom says:

    He was annoyed you were prettier.

  • Dina C. says:

    What an amazing story Anita! I love it, and I can fully imagine the horror of Dueling Fans. Like two girls wearing the same prom dress! I love your scent references. My mom loved and wore both the OG Chloe and Anais Anais, so I can actually recall how they smell. Both very pretty to me. So cool that you got to rub elbows with designers back then. I loved how swanky and elegant department stores used to feel.

    • Musette says:

      Yes! Except… One of the girls is Prom Queen and the daughter of the OG footballer and biggest $$ booster of the school…
      …and the other (me) is not.

      And I, too, miss those dept stores.

  • Pam says:

    Hysterical! Great story. Thanks, you made my day.

  • Portia says:

    Excellent story Musette.
    LOVE Divine. For me it’s the final say in the fragrant conversation that started with Chanel No 5. The apex of the aldehydic floral. LOVE IT!
    Portia xx

  • alityke says:

    Not famed for his humour or not taking himself seriously & that was before “Chanel”.
    Look at all the tat & “meh” waste of glass, plastic & alcohol perfumes being flogged in his name post mortem. Karma on Karl

    • Musette says:

      Well… I’m not at all suprised. He worked that Brand (the KL) like a mo’fo!

      I kinda like that he was so…… Karl. But I’m weird like that.