Friday, September 5, 2008
Memory and Desire
When I was teenager, my oldest sister Carol, who lived in New York City at the time, represented everything glamorous to me. When she would come home for visits, her embrace radiated a scent by Lancôme called Magie Niore. Unapologetically sensuous and feminine, this blend of cedar wood, musk and jasmine became for me the epitome of elegance. It remains a scent loaded with memories and associations to this day.
Carol gave me my first grown-up perfume when I was sixteen. Youth Dew, launched by Estee Lauder in 1953, is an oriental fragrance with a blend of warm rose, geranium, and amber. Wearing it daily, I felt connected to my sister. It became my ‘signature scent.’ Later, I got bold and bought Jardins de Bagatell by Guerlain. It was a heady blend of bergamot, jasmine, gardenia, tuberose, neroli and sandalwood.
Perfume companies understand that fragrance is not merely several scents blended together and bottled. Scents trigger memories, and create psychological associations. Cleopatra, the famous queen of Egypt, understood this when she drenched the sails of her ships with rose oil. Perfumes give us a feeling of being taller, thinner, richer, and beautiful. They wrap us in mystery, instill desire and inspire memories. And for those of us who cannot afford haute couture, buying a designer’s perfume is the next best thing.
Today I own several perfumes, and still manage to lust for new ones. Having married into a generous family, I have Hanai Mori’s entire line of quirky and sophisticated perfumes. I no longer have a signature scent; rather I determine what mood I’m going to set for my day with my choice. With names like Fleurs du Chocolat, Haute Couture, Butterfly, and Magic Moon, each carries its own message. One makes me feel graceful while another makes me feel edgy and tough.
I have yet to find that one perfect perfume that clearly expresses every nuance of my personality, but I’m enjoying the search, one bottle at a time.