My friend The Silver Fox wrote a delicious blog recently about Vera Wang’s Princess Night. I did give Princess Night a try the other day when i was through in Glasgow and had popped in the House of Fraser’s perfume gallery. The kind saleslady who accosted me asked what I was looking for, and when I asked for Princess Night she thought at first it wasn’t out yet, then discovered the black glitter encrusted bottle for me. She sprayed it generously onto a card and waved it in front of my nose – BLACK CURRANT JAM. I sprayed it all over myself as well – BLACK CURRANT JAM, and much later that evening a friend leaned over and said, you smell like BLACK CURRANT JAM. Which is not a bad thing to smell of, though I did feel more sticky than elegant somehow. But it’s really yummy. Oh yes, and it rather wonderfully brought me back to my days as a student in Bristol, drinking black currant and cider in the student union.
An important aspect of the Fox’s post, I think, is that there’s no point in being snooty about fragrances. There are great cheap fragrances and awful expensive ones (and this goes for art too of course). There is a way of making art (and perfume) that comes from an original and beautiful vision, and there is a way of making these things that is burdened by commercialism, critical opinion, supposed views of the masses, and so on, that often ruins the thing.
I’ve been meaning to write about Donna Karan’s Gold perfume for ages. I’ve discovered, much to my surprise, that in my increasing (let’s not say old yet) age I have gone from being someone who doesn’t like the smell of lilies (fresh, perfume, whatever) to the point of feeling a bit ill over them to someone who LOVES the smell of lilies. I’m saving my pennies for one day getting a bottle of Frederic Malle’s Lys Mediterranee. I’ve got a bottle of Penhaligon’s beautiful Lily & Spice, which always makes me think of Marlene Dietrich in a black and white tux leaning against a baby grand, singing some unbearably deep heart-breaker of a tune between puffs of a hand-rolled cigarette.
I love Gold. It’s one of my most favourite perfumes in my current collection. I felt a little guilty about it at first, as it was mainstream rather than niche, as I got a couple bottles of it really cheap off eBay, as it seems as if it was being discontinued because of, I don’t know, I’m assuming a lack of sales?
It’s the one perfume that every time I wear it my boyfriend says, “You smell beautiful.” It gets four stars from Tania Sanchez in the A-Z Guide, and she describes a sense of the perfume cycling ever upwards, “like those audio illusions of tones that sound like they’re climbing infinitely higher even though the series is actually repeating.” I love that description as I do get the sense of white lily and sweet amber cycling or rotating in a sensual dance throughout the wearing of this fragrance. The image that always comes to mind for me is of a woman on a pedestal in front of a roaring fire in a massive country mansion. The woman is in a floor-length gown of white silk. You see her as you enter the room and she is pale, cool, pure silken sensuality – the white mouth of the lily. You walk toward the fire, lean against the warm stone of the hearth, and she turns to face you, glowing, golden, her dress now a sheath of dripping honey. Walk back toward the door, turn, and see her silken whiteness, walk back to the fire, turn, and see her molten, golden sexuality. That’s what Gold does for me! The fact that it keeps changing throughout the day keeps me interested, delighted – one minute calmed by the cool white lily, the next warmed by the sweet as honey amber. Just. Gorgeous.