Like most little girls, I found the lure of grown-up accessories astonishing - lipstick, perfume, hats and gloves. Which takes me way back to a specific day when I was I believe around 8 years old. My favorite auntie came for a visit from Germany to Croatia where I lived with my family at the time. She was one of those women I always admired and aspired to be like when I grow up. She did as she pleased. Went wherever she wanted. Said whatever she meant....no matter the situation without apologizing about it. Despite her carefree spirit, she was always a lady first. Her fashion was always on point and her love for perfume.....impeccable.
When I think of the history of perfume, it takes me back to ancient Egypt where it was used used by the Egyptians as part of their religious rituals. The two principal methods of use at that time where the burning of incense and the application of balms and ointments.
Perfumed oils were applied to the skin for either cosmetic or medicinal purposes. During the Old and Middle Kingdoms, perfumes were reserved exclusively for religious rituals such as cleansing ceremonies. Then during the New Kingdom (1580-1085 BC) they were used during festivals and Egyptian women also used perfumed creams and oils as toiletries and cosmetics and as preludes to love-making.
The use of perfume then spread to Greece, Rome, and the Islamic world. And it was the Islamic community that kept the use of perfumes since the spread of Christianity led to a decline in the use of perfume. With the fall of the Roman Empire, perfume's influence dwindled. It was not until the twelfth century and the development of international trade later that this decline was reversed
Perfume enjoyed huge success during the seventeenth century. Perfumed gloves became popular in France and in 1656, the guild of glove and perfume-makers was established. The use of perfume in France grew steadily. The court of Louis XV was even named "the perfumed court" due to the scents which were applied daily not only to the skin but also to clothing, fans and furniture. I found that part so charming :) The eighteenth century saw a revolutionary advance in perfumery with the invention of eau de Cologne
Going back to my childhood, that specific crisp fall day, my aunty was shopping for a bottle of her favorite perfume - Coco Chanel. Coco by Chanel which is an oriental spicy fragrance for women. Coco was launched in 1984. The same year I was born :). The nose behind this fragrance was Jacques Polge. Top notes are coriander, mandarin, orange, peach, jasmine and bulgarian rose; middle notes are mimosa, cloves, orange blossom, clover and rose; base notes are labdanum, amber, sandalwood, tonka bean, opoponax, civet and vanilla Though she always had a quite the collection of beautiful bottles of exquisite perfume, Chanel line of perfumes was always on top of her list. I remember being utterly fascinated, looking at all the endless shelves filled with intricate bottles of different designs and colors while sitting in a big plushy comfortable arm chair in one of the upscale department stores waiting for her while the beautiful sales lady helped her go through different scents available.
One of the peculiarities of Coco is that it was among the first perfumes to be conceived not as an extrait de parfum first but rather envisioned in its diluted form of eau de parfum. The market had gone away from the more discreet, more intimate use of parfum extrait and demanded a really powerful spray that would announced the wearer before she was seen; ergo the eau de parfum (and sometimes the parfum de toilette) concentration, less expensive than extrait but rivaling its lasting power, while at the same time being extra loud thanks to the volatility boost via the spraying mechanism. The secret ingredient in the formula of Coco by Chanel is the inclusion of the base Prunol*, a rich and dark "dried fruits & spices" mélange famously exalted in Rochas Femme by Edmond Roudnitska, which gives Coco a burnished hint of raisin. The cascade of honeyed spices immediately asserts itself: pimento, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin and clove, while the overall feeling is one of amber plush and resinous warmth (with a wink of leather) with the flowers folded into a rich batter and undiscernable. The patchouli (tucked into the Prunol base) gives a whiff of chocolate, though, in the words of Susan Irvine, not even a fashion innovator of the magnitude of Chanel would have considered a note reminiscent of a bedtime drink as worthy of consideration in fine fragrance. (One would perversely wish she had lived through present fruitchouli-infested times to see how she'd chuckle under her smartly cuffed sleeve.)
I remember thinking to my self "One day I want to be just like her" ....mesmerized by all the things we did together and by all she was as a woman. She was always so different than anyone I knew. So carefree, happy, full of energy, determined, unique in the way she present herself both fashion and personality wise. And while I will never forget our special shopping trips or our love for delicate and beautifully crafted european cakes. One thing I will never forget is the signature fragrant aroma/scent of her favorite perfume .....which always brings me so many memories no matter where I am in life.
The appeal of perfume is that it is at once ephemeral and empowering. It creates a shimmering invisible armor that lingers in a room long after its wearer has gone and infuses our imagination with a subtle power, hinting at a hidden identity. My auntie's demeanor always showed little hint of glamour, yet her dresser and bathroom windowsill where always loaded with jewelry and perfumes in sensuous bottles. Their fragrances always made me feel wonderful and at home.
In today's world though, the perfume is a luxury industry as never before, which like other economic sectors goes into financial decline at times. This industry doesn’t count for anything if it doesn’t use marketing strategies. A much larger and an ever demanding clientele has to be appealed to. As the times change so do the trends and preferences of course, and because of this in turn the perfume of the 21st century had to also be improved. As a consequence of the progress in the chemistry, the perfume industry will easily face the fashion fads of the 21st century, and will have to develop revolutionary technologies, such are those in the field of genetics. Indeed, without loosing track of the artistic side of the profession because ultimately perfume ....has always been an artistic expression :)
Today I'm my own woman with my own preferences of fashion, scents and the way I choose to portray and express to the world just who I really am as an individual. I have come to understand with the passage of time just how much scents can influence our memories,, perception, feelings and mood. Regardless of it all for me she was, still is and will always remain my inspiration and whenever I dab a bit of her signature favorite on my wrist my childhood nostalgic memories come back .....and they feel so intense and clear like everything happened yesterday, though in reality it happened almost 2 decades ago. There is just something so special and profound about that. I believe that is the true and ever infinite power of a perfume....it never lets you really forget. That is exactly why I have my own signature favorite ......no matter how big my fragrance collection gets over the years there is always that constant one that I reach for always. Simply because I want to be remembered by others ....the way I myself always remember her.