Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Friends reunited, The Perfume

Our 20's should, in theory, be years of youthful joy, optimism, and independence. Mystified as a glorious time for trying out everything before finding yourself, for many of us they turn out to be the most miserable years we are going to have this side of 50. Quarter life crisis is a relatively new concept and it sounds ridiculously silly and self indulgent. Even though the idea was virtually unheard of during the 80's, I suffered badly from it. With extra hairspray and bells on. 

I had left home for art school at 19 with a wardrobe full of hand-knitted jumpers, floating dresses, a ton of books and all the enthusiasm in the world, and within a year I had bottle bleached hair, mostly black clothes and a big identity crisis. Although I was living in a sleepy and rather beautiful small German spa town I wanted to to be part of the 80's unprecedented urge for the ultimate Cool with a capital C. Like many others before and after me, I spent my student years trying too hard to fit in with the New and was shamefully fast with getting rid of the Old. Ultimately, it didn't make me a happy young woman. Living on my own was an exciting and new experience, but it was also far more stressful than I dared to admit and pretending to be cool with everything and making decisions that would have great impact on the rest of my life was a little bit more than I had bargained for. At a time when even banal wardrobe decisions could make or break your peer group status it was good to have a few corners of your life that were uncontroversially simple. In one of those corners were my books, and in another was perfume. I had a little treasured collection of smelly things, mostly hippy-shop essential oils and lots of incense sticks, but also perfume bottles gifted to me by my mum or my granny. Often these "young women scents", like Charlie and Anais Anais  were overly floral and/or too clean for my tastes, but then came the 80's Big Perfume Bang. Everyone was wearing something, and lots of it! And because my mum had a good idea of what I liked she usually gifted me a bottle for Christmas. Karl Lagerfeld, Salvador Dali and Montana Parfum de Peau were amongst my precious possessions, but my signature scent in the late 80's was Jean Louis Scherrer No. 2. I loved the Art Deco inspired bottle and its slightly understated content. For the time JLS2  was probably a bit too subtle, nothing in this perfume shouted "Wham!", but it suited me, or better said, it suited the image I had of myself. 

I wore it for a decade and it was only when a man complained about my "old fashioned" perfume choices that I gradually gave it up. I know, should have given up the man instead, and not just for olfactorial disagreements. The late 90's and early 00's didn't do it for me perfume wise, and I felt that I was out of touch with what was considered a modern scent. Giving it up all together was a safer and easier option. 

Ever since my love for perfume has returned I wanted to go back to the Scherrer and see what it would evoke after all these years, but it had never been popular here in the UK and wasn't easy to find in the shops. Last autumn when I visited the little Jean Patou boutique in Paris I eventually had a chance. (Patou and Scherrer are now owned by the same British company based in glamourous Watford). I cannot say it instantly gave me imaginary shoulder pads, but it was a pleasant reunion with an old acquaintance. Pleasant enough to start looking for it on amazon and ebay. 
Last week I got lucky and for a little over a tenner it became part of my collection. I only ever owned the EdT and this is an EdP version of unknown age, but it feels sufficiently like the scent I remember. I know it has been reformulated to fit in with EU regulations and it's certainly cleaner than it used to be, but quite frankly, it's been 20 years and I've changed more than a bit as well, so I will not go into a hissy fit about it. Life goes on, we change, we get old if we're lucky, and discontinued if we're not.   
The opening is an aldehydic equivalent of big, backcombed hair, followed by tons of honey, some rose, some orris and a few drops of fruit juice and amber. This is what I can actually smell. When I looked it up online a dozen notes that I didn't notice showed up. Some of them are real pet hates of mine, like the evil peach, and in this case I'm grateful that my nose isn't detecting them. Analysing this perfume with its connection to my younger self is difficult at any rate, I simply cannot detach myself enough and whenever I try to, it muddles my brain and plays tricks with me. It has excellent sillage and I feel properly dressed when wearing it. Despite the ingredients it's never been a sweet scent for me. Warm, yes, but not sweet. Stays on for at least 6 hours and turns its golden hues into a dark orange towards the end. It comforted and hugged me then and is still lovely to me now, like a friend who has forgiven me for losing touch and happy to catch up again whenever we feel like it. I've tried hard to do a visual, but in the end I went for a picture of me trying hard to be cool in the 80's. I might have worn the scent on the day the photo was taken. 

How and where to wear:

I would like to wear this in 30 years time when they play KISS  for afternoon tea entertainment at retirement home. Hope my joints will still allow for some moves on the dance floor then.


  1. Loved the story! I've never tried this perfume (I heard the name, though) but I'm glad you found it - for nostalgic reasons if nothing else.

    I do not believe in any age-defined crises: the whole life for most people is a crisis, it just comes stronger from time to time - but it's mostly personality- and circumstances-related.

    Let's hope by the time we have to live at a retirement home perfumes won't be controlled/prohibited substance ;- )

    1. I totally agree with you on the crisis issue, nothing to do with age per se, but it seems that there is less understanding and sympathy for depression and anxiety for people in their 20's. I do write my blogposts with a bit of tongue in cheek, but still, I think unhappyness in youngsters is an issue.
      Perfume wise you make a very valid point about prohibition and if they ban all our treasures we will have to have illegal and secret meet ups. Could be a lot of fun.

  2. I am glad you were reunited with your youthful scent love, and that it still reeled you in all these years on. And of course now I am curious to learn which was the small German spa town in question, having spent weekends in a fair few...I spent a solo birthday in one not so long ago in fact, but I am blowed if I can recall the name.

    1. It was Wiesbaden, near Frankfurt where I lived there from 84 to 90something, 8 I think. Now I am curious to know which spa towns you visited.