When I was a little girl, my mother’s high heels, pearls, and perfume captivated me. As a woman, I latched on to Mom’s propensity for heels and have carried on the stiletto love, but try as I might, pearls and Chanel No. 5—the essence of my mom—were never really me.
But oh, how that fragrance infused my memories…there was (and is) nothing like the sweet smell of Chanel No. 5 on Mom. I can’t ever remember another fragrance on her, and while she mixes it up a little more today, back then, it was all No. 5. Of course, back then, there weren’t a gazillion fragrances on the market either. I remember when Mom would give me a hug, especially on a Sunday when she’d gotten dolled up for church, and her Chanel No. 5 would linger in my hair or on my clothes long after she’d left the room. That fragrance resonated with her, mixed with her chemistry, and became a hypnotic elixir that, for me, became synonymous with love, Mom, and the elements of womanly beauty. Even way back then I realized the power of perfume. It is the icing on the cake; that ubiquitous boudoir table fixture is the last—but most important—detail of a lady’s private ministrations. No one can see it, but it is a significant marker of personal style.
When you find that “you” fragrance, it delineates you the same way your wardrobe does, but on a different sensory level. It becomes associated with you, and somehow makes you even more you. It becomes part of your brand.
Over the years, I have held no such allegiance to a fragrance. I’m picky, have sensitive skin and a short attention span—I’ve tried many fragrances, but like a wanton lover, I was always seduced by another shapely bottle, another heady fragrance. And like any new, passion-driven tryst, the flames burn hot and fast…and then suddenly, you’re left with nothing but smoke. I’ve tried ’80s fragrances Giorgio, Magie Noire, Beautiful, and Bijan (too cloying); Chanel’s Coco, Cristalle, and Gardenia (all lovely, but my taste changed); Dolce & Gabbana (ended up giving me headaches); Anna Sui, Gucci Envy, Still by Jennifer Lopez (all fade too quickly); and Angel by Thierry Mugler (too popular). And those are the ones I can remember.
I’ve moved on again and again until I met my match: Youth Dew Amber Nude by Tom Ford for Estée Lauder. I fell in love only to learn that this fragrance that is so me was produced in horrifyingly limited supply (Tom…please stop the limited editions…you’re killing me!). So to preserve my stash, I wear it only for special occasions or at night, though I wish I could bathe in it daily. I’ve already gone through a couple bottles, and have 1/4 of my last bottle left, and since it can still be procured online I will be stocking up within the next 30 days. After a short-lived stint with Tom Ford’s Black Orchid, my day fragrance became oldie-but-goodie Cinnabar, also by Estée Lauder. Close enough in spice to Amber Nude, but still produced regularly, and in copious amounts. That said, it ain’t no Amber Nude.
Balenciaga Paris is:
A lovely paradox. A demure violet with airy blossom and delicate peppery notes. A fragrance that is mysterious and fragile, yet leaves a lasting trail.
Believe the hype. It is mysterious and fragile. It’s one of the few fragrances I’ve tried (pardon the cliché) that makes me feel like a woman. Not Amber Nude femme fatale womanly; more like I’m-a-grown-up-wearing-a-grown-up-fragrance womanly. It has deep, tantalizing notes that are neither flirty floral nor sexy spice, but right in between. And part of the thrill of proper perfume isn’t just olfactory delight, but the packaging. After all, it is the one beauty item women display amongst their most cherished boudoir accessories. Like unwrapping a new Chanel compact or lipstick, there is just something so thrilling—so quintessentially female—about opening an elegantly packaged fragrance, and adding that gleaming new bottle to your collection. It’s like a rite of passage.
Will Balenciaga Paris truly become part of my invisible identity? It’s too early to tell. I have admitted that my attention span is infinitesimal. But should my love affair with Balenciaga Paris lose its lustre, there will always be Tom…er…Youth Dew Amber Nude. Even if I have to order every last bottle from every last warehouse on the planet.