Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A rose by another name



A rose by another name and yet it calls with a scent so sweet. To fall into a color, it's warmth like a dip into the sea. 

I need perfume in my life, in all of its forms. Admittedly, it is my olfactory coffee or glass of wine, seeing me through from morning until night. But those liquid elixirs that we dab and spritz--or walk through in a cloud à la française--what magic they make. I have been thinking about this since yesterday, after reading yet another fine post by Lanier Smith at Sents Memory. While Lanier usually writes an exquisite short story inspired by a certain perfume before reviewing it, yesterday's discussion fell to the House of Guerlain, one of my favorites as their long-standing use of quality ingredients endears their products to my fickle red-head skin. 

Different scents for different lives within lives or even lives within a day. It is a tool of the least utilitarian sort possible, to cajole or coax or proclaim certain aspects of who we are or wish to be. When I was acting, I would always choose a perfume for my character (my favorite match being Fendi's "Theorema" for the role of Cleopatra) and a quick inhale at the wrist backstage would always cement me in the circumstances. These days with my memory as wobbly as a child in her mother's heels, I can reach back in time via certain perfumes as directly as Proust biting into that spongy madeleine.

A bag made of red voile is tucked in the back of my medecine cabinet, one that previously held a welcomed gift of Rouge Hermes from my sweetheart but now is a retirement home for nearly empty bottles of deeply loved scents. I pulled it down gingerly, knowing that I had something from Guerlain in there. Ah yes, Jicky. Created in 1889, it was something of a revolution, being one of the very first to use a mix of essential oils and synthetic molecules and the first to be designated by the word perfume. Take that, Coco Chanel. 

I annointed myself with the tiniest bit and inhaled. It smelled differently somehow! Had it turned? No. Had I changed? Yes and no but that wasn't it. But oh, it felt wonderful to be wearing it again, to be wrapped in something so...familiar...Later in the day that nagging feeling hadn't left me. A quick search on the internet gave me the answer--Jicky's olfactory notes? Lavender, rosemary, bergamot, rose. Yes! La Provence! How hadn't I thought of it sooner?

In this context, it evokes something else entirely than when I wore it roaming the steely corridors of Manhattan. I no longer need a ticket to escape but can take in the blossoming roses all around me. A rose by another name and yet still as sweet.

I am wearing it now...







"... O! be some other name:
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name;
And for that name, which is no part of thee,
Take all myself."

--Act Two, Scene Two. "Romeo and Juliet" by William Shakespeare

33 comments:

Judith Ross said...

Oh how I love this post. The words and photos are perfection. But more, it reminds me that my mother used to wear perfume. Tabu was her scent.... and that I have several mostly unused bottles of perfume, gifts, and one from a teenager in Morocco. As usual, Heather, you remind me and make me pay attention.

Heather Robinson said...

Thank you, friend. But Tabu! I can't get over that. What a racy scent!! We are all so boring now. So many women want to smell like cookies...

Lorrie said...

I love the idea of your choosing a scent to play a role in the theatre - how delightful! I love wearing a light rose scent. Perfume seems to have fallen out of favor here. I hear complaints of "I'm allergic" and so many places have "no perfumes allowed" signs - doctor's offices, hospitals, churches, etc. Many people have stopped wearing scent entirely and that's a loss, I think.

Thank you for this post. I'm going upstairs to spray on some scent!

Heather Robinson said...

No perfumes allowed! Really?? Oh my. I can't imagine.

What a strange world we live in. Are there really so MANY people allergic to perfume? I somehow doubt it...?

But hooray! Go be a rebel, Lorrie! :)

Coulda shoulda woulda said...

You are very guerlain! You could be the spokesperson / model for it in Provence! X

Heather Robinson said...

I need you to convince them for me, N! I am all for it! Sponsored posts and everything! Tehee. I do love their perfumes. I tried on "L'Heure Bleu" today but sadly, it is not for me yet--something to rock in my 60s methinks. But oh that sucker dried down beautifully and then didn't budge!! Perfect.

I know you to be an Hermes type of lady, yes? Me too but Guerlain works best on my wonky skin.

Laoch of Chicago said...

Whimsical and nicely done.

Janey and Co. said...

Beautiful...post...and Beautiful happens to be my favorite cologne. I wear a new cologne on each big trip though. ...Then when I want to transport myself back to that part of the world...I just spray or dab a bit on....Janey

puppyfur said...

Jicky is lovely, mais tres cher, no? Hope there's another beautiful bottle of it in your near future ( hint Remi:-). I have to admit to being a huge fan of Shalimar, though I have yet to own any. Perhaps, one day. Such beautiful images accompany your lovely story today, Madamoiselle.

helen tilston said...

Hello Heather
Your images here are like paintings. Truly marvelous. Jicky sounds delightful. I am unfamiliar with this. For the past few years I have been wearing Angel by Thierry Mugler.
I've been travelling Heather and now just catching up on my favourite blogs

Helen xx

Rowan said...

Wonderful musings. I enjoyed being transported, thank you! And your images today. You have such an eye for detail. You spot design detail and colour changes in everyday surroundings, where others would walk past and not stop to notice.
Its strange how our olfactory senses are so powerful. Smelling a whiff of an aroma, can instantly transport us back to a forgotten memory, sometimes to childhood. Aah that's familiar, I remember when...
Guerlain sometimes produce short runs of their springtime scents which they put under the name of Aqua Allegoria ....They had one which I absolutely loved as a summer scent which was clean light crisp and fruity, called Mandarine Basilic. For a hot day, when you don't want a heavy cloying perfume, it was just gorgeous. But it ain't no more!
I loved the idea of a perfume matched to the personality of the role to put you into character! What a novel, but obvious idea! I would never have thought of that! I'm sure it also helped your fellow actors, remove Heather and only see the character.
Thanks also for finishing with that verse from Shakespeare. It was just perfect!
Well, I have enjoyed reading this over my morning coffee, and had better stop rabbiting on and get on with some work! Thanks Heather!
Cheers,
Deborah from Melbourne.

silkannthreades said...

I read Lanier Smith's post this morning and now I have your lovely words and photos this evening. I feel as though I have been wrapped in exquisite fragrances all day long. Gallivanta

Mumbai said...

I agree that a certain scent can put you in a different character and first of all it makes you feel individual. When I smell a special scent it always reminds me to a person I was very close and if you have found your special one you can leave something to your posterity even you are not together anymore .That's the secret of genuine perfum which are unfortunately very expensive because they don't contain synthetics.

Heather Robinson said...

Merci, Mr. Laoch.

Heather Robinson said...

I love that idea, Janey! Olfactory travel--and it is free the second time around.;)

Heather Robinson said...

Oooh my Mademoiselle days are long over!!! But thank you...

And I don't think of Jicky as being expensive for what it is. In my local Marionnaud, it is selling for 71€ for a big bottle of the EDT but as Guerlain uses a mix of "real" essences and synthetics, that works just fine. And look! According to Sephora, Shalimar EDP can be yours for 53€! http://www.sephora.fr/Parfum/Parfum-Femme/Shalimar/P2296 I do believe you are worth it... :)

Heather Robinson said...

Angel! That is a very go-get 'em scent. Very va-va-va voom. Glad to have you back, Helen and I hope that your travels were wonderful...

Heather Robinson said...

Deborah, I know that I am positively beginning to sound like I work for Guerlain but I know that I have seen the scent that you love in the French Sephora. I can't imagine what it would cost to have it shipped to Melbourne though...!! As always, thanks for your kind words and encouragement.

Heather Robinson said...

Not to mention your own exquisite perfumes of history, dear G.

Heather Robinson said...

Yes, a signature scent is something very special indeed. One left behind like a memento or a calling-card. I still haven't found mine yet but will. As for the use of synthetics (sigh), I know but there are some houses that use a mix of real and synthetic that keeps the prices accessible...but oh was I disappointed to learn that the major houses in Grasse use synthetics today!!!

Coulda shoulda woulda said...

perfume wise i love guerlain as well - mitsouko was on my vanity for years! along with anais anais by cacherel, oh and giorgio beverly hills, remember that one?

Heather Robinson said...

I do! A friend gave me the leftovers of her bottle a few years ago and wow is that strong stuff. I am not courgeous enough to wear it these days.
Mitsouko seems like a very "you" scent. :)

Rowan said...

How exciting! I just had a look! Thanks for the tip!
Cheers,
Deb

I Dream Of said...

Beautiful, Heather, and such a smart observation about the power of scent. (How much do I love that you chose a perfume for your characters when you were acting!?) I've been wearing one perfume only for about the past 7 years - I used to wear two, one for spring and summer and the other for fall and winter, but I've edited down to just the summer scent, Frederic Malle's Pink Lipstick, which I found in Paris in 2001. It's hard to find in the states, so I'm pretty much the only one in the room wearing it. I wore it when I met my husband and when we were married, so it will always have a special spot on my dressing table. Another scent that I love but never wear myself is Coco Mademoiselle - two of my friends each wore it on two different girls' trips to Paris. I would never wear it myself because I love being in a crowd and catching an unexpected whiff of it - it takes me right back to Paris. If I wore it myself, that transporting moment would be lost. Such is the power of scent.
Hope you are enjoying a delicious week - I am thinking about the scent of a canard and Cantal tartine! XO

Jackie and Joel Smith said...

One agency for which I volunteer has become so political correct or sensitive perhaps, that I often see signs in the ladies room asking that females be 'scents-able' about the fragrances they wear - in fact it goes so far as to ask that they not wear anything out of respect for others who may have allergies. You've made me again think, "Oh yes, another reason I love Europe!" I must go spritz myself with a scent right now. . . xo J.

Barb said...

Scent is so very powerful, isn't it? I know my sister's favorites, my mother's, mine. Your photos are beautiful in their simplicity and shade. Yummy.

simpleimages2 said...

Sensations of memory return with perfection. All the pearly pastel colors with a touch of blue-wonderful.

Mumbai said...

Really?... I didn't expect that the grand brands use synthetics. Does anybody know
a parfum brand which is pure?

Heather Robinson said...

There are many out there! Just Google it. :) But the use of synthetics is not always a bad thing--for example it is a FAR better way to create a musk scent than killing a civet for it! I just don't personally like an all synthetic scent as they tend to turn on my skin and they have a far higher phtalate level.

A great resource for natural beauty is http://beautycalypse.com/.

Heather Robinson said...

Oh that is just gorgeous, Jeanne. And so like you to "save" Coco Mademoiselle for the special occasion of a surprise visit to Paris--even if it is only an olfactory one.
Lipstick Rose sounds like a wonderful perfume--just the right notes for an elegant, lovely person like yourself.
xo

Heather Robinson said...

Jackie! I find that sooo crazy! As I said to Lorrie--go be a rebel! Because honestly what is next "Don't Smile" "No Laughing"...???

Heather Robinson said...

Thanks Barb! Surprisingly my Mom and Sis are not scent wearers--but I can see how a whole family could develop a long list of scents. :)

Heather Robinson said...

Thank you Edgar. I have been hoping someone would make the link between the colors. Of course you would!