By Catherine Wayland
February is the month of fragrance……ahhh. Fragrance is such a wonderfully public and intimate arena of style. Everyone knows what you smell like as you step into an elevator or arrive at a dinner table, but what about the back of your neck after a shower or your hair after baking gingerbread…. only a privileged few. I cherish the nuances of life’s fragrances. When Jax was born I sprayed my current Estee Lauder “Pleasures” onto a baby blanket and insisted they wrap him in it when they separated us in the hospital. When John went on a business trip seven weeks after Jax was born, I was comforted by how much Jax’s fuzzy angel head smelled like Papa. And my husband wears scents better than any man I have ever known. Sometimes I will just have to grab him and sniff him and I’ll scream, “God what are you wearing?” And he’ll tease and say, “Oh, just that lotion that was in the bathroom in the hotel.”
So when I went looking for my Valentine perfumeries, I was looking for not just the smell of foreplay but something more – a family affair of sorts, something that would linger through the years smelling of babies, laughter, passion, a bed of flowers and grandma’s cooking. I found that many of the good perfume houses think this way. They do not look for something that is momentary and fleeting, but rather a lasting memory. For instance, FLORIS. FLORIS is the oldest perfumery in England and dates back to the 1700s. I visited their only other retail site in the world other than their 270-year-old London shop at 89 Jermyn Street – right here in New York at 703 Madison Avenue. In its nine generations of scent making, the same family has owned FLORIS, first the Floris’ and now, the Bodenhams (name changed only due to male sons by Floris-Bodenham marriage). Floris is steeped in tradition – it is the epitome of classic elegance. Floris holds two royal warrants – “Perfumers to HM the Queen Elizabeth II” and “Manufacturers of Toilet Preparations to HRH The Prince of Wales.” It is of course, the perfume that “Mum” wore. But it is so much more.
If we imagine a perfume manufacturer as a master chef of scent, then Floris has thought of all the seasons and all the possible ingredients to flavor the banquets. Let us start with their “Lily of the Valley.” My mother’s favorite flower. It reminds me of spring and open windows. “China Rose” is a more heady rose scent, a winter night at the theatre. “Lavender” soothes and comes in a variety of bath products besides their Eau de Toilette. I would like to try their Lavender bath gel and moisturizer on Jax – he floats into the smell of Lavender. And finally, for the ladies, “Seringa” is one of their most popular fragrances based in lilac and mandarin – light. But let us not forget our less fair gender – our regal kings and warriors. “No. 89″ is actually said to be the favorite scent of Ian Fleming’s James Bond….ooohh baby. Their “Elite” is a mature smell for men, their “JP” a little more energetic. And the newest fragrance for men by FLORIS is “Santal,” which dares the contemporary Renaissance man with smells of lavender, green grass, exotic crushed peppercorns and zanzibar cloves fused with sensuous wood notes and vetiver……mhhh…now if that’s not a feast of the senses.
I cannot leave FLORIS without mentioning their unisex line – Cefiro. You know how there is always something sexy about wearing your husband’s oversized shirts to bed or a big sweater on a cold day? Well, now FLORIS let’s you share your perfumes as well. Cefiro is fresh, citrusy. And how nice to economize your traveling bags then to just throw the one perfume in? I think this was actually the big idea behind Cefiro. FLORIS has a hotel amenities line in collaboration with the Savoy Group, i.e. the Ritz Carlton and New York Palace. Although FLORIS fragrances are what bring even the Queen of England out of her carriage, they have lines dedicated to shaving, the bathroom, home décor, and many wonderful gift accessories. Just visiting their New York store on Madison Avenue is a treat. Tina King has been the general manager 11 of the 14 years of the New York store’s operation. Besides Tina’s wonderful fit to the line’s classic elegance, she adds a personal touch of humor and whimsy as well. I won’t give too much away, but exclusive to the store experience are fancy shower caps with huge yellow roses, special doggy and baby accessories, and bejeweled vanity mirrors. Let’s just say men, and John I hope you are reading, next time you want to say you’re sorry with some flowers, go to FLORIS instead. You’ll not only be forgiven, but we might just get to share a little shower time trying out some products…oohh la la. Go visit the New York store itself, shop online at http://www.florislondon.com, or the Floris Mail Order catalogue can be ordered by telephone on: 1-800-535-6747 or by e-mail:
London wins again. Of course we all know Burberry’s of London, the famous plaid. Well, Burberry’s is also a family affair of fragrance, and leaves an indelible memory. The perfume line for Burberry’s is about 3-4 years old. It features “Touch” for women in Eau de Parfum and “Touch” for men in an Eau de Toilette. The women’s line is accompanied by lotion, crème, shower gel, and soap. The men’s line is accompanied by after shave balm, shower gel, and deodorant stick. In May 2003, Burberry’s decided to launch “Tender Touch,” which was reformulated from its original perfume to reach a younger woman. With Burberry, Jax does not have to wait and just use scenty bath products. He too can have a smell of his own. Burberry’s included in their line “Baby Touch.” This line comes in an alcohol-free baby splash and a five-years-plus Eau de Toilette. “Baby Touch” also has a lotion, massage oil, and baby wash. The entire baby line was formulated by a pediatrician and dermatologist and is hypoallergenic. The whole line has a classic, yet energetic scent. It is a picnic overlooking the dunes on the Cape, an outing in Bryant Park at Christmas. Christian Jorgensen is the Business manager at the Saks counter, and he will guide you through this line lovingly. I must admit to not having luck finding a Burberry’s dedicated Internet site, but grouped with distribution sites. Too bad, I wanted to know more.
Now to a nearby neighbor in Italy. Bulgari also has a wonderful family tradition of scent. Interestingly, Bulgari is a brand known to most as an Italian jeweler. But don’t stop there and turn away in prejudice. Their perfume line is exquisite mostly because it is about the fragrance of aromatherapy. It draws you near, it soothes, it heals what ails you, and even excites. Their male and female fragrances are layered with herbs and spices. Their Pour Femme is based in jasmine tea, iris and Bulgarian rose and meant to act as an aphrodisiac to male admirers. Their Pour Homme is energizing, woodsy – a romping Puck, if you will. And then, the wonderful, wonderful swaddling babe and mama line, (you knew this would get to me, mamas), “Petit et Mamans.” Ohhhh, Bulgari, you have done so much right here. This line is chamomile-based with a powder fresh, dry down. It is lovely. It is just the right scent to rub on your belly while pregnant, wrap your babe in at the hospital, and splash your angel in on special days. Bulgari carries “Petit et Mamans” in an alcohol-free splash for zero to five years and an Eau de Toilette spray for after five years of age. For mamas shopping for a special baby shower or christening gift, Bulgari caters to you especially. They have an assortment of gift sets in this line that combines the “Petit et Mamans” with animal soaps and the accompanying shower gels and lotions in varying sizes and prices. Note to mamas, you need to look for this on the main floor of perfumes in the department stores. Although Bulgari does place “Petit et Mamans” in their baby sections at times, I could not find it there. As for the website, it had some fancy media introduction that kept knocking me offline. So for Bulgari, visit your local department store. Here in New York, you can find it at Saks or at http://www.bulgari.com.
There are, of course, some of the family members not covered here. What of my six-year-old niece in Massachusetts, and my 13-year-old niece in Long Island? What do they wear? Here is a brief synopsis. BCBGirls carries some nice fragrances for the six-year-old called “Nature” and “Star.” I’d leave their “Metro” and “Sexy” to someone other than either niece – too racy. I understand from a reliable source at Macy’s that for teenage girls, “Curve“, “Cool Water” and Glow (by JLo) are popular lines. There are also the more classic lines found in Tommy Girl, and “Lauren” by Ralph Lauren. Sandy Benjamin of the Men’s Fragrance counter guided me through the teenage boys. Thanks, Sandy. For teenage boys, Blue Jeans by Versace is a more “refreshing, clean” line that is now preferred over the heavier Calvin Klein of my dating days, thank goodness.
Tommy for teenage boys remains a classic. I say all of this and the thought of my Jax courting a girl with the smell of his new cologne makes tears run down my cheeks. And panic. But there it is, scents for the entire family. That and an attic of memories, I hope.
Here is a memory from my attic that still gives off a delicious fragrance. Eleven years ago I met my husband in the month of February. I think we were in a bar making fun of Valentine’s Day and all the “lovey doveyness.” Of course, we immediately proceeded to fall “lovey dovey” with one another and shame even the corniest of Valentine’s lovebirds. Shortly after we met, John went on a trip. I had just finished “Jitterbug Perfume” by Tom Robbins – a book about love, immortality and beets as the basenote in life’s eternal perfume. I slipped it into his hands as we said goodbye. He called me at the end of each day from New Orleans to read me his favorite lines. “Jitterbug Perfume” is our covenant of amour. So this month of February and the assignment of fragrances gave my heart a special smile. Who would have known 11 years ago that I would have met the one true scent of my life, and it would have a basenote of beets?