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At the Moment ...
Contemplating Change and Seeing Red with Habit Rouge
January 14, 2013:
Indie Perfumer Michael Storer is planning a comeback! One of the surprises of my Christmas holiday was in receiving a very moving email from perfumer Michael Storer, who recently found my review of his fragrance Winter Star. I’d written the review in December 2011, but he hadn’t seen it, as he’s been sorting through some rather big changes in his own life these past few years, including a move from his long-time home in Los Angeles to a new place in Arizona City, Arizona. Seems we both came to know each other’s work through happy accident (my decant of Winter Star was a surprise gift from my blogging friend Meg), but hopefully we’ll be better acquainted soon. Though Michael had to put aside his perfume business for awhile due to medical reasons (and the move), he’s planning to be back in action shortly and asked me to spread the word that his “niche fragrances for the individualist” will be up on his website in the very near future. In the meantime, it looks like there are several bottles of his fragrances available for sale at The Posh Peasant (though not Winter Star).
An experiment in thinking about color in regard to perfume has me wearing red and Guerlain Habit Rouge. My blogging friend Sigrun recently wrote about her love of nail polish, which led her to think about color, and she decided to do an experiment in which she would more or less meditate on a certain color for a few days and see what fragrances would come to mind. She invited anyone else who was interested to join her, so I did—sort of. Her post made me realize that in recent years I’ve entertained very little color in my wardrobe, and one color that has always been a challenge for me is red. It’s a color I love (for years I lusted after a red velvet couch I couldn't afford), but nevertheless feel uncomfortable adopting in real life. Last summer I bought a striking red dress that I’ve rarely worn, and the same can be said of the few other articles of clothing I have in that color. So for the past week I decided to wear red for a few days in a row and to examine the emotional impact it had on me, and what I’ve concluded is that red does make me feel more assertive—it makes me feel like I’m calling forth my inner Barbara Streisand. I feel cheekier, I feel more witty, and I even tend to smile differently when I wear red. But I also feel like I stick out like a sore thumb, and as someone who is in the habit of slinking about on life’s periphery and being an observer, it’s not a comfortable color for me to adopt in spite of the boldness it imparts. It feels like one has to be “on” all the time to wear red, and while that thought alone tires me out, it makes me think that wearing red is something I should aspire to do more often and with a conscientious mindset to stop being a slacker and a slinker and to step up to the plate.
When I tried to think of fragrances in my collection that match the color red, I really didn’t come up with much. Rose-heavy fragrances like L’Arte di Gucci would seem a natural fit, yet for some reason they occupy a feline form of black, rather than red, when I smell most of them. Amouage Lyric Woman is the exception: it’s such a velvety and smooth rose perfume that wearing it makes me think of the richness of fabrics, and it has a classy, old-school movie-star quality to it that does make me “see” it as being the olfactory equivalent of red. Since I’ve already written a post about Lyric, and since I wasn’t finding much else that fit into “red” for me, I decided to head for a scent that had red written right into its name. Guerlain Habit Rouge, eau de parfum (a sample of which came to me by way of my friend Christos). Though marketed as a masculine fragrance, Habit Rouge doesn't strike me as being gender specific at all, but it does have lots of personality: in my view, it's a high-strutting fragrance with a flamboyancy that does indeed send up the color red. The best way to describe Habit Rouge is to reference two other fragrances: for me, it smells like Guerlain Shalimar meets Chanel Coromandel … on steroids. I’m not sure I’ve ever smelled a masculine perfume that has such a bright and dramatic citrus opening as this one: it’s a whiff of piquant, lemon-drop-candied lemon meeting the bitter fizziness of bergamot (which is why it reminds me of Shalimar … on steroids) and it is met by a patchouli-and-benzoin heart that smells of Coca cola, leather and powder in a very big way (which is why it reminds me of Coromandel … on steroids). It bridges the gap in between with a whole lot of leather, albeit a smooth kid-glove form of leather.
There is nothing subtle about Habit Rouge, and yet the notes marry together so well that I can’t deny that it has a sense of sophisticated style about it, too. It’s a scent that reminds me of Oscar Wilde and also of a man named Victor, whom I met many years ago, and whose name was most fitting. Victor was openly gay and one of the most beautiful men a person could lay eyes on, and whenever he encountered that rare someone who also occupied this thin, upper stratosphere of beauty and charisma, he would bed that person—man or woman—almost as if to prove he could have anyone he wanted. Suffice it to say I didn't occupy the same stratosphere as Victor, nor would I necessarily care to, but it was quite entertaining to hear of his conquests and to encounter someone who had such a supreme and natural sense of confidence.
While Habit Rouge isn't a perfume that would seem to match up with my own personality, if I had a bottle I’d probably wear it often, because I find it far easier (and what's more, downright enjoyable) to wear a bold fragrance than a bold color. Considering a change might do me good, I might try to do more of both ... to adopt more “red” into my actual wardrobe, too. The fragrance notes for Guerlain Habit Rouge (which means “red jacket”) include:
Bergamot, lemon, rosewood, basil and pimento;
Sandalwood, carnation, patchouli, cedar, rose and cinnamon
Vanilla, amber, moss, leather, benzoin, labdanum and olibanum
Created by perfumer Jean-Paul Guerlain, Habit Rouge originally launched in 1965 and was re-orchestrated and relaunched in 2003. It’s important to note that my review is based on the eau de parfum concentration, which is not readily available on the Internet shopping sites (only the edt version is readily listed – and from what Christos has told me, he hates the edt version but loves the edp). My sample came from his bottle that has the red leather jacket on it, as pictured in this post. Here’s a foreign shopping link where it can be purchased: Marionnaud. The Guerlain boutique in Paris is probably the safest bet for finding the edp version.
Photo of Habit Rouge is from the Marionnaud webste listed above (thanks Christos!).
Photo of Winter Star bottle is from Basenotes.net
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Today a blogging friend let me know that my perfume journal posts are no longer accessible via iPhone and she wondered if I had made changes to my mobile platforms. Actually, I haven't made any but my website hosting company keeps making lots of them--none of which help me in maintaining my site. When they recently installed a new page designer, it affected the way some of my older (archived) posts looked, especially when viewed in Internet Explorer, and not for the better: pictures would be missing from posts and sometimes whole paragraphs of font would be different from the Arial font I normally use. Because these changes occurred randomly rather than uniformly, I would only discover that a page was missing a photo, or that the font had gone wonky, if I had reason to refer to one of my older posts.
Then a couple months ago I signed in and got an announcement that the hosting company had created a mobile version of my site, which really flummoxed me, since the site seemed perfectly accessible by smartphone before they created this new version. Not owning a smartphone, it never occurs to me to look at the mobile layout. To those of you who like to browse via iPhone, my apologies. I am considering at this point whether I should try to fix the problem and keep my site as is, or whether I should do what I should have done years ago, which is to move my writing over to an actual blogging platform like WordPress. (Though I have made this website function as a blog, it is not one, which is why there is no commenting forum or tags or even a feed.) While it seems like a ton of work to move the site, if I can’t get certain issues resolved, you’ll probably see such a move in the weeks ahead.
Now that the housekeeping portion of my post has been addressed, here are a couple more things that fall under the “Contemplating Change” category …