One Thousand Scents

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I was watching some old episodes of Law & Order tonight, from season 9, and in one of them, episode 6 or 7, Lennie Briscoe, one of the detectives, looks into a display case of guns, points to one of them, and says, "A .357." And I wondered, "How does he know that?", because to me, all guns look alike; they're just guns. But in episode 2, a character picks up a bottle of perfume and sets in on a counter, and I thought, "Hey, I think that's X'ia X'iang." I'm not obsessive enough to go back and frame-by-frame it to make sure, but I'm pretty sure it was Revlon's long-discontinued X'ia X'iang (which was launched in 1987 and can still be had for large sums of money on the Internet). Bet Briscoe couldn't have done that!

I mention this because the other day I was complaining that a Michael Kors dress looked very like a bottle of Rive Gauche, and a commenter, Clare, said she'd had exactly the same thought upon seeing the dress. It seems obvious to her and to me, but maybe I was too hasty; maybe there isn't anyone in Kors' organization who's quite as fanatical about fragrance as we are. (There should be, though; he has a fragrance line as part of his empire, and a number of his bottles are visually distinctive.)

Some people can tell the make and year of a car just from seeing the back bumper. Some people can name a building's architect after seeing the dome of a church or the sweep of a flying buttress. I may not be able to do anything quite so grand, but I can identify hundreds and hundreds of different fragrance bottles on sight, and so, I bet, can a lot of my fellow perfume-hounds.


Here's a piece about perverse modern fragrances. I'm not really buying the piece's main conceit, which is that, as the headline reads, "cutting-edge fragrances tell stories", since most well-constructed scents have a story to tell, but it's an interesting piece nonetheless.


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