My first perfumed gift from a boyfriend was Givenchy L’Interdit in a silver purse spray. It has recently been re-released, but it isn’t quite the same – it doesn’t transport me back to duty free lounges, to smoky parties or leather bikinis (yes, really), to hot holidays on Indian Ocean beaches that marked my first discovery of this aldehydic floral. But the frantic pace of the late 1960s, the astonishing freedoms being opened up for young people are for me embodied in this perfume, rather than the oft quoted patchoulis usually associated with the period.
But my real love affair, the perfume that I still regard as ‘mine’ is Guerlian L’Heure Bleue. It is my career fragrance because when I discovered it in 1978, I was working with Mary Quant and we were developing her new fragrance (improbably called Q by Quant). She was working through some blind tests and called a single sniff of L’Heure Bleue ‘the ultimate treat’. I started wearing it after that one introduction, and to me it embodies the sensuality that every woman needs to balance her power! I loved the extrait the best, with dollops of orange blossom, oodles of iris, masses of powdery vanilla and a weave of anis/licorice. I wear it when I want to be happy, when I want to impress, when I am recovering, when I need comforting. I adore it. I am not so enamoured of its rework, and I tend to use that as a light alternative rather than the carnal elemental perfume which really does embody that hour between night and day, when things become calm and clear.
I have also taken to wearing Gardez Moi from Jovoy. I started wearing this lovely confection of coriander, black pepper, jasmine, gardenia and white lily, coincidentally at a time when my husband was very ill. It is a comforting scent, rich and feminine and its name was symbolic for me. I wear it now in celebration of my husband’s recovery (and because I revel in its creaminess!).
My wardrobe also includes Frederic Malle’s Lys Mediteranee. I love it because this is the fragrance of the summer season for me, all the way from Chelsea in May, through to Glyndebourne in July and to the south of France in August – deliciously full of orange blossom, lilies and vanilla, somehow managing to be both hot and zesty yet light and feminine. This is a perfume with a special memory for me. My husband and I were visiting all the small independent perfumeries in Paris as a day out. I bought the fragrance after immersion in the scent tower in Frederic Malle’s boutique and for me, it is a scent associated with authenticity, discovery and artisanal authority. It re-ignited my love affair with perfume.