Friday, October 16, 2009

Oasis in the Desert

This is going to seem ridiculously familiar to some of my perfumista friends: The American Mall – at least in bucolic suburbia – is a perfume wasteland.

I had the rare chance to go to the mall yesterday. The CEO insists that all errands be combined as much as possible, so I don’t often go to the small city/big town in which the mall is located. It’s twenty miles away, a good half-hour’s drive – but I had a dentist’s appointment today, and afterward hit the mall. Our mall has four anchor stores: Sears, JC Penney, Belk, and Dick’s Sporting Goods. Only one of those, Belk, has sniffies available. They’ve got a big sale going on at the moment, so I went in.

I should explain that it always sort of depresses me to read a blog entry about some new commercial release, because I know that I’ll maybe possibly someday get to sniff it – but only if it’s at Belk, which is mainstream all the way, baby. I won't get to stroll into Aedes and smell the new L'Artisan, but things like Marc Jacobs Lola, Idole d'Armani, and Lancome Hypnoses Senses are available.

There were testers for all three at Belk. I sprayed each on a card, and they were either “Bleah, too sweet” or “Meh, boring.” What a waste of aisle space. Belk has all the Estee Lauders, except the new Private Collections – which does me absolutely no good because of that Horrible Lauder Base. They’ve also got some Escadas, the Jessica Simpsons, Queen, Juicy Couture, Ed Hardy, a few Lancomes (Tresor, Hypnose, Magnifique, and Hypnose Senses – no La Collection here), and Ralph Laurens. Oh, and of course they have Chanel (no Les Exclusifs, obviously).

The SA who came over to talk to me about Chanels… doesn’t like them. Oh, except for Chance Eau Fraiche. Which she pronounced Aw Fresh. I mean, I grew up here and I’m used to the local accent, but really. I told her that I liked Eau Premiere and got a blank look, like “what’s that?” I pointed. “Oh. I don’t like No. 5, it’s too heavy and old fashioned. But try this, it’s nice and soft.” She sprayed Allure on a card for me. This SA, at a guess, is at least 40, judging by her skin (and yes, I know that’s not nice of me). Hey, I’m 40… ish… too!

I asked to sniff Coco, having heard from a longtime wearer that it smells softer these days. “No, it hasn’t been changed,” the saleslady says. “You like that? That’s an old one.” She sprayed it for me anyway. I was hoping it would be less Opium-ish than it used to be. I don’t hate it as much as I used to, but… still NO. Dear God, NO.

So now I get why people are always complaining about the arid landscape of mainstream, and why they hate that SA’s are so uninformed about what they’re selling. True, all true. Recently over on Now Smell This, Angela reviewed vintage Millot Crepe de Chine as something of an antidote to an unsuccessful sniffing trip; the comments about perfume SA’s are interesting to read. You can access it here. I just hadn’t realized how bad it is – gosh, if you’re going to sell something as luxurious as perfume, perhaps you should find out something about it, hm?

Lost in the scented desert, trying to find my way out, I finally saw an oasis: Shalimar. At the bottom of the case, lovely blue-and gold tester bottle locked up, the only Guerlain in the place sat on a shelf and glowed at me from amid the dreck. I don’t even wear it – it goes pretty tarry on me and can scare the horses, if you know what I mean – but boy, did it look good! Shalimar is still the Grand Old Diva – and to quote Luca Turin, “God bless Guerlain for still doing this stuff.”

I went home and put on a drop of vintage Shalimar parfum de toilette, and then topped it with a little spritz of Shalimar Light.  It was lovely; the Shalimar TarNilla was just right in the woodsmoke-laced rainy evening.  Ahhhh.
Top image: Sahar (Kavir) by Hamed Saber at flickr; Shalimar extrait at ebay.


Daisy said...

aww, it makes me sad that you have even LESS access than I do! But I'm afraid that it'd have to be a pretty darn good mall store to carry the sorts of juice that we've come to love. I recently sniffed my way through the Kohl's and the new Ulta store in our area...and it was disappointing to the point of aggravation. I came away with a fistful of paper strips doused in sweet, fruity, synthetic, plastic-musk and vanilla....don't get me wrong I love vanilla in a base....but there's yum vanilla and OMG WHAT IS THIS CRAP vanilla. Every vanilla note in both stores was of the omg-witc variety. sigh.
I thank my lucky stars that I found TPC, Posh Peasant, Luckyscent, Aedes, etc a year or so ago.
My perfume life would be dismal indeed without them. So a tip-of-the-hat to our niche/classic/discontinued havens, what would we do without you?
My dear Mals, I hope you made it out of the Belk's without physically injuring that disappointing SA, those pesky assault convictions can really stick with a girl.
~~Daisy :-)

Mals86 said...

Yeah. FAAAAAR too much of that WITC stuff. I managed to be pleasant to that poor SA. She was NICE enough, if clueless. I mean, seriously, if she makes commission by selling perfume... she sure didn't make any off me. Incidentally, if she makes commission by selling cosmetics, she wouldn't have made any off me on that product class either. She was made up Tammy Faye style, poor thing.