The year is 1976. My brothers and I are spending our annual holiday with mum at the Gold Coast. The air is thick with salt, sweat and pre-Christmas excitement. This is a Gold Coast before the very glam arrival of Pacific Fair. The only shops at Broadbeach were on a strip beachside of the highway. I remember a hot chook shop and a chemist.
The chook shop is where we pick up our Christmas lunch; the chemist is where we take our pocket money to shop for mum’s pressie. It is always a bottle of 4711 Eau de Cologne. This now-200-year-old fragrance is mum’s scent of choice. To my nine-year-old self, it is mum. It represents summer holidays in a bottle, long, long before I understand what a base, middle and top note are all about.
Fast-forward three years and for the first time in many years we are not sweating it out in a Queensland summer. We are in England, embracing a northern hemisphere Christmas with my dad, my step-mum and our English rellies. My tanned legs are encased in stockings and boots and my Aunty Kathryn has taken me under her bargain shopping wing, introducing me to the delights of a Christmas fragrance coffret. So beautiful. So much value. All in one box.
On that cold December 25 morning, I open up my presents, only to squeal in delight at the huge coffret of Revlon Charlie products. I feel so grown up. I AM a Charlie woman. All fresh but with a little base of spice. Well, I would be, if I actually use the cologne spray and body lotion. I never want them to run out, so I keep them carefully in their box. As you do when you are 12 and don’t know if or when you’ll ever again receive a gift so beautiful.
MY fragrance story has begun.
Seven Christmases later. I’m once again in England. This time on my own. Aunty Kathryn still knows a thing or two about shopping and I find myself on the receiving end of a bottle of Nini Ricci L’Air du Temps. It is the most beautiful bottle I’ve ever seen. I now understand the power of the perfume bottle. I am entranced by the frosted doves sitting atop the swirls of glass. And again, I’ve chosen a fragrance that is part floral, part spice. Funny that.
In the late 1980s, fashion is all about power. I am no longer a poor student; just a poor journalist. And my step-mum opens my mind (and my shoulder-padded dress “sense”) to the in-your-face excitement of YSL’s stable of fragrances. YSL Paris is the “It” fragrance and boy do I EMRACE it. To say the original Paris is a heady mix of florals, woods and greens is THE understatement of a very opulent decade. It is perhaps only eclipsed by Christian Dior’s Poison for its ability to enter a room before I did.
In the 1990s, I kind of get stuck. I lose my fragrance mojo. I still have one foot in the YSL camp – with Opium – a thick wallop of an oriental – but find it a little too much for an everyday scent. I flirt with Carachel’s Anais Anais, more feminine, yes, but still with those woody and amber undertones that I seem unwittingly drawn to. (I am also home with with small babies and am lucky to get out of my pjs each day, let along remember to spritz on something a little nice so that may have something to do with it.)
In 2002, I find that mojo again, and start a long-standing love affair with Jean Paul Gaultier Classique. I am newly engaged (the second time around) and floating in this musky floriental love bubble. JPG brings out my inner Madonna(I still keep an empty limited edition metallic bustier bottle in my fragrance “wardrobe”). This is seriously the first fragrance I use every day. That I make my own. That I am not afraid to use until the bottle is empty.
Last Christmas, fragrance love strikes again. I fall head over heels for Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere. I’ve always danced around the edges of Chanel’s fragrance offerings but none had grabbed me enough that I wanted to commit further than a quick spray on my way past the Myer perfume counter. Eau Premiere offers me a soft mix of neroli, roses, jasmine, ylang ylang, amber, vetiver, and sandalwood — a seemingly perfect combination – for me – and one unwittingly I’ve been moving towards since 1976.
So, is this to be my signature scent? For the moment yes. But who knows what this Christmas will bring? Each year brings a new season of our life. New fragrant memories are created. I’m open to change … wherever it may lead me.
Are you? Do you have one fragrance that embodies who you are? Or are you hoping for a fragrant change this Christmas?
**This post is dedicated to my mum, Margaret Parkinson, who with my step-dad, was tragically killed 15 years ago on December 21, 1995.**