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Into The Gloss
Grain de Musc
Drivel About Frivol The Selfish Seamstress
Bois de Jasmin Glossed In Translation
Jak and Jil
Worship at the House of Blues
I Smell Therefore I Am
The Natural Haven
Moving Image Source
The Emperor's Old Clothes
Colin's Beauty Pages
Barney's jewelry department
loodie loodie loodie
The Straight Dope
Sea of Shoes
London Makeup Girl
Sakecat's Scent Project
Tom & Lorenzo: Mad Style
Beauty and the Bullshit
La Garçonne Flame Warriors Everyday Beauty
Fashion Gone Rogue
Now Smell This
A Fevered Dictation
If we mortals could choose the manner of our deaths, mine would be to drown in Mitsouko, so much do I adore this perfume—any time, any where, exclusively, forever, and despite this avalanche of absolutes I still would not miss any others. This reaction is by no means universal, Mitsouko is a notorious contrarian; should it express antipathy for your skin, it is nothing but an acrid dust in a spice-filled air. Even for ardent fans it remains too elusive to circumscribe within the poverty of language, pin one descriptor on it, and the very opposite quality will inevitably surface.
Quiet, unfinished sublimity: Leonardo da Vinci, La Scapigliata (1508).
Widely regarded as the greatest perfume, ever, by the pundits, and worn by such notorieties as Charlie Chaplin and Ingrid Bergman, Mitsouko was born when Jacques Guerlain brightened the twilit depths of Coty Chypre with the creamy-yet-unripe peachy sillage of aldehyde C-14, transporting us, as if by magic, backwards an hour to the moment of sunset, for the moment safe from the demons that lurk at midnight. Nevertheless, in spite of all its historical grandeur, the first sniff may surprise you: there are no great discoveries, but instead a musty, muffled gesture to traditional aromatics, a succession of deflated expectations. Bitter, bright bergamot and bitter, dark oakmoss clearly bracket each end of Mitsouko like a set of quotation marks, but the text within is obscure, full of twists, and fraught with contradictions. In Mitsouko we find only bruised orange-blossom petals and the stunted rose, sick with the invisible worm. The famous peaches-'n'-cream centerpiece (C14 and vanilla), especially in this gourmand age, is far from the sun-ripened succulence of a perfect peach; instead, we find only winter fruit, hard and unappetizing under the supermarket's fluorescence (bergamot and mandarin), before skipping ahead to the leatheriness (vetiver, oakmoss, and sandalwood, and just a hint of patchouli) of dried fruit in the drydown. Its savors are accented with spices (clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg), but more pale than punchy. Holistically, in atmosphere and aroma, Mitsouko most closely resembles an old library—all dust and aged leather and the quietness of paper.
These are not exactly the olfactory evolutions to inspire confidence, and yet (for me at least) no perfume attains the sublime better, akin to that unbearable ache of sweetness that clings to the back of your throat when Milstein plays Bach. Though it strives for the seamless virtuosity of many of the classical icons, the greater part of the wonder is, O, how strange, how very strange is Mitsouko.
I wish to impress upon you, dear reader, a quality of solipsism to this particular perfume; it stands apart, more than it stands above. Other perfumes are aspirational, articulating glamours* to cloak the humble and mundane, by their very nature a kind of display. This is not to diminish their achievements; indeed it is nothing short of extraordinary how a bottle of perfume can transport us so vividly into such diverse avatarism—so what if it be illusory? But Mitsouko is not like this, it is not a sociable perfume, instead it personifies the eccentricity and reserve of a profound intelligence, a genuine introvert, completely caught up in an inner life that consumes all regard it might otherwise extend for social niceties, ultimately more interesting than attractive. It is a type not often seen, and therefore poorly understood, consequently Mitsouko proves an enigma, even though perfumes are generally a subject quite humid with poetry. It is a harmony of near contrasts—luminous yet mysterious, austere yet sensuous, opulent yet subtle, witty yet tranquil, elegant yet weird—which explains in part why it is so difficult to describe. Mitsouko is anti-perfume, an abstracted meditation on the art form itself, perpetually on the cusp of uttering something meaningful, but it ultimately shies away from proposing any conclusions that might provide an easy handle for easy understanding.
And yet, to intimate upon the enigma is insufficient; it seems to imply that peculiarity alone is responsible for its metamorphic brilliance. Because, believe it or not, Mitsouko is a skin scent—though rarefied, ambrosial flesh to be sure. The abstraction of form and its semantic enigmas encourage such a degree of impersonality in the perfume itself, that it becomes entirely personal to the wearer, not unlike the fashions of Martin Margiela, as opposed to the overt branding of Chanel. In all superficial respects Mitsouko is a failure: it fails to be pretty, it fails to be easy, and it even fails to be pleasant, but it does insist on a rapport, and ultimately, it becomes a conversation that only intensifies in intrigue and depth, until you entirely forget the initial disappointments, and discover that it was warm and radiant and alive all along.
Said then the lost Archangel, "this the seat
That we must change for heav'n, this mournful gloom
For that celestial light? Be it so, since he
Who now is sovran can dispose and bid
What shall be right: farthest from him is best
Whom reason hath equaled, force hath made supreme
Above his equals. Farwell happy fields
Where joy for ever dwells: hail horrours, hail
Infernal world, and thou profoundest hell
Receive thy new possessor: one who brings
A mind not to be changed by place or time.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav'n of hell, a hell of heav'n."
–Book I, lines 242-255.
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:
They hand in hand with wand'ring steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way.
–Book XII, lines 646-629.
* In the Gaelic, "glamour" would have close associations with the occult, a witch's spell that covers the real form with the illusion of beauty (or vice versa). It is a word closely related to "grammar", eerily pertinent to our discussion of how the forms of art may can obscure the forms of substance, which I find to be the aesthetics behind both Mitsouko and Paradise Lost.
Now Smell This
Glass Petal Smoke
I Smell Therefore I Am
Bois de Jasmin
The Scented Salamander
The Mnemonic Sense
The Beauty Primer
On The Label
The Hit List
Color Me In
The Makeup Artist
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