Hey Hey Fragrance Lovers,
When I finally discovered you all it was a complete revelation. My own fragrance story was so introverted and self fulfilling that though I shopped online quite a lot I had not twigged that there would be other people who were already reading, writing, exploring, sharing, corresponding and generally enjoying the community that is the fragrance wormhole, for years!! Who knew there was a world of scent-ualists online?
I don’t know about you but I am often intrigued by the people who found the scentbloggosphere years before I did. They are now an elite crew whose knowledge, entrenchment and sophistication are world renowned, as are each of their personalities. They all took their baby fragrant steps together or helped the new kids on the block towards their own perfumista status, and still do.
Today we are talking to Anita Berlanga, you may know her from PerfumePosse as Musette, with the sharp and witty wisecracks. Anita has been unstintingly warm and generous to me and I’m sure many others of you so I thought it would be fun to get into her head a bit. She gets the APJ question but just tweaked a little….
Photo Stolen Musette’s Private Cache
Give us a brief history, who was young you, important you defining moments or early fragrant memories that may have herded you towards the ever moving now?
I was a typical Midwestern teenaged nerd with romantic literature leanings (windswept moors, dark, brooding heroes)…went well with my braces and zits. Early scent? Heaven Sent. Vats of it. My high school REEKED of the stuff. That, and Love’s Baby Soft. Enough to bring up your lunch. Oooh! and Coty Elan, which I liked because it smelled romantically windswept and had a cool bottle (I just scored a vintage bottle recently – it’s a greenery-yallery scent. But such a fab bottle!
Then I found that greeny galbanum Norell on my mother’s dresser, which I thought smelled so…windswept, with heathery scarves and velvet cloaks (hey! I was – what? 14? 15? And I was totally on that moor, with the wind whipping my straight, shiny, Cathy-esque black hair and sooty black lashes fringing my violet eyes, with a young Laurence Olivier striding towards me. Yah.. Except on me it smelled like I’d guzzled a bottle of Scotch. Then it was Nina Ricci Bigarade (which was the beginning of my bitter orange love, though Bigarade is, in truth, an unassuming orange blossom – but that is for Another Day). To be honest, I have NO idea how I came upon that one. But that leads us into your next question…
What perfume started your journey?
Nina Ricci Bigarade. Well, it didn’t actually start my journey. It started my journey HERE. Blame the Internet. Blame NST. Blame …?? 40 years later, I began to wonder about that perfume, which led to the Internet to revisit (I dunno how old you are but when you hit 50 you start looking for the weirdest things from your past. Puppet Fairy Tale books from your childhood.
Hostess cupcake packaging from the early 60s. Perfume is a biggie. Google has a LOT to answer for, lemme tell you. But in all honesty, it really was Google. I Googled Nina Ricci Bigarade, which led me to Now Smell This, which led me to the Posse. And the rest……..well, you know!Most embarrassing thing about my journey? I wasted SUCH an opportunity. At 23 I was a card-carrying moron. I didn’t know where I would be, 25 years later…… back when I worked as the Ad Mgr for Marshall Field & Company (only THE most elegant department store in Chicago -nay, the Midwest. At one point it was one of the few department stores in the country to rival Bergdorf) – managing advertising for COSMETICS AND FINE FRAGRANCES. Morong. I had access to Every. Single. House. Guerlain. Chanel. Dior. I met Karl Lagerfeld and Bill Blass and Calvin Klein – back when they were doing their own perfumes. (remind me to tell you about Herr Karl and me …and our fans….) I had No Clue. I took my first trip to Paris, without telling the Fragrance honcho I was going. He was stunned! What did I wear? Only what everybody else did. Chloe. Anais Anais. Though I did scent my sheets with Patou Vacances – but to tell you the truth that was more because I loved the little emerald-green stopper. I had scads of that stuff. Scads!! I wasted it. On sheets! 30 years later I am in tears about it. Who knew?
How did you get your perfume education and did you have any mentors?
I’m still a student and hope to always have a beginner’s mind. Otherwise this will become a bore. This is going to sound like a cop-out but it’s true: my mentors are the perfumistas who come on the blogs and the FB perfume pages. I’m stunned at how much I’ve learned from them. There is no ‘teacher’ – we are all amateurs, in the truest sense of that word, loving and learning as we spritz. And when it comes to parsing out notes? Nobody can do it like the folks on the Posse.Speaking of notes, though, I will tell you one of my very first ‘note’ experiences. I’d just started writing for the Posse and a friend sent me several samples to try – one being Anne Pliska. So..I spritz on the AP and am immediately assailed by this…note. Can’t for the life of me figure out WHY I KNOW THIS DAMN NOTE! It teases me allll day but I don’t have time to research (aka Google) it. So time ticks by, I’m working and this note is worrying my Very Last Nerve. Finally, bedtime arrives. El O and I go to bed, the boys just outside our bedroom door. All is peaceful…suddenly, at 2am, I sit bolt upright in bed and shout ‘PLAY-DOH!!!’. Used to my craziness, nobody in my house even turned over! But that was my very first ‘note’ experience. And yes, Anne Pliska smells persackly like Play-Doh. Which is not a bad thing.
What is your current favourite mass market perfume house?
Guerlain. Even when they miss, they do it spectacularly and they get huge points for keeping the classics in their line and even showcasing some of the lesser-known perfumes of yesteryear (Neiman Marcus in Chicago had a breathtaking display of the Guerlain ‘oldies’, some in the original bottle design. It made my heart sing!) In my opinion, they are the embodiment of Western haute perfumery (non-niche). Large niche house: tie between Amouage and Frederic Malle. Both Houses are intriguing, unwilling to pander to focus groups and mass trends. And they consistently deliver stellar perfumes . I wish they were better known. I don’t understand the urge to smell ‘exclusive’ – as far as I’m concerned, a roomful of people wearing Carnal Flower or Epic is a GOOD THING!
Do you have a favourite independent perfumer and why, or if that is too politically loaded; what makes a good indie perfumer?
I have several but my steadfast favorite is Liz Zorn – I think it’s because so many of her scents touch my core, immediately and viscerally. The first one, Historical Chypre, I thought might’ve been a fluke. But we’re well into double digits now, so obviously there’s a connection there. The first time I smelled Violets and Rainwater, I teared up! I was back on Lexington Ave in NY, in front of a florist shop, after a pelting Spring rain. Busted pot of violets on the sidewalk. Nobody loved them. Or me. I was bereft. Then I realized, if I just picked the damn violets up and put them back in the pot everything would be just fine. And it was. By the way, none of that actually happened (though there was a florist on Lex that I loved) But such is the power of Liz’s scents that the entire scenario leapt, unbidden, into my psyche and became part of my history. In one spritz.
What do you see as the most important trend in perfumery currently?
I think all trends suck. Truly. The one ‘trend’ (in mass market) I would like to see is a return to ‘real’, structured perfumery, for adults, crafted with quality ingredients. But I suspect that time has come and gone. There’s too much money invested in the quick ROI, ingredients are astronomically expensive and the general public’s taste seems to be devolving, with the aspiration more for the marketing image rather than what stuff smells like. Then again, I love the smell of Clinique Happy – so what do I know??
Isn’t she AH MAY ZING? Thank you Musette for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do this. I feel blessed that you’d come and chat so openly, honestly and interestingly for us.
Wishing you all painless, easy and harmless world domination,
See you tomorrow.