Scents Of My Mother: Sydney Perfume Lovers Scent Salon

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Post by Catherine du Peloux Menage

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APJ and the Sydney Perfume Lovers have teamed up to run monthly Sunday Scent Salons. Perfume evokes memories and few memories are deeper than those associated with a mother, which is how thirteen men and women, some of them complete strangers met to talk about Scents Of My Mother, bearing photographs, perfumes and recollections. It was a moving, warm and sometimes funny event.

Scents Of My Mother

Sydney Perfume Lovers Scent Salon

Complex is the best word to describe the relationships we brought to the table.
We met many mothers. The one who smoked a joint with her son on his 18th birthday, the one who said ‘disgusting’ about a daughter’s folds of flesh, the one who criticised her naturally slender daughter for deliberately being too thin, the one who still tidies up when entering her daughter’s home, the insightful one who told her son that she thought he probably wouldn’t marry a girl…

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There was a gentle woman whose softness didn’t prepare her daughter for the tough world which awaited, the timid one who couldn’t give her daughter the strong role model she craved, the one who came out as a lesbian and couldn’t forgive her daughter for leading a different life. The one who had a child at 15 and brought him up with her own mother.

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Many were artists or studied art. Few fulfilled themselves in the workplace. Many were clean and tidy freaks who always look good. (No prizes for making a connection between the last two sentences.) Many were critical, many were loving and most were both at the same time. Many of us around the table described our feelings of love or pain or both for Glenda, Jane, Lauraine, Cheryl, Marie, Rosemary, Waina, Joan, Francoise, Teresa.

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What were our scent memories? One of us recollected trying to please her mother by making perfume for her by soaking flowers in water. Another brought biscuits from her mother’s handwritten recipe book to evoke the smell of baking. There were memories of babysitters arriving and mothers leaving in clouds of Chanel N’5, Chant d’Aromes and L’Air du Temps. I would love to have met the mother who wore Shalimar parfum during the day. Her child was fated not to be timid!

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Fresh green beans evoked one mother who survived breast cancer. Another always had acrid smelling salts in the bathroom cupboard in case they were needed and wore Arpege – a startling juxtaposition. Rive Gauche featured twice. It is still worn today by one daughter to differentiate herself as the opposite to her mother who like more run of the mill Avon fragrances, and was worn by another mother when it came out to stamp herself as modern. She also wore Tabu and Oleg Cassini. We encountered one generous perfume collector mother with over 300 bottles who loves giving her daughter bottles of Serge Lutens as well as one who never wears scent but does have scented handcream which smells like Fragonard’s Billet Doux. Cie Perfume (with Candace Bergen as its face) was an early favourite of a mother who also wore Tresor but now is faithful to Champs Elysees. La Cabrasella, a bergamot citrus scent from Calabria has always sat on the dressing table of one Italian mother.

We could have talked for many more hours and left feeling happy to have shared these perfumes and memories. I’m sure another Scent Salon will revisit this topic one day for another group.

CdPM xx

21 thoughts on “Scents Of My Mother: Sydney Perfume Lovers Scent Salon

  1. Sounds like a very special evening. Until it was discontinued in the mid-70s, my mother always wore a Helena Rubenstein scent called Command Performance. She is much more eclectic now, but last year a kindly perfumista in Australia sent me several small vials of it in perfect condition. Christine West, if you’re out there, thanks again! As soon as a vial was opened my mother was in front of me, 30 years old. I kept one of the vials to try to get it copied and sent the rest to my mother. The scent-copy place lost the vial and never responded to my emails about sending another, and for months I bought every bit of the stuff that showed up on EBay, all of which was musty and almost scentless upon arrival. So I still long for a bottle of intact Command Performance so that I can spray it and have my whole childhood rise up in front of me. Wish I could have been in Sydney that night!

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    • It was indeed very special. Because we were evoking our mothers through perfume, we could be very personal even though many of us had never met before. If I ever come across a bottle of Command Performance I’ll let you know.
      I know just what you mean about having the person and the time rise up in front of you. I tried Chant d’Aromes again for the event and the dry down had me transfixed. I could see my mother at 30 as well.
      Your comment about the scent copy place intrigued me. Where do you live? Are there many such places? I’ve never come across them operating.commercially. Mind you losing your sample isn’t a great encouragement. Have you had anything else copied and how did it go? I’d love to hear about it and if anyone else has experience of this, please write in too.

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      • It’s a place that sells a lot of oil-based duplicates of scents as well as some of their own. Some of the duplicates are quite good, and some are not so good. That was the only time I tried to get them to do a custom duplication, and I didn’t try again. You can find them at http://www.thefragranceshop.com

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  2. The scent my mother wore Joy Perfume all the time, even during the day. If fact she still wears Joy Perfume. That is how I became a perfumesta! In fact I create a signature fragrance for my Mom reminiscent of Joy, called Dorobella.
    Thank you for writing such a heartwarming article, lovely.

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    • Many thanks Jane. I never smelled Joy until I was an adult but many people I do consultations for recognise it immediately and find it hugely evocative. Interestingly, few French women seem to know it but more US, UK and Australians
      Tell me more about the perfumes you make. I’ll be looking them up as well.

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      • Hello Catherine: again wonderful article. I am the perfumer/owner of “a wing & a prayer perfumes”. I create natural perfumes using pure and organic ingredients. I hope you visit my shop on etsy.com; wingandprayerperfume.etsy.com
        Again the article and sharing such a special evening was truly heartwarming, thank you again.

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  3. Heya Catherine,
    What a wonderful morning it was. You certainly know how to keep the magic flowing and it was especially nice to talk about Mum, she was fab and I miss her every day.
    Shalimar is not just my fave frag but a memory scent.
    Portia xx

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  4. Beautiful writing Catherine, about such a poignant discussion. Thankyou for sharing amongst yourselves and further with us.

    FeralJ – what a gorgeous story – I think I have heard that story from Christine herself 🙂 she *is* a treasure!

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  5. This perfume group is very special you know….. I have never heard of a group that really gets down into the wholeness (the only word I can think of) of fragrance – how it impacts our lives and relationships – than this group you have there. Most of these types of groups tend to remain pretty superficial – and there is nothing wrong with that – but this is deeply touching and meaningful to me, very special….. Thank you so very much for sharing these moments with us, you are all an inspiration.

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  6. It felt very special to be in this Perfume Lovers Meetup. All the stories came from the heart.
    Thank you so much to Portia for your gracious hospitality and to Catherine for organising such an event.

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