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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Lady Gaga at Chanel. Photo by Terry Richardson.

Where is any of this in Coco Noir?

There is one perfume commercial more infamous than any other. Chanels “Balcony” for Egoïste, produced in 1990, directed by Jean Paul Goude. Égoïste was created by Jacques Polge and is a woody spicy fragrance with sicilian tangerine, brazilian rosewood, coriander, damask rose, sandalwood, vanilla and ambrette seed.

Jean-Paul Goude was born in 1940 in Saint-Mandé. He is a graphic designer, illustator, photographer and advertising film director. His name became famous world-wide for the Chanel commercial but many people knew about him already before because of his collaboration with icon Grace Jones. He directed several of her videos and took many memorable photos of her. Their collaboration was at its peak in the early 1980’s and their personal chemistry strong enough for her to become his muse and the mother of a son, Paulo. Paulo Goude has a band, Trybez. Here’s a moment of their concert at one of my favorite places in the entire world – Paradiso. Rather crappy quality but still. This is his mother performing on the same stage.


Goude is a universe of inspiration and aesthetic joy. Explore his official website or check out the official documentary video So Far, So Goude. Right now, there is a restrospective hommage to his career in Paris, at Les Arts Décoratifs. Go if you can!

The music you hear in the Chanel Ègoïste commercial is Sergei Prokofiev’s “Montagues and Capulets” from Romeo and Juliet. With this magnificent take on the complete version I wish you a lovely Saturday. Valery Gergiev conducting the London Symphony Orchestra.


I work with PR and communication so it is natural that the different aspects of sales techniques interest me, from the rhetorics to hands-on practical details. I am particularly fascinated by this, when it comes with perfumes as I think this business does have some work on when it comes to consumer communication. The gap between the art, knowledge and stories within the perfume world – and the consumer – is gigantic. This leads to people spending too much money on products that are not right for them, which leads only to confusion and disappointment. People buy to much crap produced without neither heart nor art – because the perfume world allows itself be a slave to sales logistics. And the exceptions to these descriptions – they are much less well-known than they should be. Seriously, je déclare la guerre.

I don’t expect every person who sells perfume to be an expert. Although, that would be amazing… But I do hope that you feel, if not passion, then at least respect for the exceptional product that you sell, and that you have the will to create genuine dialogue.

I would love to spend some time with people who sell perfumes and talk about how we best invite and guide others into this world. Selling perfume is not like selling ”anything”, its like being there for someone who is discovering their inner self, its like being an expert of Michelangelo’s art. For crying out loud, all you sales machines – get your act together!

So. Here is a real-life example on how it should not be done. Today after work I went to a store in Stockholm to try Coco Noir. Inevitable. I have avoided reading reviews, just noticed them, because I wanted to discover it with a clear mindset. However, from my post yesterday (and if you read this blog you know), you can picture my stand on the noir side of things.

And here we go… I get to the Chanel counter, look for paper strips, none are to be found… After a while a sales woman approaches me and asks if she can help me. I answer politely ”No, thank you, I am happy botanizing by myself”. This is sign No 1 that she should back off. She doesn’t. Instead she says with the persuasion special effects of a real estate sales machine, ”Oh, this one is SO GREAT, I wear it myself. I have worn it everyday since I got it”. Ok… let’s pick this army of information apart. 1) I am smelling the perfume to see what I think about it. Not what she thinks about it. I could of course be interested in that and some other day maybe I would be, but today I already signaled that I wanted to be left alone. 2) It is completely irrelevant if she wears the perfume to me. For all sorts of very logical reasons like for example the fact that my skin does not smell like her skin. It is just completely irrelevant. The only two reasons why this information would be valuable are 1) if the two of us were identical or at least similar in a couple of relevant ways – and we were just not, and 2) if I really wanted to be (=try to smell) like her, and I don’t, and its just megalomania on her part if she assumed I do. The natural conclusion when someone is testing perfumes is that they want to find a fragrance that smells like them, like the self that they want to be. Needless to say – she has no idea what about me it is that I am looking for in an olfactory reflection of me – as she is only talking and thing about herself. So all this information about this total stranger leaves me bored and silent. If she really wanted to talk to me about herself, well, weirder things happen in the metropolitan landscape – fine. But she wanted to tell me what to do (=buy) by telling me what she does, taking for granted that I want to be like her. Don’t ever do this when you sell perfume. You are insulting art when you do. If you don’t get this or if it sounds to pretentious for you, please sell something else.

You would think that it would stop here. After all, I was totally silent and not exactly encouraging the conversation. But she had more in store. ”You should know (I just love strangers who tell me what I “should”) that this is the last bottle we have, they all went flying of the shelves”. Ok. Should I buy it because everyone else that I don’t know did? Because…? By now I am thinking, ”Please, just stop talking, you seem like a nice girl but this is not working out, can’t you feel that?”. But I feel rude ignoring her so I say, ”Yes, it is exceptional, but not as noir as I expected”. This triggers no conversation. I sigh and walk away to the other Chanel bottles to play around for a while. I pick up Coco Mademoiselle. A familiar voice goes: ”This one really reminds you of the other one, they are very similar. They both contain patchouli.” Please, perfume girl… I just said the noir was less noir than I hoped, what are you saying? It’s like you’re comparing a man’s mistress to his daughter.

And then she starts talking about a body lotion that is perfect with the perfumes. I leave.

Perfume deserves more than this. If you agree and if you are in a position where you can do something about it, I will gladly support you in any way I can.

I am guessing some of you ran straight to the perfume counters when Coco Noir was released. So, what did you think? Was it as Chanel as you expected, was it noir enough?

I find this launch interesting. As avant-garde and undefinable as The Big 5 was when it was created, the last decades of Chanel olfactory adventure have been less controversial and well, sophisticated but uncomplicated. Noirness stands for something else. For me this step brings some edge to Chanel that is in line with using Alice Dellal as muse. I like this step. But then I am generally into the noir.

The internet is swimming in an ocean of reviews of Coco Noir so I will let you do your own googling. What I do have to offer however in terms of treasures is 1) a beautiful article on the noir from Perfume Shrine that dances with this topic in a elegant, ambitious and exiting way. You will find this excellent piece here. And 2) the magic world of Clarimonde created by magic Lucy Raubertas… get enchanted here.

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Oh, this Clayton on the other side of the planet… When I started writing this blog after having decided to make something concrete out of my scent obsessions, Claytons articles on his blog What men should smell like, were among the first texts that I read for inspiration in my search for my kind of perfume rhetorics. I didn’t want to write reviews per se, there is an abundance of perfume reviewers which is great for the market and some of them are striking. But I was interested in diving into a world of reflections rather. And I have a major issue with the kind of language you find in oh-so-many perfume ads and descriptions filled with clouds about “unique fragrances that evoke the sensuality in the soul of what is woman” etc etc… To find Clayton’s work was inspiring and refreshing. For some reason he makes me think of one of my house gods, AA Gill. I think I like them for the same reasons, eloquence, sophisticated stringent sense of humor, directness and profound knowledge of matter.

Some time ago I went all OH! about Clayton’s article on Ambergris. And today I am all OH! again. Read this article. It is from The Perfume Magazine and it just might make your entire weekend. Made mine.

“So perhaps the aphrodisiacal reputation of these animalic 
odors does not come from the materials themselves. It comes from 
the connection made as they remind us of the scented human 
body, a smell we remember from life’s intimate moments.” – C.I.
Clayton, writer extra-ordinaire

I am planning a trip to beloved Amsterdam. Haven’t been for two years. Will be hanging out spending money at Skins for sure. But anyone got any other olfactory recommendation? Let me know, thanks a perfumillion!

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