Scent & Subversion by Barbara Herman, is an amazing source for fans of vintage perfumes. In addition to gorgeous vintage ads and dozens of essays, it profiles more than 300 iconic and vintage perfumes grouped by decade (from the 1880s to 2000), really making them come alive with the author’s quirky, often unorthodox reviews. Two or three entries actually had me scurrying off on an e-Bay scavenger hunt. My first must-have vintage perfume? 1972’s Diorella. Listen to this review and tell me you aren’t intrigued:
“Fur rubbed with mint toothpaste. Vietnamese beef salad. Like fruit on the verge of going bad. More than any other vintage perfume that I’ve encountered so far, Diorella provokes the most outré metaphors from perfume critics, all of them tripping over themselves to be more hyperbolic than the next about this fresh, yet funky-ripe scent by the legendary Edmond Roudnitska .
“Kaleidoscopically complex, Diorella starts off citrus fresh and transitions to a body-odor-tinged (cumin-like) floral accord. The musky base adds weight to its top notes, never wearing Diorella down but rather giving it depth and darkness.
“Like Suzanne from Leonard Cohen’s song, Diorella ‘shows you where to look/amid the garbage and the flowers.’ Diorella smells – and this is actually an endorsement – like garbage on the verge of going bad that someone has thrown a pile of flowers onto.
“Honestly, does anyone do ‘funk’ as well as Roudnitska? It’s as if he’s reminding us that these ripe smells connote death as much as they do life. It’s profound, really, this reminder in his perfumes — that it’s the mortality of these bright and alive things that makes them beautiful.
“It’s been said that Diorella was the first perfume to break free from the notion that flowers were wholesome. Whether it was the first, I agree one would definitely think of flowers and citrus fragrances differently after spending some time with Diorella. There’s a living, breathing, dirty animal underneath the clean citrus, the lady likeflowers, and if I can get my hands on the eau de parfum, I’m going to have a full-on relationship with it rather than a one-night stand.”
Order your copy of Scent & Subversion here.