Shooting from the Lip
My rip-snortin’ jaunt from ballet girl to punkette to pop singer to TV host & all the messy stuff in between
Perfumes: The A-Z Guide
Witty and provocative reviews of 1,800+ perfumes
What the Nose Knows
A fun and quirky romp through everyday smells
A cultural history of smell
The Emperor of Scent
Maverick Luca Turin's entertaining tussles with perfume and science
The Perfect Scent
An insider's look at the creation of two bestselling fragrances
A Natural History of the Senses
An aphrodisiac for all five senses
The Secret of ScentLuca Turin's scientific look at perfume
Essence and AlchemyThe voluptuous history of natural perfume.
It was the headline that snagged me -- an irresistible combination of peekaboo seduction and the porn of mad-money extravagance: “Vamp in the Veil Spends £100K a Day on Perfume”. (That's about $166,000 a day to us Yanks.)
The veiled vamp in question is Sara Al Amoudi, a Middle Eastern heiress living in London who recently won a $23m property dispute. After the British High Court ruled on March 7th that the bulk of her legal costs be covered by the prosecution, a triumphant Al Amoudi let her hair down -- metaphorically -- in an interview with Charlotte Edwardes in the London Evening Standard.
The heiress, whose age is a pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey number somewhere between 28 and 43, let rip with glorified girl talk of binge shopping, binge eating, binge bad life choices. My kind of glorified girl. In a masterful understatement, she admitted that her life has been “colorful”. And how.
First there's the matter of the tussle over six Knightsbridge properties. Property developers Ian Paton, 45, and Amanda Clutterbuck, 56, alleged that Al Amoudi had posed as a Saudi princess to trick them into transferring property into her name.
She counterclaimed that she (Al Amoudi) and Paton had been enjoying a secret affair, and the property was in payment for the millions she had given him that went to underwriting his enthusiasm for drink and drugs. Oh -- and to cover school fees for his child with Clutterbuck. Oops.
The judge bought Al Amoudi's side of the story, but that was just the tip of the glistening iceberg of juiciness. Other tidbits truffled out include Al Amoudi's freewheeling ways with cash: her diamond-bedazzled mobile phone, the Ferrari she'd gifted an ex-boyfriend, a racehorse, and her London runaround -- a Rolls Royce Phantom. Oh, and that £100K a day perfume habit.
Any vague tsk-tsk condemnation floating around in my head (what about the starving children in Africa...the Pacific trash vortex...the drowning polar bears in the North Pole?) was quickly drummed out by sheer admiring envy. A kind of Homer-Simpson-fantasizing-about-doughnuts reverie. £100K a day on perfume? That's a fancy new bottle of the good stuff every hour or so! Mmmmmmmmm....
The way Al Amoudi tells it, her rough early life propelled her into her sister-doin'-it-for-herself style. She was raised in a “closed religious society” in Jeddah, and was married at 13 to a man in his 70s. He beat her when she started her periods -- both were ignorant of that obscure phenomenon known as a menstrual cycle, and he accused her of doing something wrong.
On a family trip to London a few years later, she became pregnant by an Englishman. She sought asylum, fearing honor killing if she returned to Saudi Arabia. Her cites her daughter Marni, now 13, as giving her the will to live, and the impetus to start afresh in a strange new land.
But what of Al Amoudi's future? Referring to her gleefully spendthrift ways, she told the Evening Standard, “In my house I have a wall of perfumes. I know it's a problem.” Putting her hand on her heart, she continued, “I have a vacuum here.”
Ah, “feeding the hungry heart” -- the self-soothing binge strategy with which every woman under siege is familiar. Ratcheting up the poignancy on the rich lady's poverty-stricken soul, her lawyer observed, “guidance has been lacking”.
Well, Sara Al Adoubi -- have I got guidance for you. Call me. We've got some perfume shopping to do.
Fumies -- any suggestions for how you'd spend over $150K a day on perfume? What would you buy?
In devising Italian avant-schmatter brand Marni's eponymous fragrance, perfumer Daniela Andrier did something clever. She distilled the label's austere whimsy / “man repeller” aesthetic into a perfume that conveys hipness, minus that pesky repelling part.
(Note that the man repelling aesthetic can work to great man attracting effect on women who possess natural confidence and ease within themselves. It's just one of those shouldn't-work-but-it-does things.)
Marni eau de parfum is a sprightly picker-upper that starts young and ends with a knowing nod to niche. The opening peppery ginger/citrus sets you up for a launch into a conventional lad or lassie's “fresh” perfume. But just as your heart sags in anticipation of the banal berry parade sure to follow, an arid cedarwood rose materializes.
Pre-faded patchouli and cardamom and incense lend Marni a smidge of schoolgirl goth, but only as a self-aware quote, the way an Hermès collier de chien bracelet references punk rock toughness.
|Yes please, Santa!|
In my video review, I say that Marni wears like a throwback to the distant drydown of Guerlain Habit Rouge. But after the camera stopped rolling, I remembered its kinship to another smart new perfume for bright young things: Nanette by Nanette Lapore.
In my review of Nanette last year, I wrote:
I was thinking about Nanette when I recently tried fashion house Marni's namesake debut perfume. Marni is another sheer, woody rose, but emphasizes a grapefruit briskness rather than Nanette's sweet amber. Both are modern roses for the modern miss.
And I might add that in the case of Marni, for the modern mister as well. Marni is “uni-sexy”, as well trans-seasonal and all-temporal. It's accessible without being common.
My only gripe is the staying power. Marni gets friendlier the longer you wear it, but it also gets fainter, so you need to really blast yourself with the stuff.
Call to mind the scene in the original Planet of the Apes when the evil overlord gorilla hoses down Charlton Heston with the full force of a fire hose, and you're there.
I like organizing things, curating collections of things, I own things mostly so I can put them into groups and subgroups. I'd always classified this as a charming eccentricity (I even organize my eccentricities), but after wearing and labeling thousands of perfumes, I'm fed up. It's a lot of work and most of these perfumes, especially of late, are terrible. I'm organizing terrible things.
Jour d'Hermès is girlish but sophisticated. It's an ebullient floral bourrée at a time when flowers in perfume are sneered at by the young 'uns. Or seem only to be allowed smuggled under the cover of grit and oud, sheep-in-wolf's-clothing style.
But like a resolute posy pressing through a crack in the sidewalk, Jour d'Hermès asserts its right to unabashed floweriness. It's pretty and that's enough.
As you know, we're enduring a drought in California, which has resulted in lots of worry and excellent weather. Good people speak with furrowed brows about conservation, bad people whoop it up and go to the beach. I do both, depending on the company I keep, which means I'm complex...or a chameleon...or a sociopath.