Monday, August 24, 2009

Perfume Shopping: Los Angeles

I’ve just returned from StyleeCity, where I spent my misspent youth and then some. It wasn’t what you’d call a fun trip, as we were visiting my very ill father-in-law, but I was able to make one trip to the ScentBar, one of those Meccas we all have to make the perfume pilgrimage to sooner or later, no?

I’d like to think Atlanta could support a place like this, but culturally speaking, this is a city of tradition, not innovation. There are two kinds of people here -- the natives and the Not From Heres. The natives, those who can afford good perfume, tend to be somewhat conservative, in everything; my guess is that much fragrance here is bought as gifts, which makes this very much a Chanel town.

The Not From Heres, which comprise about 60% of the population, depending on where you live, well, who cares about them? (Now, c’mon, you know I don’t mean that.) We get the Rust Belt refugees here, lots of Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Detroit. Lots of Boston, an uncomfortably high percentage of whom can’t believe they ever left their beloved Beantown and proclaim that fact often. We get some New York, bicoastals who tend to eat, speak, walk, drive and leave quickly. We get many Twenties from the rest of the South, recent grads of the big state schools for whom Biloxi or Montgomery just wasn’t enough but L.A. or New York would be too much. And we get corporate transplants from all over the place, roaring through our cookie-cutter ‘burbs in their big SUV’s. They don’t make such great neighbors, by the way.

Had I walked into the ScentBar in my pre-perfume days, I might have been intimidated. First, I wouldn’t have recognized well, anything. It’s mostly niche and indie. Kind of like one of those old too-hip record stores, but prettier. It’s small, just a storefront really, with one person behind the counter. Second, I will say that the person that day could’ve been a little more friendly, but, hey, it could be that I’ve gotten used to Southern manners. Finally, there’s that thousand-watt, clear Los Angeles light, which pours into the place like water, making the bottles glow, meanwhile illuminating one’s own imperfections without mercy. (L.A. homes tend to be filled with mirrors, so the Angelenos are used to that.)

But oh, what a perfume paradise it is. There are the Serges, trays of full bottles for testing. And it’s okay to test scents on skin! There’s a tray of Kenzo, and another of Etat Libre scents. More trays and beautiful bottles everywhere. A database the SA can use to tell you what the notes of any scent are, and, best of all, she’s unobtrusive unless engaged. And they have so many scents I’ve been dying to try. Sublime Balkiss, by TDC, was a standout for me; so was Rien, from Etat Libre d’Orange, and Jasmine et Cigarette. I wish I’d had my notebook; I wish my online perfumista pal had been able to meet me there (car problems). I wish I’d been able to spend the afternoon, or week, or month or year, there.

What did I buy? Amouage Lyric for women, 50 mls, the one I’ve been saving my pennies for (many, many pennies, but you knew that). I probably could’ve gotten this elixir of the Gods cheaper somewhere else, online, but we need to support these places. And, since we have no brick’n’mortars like this in Atlanta, I chose to buy my Amouage (Happy Birthday to me, in, oh, a few months) there. And the SA got friendlier -- a lot friendlier -- after that. I asked her, what did she think the new trends would be? She thought awhile. “Natural,” she finally said. “Natural essences.”

Do we hope she’s right? Pure naturals don’t last on me. But we’ll see.

I hope this is the future of perfume retailing, that there will be enough people to keep places like this alive. It’s not exactly in a low-rent neighborhood, right down the street from the Beverly Center. They must have to sell a lot of fragrance to survive. I hope they do.

The photo is of a postcard from the ScentBar.

The ScentBar’s address is 8327 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, or online at (No affiliation, honest!)

Amouage Lyric for Women is a beyond-sumptuous blend of dark rose, spice and frankincense, made in Oman and available at a select few fragrance retailers and online sites.

p.s.: Regarding my vintage Mitsouko drawing: in my haste to leave town, I goofed and made my deadline for hearing from the contest winner April 26 instead of August 26. I still haven’t heard from the winner, but, to be fair, I need to extend that deadline to September 9th. Winner, where are you? You have until September 9th, midnight US EDT; after that I’ll pick another winner (using my old fave, of course.)


waftbyCarol said...

You do know that ScentBar runs their online boutique , Luckyscent ?

ScentScelf said...

Ah, how good to be able to go on a mini-Mecca when dealing with difficult issues. Someday, I imagine a pilgrimage to Scent Bar. (And Osmotheque, and Aedes, and and and...) Thanks for sharing your experience.

Your context was a wonderful backdrop for getting the Lyric, btw. That one is a whomper, isn't it? Thick and oh so perfume and utterly wonderful. You're right--it is beyond sumptuous. If I can get my horde/impulse buy cycle working right, eventually I'll have my pennies saved for a bottle, too. I do have a problem using that pot o' cash for "good deals" that I come across in the meantime {chuckle}.

I wonder if "naturals" might also mean a trend toward natural smelling accords, as opposed to "the idea of jasmin or some such? As in, the materials may or may not be pure & natural, but they will suggest the scent of something you could find in the world on your own, and not some perfume artist's interpretation of it? I enjoy both, btw.

Katie Puckrik said...

I just read this post, and I wish I could have accompanied you to the Scent Bar! It's a rollercoaster for the nose.

I love Amouage Lyric for Women, too. Today I smelled their Epic Men/Women, and I REALLY loved the men's one.

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