My love affair with fragrance started in the cosmetics hall in Cole Brothers – Sheffield’s branch of John Lewis which, with its gleaming whiteness and central location was the shopping mecca of the city of my birth. When Mary Quant with her mini-skirts and nail colours with witty names (my favourite: Sky Blue Pink) burst onto the scene in the late sixties when I was a teenager, it was in Cole Brothers that we could find her. When she launcher her genius fragrance duo: AM (in the white box) and PM (in black), I nearly swooned. Even now, just one spritz and the memories flood back: Bohemian Rhapsody, flared jeans, teenage parties. They smelled heavenly, were handbag sized and would take me from day to nigh (the new mantra for girls just beginning to ‘go out’). For a year or two they were all I needed… but then it all went pear-shaped.
I think Alliage came next, the distinctive fragrance worn by the gorgeous girlfriend of my chum Mark, he surprised us with by turning up to a Christmas party with her. Pippa was sophisticated and beautiful, and I yearned to be the same… So I invested in Alliage.
After that I worked through the Estée Lauder repertoire – Youth Dew (Cambridge Tech), White Linen (early days on Cosmo), Beautiful (The Daily Express)… With brief flirtations with new arrivals (Dune was lovely, as was Oscar de la Renta and First by Van Cleef and Arpels).
After many years of being seduced by this fragrance or that, I think if you asked me what my Desert Island Fragrance would be, I would say Coco by Chanel. It’s ‘me’. Risqué by the amazing Roja Dove would come a pretty close second.
But perhaps my most recent fragrance recollection came just last week. I was on a rare few days break in Istanbul. The day was bright, but wintery. We missed our boat trip on the Bosphorous and had to wait an hour for the next. As we sat in Galata Square watching people hurrying by, selling pretzels, fishing off the bride, hawking cheap souvenirs, suddenly the most amazing aroma of freshly roasting coffee beans swept across the square from the coffee emporium on the edge of the Egyptian Spice Market. For a few seconds, I was in fragrance heaven. Whenever I think of my trip to Istanbul, it will be the wonderful warm enticing aroma of fresh coffee that I remember.