Unusual encounter for a perfume

Photographer: Tyen . 1995

Photographer: Tyen . 1995

I would not say that I have been a perfume lover since young. I have no early memories since nobody wore perfumes at home. My first contact with a bottle of perfume was quite at an advanced age.

My first conscious scent memory would be maybe the scent of soaps. Of course Marseilles soap, quite a basic toiletries for people living so close to Marseilles, and Camay soap which scented the bathroom of my sophisticated godmother.

But my first encounter with a bottle of perfume was at college in Nîmes (France) a day I accompanied a friend to a perfumery shop. She liked perfume very much while I had no perfume culture at all. Since she was a regular user of Shalimar by Guerlain (at age 14!), we frequently visited the perfumery shop opposite to our college. I remember perfume as something very exotic to me, and as quite a non-understandable language. Perfumes and their magical power of attraction and seduction. I remember I was afraid of my lack of control of the possible side effects! 

A couple of years later, I turned 16. I was hired for a summer job in a hardware shop in Coucouron, a touristic village located in a beautiful mountainous French region, not far from the source of the famous Loire river. The shop was really cool. It was an Ali Baba’s cave. You could find screws, fishing baits, pressure cookers and perfumes. Yes, perfumes!

I remember strolling around the shop one day and I discovered a few perfumes on a shelf. I smelt them all, and I really liked one of them. I smelt it a few more times days after and then decided to buy it once I receive my first wage. 

It was housed in a very nice blue chiselled bottle. Its smell was very comforting, like a cocoon. It was telling something about me that I liked when I was wearing it. An interesting new language.

I liked it so much that I finished the bottle a year or so later. I often thought about this perfume since then. There was no possibility to get another bottle of it since I could not remember its name.

More than twenty years later, I cannot recall the exact circumstances, but I had my first sniff of Dune by Christian Dior. Oddly, it connected me to some vague memories. This smell… I smelt that before... But impossible to remember where, and who wore it. It was quite strange to me since I had no perfume culture at all in my teens and even tweens years -except maybe the Shalimar episode- but my memory was of no help.

I smelt Dune in repeated occasions after that episode until one day I eventually visualised me in the hardware shop. The first perfume I ever bought was actually a cheap copy of Dune by Christian Dior created by perfumer Jean-Louis Sieuzac. I would not make the apology of copycats here, but I believe I would not have become a perfume user at that age if it would not have been this way. I was too shy to go to a perfume shop, and the quantity of options in such places was too overwhelming to me. How could I connect with a comforting smell in such a stressful environment?

This is maybe why I like the alternative of sole perfumery shops. There is a limited offer of perfumes. You come in, smell at your own pace, and eventually connect emotionally with one of the scents. I would really love this peaceful atmosphere for the perfumes I am currently creating.