The most classic perfumes outlast trends and time. Here Sarah Halliwell looks at Chloé perfume, and the perks of not being a wallflower …
Sometimes, a scent just becomes a person, announcing them into a room, and conjuring them up in the most visceral way in their absence. My godmother Tilly was an entertainment lawyer in London in the 1970s and 80s, and as a visiting teenager with a Doncaster perm, I was transfixed by her glamorous lifestyle – she partied hard, travelled constantly and adored her friends – and by her fridge, which contained only the three C’s: cottage cheese, champagne and Clinique. And the rounded bottle of whisky-coloured Chloé perfume was a constant, flung into her capacious black bag and accompanying her everywhere, right the way up to her hospital bedside, where she persuaded visiting friends to bring in champagne.
The concept of a signature scent was alien to me back then – my idea of a make-up bag contained Miss Selfridge frosted lipstick (now reinvented by Charlotte Tilbury with her bronzey Pillow Talk Diamonds, online now and in stores from September 25) and Cacharel’s LouLou. But as I’ve learnt more about perfume, I’ve realised that Chloé was the perfect match for Tilly. She was a trailblazer, holding her own in the male-dominated legal world of the time: when she arrived for a meeting or sent a letter, the male partners would assume she was the secretary. Always someone who stood her ground and spoke up for herself, there’s no way she was going to wear a quiet little scent and fade politely into the corner. Lush tuberose, the white flower that blooms only at night, has always been associated with flamboyant, stylish women; Isabella Blow was famously addicted to Fracas, the ultimate overdose of tuberose. And, long before Frederic Malle’s Carnal Flower, the original Chloé was the ultimate honeyed rich amber blast of tuberose.
I still have Tilly’s own rounded bottle, first created in 1975 by Parfums Lagerfeld, the perfume now mellowed to a darkened bronze. It’s softly peachy and rich, with a full tuberose and jasmine heart. It’s a strong and decisive perfume with a lasting trail – the epitome of a woman who is most certainly not a wallflower. And to me, it will always smell like utter sophistication and a certain old-school glamour, especially now that “big” scents tend to be loud, pink and sugar-powered rather than heady and lushly powerful like this one. Tilly would have been 73 this summer and I’m wearing Chloé perfume as the most immediate way to remember her strength and glamour.
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