I don’t know about you, but I love shopping at Sephora. There was a time when Sephora only existed in big cities and as a veritable vault of perfume comprising both the ordinary and the extra-; the hard-to-find and the very popular; Etro and Caron alongside Dior and Guerlain.
Then things changed. Perfume was downsized to make room for ever more cosmetic lines or for expansion of existing lines. The Etros and the Carons disappeared along with Chamade and Miss Dior. Soon, what was left was a display touting a “Top Ten” of fragrances, which for a while was led by Light Blue. More shelf space disappeared. Only top performers were left. That’s what you find today in most Sephora shops, especially in small towns like mine where a “mistake” can be costly. This is why precious space has been given over to Dot, Marc Jacobs’ latest, based on the performances of Lola and Daisy.
Nevertheless, it is still possible to build a fantastic perfume wardrobe based on the available selection, and I browse the perfume section at Sephora on a regular basis, if not for revelation, then for fun. That is where I discovered, much to my delight, the trio of Hermès colognes Eau d’Orange Verte (green orange), Eau de Pamplemousse Rose (pink grapefruit) and the stunningly weird Eau de Gentiane Blanche (white gentian) that smells the way Chartreuse tastes.
I like to systematically work my way backwards through the shelves so that I start with Belle d’Opium (Y for Yves St. Laurent) and Flowerbomb (V for Viktor & Rolf). I still like Flowerbomb and I recall when I first smelled it. At the time it seemed neon pink with sweetness and now that sweetness seems like the norm. Passing Versace (too gaudy), I stop at Stella McCartney Stella. I still love this modern, angular rose fragrance and enough time has elapsed that not everyone smells of it. Stella smells chiseled to me now, as if some rare ruby is being cut and the polished so it glows. I need another bottle!
Prada, a fragrance that epitomized the sudden new popularity of patchoulis, is another I keep buying. I recall a wave of such patchoulis that popped up around 2005 and Prada was an excellent mainstream effort. It’s loamy, resinous, and sweet and for a long while it was my favorite casual scent.
Remember when Narciso Rodriguez for Her was the hot ticket? When we couldn’t keep straight the various iterations of it: black bottle, pink bottle, Musc for Her, and Musc for Her Oil in black bottle? The oil was the best, a subtle but very persistent Egyptian musk that is now discontinued. For how long did we discuss the scent we called “NR for Her”? The oil is gone, but the EdT (black bottle) and EdP (pink bottle) are still there, along with the Musc EdT that only reminds me of how much I loved the original oil. There is also the Essence in the silver flask. All are still worth a try.
Gardenia lovers should stop at Michael Kors and Marc Jacobs Woman and try their original, eponymous fragrances. Hint: I buy Michael Kors leg shine and use it as a solid perfume. It’s quite subtle and it has a bit of shimmer.
New scents don’t appear that often on Sephora’s shelves, so when they do, they catch my eye and I smell them with zero anticipation. Often, I haven’t even heard of them, so there is no regret when they turn out to be retreads of popular perfumes. Marchesa Parfum d’Extase has a grandiose name, if not an equivalent smell. It’s that kind of modern floral that has been rinsed in ice water, but I found myself trying it several times simply because it lacked beef and it was hot out and I wanted a “fresh” scent. That is probably good enough reason for you to try it, too.
Guerlain, Gucci, and Armani have little to tempt me, but I do note that Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire is back with a vengeance. This fragrance, once a chewy, lemon-accented macaron sold only in high-end department stores, is now a democratized, thinned-out version of the same, at a lower price. It might be worth trying as a “fruitchouli,” or you can skip it and head to Miss Dior Chérie, which has been similarly gutted and resurfaced.
Sexy Graffiti is back! Escada’s strawberries-and-hairspray summer limited edition from a decade ago has reappeared, along with Rockin’ Rio and Island Kiss. I like Sexy Graffiti simply for nostalgia’s sake. I smelled it at a European airport years ago on the heel of a miserable holiday romance and I thought then that it smelled of fat, ripe strawberries and was too joyful to wear considering the mood. Later, I bought some and thought it was terrible. Terrible, but fun, and that hairspray note never ends, does it?
Skip all the way up to Cartier for Baiser Volé, a recently issued floral with lily as a main accord. This is a quality release and you can tell, although I wonder if anyone is buying it because it is too sophisticated for kids and yet not embedded as a signature for adults.
There’s more here than I think. If I had one of the larger, urban Sephora stores I would lavishly spray with Acqua di Parma Profumo, a bone-dry Italian chypre that I love and cannot afford, so instead I find myself at the beginning, where I spray some Kate Walsh Boyfriend. I don’t watch TV so the actress’s name means nothing to me, but Boyfriend is a surprise—a spicy, woodsy scent that might appeal to anyone who likes Organza Indecence. I struggle a little wondering why Boyfriend is indexed at “B” for its name while Flowerbomb is at “V” for the name of its creator, but I don’t feel right asking this question of the earnest young help. Instead, I ask for a sample of Boyfriend.
And there you go—I’ve spent an hour of my time spritzing away and have come home with ten times the scent strips of the non-obsessed. I might pick up a bottle of NR for Her one of these visits, too. You never know what might suddenly turn your head (or nose).
What are your Sephora finds and favorites?
Photography by FaceMePLS, via flickr, some rights reserved.