When I showed up at Nordstrom for the Spring Fragrance Festival, the line already snaked through men’s apparel and was headed toward the escalator. The event was billed as a celebration of "our sister state of Hawaii, with lively music, tropical drinks and appetizers". Soon ukulele music drifted out from the skybridge, where a few dozen tables from fragrance vendors lined the edges.
I was excited about the event. The invitation promised the "timelessness of favorite classics" as well as the latest scents. When the gate lifted, a stampede of ladies hightailed it for the back of the skybridge, where mai-tais and hors d’oeuvres were laid out. (Later I noticed that the mai-tais smelled uncannily like the perfume offerings at the Escada and Tommy Bahama tables, but sadly with much less alcohol.) But look! Next to the mai-tai table was the Guerlain table. Half the table had bottles of L’Instant, and the other half was full of Shalimar. Nothing else. The Guerlain rep didn’t share my interest in Après l’Ondée.
Across the hall, I spotted a bottle of Sira des Indes hiding near an avalanche of Miss Dior Cherie and the new Poison. I trotted over, hoping to talk to the Patou lady about the possibility of a reissue of Moment Suprême, but got a blank stare and an arm smeared with Miss Dior Cherie with gold speckles. The next hour was similarly disappointing. I collected fat stacks of paper sprayed with fruity florals — when I unloaded my purse later it was like the clowns disgorging from a Volkswagen, they just kept coming and coming — but I didn’t smell much that was interesting to me. For every "timeless classic" were twenty Hawaiian Punch or sugar cookie smell-alikes. Before long, I stank like a tropical bordello.
As the festival wound down, the music changed from Don Ho to Linda Ronstadt. I won a door prize of bottles of Drakkar Noir and Anaïs Anaïs (the Marc Jacobs rep said, "You know what my brother used to call that?" as she looked at the Anaïs Anaïs. I, too, have brothers and made the correct guess.) Back at home, I stripped down for a thorough bath and looked at the bottles of perfume I’d been wearing lately: Lutens’ Douce Amere, Patou’s Cocktail and Vacances, Parfums de Nicolai’s Sacrebleu. I know they say it takes all kinds, and boy oh boy am I grateful.
Note: image via Jane's Hawaii Home Page, which has a fascinating collection of vintage postcards and historical photographs.