Sunday 15 January 2012

Twentieth Night: Taking The Christmas Tree Down And A Tale Of Two Festive Perfume Cards

So I just finished my project late on Friday night, and yesterday I was a whirling - well, maybe more of a slowly twirling - dervish of activity: dishes washed and tumble drier emptied from Tuesday, plants watered, a load of washing on, prescription collected and....Xmas tree and decorations finally taken down(!). Not the one in the living room window facing the street, I hasten to add, which Mr Bonkers had already consigned to the garage in a timely manner. No, I mean the less conspicuous one in the conservatory at the back of the house, which hopefully only a handful of neighbours will have noticed after its due date for removal...

"That's shockingly slack of you!" I hear you cry, and it's fair comment. I may even have just heaped a year's worth of bad luck on my head by this failure to follow the tradition of taking down the tree and its trappings on Twelfth rather than Twentieth Night. But orderly routine and compliance with social convention (on any front!) - while not exactly strangers to Bonkers Towers - are certainly not seen there on more than an occasional pop-in basis.

And given that the paraphernalia of Christmas is still fresh in my mind, I will take this opportunity to post some pictures of my presents from Mr Bonkers this year: a corporate Christmas card from Chanel (sent to one of its staff, who - as we learnt in post-purchase correspondence - has since left and had the foresight to stick it on Ebay!), and a Christmas tree-shaped perfume card, also from Chanel.

Following a brisk bidding war, the Christmas card - with its pretty dangly gold charms of snowflakes, perfume bottles and the intertwined "C"s of the Chanel logo - ended up costing Mr Bonkers as much as a bottle of Coco Mademoiselle. However, it is a much more desirable object in my eyes, not least because I am of course already sorted on the Coco Mademoiselle front with a couple of bottles of Lidl Suddenly Madame Glamour. : - )

So yes, the card will come out every year and take pride of place on the mantlepiece, and I shall continue to puzzle over who the signatory may be...If anyone can make out that name and knows who they are, I would be most curious to know!

Then the second card - shaped like a Christmas tree, and fashioned out of a collage of bottles of No 5, No 19, Coco and Allure - is very small by comparison at 4.25 inches tall. This is because it is in fact a rather elaborate fragrance blotter. I am so used to the ubiquitous long white blank ones, that I forget that there are also these more colourful preprinted ones in assorted shapes and sizes.

A quick scurry through the Interwebs has revealed that perfume cards date from the late 1800s and were originally impregnated with the fragrance, though this one is not very old. Well, not older than Allure at least, which places it in the mid-90s onwards.

Funnily enough, I recently came across the Versace Yellow Diamond blotter pictured below, and kept it because it struck me as rather impressive - more so than the fragrance, certainly - but by and large I don't tend to encounter anything more patterned than the normal white strips, with at most the name of the perfume house or the store printed on them.

Now it turns out that the seller of the perfume card is a journalist and published author called Kathy Flood, who has another book coming out shortly on the subject of faces in jewellery*. Kathy lives in the mid-West, but has also spent time in Europe, where she studied French like me. Her Ebay store is also mostly devoted to vintage jewellery. So she sounds an all-round interesting character, and we have got into a bit of an email exchange since the tree card arrived, which is a nice spin off of the gift itself. Kathy reckons it is quite rare, and I have certainly not managed to google anything similar on collectors' sites.

For yes, there seems to be a thriving special interest based around collecting these speciality blotters, as well as perfume-themed postcards and other promotional bits and bobs.

And in terms of actual samples of perfume, as opposed to unfragranced blotters or other printed matter, I have now learnt that "liquitouch" is the correct term for those credit card-sized plasticky samples, which include a small amount of perfume encased by a thin film. Then of course there are the peel-back fragrance strips you get in magazine ads, while somehow I have also managed to acquire a "blister pack" of DKNY Delicious Night (which looks for all the world like one of those plastic bubbles disposable contact lens come in). So when you think about it, there is a whole host of promotional perfume delivery systems of which I am only vaguely aware, being so focused on getting my mitts on a proper sample vial!

Hmm...I do hope I haven't suddenly uncovered another rabbit hole down which to fall, having so far largely managed to tune out to the twin allure of vintage and extrait versions of scents. I note that one of the books Kathy has written is about the whole business of collecting. Called Things, it features a chapter on fragrance! As for our perfume cards, there is even a name for people who collect such things - or there is in French at least - and I daresay the English is the same word:


I tried googling it, mind, and all I got was "olfactophilia", a type of fetish into which I shall leave you to make your own inquiries... : - )

UPDATE: Following a suggestion from Cymbaline in the oomments below, I contacted noted wordsmith Pyramus via his blog, Cephalogenic, about the origins of the word "olfcartophile", and on Monday (16.1) he kindly devoted a whole post entitled "Card Games" to his reply!

So, I have to ask - and I know I am rather backward in coming forward when it comes to asking readers questions...

Are you already - or do you reckon you have you the potential to become - an olfcartophile?

What promotional perfume delivery systems have you encountered, and what are their relative merits?

Do you come across many of these fancier perfume blotters, and if so, did any of them smell?

Could a more striking style of perfume blotter ever boost sales of a given scent, or is it just a bit of harmless point of sale fun?

PS The other three cards pictured were extras that came with my Chanel tree!

**The Jewelry Face Book of Pins & Pendants: Vintage Visages


Cymbaline said...

You're not alone, I just took our tree down yesterday. We havn't done a Christmas tree in several years and I couldn't bear to let it go. Well, I think it was mostly the soft glow of the lights that would be missed as they go so nicely with the snow that has been falling the last two days.

How perfect of Mr. B to come up with "scentless" perfume gifts! That Chanel card is lovely and I don't think I've seen picture perfume sample cards before.

The word master, Pyramus at 1000scents blog might be a good source for the background on that french collectable word.

Anonymous said...

I love the word "olfcartophile" but I'm afraid I don't have the potential to become one. (I love stationary, but don't allow myself to purchase non-functional paper goods. Slippery slope for me!)

Here in the states, I've noticed that the fancier smelly cards tend to be more common with the big-name, very mainstream scents. The Harajuku Lovers one you've pictured is one I remember. Then there was the special pink grosgrain ribbon for (I believe) Elie Saab. And then shaped cards like the Vanitas one are somewhat common too. There is one for Taylor Swift's perfume. For myself, I actually prefer the functionality of the slim white strips, which I can slip easily in a pocket or bag.

Lovely Christmas gifts! Chanel does beautiful paper products (I only know this because they send me -- very hopefully, I may add -- cards and invitations and whatnot after I made a somewhat larger purchase from them. Little did they know that would be a once-in-a-lifetime buy!)

Vanessa said...

Hi Cymbaline,

I am so pleased to learn that you are also a tardy tree taker downer! ( Or should that be downerer?)

I can well understand the lure of the pretty lights, which is how Mr Bonkers used to try to talk me into a holiday in Vegas. In my case the delay with the decorations was simply due to poor time management and a misguided belief that a chore behind a closed door had gone away.

How nice to have a bit of snow at this time of year! Well, enough to be decorative without disrupting services. : - )

And I must check out Pyramus's blog - the name was familiar, but I am not sure I have ever been over there.

Vanessa said...

PS I do recognise Pyramus's blog now, and have referred my query to him. He does seem to be a bit of a wordsmith all right!

Vanessa said...

Hi anotherperfumeblog,

I admire your restraint vis-a-vis "non-functional paper goods", though you could argue that the "olfcartes" function as a smelling aid. However, it is quite true that you can't do anything really useful with them like write or sharpen a pencil!

I don't think I would ever start collecting olfcartes myself, any more than I would *beer mats* - it is something to do with the blottery quality of the paper. It isn't a desirable material.

And d'you know, right after I wrote this post, as I was photographing the extra cards the seller sent me, that same thought occurred to me that the fancier cards are more common at the designer end of the fragrance spectrum. I have since also found one for Burberry Body in my briefcase with the full image of their poster ad on one side!

Oh yes, those ribbons, I forgot them. I haven't seen them for Elie Saab, but they are also a regular "perfume delivery system" used by SAs promoting Narciso Rodriguez scents.

And how lovely that you have received attractive mailings from Chanel! If you were to put them all on Ebay, you never might be able to hasten your next big ticket purchase with the proceeds!

: - 0

Anonymous said...

It is clear from your questions that posing them is something you do professionally, those are some pretty good questions!

I am not an olfcartophile, although the word is so nice, I have considered becoming one, if only for the title. :)

I recently got a very nice blotter from Bottega Veneta, in the color of the box and quilted, to invoke the image of their woven leather products. I think it is a good way to attach a scent to an image, so if I were an marketing executive I would surely go in that direction.
I also like the Chanel Le Exclusifs blotters and those from the exclusive Diors, nicely pre-printed with the name of the perfume, that saves work and looks very stylish.

Bravo to Mr Bonkers for being so thoughtful with your Christmas presents!

Vanessa said...

Hi Olfactoria,

Haha, I guess I am a bit of a professional question setter! Maybe - and you have just made me think of it - I don't tend to ask questions at the end of my posts as a rule because it might be too much of a "bus man's holiday"!

Yes, I agree that it is tempting to consider becoming an olfcartophile just for the name, especially as that Bottega Veneta one you describe takes the category away from beer mat country into a whole other level of tactile "luxury".

And I very nearly mentioned the point you raise about the handy way the Chanel and Dior exclusives also have the scent name preprinted on them, but thought the post was getting a bit long again, so am glad you brought it up here!

Tara said...

Lovely, thoughtful, perfume related pressies from Mr Bonkers. I'm impressed!

I really didn't know how fun collecting could be until I got into perfume. Hopefully that will not spill over into other areas like blotters (fingers crossed!).

As you and B say, it's great when the names are pre-printed. The number of times I've gone home with a load of blotters convinced I'd remember what was what but I never do.

I have noticed at Selfridges in particular, the SAs like to spray perfume onto a tissue for you to try. I'm not sure why but this doesn't really work for me.

Vanessa said...

Hi tara,

Yes, present-finding ingenuity is one of Mr Bonkers' key attributes!

And I agree that one form of perfume-themed collecting is probably enough. More than enough, even!

Glad you flagged up those tissues - I had forgotten about them. L'Artisan have started using them I see, squashed into little candle holders. I am not sure an SA has proffered a tissue loose for me to waft around myself, so that is an interesting development. Don't think I care for it either. I religiously write the names on the other end of the plain white blotters, but that would be a stretch on a tissue!

And then of course there is Thierry Mugler and IUNX, each of which has its own proprietary "trumpet-shaped" perfume delivery system. : - ) And Molton Brown - or so I thought, but may have been mistaken...

Anonymous said...

Olfcartophile? Wow, they really do have a name for everything nowadays. I've never really considered myself a collector of tester cards but I regularly find used ones in coat pockets and the back pockets of various pairs of trousers.

Am I the only one that finds them quite difficult to come across in some stores?

Vanessa said...

Hi Candy Perfume Boy,

I know just what you mean about finding the strips in all sorts of out of the way places - not unlike spoons at the bottom of the washing up water.

And I do agree too about the dearth of blotters at the fixtures, as evidenced by my dash to the Escada aisle to find some to test the Molton Browns with. Don't you also find a similar problem in Tesco when you want to put loose veg in one of those little plastic bags - the nearest dispenser seems to be miles away!

Cymbaline said...

I enjoyed reading about 'olfcartophile'on Pyramus's 'Cephologenic' blog, very interesting.

Vanessa said...

Hi Cymbaline,

I have caught up with Pyramus's post now - informative and very entertaining. I was chuffed that he considered my query worthy of a post in its own right! Thanks for the heads up - I did mean to check back, but might have only looked in the post where I originally left my comment!

Undina said...

First I want to mention that I enjoyed reading both the post itself and comments exchange.

Vanessa, you forgot one more "delivery system" - small scented towelettes.

I didn't think twice about those blotters (other than trying to find them at some stores, hating kleenex napkins in lieu of real blotters and liking pre-print chanel exclusifs' ones) but now after your story... I want to get that flower-shaped one for Cartier Baiser Volé that I recently saw at the store. What have you done?!! :)

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

Small scented towelettes - of course... More as freshen up wipes in planes rather than the scrunched up tissues in the votive candle holder approach in the L'Artisan example? But even if you did mean outside the context of fine fragrance, it most definitely countes as a perfume delivery system!

Ooh, you've got me curious about that Cartier blotter now. Since writing this post I have also dug up a cute teardrop shaped one for Etro Paisley - nice card, shame about the scent!

Vanessa said...

PS Cymbaline, I have updated my post with the news of the feedback from Pyramus!

Undina said...

Vanessa, I was talking about a strange fution of a "liquitouch" (a new word for me) and a freshen up wipe when a small (a quarter of the regular size) wipe is saturated with a perfume. You open that pack and apply it as a perfume, not using it as a cleaning supply. I saw, for example, Yves Rocher delivering their perfume samples this way.

Cymbaline said...

Most excellent! : )

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

Well, well, thanks for bringing this novel towelette to my attention! Not come across that one at all...

Vanessa said...

Hi Cymbaline,

Glad to have discovered Pyramus's other blog thanks to you!