There has been much mention of the designer Thierry Mugler in perfume circles lately, following his death last week at the not very old age of 73. I had never seen a photo of him before, and must confess to googling "What happened to Mugler's nose?", which was on the oddly chunky side. I learnt that it had been reconstructed following a gym accident in 2017. Which only serves to validate my determination not to join one. I must also admit to never really having been a fan of Mugler's perfume line: some of the scents come off as a bit synthetic, though I remember liking a couple of those gourmand flankers from about 10 years ago, the names of which escape me now - the Basenotes site is down or I would look them up. Then I never got to try Aura, though its bottle is pretty amazing. When I see a bottle as intricate as that my inner St Ivel brand manager wants to cry out: "Think of the tooling costs!"
And then of course there is Angel - packaged in probably my most unfavourite blue - a sort of "dirty Man City" colour - but another cracking bottle, and one that I even owned, despite this being many years ago in my stoutly "civilian" days. I remember the year (1992) and where I bought it (Tegel airport in Berlin, which doesn't even exist anymore). It is rare for a perfume to survive while an airport gets discontinued, haha. I gather the site is being turned into a residential area with homes for over 10,000 people, shops, and an office park, while the terminal buildings will be integrated into the Beuth University of Applied Sciences. Never let it be said that this blog is not educational - also to me. ;)
Anyway, I had just finished a work project in Germany - I think to do with accidents caused by fireworks, but don't quote me on that - and decided to treat myself to a bottle of perfume in the airport duty free, as normal people do. I was accosted by a sales assistant brandishing a tester of Angel, and promptly fell for her spiel about it being the latest release blah blah, and bought it on the spot before the top notes had even landed. I do remember suffering a little from buyer's remorse, as I could not quite reconcile myself to this cloying, chocolate-patchouli-vanilla meringue cloud at first. Over the years I came to bond with Angel more, and to appreciate its extraordinarily distinctive and original scent for the time - it is the first modern gourmand fragrance, don't they say? I did end up throwing my bottle away, presumably because it had turned - my perfume curation habits left a lot to be desired back then. Here is a post I wrote about my pre-rabbit hole perfume-owning CV, which formally logs my Angel purchase in the airport category.
|I only have a sample now
But there is something more to say about Angel, which has nothing to do with how it smells per se, but rather its ability to connect me with that younger self, in the prime of life and at the peak of my career, such as it was. I have already touched on this topic through the lens of a perfume in another post, namely the rather unwieldily named biehl. parfumkunstwerke mb03. There too it was my many (and often arduous!) business trips that the scent called to mind.
The photo of me above was taken in 1991 I think, in Chicago, after the hardest couple of days of my working life. I had flown out the day before from Manchester on the only plane in the UK whose captain dared to fly due to the extreme high winds - I thought if he is willing to risk it so will I. The flight was massively delayed as it consolidated passengers from all over the country, and I didn't get to bed in my hotel in Chicago till about 6am local time, only to have to get up again at 7am for a presentation at 9am. I then spent the next 13 hours on my feet in the boardroom of my English client's US distributor's offices, defending a report I had written on the North American market for the particular kinds of large pharmaceutical plant the English company made. There were 13 men in the room, including two representatives from the client organisation, who remained mute throughout. With the exception of the Chairman of the company the rest were sales managers for different territories, who didn't like the news I had to tell them of a huge spike in demand of which they had collectively failed to take advantage, especially in Puerto Rico. To make matters worse the area manager for Puerto Rico was the Chairman's son. The sales managers spent the long day querying the findings on every page and generally trying to shoot my report down in flames, while the Chairman also remained mute...till 10pm, when he leaned forward unexpectedly like a living statue breaking its pose, and spoke: "Leave it...she's right." Whereupon the meeting abruptly broke up, and the Chairman, the client team and I went out for an awkward and very late dinner. I do remember the monkfish being spectacular, and strangely at odds with the insanely stressful 48 hours that had gone before.
|They had run out of standard length taxis!
Now I hadn't bought Angel at this point, but I very much associate it with that whole period of my early 30s, when my stamina and mental resilience were in another stratosphere compared to my much older self today.
I will end with another chocolate-themed tale - also work-related, but fictional this time! For I entered a short story competition in Good Housekeeping in the mid-80s, back when I actually was that brand manager at St Ivel alluded to earlier. There was a word limit and a requirement to incorporate a box of chocolates - the prize I won (for third place!) was also a box of chocolates as it happens, as the competition was sponsored by Lindt.
The phone rang. Julia was surprised such an elegant period piece actually worked. That it might be a reproduction did not occur to her.
"Miss Murray? Could you come down a moment please? The manager would like a word."
Julia replaced the receiver with a bemused air and reached for another of the Lindt chocolates donated by the hotel. The standard of service really was first rate with extra touches like this and the rose, which she planned to press later in her directory of cash 'n' carrys. The only gift she could recall receiving in a hotel was a "Conference Survival Kit" - a useful but prosaic collection of paperclips, drawing pins, pencils and aspirin.
Julia went hurriedly downstairs vigorously crunching a hazelnut cluster.
"I'm sorry Miss Murray, but you have been given the Romantic Luxury Suite by mistake, which is reserved from tonight. Would you mind moving to a single room?"
Julia struggled to conceal her embarrassment. "But I've started on the chocolates." Having accepted these as compensation for the error, she was shown to her new room, with its familiar orange and brown decor and a posy of plastic freesias. The sense of anticlimax was acute. Though she attempted to study her papers for tomorrow's meeting, Julia's imagination strayed back to the other rooms, which, given different circumstances, had such potential...
She put down her work and picked up a competition form which had lain at the bottom of her briefcase for several weeks: "Win a holiday break for two at The Castle Hotel". "For the price of a stamp", she mused, biting into a praline. "Ludlow is my ideal location for a romantic weekend because...(15 words)" Julia scratched the back of her head and began to write.
To illustrate my story, here is the late Charlie Bonkers, grudgingly tholing a Lindt wrapper bauble on her head, "Stuff On My Cat"-style.