2015 is the 70th anniversary of the end of World War ll, therefore many archival programmes about the war, have been broadcast on both radio and television in Europe since this Febuary. As a Japanese, I wonder why they are broadcasting these programmes so early, as WWll officially ended with the surrender of Japan, on August 15th 1945. For the European and American Allies, "Victory in Europe" or "VE Day" is celebrated on May 8th, the date of the surrender of Germany, with Japan following a few months later, and called "Victory over Japan" or "VJ Day".
Many newsreels and war correspondents films of the European battle, including "D Day..Battle of the Bulge..The Russian Advance from the East.. The Liberation of Paris..and much more, are shown on European TV at this time. The complete "End of Hostilities" happened on August 15th 1945, with the capitulation of Japan. WW ll was at last over, and about to become history, as the world rejoiced. Today, may I introduce two perfumes born in 1944, exactly the period when everyone was enduring such severe trauma. We know that perfumes are never born instantly, like "Ask today, Done tomorrow" Consequently, when you think of these two perfumes, you should bear in mind that they had been devised and made, throughout the war time, especially during the latter end of such a bitter conflict.
"The World of War", the most important archival video programme in Europe ever
Robert Piguet (1898 - 1953) the ledgendary fashion designer, (who strongly influenced the post war Houte Couture world) asked Germaine Cellier (1909 - 76) a genius female perfumer, whose creations have become historical masterpieces, to design his first perfume, Bandit.
The perfume starts with an affectionate punch of Leather, then overwrapped with bitter dry Garbanum and Vetiver, together with Oak moss and Animalic notes. Gradually, provocative flowers like Tubereuse, Jasmin, and Ylang Ylang, give you a bold smile. This Leather Chypre note, never smells like a pretty woman, who is protected by a strong man, maybe androgynous? What then, was Cellier inspired by? The smell of a leather sofa, which sharply stimulates your nostrils when you collapes on it? or the touch of lukewarm leather gloves, that caress your skin? The leather coats and boots, so beloved by the then military occupiers?...Such a dangerous scent, might make you uneasy, especially during the austerity and suffering of WW ll. This is a cult perfume, and therefore an acquired taste, for many dedicated male fans in Europe and the United States, but I'm uncertain who would be the suitable woman to wear Bandit in Japan!
When I was about to see a play featuring Naomi Fujiyama and the late Kanzaburo Nakamura, a courier delivered a box of Bandit from overseas, I was over the moon with joy, spritzed it all over my body, then off to the theatre, Big mistake! the sensational and overpowering aroma, spoiled the enjoyment of the evening. I have not forgotten!
Bandit, parfum 30ml
Femme, the scent of temptation
Marcel Rochas (1902 - 1955) the fashion designer, who opened his Maison in his twenties, and already highly reputed in Paris, fell in love with a 16 year old girl called Helene (1927 - 2011) who was studying at the Theatre National de l'Opera de Paris. Having not learned a lesson from his two divorces, he married Helene, despite their age difference of 25 years. I wonder if her parents tried to dissuade her?
Marcel asked the French master perfumer, Edmond Roudnitska (1901 -1996) to make a perfume for Helene. At this time, Roudnitska was comparatively unknown, but later created great works like Diorissimo (1956) and Eau Sauvage (1966) which made him one of the Master Perfumers during the post war perfume history, similar to Germaine Cellier.
Roudnitska made every effort to create the best perfume for Helene, but it was so tough, even to find the ingredients. He used Plunol, which is infused from a barrel of Candied Plum, which was the first time it had been used as a ingredient for perfume! Finally, he made a fasinating scent entitled "Femme" This Fruity Chypre, is made of an over-ripe or decaying aroma of Peach and Plum to represent her Flesh and Blood, Oak Moss and Pachouli as her Bones, then spices like Cumin, as her Body Odour. At first, Femme was sold exclusively to valued customers of Rochas Boutique, but when eventually launched in 1944, it became enormously popular, and fascinated countless woman and men.
I must say, this beautiful Femme, is neither sophisticated or intergrated, not even delicate. It is excactly a Woman - women's skin - womens breath, a scent that reminds us of someones fingers combing out a woman's hair - rather unsettingly magnetising?
Meanwhile, I think the European colder climate, may make Femme more attractive, but beware, especially in humid conditions, if you wish to wear Femme. I was once a victim! I went shopping during the rainy season in Tokyo, wearing Femme. I began to feel unclean together with an unpleasant aroma, and became very upset. I cut short my shopping trip, and fled home!
I strongly recommend, that this very heady Femme is worn only in dry, chilly, mid winter, conditions, in Japan and elsewhere.
Femme, the renewal version (left) and the originals (others)
Bandit smells completely different to Femme, but both perfumes were instrumental in releasing the repressions and frustrations, incurred when Europe became engulfed by the torrent of WW ll. A good reason, why these scents were loved then, and indeed, still loved today.
If you have the chance, try them, and be mesmerized and released by these two Classic Perfumes.
special thanks to : David Whitnell (English proofreading)