Monday, December 17, 2007

Forget me Not: Private Collection by Estée Lauder

Private Collection was created in 1973 and was allegedly Estée Lauder’s signature fragrance, a scent that became synonymous with the image of good taste she projected throughout her life. The story goes that before this fragrance was made accessible to the general public, it was only available to three women: Lauder herself, Princess Grace of Monaco and Wallis, the Duchess of Windsor. Allegedly, Lauder gifted these remarkable women the exclusive privilege to this perfume because they loved it so much.

My personal love affair with this perfume started when, still very young, I smelled it on a friend of my mother’s, and experiencing complete and utter wonderment, I was left with no choice but to fall under its spell. I wish I could remember who the mystery woman was, but I cannot. Private Collection has completely eclipsed her presence, her features, her name. Only it remains, a bright beacon in the dark alleyways of long lost memories. I remember thinking that it was the most unique perfume I’d ever smelled – a perfume, but not a perfume, an extension of one’s personality, a stamp of character, something I could not quite touch. It smelled like nothing I’d ever smelled before. I feel a little shaken thinking how wildly unbelievable it is that I feel the same to this day. Private Collection stands alone, as inexplicably unique today as it was then. At 16, I finally felt adult enough to buy myself a bottle of what I then considered to be the most exquisite perfume ever made. It seemed inordinately expensive to my young self (well, in all honesty, it was inordinately expensive back then, if only by comparison) and I was only able to afford the tiny 30ml EdP. Both the price and the age I chose to buy it seem laughable in retrospect. While I hate to put age labels on any kind of perfume, Private Collection is one of the few exceptions. I don’t know what convinced me that I could pull it off at 16. This should not be worn by anyone that is not at the very least in their 20s! Even now, my mind screams that this last sentence should read “no one under 30” instead, but I guess I can’t help but wish to retain the right to wear it. Or at least fool myself that I can.

I could tell you that Private Collection opens with the most wonderful autumnal chrysanthemums, studded with sparkling raindrops of a passing storm. Earthy and ever so slightly sour, they are as real as the ones I used to shun in our garden as a child, in favor of more visually impressive blooms, and miss so much now. I could tell you of the most unbelievable rendition of hyacinths and narcissi, how they merge with blossoms white of orange and jasmine, so seductive, they almost feel narcotic. I’d write about how ingeniously the linden blossoms start us on the path of green, enhanced as we go, first by traces of grass and sap of leaves and vines and then soon by the evergreen needles and deep galbanum. And yet all this would still manage to say nothing about what Private Collection really is. It is the woman whose hair is always in place. She is not sexy, or necessarily beautiful. She has presence, both evident from her structure, which is neither delicate nor frail and from her unwavering gaze, which is always demanding the best of everyone. She is understated luxury, old money and sophistication. She’ll look good when she’s old. She is, more than anything else really, detached. Few women manage to close the distance between this powerful fragrance and themselves in order to truly make it theirs. I know I haven’t, and suspect I never will. But that’s the beauty of a fragrance wardrobe. Private Collection can be used as a tool, on days and occasions when it is needed to project a certain image, a certain facet of ourselves. It will be there when we need to protect ourselves under a shield or numb the pain. It will be there when we need to keep our distance and it will force us to stand tall when we need to impress. The rest of the time we’ll be giving in to our vices and passions.

Don’t forget to check Tamara’s entry!

Images: commons.wikimedia.com (Grace Kelly, Lauder with customer, Chrysanthemums)


15 comments:

tmp00 said...

I've never knowingly smelled this and now you make me want to seek it out...

TMH256 said...

Oh, the similarities do abound my dear friend! The woman who wears Private Collection is stunningly similar for both of us.

I found the exact notes incredibly difficult to find, suggesting Private Collection most certainly is private. ;-) Seeing your list of notes juxtaposed to mine, who is to know what they are? Nonetheless, this is a gem I'm glad we explored. Beautiful writing!

sweetlife said...

What an interesting review. I am very intrigued (I love the musty fall smell of chrysanthemums) and yet that reserve, that hair-in-place detachment, is the exact opposite of what I aspire to: I have met that woman, I have squirmed under her gaze, I have wanted to wake her up at 3 a.m. and shake her by the shoulders to see what she's really thinking. She frightens me!

But I understand her power. Oh yes, indeed...

Sali said...

Hi, Divina. Thank you for this review of Private Collection. It was riveting, full of love, and your high regard for this perfume is so well-deserving. Private Collection is a divine Chypre, one of my favorites in this genre, although it's challenging for me to wear. I had not thought of chrysanthemums but I, too, love their heady scent, and find it very nostalgic.

queen of caffeine said...

I bought this in 1973 when it came out, I was 20 and just married. It was my proudest posession. i can't remember if I used up the bottle or what...I never bought another bottle, but now I must. Thank you for the review, it smelled all green and mossy to my young nose, we'll see what I detect now.

Linda said...

Dear Divina,
What a joy to read this - your evocative description really echoes what I feel about Private Collection but can't express. Thank you for introducing me to it, and it's true that whenever I wear it I feel soignee: not exactly powerful but calm and self contained. I don't think I'll ever be a grown up but at least this beautiful fragrance gives me a helping hand!
Linda x

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Divina said...

Tom: it's a must! :)

Divina said...

T: I almost wish we were writing about the same fumes every forget me not, because it is just too much fun to see the differences and similarities :)

Divina said...

Sweetlife...I know what you mean! I couldn't help but feel a pang of guilt for ..'exposing' her, since I love her so. I think she has her place in a fragrance wardrobe as I explained in the end, but she would never be my signature. I always want to be near her though...can't be without this marvelous smell.

Divina said...

Hi Sali! Thank you so very much for your encouragement! It means a lot.

Divina said...

Queen, your comment made me smile and nod... I'd love to know how the scent measures up when you get reacquainted.

Divina said...

Linda dearest, so good to see you again :) I am glad you enjoy PC, and I am sure its sophistication suits you perfectly!

PS: I hope I never grow up too... :)

Divina said...

HWC: Thank you :)

Julia said...

My mother has always worn Private Collection since I was a child. I still buy it for her. She didn't like the "new" version with tuberose, but lately I have been thinking about buying a bottle. Why? Because I live 1800 miles from mom and when I can't get a hug, I know a whiff of PC will be almost as good. This review was luscious.