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)