In 1979, Jean-Louis Scherrer launched his first, signature fragrance. According to the official website, Scherrer “hoped that it would be a perfume of quality and tradition” and he is cited describing it as “The passion of the moment. The eternal feminine.” To me, this perfume certainly has something of the eternal. It was the first chypre I loved, at an age when I didn’t know what a chypre was. Formative then, for it started a long love-affair with everything green, austere, feminine but at once forceful. A love affair that started at an age before I even started attending school and is still going strong. Forever connected to a particular person, Scherrer 1 will be my first perfume love, whose name I only learned years later, while never having forgotten its smell.
I was a little girl, and Scherrer was the signature perfume of my dear aunt. Always spending weekends at her house so I’d be playing with my cousin, I’d find myself quietly marveling at the ultra-sophisticated scent following the footsteps of the petite woman with the sparkling blue eyes and the bobbed hair, falling around her face in soft curls. She seemed so exotic to me; having grown up in Austria her perfect Greek had (and still does have) the most beautiful singing lilt and cheerful intonation of a running stream. Unlike most of the women I knew, she had the power to be both loving, nurturing and strict at once. You could not mess with her! And when she laughed, the clouds would part from the sun, a beautiful laugh so infectious and gorgeous it would lend sparkle and light to everything it reverberated from. And isn’t that just the most perfect description of a chypre? Something that is strict and forceful, as well as loving and warm? Something that has the power to lift your spirits to a heavenly place? Something whose hug means so much more, because it is never thoughtless but always meaningful?
I never learned the name of the beautiful perfume, up until two years ago. While out perfume sniffing with my mom, I handed her another chypre in surprise: “Oh my God… This takes me back… It smells exactly like Soula used to when I was little. I love it!” After sniffing the blotter, she looked at me stunned. “You’re right. How can you remember that? She wore it forever… but doesn’t any more. I’ll have to remember what it was called. She probably still has a bottle, you know. She keeps everything.” My mom did remember - it was Scherrer, a name I’d never heard of before. And aunt Soula did indeed have a bottle still. In fact, she had two, smelling as fresh as day, even though they were both half-empty. Determined, I decided to seek it out on my trip to Paris.
We already knew what was happening with oakmoss in 2007, so walking into the Scherrer boutique I felt apprehension, a terrible fear that my original chypre love would have been changed beyond recognition. The boutique was quiet and dark and rather sombre with its black granite and mirrored walls, a stark difference after the buzzing, bright, cheerful house of Dior on the other side of the street. I bypassed a lady fitting a dress and joined a member of the staff by an oval table. On it, all the Scherrer perfumes, together with a fresh bottle of the signature. A sigh of relief - it was still the same. Sweet perfume cloud, full of memories of a creature that wore it well. Better than anyone else could.
(To be continued…)
Images: Early days of the fashion house: Scherrer with his models – www.jeanlouisscherrer.fr
Claudia Schiffer from a Scherrer fashion show - www.anitahopkinsla.com
A picture of Scherrer at one of his shows, the year he was fired – www.grioo.com
The Scherrer boutique on avenue Montaigne