The speed of light was broken earlier this fall in Geneva, but if it hadn’t been, I would have broken it myself on the day that Angela Sander’s upcoming novel The Lanvin Murders comes out. Angela is a truly extraordinary woman. She has been writing perfume reviews for Now Smell This for over five years, and these reviews are never anything less than positively charming. She works at an HIV service organization and owns a pickup truck, which she vigorously defends from would-be robbers. Today Angela warns us about a dangerous potential use for Caron Tabac Blonde and shares pictures of her dog Tex and her “voluptuous kitty” Mae West.
Why do you write about perfume?
I like to write and I like perfume. The combo is hard to beat. About five and a half years ago, I responded to an ad on Now Smell This looking for perfume writers. In many ways, I was (and still am) learning perfume along with the blog’s readers. Having a weekly 500-word writing assignment has tightened my craft, too. When I see posts I wrote even a couple of years ago, I cringe.
Also, perfume people are terrific. Writing about perfume, I’m part of a world-wide community. Whenever I meet someone who knows Now Smell This, I’m so happy. I feel we already have a bond.
Your fabulous-sounding crime novel, The Lanvin Murders, stars “a perfume-loving protagonist”. What perfumes does this character wear?
The protagonist, Joanna, owns a vintage clothing store, and she mostly wears vintage fragrances she picks up at estate sales when she’s combing the closets for Lili Ann suits, Bonnie Cashin purses, and Emma Domb prom dresses. In The Lanvin Murders, in passing I mention her spritzing on Je Reviens, Femme, and Lanvin Scandal (I wish I had that bottle for real). The place of honor goes to Tabac Blond, which saves her life when she sprays from a decant into a killer’s eyes.
What are your favorite perfume houses?
This is such a hard question! Can I just list some of my favorite fragrances? Ormonde Jayne Woman, XerJoff Irisss, L’Artisan Parfumeur Nuit de Tubéreuse, vintage Christian Dior Diorling, vintage Miss Dior, Lanvin Scandal, Amouage Jubilation 25, Guerlain Chamade, Rochas Femme, Caron Parfum Sacré, MDCI Enlevement au Soleil, Eau de Rochas, Hermès Bel Ami, probably more I’m forgetting. In this damp cold, I’ve been wearing Flower by Kenzo Oriental a lot for comfort. I’ll get into fits sometimes where I’ll wear only Shalimar, Habanita, or some other assertive fragrance for a few days, then I won’t be able to stand it for a while.
What is your favorite place to shop for perfume?
I’m on a tight budget, so unless I’m mad for something, I wait for it to be discounted online. I find a lot of fragrance at thrift shops. Really, though, at this point a perfume has to knock my socks off for me to shell out. Then, I’ll buy it at Portland’s The Perfume House if they have it.
You’ve written that Edmond Roudnitska is your favorite perfumer. What is it about his work that makes you adore him? What is your favorite of his creations?
I like how Roudnitska mixes the beautiful with just enough of the ugly to force your attention. I adore Femme, Diorella, Mousseline, Dior Dior, and Eau Sauvage, and I know I’d love the old Diorama if I ever got to smell it. The classic photo of Roudnitska shows him cranky and contemplative in an old tee shirt in an overgrown garden, which forges my connection even more deeply. I’m going to Languedoc for a long writing retreat in May, and I want to find Cabris, where he retired, and imagine him at work.
What are some of your other interests outside of perfume?
Writing, cooking (and eating), reading old detective novels, film noir, any old movie with beautiful dresses and snappy dialogue, ridding the world of the word “utilize,” finding etched crystal cocktail glasses and linen napkins at Goodwill, hot baths, walking the dog.
What perfume(s) are you hoping to find under the Christmas tree/Menorah branches this year?
My dream: a bottle of Enlèvement au serial or of Jubilation 25 (I have an ounce of that, but it’s running out). Wouldn’t a bottle of vintage Diorama be nice?