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Fragrance Exploration, Wellington: Kirckaldie and Staines + Mecca

The lovely Bridgette

This past Sunday, a group of ardent perfume fans descended on Wellington’s most venerable department store, Kirckaldie and Staines. We were there to sniff, share, and experience a range of fragrances while bouncing opinions and experiences off each other. We were very fortunate, because Kirk’s had set up an hour’s perfume encounter for us, and we also experienced fragrances at the Mecca Cosmetica area of Kirk’s cosmetics floor.

Even at 10 AM on the Sunday morning after Daylight Savings, there was still a crowd waiting to get into Kirk’s. Some of us were soignee; I was tired and blinky. We were met by the front door fountain by Mark Conroy, a tall, blue-eyed, career fragrance expert. He greeted us all smoothly, blinky and beautiful alike, and invited us in. We trooped past the space-age lighting of the cosmetic area to Kirk’s fragrance department, and the fun began.

The fragrances of history, waiting for us at Kirkcaldie’s

PFMarkConroy

Mark Conroy prepares a scent strip for our delectation

PFSmellMe

“No, wait – smell it on my wrist!” Coffee beans to the right, scent strips everywhere.

After listening to our group and getting an idea of who we were, Mark took us through classic French scents from Chanel, YSL, Guerlain, and more. “It’s good to smell some of these as reference notes,” said Mark, handing around slips of paper sprayed with Mitsouko and Chanel No. 19. “The Italians have a very different approach to scent,” he noted, handing around Acqua di Parma, which I fell in love with instantly. Thanks to Mark, by the end of the hour, I’d learned that while I  like the idea of a “green” perfume, I’m more drawn to perfumes with a citrus or amber note and a woody base. In between sniffs, we refreshed our noses by smelling… coffee beans!

The lovely Bridgette

Sampling scent strips – the way to try

Just as marvelous as the perfumes was being able to share them with like-minded people.* Suggestions and ideas and personal perfume histories were shared. “You know what you’d really like? Can we try…?” I gained a sense of how perfumes really do act differently on different skins, and how they express personality and a subtler sense of beauty. And I learned about scrubbers – perfumes you can’t wait to scrub off your skin!

We wrapped up with some more modern fragrances, such as the Elie Saab line – extremely popular right now, but very different from the weighty classic scents. We started asking about prices – and we were agreeably surprised. Kirk’s fragrance range has become more affordable thanks to some international market changes. Some standouts from our hour of exploration:

  • Bvlgari Blue –  One of us said,  “This is what I wear when I need to wake up on a dismal winter’s morning.” It starts out as GINGER and more ginger, and dries down beautifully.
  • 24 Faubourg by Hermes – I was very taken with the cashmere-sweater-nuzzleable quality of this, along with the markedly pretty bottle. As the blogger Perfume Queen says about this fragrance, “Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you the smell of money and happiness.”
  • Miss Dior Originale by Dior  – Several of us were smitten with this revived classic. Mark told us the charming story of how the fragrance was created for Dior’s sister.
  • Thierry Mugler Angel – One of several love-or-hate ones, this elicited long stories about when-I-wore-Angel and the comment “This smells like…like the sound of a 90s modem.”
  • French travel perfume bottles – Kirk’s stocks leakproof travel perfume bottles in two shapes. Transfer some of your favorite into these to take it with you securely. High-end yet affordable, most of us picked up one or more of these.
SO COOL

Getting ready to fill a travel perfume spray straight from the fragrance bottle. How cool is that?? The narrow pen-like shape is airport security friendly, too.

After one more hit of coffee beans to clear our sinuses, we went over to Mecca, ten yards away on Kirk’s first floor. The lovely Charlotte gave us a review of their perfume lines. Standouts from our Mecca visit were:

When store lighting and outdoors lighting collide, we all look like lemons

Getting ready to sniff some more at Mecca Cosmetica with Charlotte (left).

At the end of our visit, perfumes and travel perfume bottles were bought, and notes were taken away for future purchases. “I don’t really buy a fragrance the first time I smell it,” one of us declared. That’s why, even in the age of the Internet, the glass-and-light perfume counter is still the place to go, and for those of us introduced to perfumes online, there’s nothing like getting together with like-minded souls.

"Suede and peaches, you say?"

Sniffing thoughtfully with friends: what the morning was about.

For those of you who weren’t able to make it, and who live in New Zealand, I have a little giveaway. Courtesy of Kirk’s and Mecca, comment below, here on the blog, to be in to win:

  • A voucher for a complimentary makeup application at the cosmetic house of your choice at Kirkcaldie and Staines.
  • Nine carded/boxed perfume samples – Si by Giorgio Armani, Miss Dior by Dior, MaDame by Jean Paul Gaultier, Coco by Coco Chanel, Pleats Please by Issey Miyake, Eau de Sisley 1 by Sisley, Calyx by Clinique, and (drumroll please) two Serge Luteyns samples – L’Eau Serge Lutens and Chergui.

A random selection generator will be used to choose the winner, who will be announced this Friday.

SUPER thanks to Kirk’s – they were absolutely delightful all the way and treated us magnificently. I’ll be back, once my bank account has recovered.

Kirkcaldie and Staines, YOU ROCK.

The fragrance team at Kirkcaldie and Staines – we weren’t posing, this just happened.

 

*It’s not all women – several men were interested in the event, but couldn’t make it.

13 Comments

  1. Sad I had to miss it- will definitely be getting one of those travel bottles!

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  2. Sounds like a great time! Wish I could have made it! Great to know that Kirkcaldies stock leak proof travel bottles, I lost a third of a bottle of Issey Miyake when the lid came off in my suitcase! Hope you consider doing it again sometime!

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  3. I was very disappointed when I couldn’t make this; such is the life of the business owner (and we’re will trying to finish up). I do hope you do it again!

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  4. That sounds like it was awesome. I haven’t worn perfume since I first got pregnant. I had one that was so right for me that the smell of it would comfort me on a crappy day at work but pregnancy made it smell all wrong for me and I never managed to go back to it. Might be time to seek out something new.

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    • There’s some really innovative stuff out there nowadays! I will alert the perfume posse when my budget has recovered. ;D

      Reply

  5. Man, I’m so sorry I missed out!

    One thing I always find is just how much a perfume’s scent changes the moment it touches my skin, so I never trust scent strips at all. Of course, it also does mean I start to run out of skin real estate when going on perfume ‘tastings’ 😛

    Reply

    • No problem! I use the scent strips as a starting point to see if I even LIKE a scent. On Sunday, if I really, really liked it, it went on. I wore a short-sleeved shirt on purpose. I think I tried 5 scents on my skin out of the many we were offered, and I bought one.

      Reply

    • I’d like to go back in a couple of months to get something I loved! I will alert the perfume posse.

      Reply

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