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.
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!
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.
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:
- The entire Serge Lutens line – Deliciously deconstructivist interview with the man himself here. Charlotte noted that they carry more Serge Lutens than they have on display – she brought out Daim Blonde when we asked about it.
- Diptyque’s solid perfumes – “Great for layering”.
- Comme des Garcons Wonderwood – “I can’t stop smelling myself!”
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.
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.
*It’s not all women – several men were interested in the event, but couldn’t make it.