Passing Fancies ~ October 2018



Reading: Catching up on my New Yorkers, and just starting Ali and Nino by Kurban Said.

Audio: The soundtrack from “A Star is Born” (with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper) on Spotify. No shame.

Art: “It’s Alive! Frankenstein at 200 at the Morgan Library

Video: Inspired by the above, planning to re-watch Ken Russell’s Gothic (1986)

Eats & Treats: Everything pumpkin spice!!!! Yes, I’m kidding. I’m not really a fan.

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The Art of Perfume Ads: Dior Joy, Jennifer Lawrence, and…Grace Kelly?


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“Discover JOY by Dior. Finally, joy is captured in a fragrance marked by enveloping softness and energy, all at once. An ode to pleasure, to life.” (via Dior website)

I smelled this fragrance in Sephora and couldn’t be bothered to request a sample. I don’t even think we’ve reviewed it on Now Smell This; apparently, none of the blog’s four  writers could be bothered. That gives you a pretty good idea of the fragrance’s “energy.”

However, the print ads for Joy, featuring Jennifer Lawrence, have brought me back for a second look. Here’s Ms. Lawrence, damp hair pushed back and neck glistening with drops of water, emerging from some aquamarine ripples (a swimming pool? tropical sea?).

She could be a contemporary interpretation of the goddess Aphrodite, born from the ocean. She could be an evocation of an mermaid—oh, the whole seemingly never-ending mermaid trend!

Or she could be styled and photographed to evoke an older set of images of another celebrity…

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Henri Bendel: A Scented Salute (in 5 Parts)


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I’m still distressed by the news that Henri Bendel will be shut down in January 2019 by its owner, L Brands, due to low profits. Last week I took a look back at The Gilded Cage, Henri Bendel’s shop-within-a-shop for perfumes and cosmetics. Today I’ll share five memories of Bendel from my own scented timeline.

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Upcoming Class: “Show and Smell: Five Moments of Art and Fragrance”


On Thursday, October 11, I’ll be teaching a class called “Show and Smell: Five Moments of Art and Fragrance” through the Brooklyn Brainery.

For more information, please see the Brainery website!

Image: Chen Jiayan (Chinese, 1539-1623 or later). One Hundred Flowers, dated 1629. Color on silk, 10 x 10 3/8in. (25.4 x 26.4cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the C. C. Wang Family Collection, 1997.185.18 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum)

A Look Back at Henri Bendel and “The Gilded Cage”


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Henri Bendel on West 57th Steet, via Geraldine Stutz Fellowship/Parsons School of Design

I’m still saddened by last week’s news that Henri Bendel—the flagship store on Fifth Avenue and its various satellites in other cities—will soon cease to exist. L Brands, Bendel’s corporate owner since 1985 (and the force behind Bath & Body Works, Victoria’s Secret, et al.) is closing down the brand due to its lack of profitability.

I could ramble incoherently for thousands of words about the ways that L Brands gradually dragged Bendel down into tacky irrelevance and ruined it for those of us who were lifelong shoppers (and I mean, lifelong—I probably visited the original Henri Bendel location in utero). Instead, I’ll share this gem of an article that The New York Times ran in 1960.

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Burt Reynolds’s Favorite Fragrance…and his Ad for Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds (1998)


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As we bid farewell to American actor Burt Reynolds (1936-2018), let’s look back to his ads for Elizabeth Taylor’s perfume White Diamonds…and some of his other scent-related moments.

White Diamonds was released in 1991 and was a best-selling celebrity fragrance long before every pop star and her sister jumped on the celeb-scent bandwagon. Taylor and Reynolds had already been friends for a long time (he reportedly advised her on negotiating her $1 million salary for Cleopatra), and he was featured in television and print ads for White Diamonds in 1998. Kenny Rogers also did the honors in his own set of White Diamonds ads.

(These appearances obviously pre-dated Brad Pitt’s bizarre 2012 campaign for Chanel no. 5, which was hailed as a groundbreaking move—a male star as the face of a top-selling feminine fragrance. Apparently we’d already forgotten about the Men of White Diamonds.)

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