Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Vivaudou Part II...

You may remember the earlier post on Vivaudou cosmetics and Nikki perfume. I've sent off a few samples of Nikki to various readers, and I'm still planning on sending it out to a few more, including someone who isn't expecting it. So far the feedback has been interesting: challenging, strange notes, or could it have begun turning?- as for the last one, no, I hope not! Seriously, it is too sweet and clean to be turning but you never really know how something smelled or was supposed to smell, in the beginning, when something is as old as this stuff is. But I argue it is just an unusual composition and one with lots of coumarin, I'm betting. The 'hazelnut' I get might smell more like 'hay' to others. And there's a very fine delicate complex powdery theme woven in, which really fits in with Vivaudou, once you realize that the name is synonymous with fine cosemetic powders. Indeed Nikki could be exactly that- an interpretation of a woman, smelt through powder, and just a trace of salt and old roses, along with something unexpected, something a little acrid or slightly bitter, marigold(?)... It grows on you... Perhaps I'll find a definitive opinion from someone more expert than I.

But until then, I have the pleasant task of updating you on the Vivaudou story. If you recall, in the intial story I speculated that the two Vivaudou's- Jean and Victor, were related. Well, it turns out they were related indeed! In fact, I heard from the grandson of Victor Vivaudou, a lovely gentleman named David Kinnement. It turns out David's grandfather Victor did much more than make perfume (and establish a thriving cosmetics business). He was arrested for smuggling (Diamonds! In his own Vivaudou (?) cold cream!) in the early 1920's. But his career began on a more hope-filled note when he graduated as a Maître de Parfum in Grasse around 1903. By 1914, he'd fled France to avoid the impending war and seek his fortune and fame in America, making cosmetics and perhaps trading in off-market women's couture (I'm assuming perhaps from his Old World connections...) . He left his wife and children behind and brought his mistress, Rose, to the US with him.
There he met the landed gentry of New York's golden society. He attended glittering parties that lasted for days at the Vanderbilt's and Gatsby's, and soon he and Rose purchased a home nearby. He started Vivaudou cosmetics, either with his father Jean, or more likely using Jean's name for the company (it isn't clear to me which was the case). Vivaudou landed in New York at a magical time in history and he was there to see New York transform itself from an almost provincial, colonial American city with quaint Belle Epoch tastes to the fully industrialized, sky scraper filled, world-class wonder we know today. Vivaudou associated with the cream of the crop of designers and artists of his time. The period of time and place in which he lived- New York, during the height of the jazz age and the birth of modern fashion photography and art, was as unique as the parfums he created.
His Orloff perfume bottles are certainly beautiful and distinctive, as Nikki attests. But what strikes me the most, as it did David, is the wonderful art work that was used in Vivaudou's print advertisements. One of the most famous artists he used, Henry Clive, achieved fame as a pin-up artist but he created many beautiful images for Vivaudou's cosmetics, powders and perfumes. I've taken the liberty of putting a few of these increasinly rare images up for you to feast your eyes on and so they can live on here among all the other wealth of vintage goodies I try to pack into this space.
Above, a gorgeous & detailed Mavis advertisement- the face powder, of course! And below,

One of Henry Clives' many period magazine covers (note his characteristic signature in the lower left corner). Red was a strong favorite color of Henry's and also of Vivaudou's, as you can see it was used extensively and lavishly in many of their advertsiing images.

Henry Clive did all of these advertising images, most of which were sourced from Flickr, American Archives dotcom or Pro dot Corbis dotcom.

I would love to see the advertising for Nikki, or any of the other Vivadou products but there just isn't anything I can come up with... And it's kind of funny because Vivaudou was associated with a host of perfume 'lines' including Delettrez, Arly (Paris France), Prince de Chany (Paris France & Beverly Hills,Ca), Vimay (Los Angeles and Culver City,CA) and finally Vadsco Sales Corp.(Long Island,NY).
Above, a rare advertising image from Vivaudou's Delettrez perfume line.

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

Note: all of the black and white images are DeMeyer: Dolores, first published in Vogue 1921 and 1916; Grace George, Vanity Fair 1920, courtesy Conde Nast. What you see here are photographs taken directly from my own DeMeyer book.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Perfume for Kids: Liddle Kiddles Kologne Dolls, meet the Barbie Twillerbabies...

This may seem like a BIG departure for those expecting strictly 'serious' perfume content, but I'm convinced that Mattel's Liddle Kiddle Kologne Dolls were, in part, responsible for my perfume fixation. Made in the early 1970s, the little dolls were about 2" tall. Each came encased in a plastic pendant heart and each doll represented a specific flower. Lily of the Valley, Violet and Orange Blossom were my favorites. In addition to being dressed like a blossom, each of the dolls and their containers had a very strong synthetic, solifloral flower perfume note infused. I spent endless hours playing with my Kiddle Kologne dolls. I was obsessive about trying to keep the dolls inside their cases to hold the scent as long and strong as possible.

Well, I almost fainted when I saw these new little Barbie Thumbelina Twillerbabies...

...because they're almost a direct copy of my beloved Kiddles and of course, they're SCENTED! Just like the Kiddles. These little dolls have soft (and safer, I assume) petal housing so they're not quite identical. Still, they are extremely appealing to me in that nostalgic way you can't resist... and in fact I could not resist buying them. I got the ones that smelled best (comparitively, of course!), which were Hydrangia, Rose, Daliah and Sunflower; the Daisy and Tulip were too watery for me.

Above is the Twillerbabie called Dahlia. She smells of soft vanilla with maybe some gentle coconut underneath and looks just like her flower. The sunflower is my favorite scent of the bunch. I thought she was a daffodil and I still think she smells of jonquil. The rose doll smells of a bubblegum rose with a hint of saffron. Hydranga is sweet pea-ish and powdery.

(photo of a Dahlia from

The original Kiddles were among my favorite toys growing up. They had a weirdly plastic-floral fusion of scent that I've never forgotten. I still smell a similar note in grown-up perfumes now and again and I find it's actually quite desirable. If you look at Mattel's whole range of scented Kiddles of the 70's you'd see that many were actually based on food scents, sort of early gourmands for kids, if you like. The Kiddle Kola dolls came in bright day-glo color hair and had soda flavors like orange, lemon-lime, cherry, cola too.

I have no idea if anyone outside of America ever saw these toys. But I wonder how many perfumistas here in America remember Kiddles?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Joy for Jasmine: Vintage Mori, Patou Perfumes

The first really warm days of spring put me in the mood for flowers. People might describe me as somewhat of a girly-girl but that does not fit in with my fragrance style sense. I tend to love perfumes with prominent aromatic, spice, citrus, woods, incense, leather or musk. In other words, very few proper perfumes, especially the feminine ones with over-dose of floral notes, make it into my scent rotation. Carnation is my one true floral fascination although their spicy-coolness seems particularly suited to crisp fall/winter days. But as soon as the temperature goes up into the 80's for some inexplicable reason I find myself craving the king of all flower essences, jasmine. In anticipation of a warm week-end I gave into my craving and brought out two of my favorite vintage jasmine perfumes for a head-to-head sniff-a-thon.

The reining jasmine perfume has got to be Joy... Released by Jean Patou in 1930, it was at the time reputedly the world's costliest perfume to produce. The duet of sweet may-rose and lots and lots of the world's finest jasmine blossoms forms the heart of Joy perfume. For many, it is bliss inducing. The sweet-spicy floral melds into the sweet- spicy animal base to an almost perfect effect. While Joy smells divine there are a few notes in it that distract me. I sense an almost bruised quality of sweetness gone just past it's peak; or maybe there's just too much of too many good things in it for me to process all at once. In any case, after wearing Joy for a short period of time I determined that it did not really suite me. So I searched for another jasmine scent hoping to find my own perfect jasmine. (This photo is from the Lightyears Project collection, which I can't link to, given my lack of technical expertise, but you can google them for all sorts of perfume history. The photo shows how the black & red Joy bottle was inspired by an ancient Chinese snuff bottle.)

The first perfume I chose in my search for jasmine joy is ironically a close relative of Joy: Jean Patou's Amour Amour. Created as part of a trio of perfumes from Patou in 1925, it was said to be the one made for those with dark hair, while “Que sais-je”, a lighter fragrance was for blondes and “Adieu Sagesse” was intended for red-heads. In fact it is said that Amour-Amour was inspired by and made for the devestatingly vampish sultry brunette, Louise Brooks.

Amour-Amour offers a panoply of floral notes, according to Fragrantica it includes neroli, bergamot, wild strawberry and lemon on top; carnation, orris, lily, lilac, orris, jasmine, ylang-ylang, rose, and narcissus in the middle; and finally musk, honey, civet, vetiver and heliotrope base. It sounds stunning, a perfect fantasy of truly scrumptuous jasmine in a bouquet of equally sumptous ingredients. It's easy to get carried away sometimes with how we think a perfume ought to smell. And such is the case for me with Amour Amour. It has jasmine for sure and it's even of the right type for me- fruity and sweet. But unfortunately, I find Amour Amour smells mostly strongly of narcissus and lemon. Surprisingly, it's more than a little soapy as well. Actually it reminds me most of the Dana perfume Platine, a perfume supposedly built for 'icy' blondes rather than dashing dark beauties. So if you are looking for another perfume suited to blondes, I suggest Amour Amour... Don't get me wrong, I treasure Amour, Amour. It may not be the perfect jasmine perfume that I crave but it is full of life and flowers and hints of sweet honey with bits of earthy roots and hints of animal things, rather like a real basket full of fresh spring flowers from the garden but it's being held next to a sink, full of fresh suds! Underneath the blossoms there is a hint of something cat-like (the civet), but on me, it's blotted out by the true soapy clean heart. A lovely perfume in it's own right but the jasmine never really blooms as lush as I wish it would. Everything is seamlessly blended but it's not the jasmine ideal I'm seeking today.

Note about this photo: as you can see, on the black velvet these bottles look terribly streaky and every little trace dust smudge looks like a big dirty streak, despite light pre-cleaning. I say light because I've had some tragic accidents with perfume bottles due to too vigorous handling or cleaning attempts. Edit: even so, I thought I'd give these bottles a good re-cleaning after seeing the photo, but on my way back from cleaning the Amour Amour bottle, I tripped and ended up loosing about half of the contents onto my computer chair mat- not even the carpet or wood floors but the crappy old plastic mat got christined with this rare juice!! So learn from my mistakes! Don't over-handle your bottles. Better fuller with a little honorable grime, than to have them sparkling clean and possibly broken or empty...

But here's the real reason Amour Amour can't get a fair wearing out of me; I've found Nuits Folles by Mori of Paris, circa 1930. Nuits Folles or "Crazy Nights" as the French translates, opens with a honey sweetened jasmine that starts out strong and never quits. From the first opening of strains of evening star flowers at dusk to the spicy heavy scent of honey made from not only jasmine, but pinks and geramiums, too; to the ultra-realistic strawberry fruit note that predominates throughout hours of wearing. Nuits Folles really is the best strawberry note I've found in a perfume, which is not an easy note to elevate to greatness but here it is, offering perfectly juicy redness to the scent. This is a happy and light-hearted scent, just the sort you'd wear to a gay and flirty garden party in the country, that might last for... days. A perfume that laughs first and never asks questions, the finish is lightly animalic and waxy with spicy aromatic notes of pollen sweet honey. In the photo you can see Nuits Folles in the taller bottle with the ball top stopper, I believe it is a pure parfum.

I can't find anything about the extinct Mori perfume company however I have scant information on early French perfume houses. Even the word itself is shrouded in mystery. It has a Slavic meaning associated with the sea- perhaps an island related name? The latin root is 'morior'- to die or wither away... which might describe anything, including that which is made from flowers. While their story may remain a mystery to me, there has to be more to the Mori story... perhaps there are more Mori bottles filled with exotic treasures sitting out there waiting to be discovered? With such an audacious perfume as Nuits Folles, someone must have noticed Mori before and I feel certain that more is known of this house. Given the quality and longevity of Nuit Folles, the other Mori perfumes must have been outstanding.

If anyone has any stories to share about Mori parfums, I wish they'd tell. Since there is maybe only 10 mls of Nuits Folles, it will be gone too soon. Still I intend to wear it- no regrets, no hoarding or saving it. Nor will I fantasize about finding any more of it! Instead I'll focus on being happy to have found a perfect jasmine for this time... after all, another completely new and unexpected fragrant discovery is waiting to delight and amaze me. And besides the room is too full of vapors from the Amour-Amour bottle, making it too hard to think about any more jasmine perfume...

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hayloft Perfume & Powder by Jean La Salle

Trio of Jean Lasalle Hayloft scented powder and perfume. Jean Lasalle had a shop on Park Avenue (New York) during the 1940s where she also sold pancake make up and other products. Aoung her line were a few scented ones including Carioca and Hayloft cologne. Most of her scented products were packaged in pale colors of powder pink and blue with feathers or similar airy design motifs. Hayloft is the only fragance from Jean LaSalle that I've smelled. It is a faithful rendition of hay scent with violet and bitter almond over melded powery sweet and greenish notes. Very acceptable by modern standards, I should think Hayloft was a hit back then, too. If you loved the hay note and were looking for coumarin based scents, then it was a great one to try. The wear time is probably 4 or 5 hours, very decent for a vintage cologne. I see bottles of Hayloft listed periodically on EBay and other sites so you can still find it if you search around a bit. The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Orloff NIKKI Perfume, Jean Vivaudou Cosmetics

The Jean Vivaudou Company is perhaps better known among glass collectors but perfume fanatics have a reason to know them, too. Sometimes abbreviated just J V Co, Vivaudou produced vanity and bathing products that were packaged in pretty glass containers mostly circa 1930s. In fact, I've owned a few of J V Co containers, not even realizing what they were. The little jar you see above originally held a perfumed sachet powder made by JV Co and when the powder was used up you were able to use the container as a planter. The glass in this case was actually made by Akro Agate, a large US glass manufacturing company famous for making everything from swirled (slag) glass baskets with animals like a chicken or a cat on top to highly collectible rainbow assorted aggies or marbles.

Interestingly, another man named Victor Vivaudou, got into the perfume and cosmetics business in New York in the early nineteen hundreds, just a few years earlier than Jean. Possibly the two Vivaudou's were related? It would be a very odd coincidence if both men lived in New York, during the same time period, doing the same business and were not related. Whether or not he had any help, it was during the 1930s- 1940s that Jean Vivaudou produced several perfumes under or with the name of Orloff Perfumes. The Orloff perfumes include: Apple Blossoms 1941, Attar of Petals 1945, Carnation Imperial 1939, Extrait de Cologne Russe 1939, Gardenia Russe 1939, Indies Spice 1941 and Nikki 1939. Jean Vivaudou Company used a wide variety of stylized containers for their cosmetics and the bottles for the Orloff perfumes were unique. You may have noticed all of the perfumes seem to share a Russian theme The perfume called Carnation Imperial came in a wooden Russian style container, rather like one of the cathedrals with the famous onion dome tops. It had a glass vial inside and the container was painted red, white, gold and green. In the photos below you see the perfume called NIKKI. The bottle is stunning, it's very gothic and even before I knew any of the other Orloff perfumes I thought it reminded me of something from Russia, too.

I love that you can clearly see a fingerprint in the gray paint under the silk screened layer of gold paint that makes up the Orloff logo, applied directly on the bottle. I think it is rare to see this mark so well preserved, as you can see the paint is wearing off in this example, too. The image appears to be that of a rider thoroughly robed against cold Russian winters, with blankets and cloaks perhaps obscuring the horse's rear legs. For me this is a very romantic presentation. The perfume within is very interesting to me as well; I am fairly certain it is authentic, as I received it from a single owner with several other same period perfumes that I know to be correct (and that have more value). It smells a bit raspy at the top but as I smell it more and more, I like it better and think maybe it is intended to be that way. It reminds me a little of the smell of chrysanthemums and also a hazelnut-like note. This morning I thought maybe also it had a basil note that might be causing part of the harshness, but now I'm not sure. It has a warm doughy quality so I suspect it might have been an Iris perfume, but once again, I'm not sure because Iris is a note that still plays hide-and-seek with me. It finishes slightly powdery, mostly warm and roasted-nutty. That edge of bitter floral lasts all the way through, at least on me.

I really wish this had been Gardenia Russe (can you imagine!) or Carnation Imperial (I'm real into carnation) but I just love the bottle Nikki comes in. It's actually a rather large bottle and since I mostly dab, I'm sure I'll have much more than a lifetime's supply of NIKKI.

So how about a first here? Since I'm totally non-commercial and unincorporated, it has to be a modest first sample give away; so for up to the first five people who request it (email me at if you want to be included) but since I don't really think 5 people read this blog, I'm not sure I'll send out even 1 vial. But if I do, then don't be too mean if you disagree with my smell analysis; I go without any reference or list of notes 99% of the time. I'm using the only things I've got, which are namely my nose and my brain, so if you do get a sample of this perfume, try not to tease me too badly if you open the vial and think to yourself, duh, this is a ROSE perfume, dummy !! At the same time, I want to know what you think and I would love to hear back from you on the blog or by email once you've sniffed Nikki, to tell me what you think about it, too.

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.