Saturday, 6 April 2013

Breaking the Tabu

Back in the anorexic 90's when I was a child, and the early 2000's that was just more of the same we loved our 'clean' smells. The type of scents that had previously been reserved for cleaning products were now the latest offerings at the perfume counter. I remember my first perfume loves: that harsh lemon-rose of Tommy Girl, and his wholesome all-American models who looked like they walked off the set of Dawson's Creek 
Ralph by Ralph Lauren, more of the same, every teenage girl had this on the go, the floral simplicity of Fire and Ice Cool by Revlon (Not Charlie - Revlon's disco-diva subsidiary), and the cold, strict, chilled lemon vodka dominatrix Donna Karan for Women - I wear this one at work sometimes when I feel like being really serious. A scent that I did not come across at the time but deserves honorary mention under that aesthetic is L'eau d'Issey by Issey Miyake. 
This could easily be an advert for a new shower cleaner! ^
I have really strong memories as a child of being around my mum's female friends. They seemed even larger than regular adults with their big hair, bright pink glossy lipstick, sequin cardigans, stirrup pants with pumps, and strong, dominating perfume, all competing with one another. I don't know the names of them but they were the real beasts of the 80's, laden with spices, animal mimicking musks like civet - not the tame white musks of today, heavy oppressive woods, brittle aldehyde's, the flowers were not polite roses or lily of the valleys but big mean rotten ylang ylang blossoms. All the scents specifically designed, it seemed, to torture children and make their eyes water.  The memory of my mum rushing off to work will always be a heavy handed application of Fendi - she always said that it 'settled' through the day, but all I got was the boozy blast.
But digress! This entry is about Tabu by Dana. When I was a youngin, my friends and I would hit the cheap perfume section of our local Big W. Where all the old big hitters are left to rot, only purchased by older women. There were the Lavender waters by Yardley, and the sensible mum cum nan Laura Ashley types like Tweed: 
At least 5 of those 20 something views are by yours truly. 

Our favorite perfume to sniff and giggle over was TABU.

 We couldn't believe that any woman would purposely pay money to smell of THAT. It was so wrong and over the top, it smelt so intensely of incence, spices, vanilla and benzoin. It had that old-lady stink to it, and it was a cheapie - it cost less than $20. The image I had of a Tabu wearer was a boozy, cigarette smoking, middle aged woman at a pub, too much make up and too much cleavage.  This is certainly not how I feel about it now! I was a teenage know it all. 
In my 20's I am absolutely bored of the clean scents, I like them, but I'm not compelled towards them, one of my favourites is one of my era, Angel by Thierry Mugler, maybe the only evil sillage monster of the 90's that I can name, and at least SOME of the pleasure in wearing it is in forcing its cloying sweetness on everyone on a cramped bus ride to work on a humid day.
Recently, I was on a coach trip with my parents and we had a good half an hour break. I ran over to Farmers department store to sniff things. This time I made a bee-line to the old cheap dust collectors, wondering if that old beauty would still be there - she was! I lightly sprayed on the inside of my arm. I had read positive reviews recently and I was so intrigued to see how my sense of smell had matured and how I'd perceive it now. How things can change! I read that Tabu was designed in 1932 by Jean Carles and he was rumored to have been instructed to create a perfume for whores. Although I'm certain the formulation has been changed I can see why this perfume would have been controversial at the time, there's so many things going on at once; those sharp citrus top notes and spices -reminiscent of primitive preservative techniques and insect repellent, then the heart (which I personally love the most) where jasmine, ylang ylang, cloves, cinnamon, civet and vanilla battle it out, and finally the gorgeous base of musk, oakmoss, leather and benzoin. I imagine Emeraude, Shalimar and Tabu at a party. Emeraude is a quiet blonde sipping her drink all night, Shalimar and Tabu are besties, Shalimar is a classic beauty who flirts all night, tells interesting stories and smokes like a chimney, but Tabu is the real bad girl - she'll fuck your boyfriend for fun, spike your drink with e and consider it a favor, and be sitting at your kitchen table by morning, streams of black kohl running down her face - lets face it, she's probably mentally ill, but she sure knows how to party. No wonder I imagined a boozy older woman wearing this one - she's probably still wearing it to the bingo hall every Friday night to remember the good old days. 
When I got on the bus I thrust my arm under my mums face and said "Smell it!" she screwed her face up and said "That is disgusting!" I said, "It's Tabu!" she told me a senior lady called Betty who used to work at her office part time recently died at the age of 87, her signature fragrance was Tabu. I thought: I bet Betty was a good time
See that's what I secretly love about Tabu, it honors all the bad girls that have come and gone. A little nod and a wave to Betty. I wonder, one day when Angel has gone past passe and retro, to the verge of being discontinued, if a quirky vintage lover will give this old lady juice a try, "I heard all the strippers at the turn of the century wore this one," she'll say, and her friend will reply "that is bollocking disgusting, don't you dare buy that and wear it around me!" but she will anyway, because that's just how she likes to roll.

1 comment:

  1. i'm really loving this blog. write one about 47-11!!