In the early days of this blog I wrote about my discovery of Fascination Perfumery in Lytham St Annes here.
Last Saturday, before driving up to my friend's party, I popped into the shop again. Well, "pop" is hardly the right term to describe my two hour visit - or was it two and a half hours? I rather lost track of time, as you do in that Aladdin's Tardis of a perfume store. I am sure I said goodbye to Lynn(e) the proprietor (one year on, I am still unsure about the "e") at least three times, but it was a real struggle to tear myself away.
My original post about the store gives you an idea of the wide range of niche brands stocked and its "rummage sale" style of merchandising, with every inch of counter space jam-packed with bottles. The EPOS payment terminal nestled in a forest of Serge Lutens testers, and I am surprised that more customers didn't pick up the latest addition, Cuir Mauresque, and peer intently at the label, waiting for it to say: "Pin approved" or "Return terminal to merchant".
This visit followed a similar pattern to last time. Lynne and I shot the breeze with a barrage of quick-fire questions to each other about anything and everything: our respective views on new releases, favourite notes, attitudes to naturals vs synthetics, the retail scene in London vs the rest of the country, the blogosphere, perfumistas we both knew and so on. However, Saturday is - as you would expect - the store's busiest trading day, and there was a constant stream of customers throughout the time I was there. Well aware of this, every time a prospective punter appeared, I would melt into the nearest fixture so as not to inhibit a sale. As a result, our marathon conversation was hilariously disjointed, with a number of our questions left hanging in the air - we simply couldn't remember them when the latest customer left just a few minutes later, purchase in hand.
Yes, that is something which struck me very noticeably on this occasion: the fact that almost all the customers made a purchase, and if they didn't it was often down to the fact that the specific scent they were after had been discontinued. There were no gaggles of young girls loitering by the fixture of celebuscent testers, surreptitously spraying themselves from top to toe. Most of Fascination's clientele came in with a definite intention to buy: I observed an equal mixture of people requesting a scent by name and those who entrusted themselves to Lynne for guidance. A lot of the customers were regulars and Lynne was clearly already familiar with their preferences. "You like jasmine, don't you?", I overheard her say to one middle-aged lady whose older sister was set on buying her a bottle of perfume as a birthday gift. She tested Houbigant Quelques Fleurs, Bvlgari Voile de Jasmin, TDC Jasmin de Nuit and Versace pour Femme, and plumped for the Versace.
I must confess that I didn't make a purchase, though my eye lingered longingly at one point on a bottle of Etro Etra. And I managed to test a shedload of things along the way, partly as a result of my own forensic rummaging, and partly thanks to Lynne drawing my attention to new releases or scents she thought I might like. Unfortunately, I was much too pumped up to recall most of these with anything approaching a coherent impression, but the list below features most of the ones I sampled (based on deciphering the usual heap of scent strips I disinterred from the depths of my handbag today):
Hermes Eau Claire des Merveilles (great improvement on the original, as in less orangey, salty and weird-woody)
Annick Goutal Rose Absolue (straight up, dewy, blowsy, girly rose)
Annick Goutal Rose Splendide (extremely green, sappy rose)
Calandre Metal (metallic chypre!)
Amouage Memoir (much more like Epic or Lyric than expected - ie dusty/herbal/spicy number - can this be a false Memoir?? I was expecting complete sensory overload. Aha - maybe it was Man, not Woman!)
Amouage Ciel & Reflection Woman? (memory is fuzzy, but I remember both as being fresh, watery, very pleasant and inoffensive)
Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque (another uncongenial SL in classic musty style)
Creed Aventus (not too overtly manly, crisp and slightly bracing - I could almost wear this)
Etro Via Verri (refreshing for reasons now lost to me)
Lubin Gin Fizz (as above, though there may be a clue in the name)
Floris Bouqet de la Reine (slightly aquatic? fruity floral)
Bvlgari Man (forgettable but nice, with added perk of Clive Owen's photo on the scent strip)
Yes, I am afraid that the actual sniffing experience was secondary to the fun of chewing the cud with Lynne - and her right hand man, Lorenzo, from time to time - though he was busy with customers a lot of the time.
Towards the end of the visit I had become almost as much of a fixture as the Creed display or the bargain bin of miniatures, to the point where a couple of customers mistook me for a sales assistant. One lady, whom Lynne had just informed that Dune body lotion was no longer available, stood forlornly in front of the Dior stand, before turning to me to inquire what might be the next best thing. Now there is a tricky question for a neophyte SA!, for in my experience there is frankly nothing like Dune - which I once heard described as "a Gothic beach scent". Rather lamely, I replied that Midnight Poison, while not hugely similar, also had a bit of a melancholy feel to it. Clutching at straws, I fully admit. But then, a breakthrough...another customer inquired about men's shower gel, and I was able to tell her that there was a JPG one for men in stock (I had just watched a chap buy a tube on Lynne's advice as a substitute for Joop!). "It's £19", I continued, on a roll, and the lady said she would take one.
Yay! Next time I visit - if I gauge it right - I may get to work at Fascination a whole Saturday, which would simply be the best fun that can be had.
Photos are all my own