Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend a fabulous vintage perfume workshop that took place at Les Senteurs, a specialist perfumery in Marylebone, London.

The workshop was hosted by Lizzie Ostrom, aka, Odette Toilette, 'Purveyor of Olfactory Adventures'.  Lizzie is founder of Scratch + Sniff Events, and an expert in vintage scents.  That's her just below there in the pale yellow shirt…

Love My Dress Wedding Blog – Photography Copyright (c) 2012, Naomi Kenton

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... () 1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

The workshop was part of 'The Vintage Scent Sessions', an event that takes place on a Saturday afternoon, every other month, and that offers a chance to truly immerse yourself in a specific period of fragrance history.   A 1920s workshop took place in January and sessions covering the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s/70s are yet to take place in May, July and September {see end of feature for specific dates}.

Promoted as an 'indulgent event for noses of all persuasions', the vintage scent sessions are an exclusive and highly enjoyable opportunity to learn more about vintage perfumes, alongside modern-day alternatives.  Guests are treated to champagne, delightful and completley delicious homemade cakes and a three hour session {with a break in between to refill your glasses with bubbly, of course} during which you get to sample original vintage scents for men and women, as well as learn about the wider social, artistic, literary, fashion, even culinary contexts of the time.

Last Saturday it was all about the 1930s. And it was absolutely fascinating. And lots of fun.

That's me below trying out one of many of the original vintage and modern day alternative perfumes that were on offer for us to sample on the day…

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

By the way, I was wearing a beautiful silk dress from Suzannah

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... () 1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

On entering Les Senteurs and making our way downstairs {admittedly, a little late!}, photographer Naomi Kenton and I were offered a glass of bubbly then shown to a room beneath the main shop area, where scent samples were being passed around to some 30 other guests.

In our efforts to settle without interrupting the workshop already in flow, we quietly slipped past a beautiful deep green velvet vintage evening dress from the 1930s, a visual treat provided by Rebecca Rose from Juno Says Hello {see below}. 

It wasn't the first time I'd met Rebecca, I'm the proud owner of two gorgoeus frocks that I purchased from here just last month; an original 1940s mustard tea length dress and a light yellow 1960s jacquard silk shift dress – both are exquisite and hanging in pride of place in my wardrobe…

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... () 1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

Getting to sample the scents was wonderful.  Not like perfumes of our modern age; closing my eyes to sniff the little strips of paper being passed around transported me to an era long before my time – exotic aromas of a time when Josephine Baker would entertain the Parisian aristocracy at the Champs-Élysées of Paris, and Fred and Ginger would charm cinema audiences with their lightness of foot across the dancefloor.  Visual and video references like this one aided in making the experience even more authentic and enjoyable…

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... () 1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

During her presentation, Lizzie discussed society and culture of the 1930s, which included the introduction of technicolor movies, the cult of the star personality {our modern day 'celebrity'}, and how that has been harnessed to promote fragrance, the development of surrealism, the use of the colonies as inspiration for perfumers, and the glamorous but disturbing art deco interiors and portraits of the time, by artists such as Lempicka

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

The fragrances we sampled on the day included Shocking by Schiaparelli {my favourite of the day}, and Colony by Jean Patou. I learned that you can purchase decants of vintage perfume from The Perfumed Court.  Lizzie told me…

"Patou and Schiaparelli were couture designers who really 'got' perfume and reaped the rewards of selling fashion and fragrance more holistically. Lanvin and of course Chanel also got this, and later, Dior…"

We also got to try some modern interpretations of vintage fragrances including Une Fleur de Cassie by Editions de Parfum Frederic Malle, and Rose Chypre by Swiss perfumer, Andy Tauer.

FInally, we experienced some perfumes originally dating from the 30s and that are still in production (though some will have been tweaked and reformulated over the years). These ones were Caron's French Cancan and Fleurs de Rocaille and Pour un Homme…

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... () 1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

One of the ladies present was The Scent Critic, Jo Fairley, who is also co-founder of Green & Blacks Chocolate. She had a wonderfully romantic story to tell about her own wedding perfume, involving a trip to Paris arranged by her then fiance, in search of her favourite vintage perfume, 'Shocking', by Schiaparelli.  

Jo told me that she had purchased a little two-piece beige number to wear on her wedding day, but that her husband suggested she ought wear shocking pink dress instead in homage to her Parisian perfume purchase, and so, she did.  Jo's rather more romantic version of the tale is here

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

Henrietta from The Rare Tea Company {below}, and I also met Amy Lamé… ‏

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... () 1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

Les Senteurs is absolutely bursting with the most divine perfumes of so many varieties, including this cheeky little line of scents, some of the images on which were possibly not really worth publishing before the 9pm watershed! ;)) You'd have to visit Les Senteurs yourself to see what I mean, but let's just says they appealed to the more mischievous side of my nature, and photographer Naomi and I giggled lots once we had discovered them…

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

Les Senteurs was established twenty six years ago in 1984, by Betty and Michael Hawksley, who realised that there was no available advice in the conventional department store, and only limited choice if you wanted something unusual in fine fragrances and scented products.

Today, Les Senteurs is any scent lovers dream, housing a range of perfume classics and half forgotten masterpieces produced by classic French and Italian perfume houses, to a collection of contemporary scents that are not available elsewhere on the high street.

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

Laduree products sitting so pretty, and smelling divine…

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

The 1930s Vintage Scent Session was immensely enjoyable – a bit like the most beautiful smelling, champagne filled, cake eating, interesting and fascinating little potted history lesson one could ever imagine for a Saturday afternoon. 

We left with a goodybag each that included scent samples and a 10% discount code to spend at Les Senteurs.

If you would like to attend any of the future vintage scent sessions hosted by Scratch & Sniff {and I thoroughly recommend you do}, visit the Scratch + Sniff Events website or email Odette Toilette directly  Odette Toilette can also be found on Twitter.  Tickets are £35 each and sessions are planned as follows – but book quick as places are limited and fill up very fast:-

Saturday 19th May 2012
The 1940s: the bomb, the femme fatale and the reluctant hero.

Saturday 14th July 2012
The 1950s: the teen, the blonde and the beatnik.

Saturday 15th Sept 2012
The 60s and 70s: cold war, space odysseys and the opium barge.
(Booking opens shortly)

I'm looking forward to visiting Les Senteurs again in May, for the 1940s vintage scent session, where Ms Odette Toilette advises me that we're going to be looking at film noir and how perfume is used in 40s crime fiction, the impact of World War 2 on perfumery, women in trousers and the perfume equivalent, Hitchcock and the suspenseful scent, the democratisation of perfume and lots more… amazing! Franky, get your frock ready for an afternoon out, you're coming with me 1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

For further information, visit the Scratch + Sniff Events website or email Odette Toilette directly.  Odette Toilette can also be found on Twitter.

Much love,

Annabel

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1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London... ()

Annabel/

Annabel is the founder of Love My Dress. She lives in rural North Yorkshire with her husband and business partner Philip, two daughters Eska and Leanora and three dogs. If she's not being a Blog Queen or practicing her photography, you'll find her fighting her way through a renovation dust cloud as she and her family transform their forever-home.

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6 thoughts on 1930s Vintage Scent Session, with Odette Toilette and Les Senteurs, London…

  1. Oh I can’t wait, I was excited about it before but after reading this I’m looking forward to it even more! And I definitely think I need to write a post about picking out a scent for your wedding day. Scent memories fascinate me, the way a sniff can transport you back to a time or place.
    xxx

  2. It’s going to be lots of fun, you’ll love it I know Franky! ;) I think Lizzie should start offering hen party workshops! There are lots of stylish brides to be who would love to have a private vintage scent party with their girls, I know! xXx

  3. This looks really cool! Love the photograph, my Aunt had a passion for collecting rare perfumes that she has passed on to me so I’d love to learn more about this x

  4. Hi, I have been bought a vintage perfume experience as a gift, but it’s for one person. Is this the type of event you could go to alone without feeling awkward? I have visions of sitting at a table alone sniffing perfume and eating cakes or worse being made to join a table where everyone knows each other. What are the seating arrangements like and do many people go to this event unaccompanied? Thank you.

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