The sense of smell is strongly tied to memory. Certain scents can encapsulate an era, a life stage, or even a specific incident. In this series of posts, I’m going through some significant scents throughout my life, starting from childhood. You can see all of them here.
In the early 80s–a time of big hair, big money, and big shoulder pads–the must-have perfume was undeniably Giorgio Beverly Hills. Suddenlly it was everywhere, and this super-intense, overpoweringly sweet, and instantly recognizable scent was impossible to ignore. This was a perfume that announced your arrival and signaled your presence even after you’d left the room. It was even allegedly banned in several Los Angeles restaurants.
I was in middle school, so for me Giorgio is forever associated with the first stirrings of adulthood–not just sex, but sophistication, glamor, and worldliness. The essence of carnal knowledge in a tall, elegant bottle.
It also smelled like money, which my family definitely did not have. Like many other things my friends were blithe about owning, Giorgio beyond my reach. A bottle was decisively out of my price range, and my mother wouldn’t spend money on such status-symbol frivolities, even as a treat. My friends and I spritzed ourselves with their moms’ bottles, and sometimes someone brought one to school. I can only imagine the headaches our teachers must have suffered, stuck in a classroom with half the girls doused in it, a cloud of pheromones, sweat, and Giorgio.
Around 1984, my mother, my brother, and I went to LA for an extremely rare vacation away from home, staying with family friends. My mother’s friend had a bottle and invited me to go into her bathroom and spritz it on whenever I wanted. I was normally too shy to take advantage of these offers, but in this case I couldn’t resist. As many spritzes as I wanted! I was in heaven. My mother, who was a bit unnerved by my attraction to material things, and who preferred more subtle scents, was not.
During that trip, we visited and gawked at Rodeo Drive, which was the home of the Giorgio Beverly Hills boutique, with its distinctive yellow-and-white awnings. My mother ‘s friend told us how once she and her kids had gone into one of the stores on Rodeo and a salesperson had made a show of wiping off some clothing with a little brush after one of them touched it. We all laughed and scoffed at the pretentiousness of it all, but secretly I wanted to be the kind of rich, stylish person who was welcomed and fawned over at that kind of store.
Giorgio is still around. I wonder about the demographics of those who buy it now. Could it some day be so retro as to be trendy again, like 80s fashion was? It’s actually a beautiful scent–there’s a reason that it was so popular. But like shoulder pads and leggings, it would probably have to be altered to fit in with today’s tastes. And then it wouldn’t be Giorgio anymore.