Givenchy’s Ysatis, which I wore in college, was my first “grown-up” scent—i.e., one that I bought for myself at a department store, not a drugstore. I cannot re-create the exact scent in my mind, just that it was complicated and lush enough to make me feel like I was rich—indeed, Fragrantica says it “smells like luxury” and lists a total of 18 notes among the top, heart, and middle, from citrus to tuberose to civet–fresh, feminine, and musky, all at once. One review said that Ysatis straddles three different categories: oriental, floral, and chypre. That sound about right. It is a hard scent to categorize.
Like Giorgio, Ysatis smells rich, but not American-style, in-your-face, showy LA rich. This is disciplined luxury–mysterious evenings at secret bars in New York or Paris. If it were a color, it would be the velvet blue of the deepening evening sky, with its promise of the mysteries and excitement of the night ahead. A spray of stars would denote the myriad notes in this complex scent–fresh, feminine, and musky, all at once.
I also remember the bottle, with its architectural lines and sharply angled cap that evoked an art deco skyscraper. The scent and the bottle were important little symbols of opulence in my resolutely middle-class existence, offering a peek into a rarefied world I only knew from books and magazines, and would get small glimpses of from my wealthier classmates at my university. Ysatis helped to satisfy my longings for a more international and cosmopolitan life. When I started wearing it, I had been through a lot in life , but essentially I was still a naive college student from a relatively privileged background desperate to prove how sophisticated and knowing I was. The scent hinted at a world whose complexities, obscured motives, and masked desires I was just coming to see and be puzzled by, even as I masked my own wishes and desires from others, and especially to myself.
My last bottle disappeared, along with one of my favorite handbags, sometime during my sophomore year, when I lived at a sorority. We rarely locked the doors to our rooms—why should, since we were all “sisters”? Other items from other women went missing, and rumors swirled around one member in particular, that she was a kleptomaniac. I have a distinct memory of her coming into my room and smelling suspiciously like my Ysatis. When she left the room, I realized my bottle was gone. I hadn’t worn it for a while, so I hadn’t noticed it missing.
I didn’t replace it. I became interested in natural perfumes and never went back to designer fragrances.
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.