This month we welcome our first guest blogger, Persolaise, to tell us about his evening at the Gorilla Perfume event in Lush Portsmouth.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: some of the most original, affordable and downright weird perfumes currently on the mainstream UK market are in unassuming, squat black bottles bearing an image of a half-peeled banana. Even their names are unusual. I mean, how many companies can you think of that would dare release a fragrance called Breath Of God? So when my local Lush store decided to organise a party to showcase not just the ‘regular’ Gorilla range but also the online-only scents (the so-called B-Sides, which some of you will remember from BNTBTBB), I admit I was intrigued to discover what the evening would be like. After all, Portsmouth isn’t exactly the first place people associate with discerning perfume aficionados.
Deciding whether to attend a party is made so much easier when someone asks you to write about it… and I was lucky enough to receive just such a proposal from Gorilla Perfume’s own web editor, Pia Long.
“I’d love to be your journalist,” I said, “as long as you know that I’m not into self-censorship.”
“That’s absolutely fine,” she said. “Go ahead and write whatever you like.”
Well, I’m pleased to report that I needn’t have worried about being placed in a difficult position, because the event turned out to be a genuinely (dare I even say, surprisingly?) enjoyable meeting of like-minded people.
Full credit for this must go to Tom The Manager and his snazzily-attired team. (Think: Downton Abbey meets Camden Market.) They decorated the shop with tulips and long-stem lilies. They provided a plentiful supply of chocolates, peanuts and nachos. And they even put together a menu of perfume-inspired cocktails. Caught up in the excitement, I suggested that some of the staff should juggle bath bombs whilst dancing on the counter tops, but this was met with a look of decidedly un-Lush-like derision.
As Tom dashed around the place, making sure all was in order, the guests were entertained by Ash, the shop’s resident Gorilla guru. Spraying any scrap of bare skin on which he could lay his hands, he rattled off engaging stories about the birth of some of the fragrances, from the moving tale of Dear John to the mystical influence behind Inhale and Exhale. Before long, everyone was sniffing everyone else’s wrists, elbows and necks… and when we ran out of flesh, someone had the bright idea of using handkerchiefs and brown paper bags as blotters.
My chats with the guests revealed that almost all of them had been drawn to the event by the presence of the B-Sides. One woman told me that as she’d nearly finished her original supply of BNTBTBB’s Cocktail – which she’d bought at the old Covent Garden shop – she was thrilled to be able to stock up again. I spied three brand new bottles in her basket! Another customer – who’d made the journey from Chichester – explained how she’s always relied on Lush to bring a devilish touch of drama to the high street, which was why she was eager to try the perfumes. And another punter was beside herself with glee each time she smelt Ladyboy. She said it reminded her of the lollipops that taste unbearably sweet at the start and then reveal a blob of bubble gum in the centre.
“And that’s a good thing?” I asked.
She nodded with almost uncontrollable exuberance.
Regrettably, the evening ended without anyone throwing themselves onto the soaps and doing the cancan, although Ash did start blowing bubbles at one point, which is probably about as much anarchy as a deserted shopping mall can take in one night. But even though propriety was maintained, I was fascinated to learn that one of the event’s most popular perfumes – in terms of sales of the 2ml sample vials – was none other than the aforementioned Ladyboy! So Portsmouth does have a naughty streak after all… or maybe it’s just plain old good taste, because as every self-respecting Gorilla-lover knows, this particular scent radiates earthy, labdanum-based sophistication after its initial chuckle-inducing burst of synthetic fireworks.
So there you have it. I hesitate to type the words ‘A fragrant time was had by all’ but it’s true: we went back home radiating everything from orris to orange blossom, with rose otto and oud in between. And if you like the idea of a perfume party taking place at your own Lush, then you may be interested to learn that a rep from the White City branch was in attendance, watching the Pompey crew show her how it’s done. So it might not be long before the idea spreads… and Lush-ophiles up and down the country are balancing a Sicilian on the tips of their noses whilst regaling the crowds with impressive high kicks.
About the author
Persolaise is a Jasmine Award shortlisted writer and amateur perfumer who has had a strong interest in the world of fine fragrance for over 25 years. For more information about his work, please visit www.persolaise.com or contact him at persolaise at gmail dot com