Norell: A New York State of Mind
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By BETH SCHREIBMAN GEHRING
Co-Founder, creator and artist of A Dozen Roses, Sandy Cataldo, signing bottles
It’s funny. Several years ago was when I realized that my perfume sample cupboard had outgrown itself and had become a sample closet! I'm fortunate enough to get to sniff a lot of wonderful perfume and yet I remain faithful to a chosen handful and Norell is one of them.
Norell provokes within me a deep nostalgia for the 1960's New York of my past while strolling hand in hand with my very glamorous mother hunting the city for gorgeous jewelry as well as beautiful pieces of silver and china to line the shelves showcases of our store.
To my impressionable mind, New York women were totally elegant, fashionable creatures and I dreamt of the day that I could become one of them, strolling down Park Avenue with a handsome husband on my arm, my own briefcase and the world at my command. I discovered Norell at the point that I left college to pursue a career in marketing within my families business.
Everyday I would put on my costume, a chic little suit with many ropes of Chanel pearls and gold and my bright red Christian Dior lipstick. I needed a perfume to match the presence and Norell was it. I’m still not sure why, but I loved the notion of it. Modern and very chic for it’s time, Norell was crisp and filled with hyacinth, spice and plenty of fresh green notes to match myyouthful optimism.
In a world that had been filled with mostly drug store scents like Charlie, Enjoli and Jontue, I seemed (at least to myself!) verysophisticated and Norell was the scent that launched what was to be my verysuccessful career. Something about it called me into called me into greatness.
Looking backwards, I was so young and scared at the time and playing in the boardrooms with the “Old Boys” and charities that I worked for was very intimidating. I needed a strong suit of armor!
Norman Norell was the son of a haberdasher who went on to study fashion design at Pratt. I loved his clothes and although I couldn’t afford any of them I did my best to copy his style. Norell was elegant and tailored, streamlined and classy with more than a little bit of sex appeal. I worship at his little black dresses and occasionally one will come up for sale at a vintage store or on eBay.
If you see one and fall madly in love, don’t balk, pay the asking price. It’s worth it for the sheer quality of the fabric and craftsmanship alone.
That being said it doesn’t come as any surprise to me that Norell the perfume is perfectly balanced and thoroughly graceful. I’m not much for perfume pyramids so I won’t go into all of that silly detail but what I will say is that Norell makes me instantly want to coif my hair and put on some lovely silk stockings. When I wear it, I suddenly feel the need to make sure that my handbag matches as well as my gloves.
If I’m nervous about a board meeting it's my scent of choice. When I go to New York for the day it’s the perfume that I take with me. Norell goes from day to evening as easily as a winter white cashmere dress and a paisley shawl.
It starts out filled with flowers and spice but very quickly morphs into a warm and sensual earthiness. It manages to be both gold and sterling all at the same time and it’s the perfect perfume for strolling hand and hand down 5th Avenue eating roasted chestnuts on a chilly fall day. If the other hand just happens to pull you into Bergdorfs for a sparkling new bauble, well that's even better!
Norell is still easily found and very affordable. I’m know that it’s been remade several times since 1968 but it still enchants me. If you’ve never tried it, you owe yourself the pleasure of making the acquaintance of this charming American.
Norell is always appropriate, never gauche, thoroughly classic, completely sexy and oh so very Sunday New York Times in bed with a very appealing man and a very good cup of coffee. Trust me on this one!
You can still find vintage Norell for sale all over ebay and the new Norell at perfume stores everywhere.