A fictitious perfume – Gold Rose by Molinier – is central in the plot of the first episode.
We don’t know exactly what it smells like but it’s housed in a bottle reminiscent of Chanel Chance – same round shape and squared stopper.
The protagonist, former hair stylist Sakura, finds out her husband has been cheating on her with the fascinating Masako (Kyoko Hasegawa) when the woman reveals she’s wearing the same perfume – Molinier Gold Rose.
Poor Sakura (Ryôko Shinohara) in her posh bathroom, still unaware of what life has in store for her.
When Miriam decides to meet L. Roy Dunham (Hari Nef), a journalist who has been writing scathing articles about her shows, the first comment she gets is about her perfume.
The journalist thinks she’s wearing Lanvin Arpège. Even if we’ve never seen so far what perfumes sit on Miriam’s dressing table, I think Arpège is a nice guess. Created by Paul Vacher and Andrè Fraysse and launched in 1927, this iconic white floral fragrance would suit the protagonist’s bubbly yet classic style.
Before leaving Shy Baldwin’s wedding party, Susie (Alex Borstein) wants to get a gift bag but Miriam (Rachel Brosnahan) doesn’t agree because she thinks gift bags are “tacky”. She changes her mind when she realises the bags contain Chanel No. 5.
Susie ends up leaving with many gift bags!
What I find strange is that the only perfume bottle seen on the gift bag table is not Chanel No. 5 but Coco (see the black paper strip around the bottle neck). I would be curious to know why the prop masters didn’t use the perfume mentioned in the conversation but opted for a fragrance launched in 1984, decades after the time in which the tv show is set.
Cherry (Gissette Valentin) remembers the time in which Ann defended her by fighting with a prison inmate who was beating her down for a bottle of CK One.
Mentioning CK One shouldn’t come as a surprise, since it’s probably one of the most popular ever. Created by Alberto Morillas and Harry Fremont, this citrus aromatic fragrance took the 1990s by storm with its minimal packaging, flask-shaped bottle and unisex appeal.
When Hank (Dean Norris) and Steven (Steven Michael Quezada) find a car abandoned by drug dealers, there’s a very peculiar smell in it. Hank compares it to Drakkar Noir, the Guy Laroche classic fougère perfume created by Pierre Wargnye and launched in 1982.
One of the most intense and emotional moments in a VERY intense and emotional episode was the conversation between Candy (Angelica Ross) and her mother (Patrice Johnson Chevannes). In particular, a memory from the past is brought up: as a young boy, Candy wore her mother’s perfume, a symbol of the “silent pact” she thought was between them. Despite her assumptions and hopes, though, Candy got rejected by her family for being a transgender woman and this felt like an unbearable betrayal.
This scene reminds me of another emotional moment from Paris is Burning (1990) by Jennie Livingstone: Pepper LaBeija, mother of the House of LaBeija, explains how her parents found out she dressed as a girl. Her mother found a fur coat in her closet and realised it was hers from the perfume on it, Tuvaché Jungle Gardenia. The gendered notion of perfume – now almost completely gone, thank God – could really give away a lot about oneself, sometimes with horrible consequences.
The perfume worn by Vivica and Candy is another strong symbol: Revlon Charlie was launched in 1973 and marked the beginning of a new era in perfumery. It was a fresh chypre fragrance, arguably one of the first feminist fragrances: as Barbara Herman explains in her book Scent & Subversion, “it was marketed to American women during an era when feminist consciousness was at its pop-culture height.” No wonder that Candy saw that specific perfume, worn by the most important woman in her life, as a “gate to femininity”.
The advertising campaign of Charlie was about independence, gorgeousness and sexiness: as the slogan said, it was a “gorgeous, sexy-young fragrance”, embodied by statuesque model/actress Shelley Hack wearing trousers.
When Damon (Ryan Jamaal Swain) first meets Ricky (Dyllon Burnside), he asks him if he took a bath in Kouros cologne.
This is a lovely namedrop, because it refers to the Yves Saint Laurent perfume that really defined a decade. Created by Pierre Bourdon and launched in 1981, it was unforgettable in its original formulation, heavy on civet, honey, leather and musk.
Elektra Abundance (Dominique Jackson) likes flaunting her luxurious lifestyle and when she goes to bail Blanca out of jail, she reinforces this attitude. She charms a police officer who’s interested in her perfume: she explains it’s Caron Poivre, a very expensive perfume that an ordinary police officer has obviously never smelt before.
This is an unusual choice: Poivre is not among the classic powerhouse fragrances which ruled the 1980s, so it tells a lot about Elektra’s lifestyle. Created by Michel Morsetti and launched in 1954, the fragrance is named after its dominant note (pepper). It was originally advertised as “the dream fragrance for furs” , so it sounds perfect for a woman like Elektra who often wears furs.
 Probably the most famous fragrances “for furs” were created in 1928 by Claude Fraysse for Parfums Weil – Chinchilla Royal, Hermine, Une Fleur pour Fourrure and Zibeline. As a matter of fact, the perfume house’s founder, Marcel Weil, owned a famous furs atelier, Fourrures Weil.
Nash (Ennis Esmer) and other members of the Red Oaks Club staff are having an outdoor party. When asked what his blood tastes like to mosquitoes, he replies: “Cardamom and Drakkar Noir.”
No surprise he namedrops the perfume by Guy Laroche. Created by Pierre Wargnye in 1982, it was basically everywhere in the 1980s.