I heard the door slam as my mother went out. Running upstairs, my seven-year-old self grabbed the embroidered black fan, a gift from Marseille from my grandmother.
Then to my parents’ room. The whole world of beauty in one capsule of desire: my mother’s dressing table.
I’d watch her tend to her make-up and hair. Behind those gloss-lacquered doors, a magic world waited.
The triptych of mirrors, guaranteeing my view.
Its treasures left me spellbound. Gold combs and brushes, so neatly arranged. Precious lipsticks and bottles of polish. The promise of another world, the key to my transcendence. A doorway into VOGUE magazine’s Paradise.
Amidst the wonder, that square of cut glass. The eight-sided stopper. And snow-white paper bearing six letters:
CHANEL. The numeral, 5, so simple.
Just by holding this bottle I became someone else. An acolyte in the grown-up world of fashion.
The amber liquid cast its glow on my world. This was better than reality, somehow.
The moment came.
Carefully, I upturned the closed bottle, so the liquid touched the inner side of the lock.
Then upright again, as my mother did. Opening it with the slowest of movements, not wanting to lose a micro-scent of this holy elixir. For this was the scent of sheer luxury. Drop by drop, I anointed the fan. Soft air caressed my face as I inhaled its beguiling aroma. I had become Karl Lagerfeld. I’d read of his love for scented fans, and simply thrilled at this chance to test the wonder myself.
I thought: This is the air I shall breathe in Paris. When I enter the world of couture. And I still recall the moment every time I pass Rue Cambon. As I make sure I always do. Every time I face that façade.
A boy, breathing deep in couture.