shopping 10.16.06

Le Cherche Midi

So we're in Central Park one Saturday morning a few weeks back, chatting with a friend while our dogs played. Someone sits down on the next bench and before long a good scent, a really good scent, wafts our way. Turns out there's a story to that scent, and since it's Fragrance Week, this seemed like the time to tell it.

It begins in Nantucket in 1989 when Jan Sowarby, planning to open an "outrageously upscale" tabletop shop, first had the idea of creating a specific fragrance for the store, one that would evoke the sophistication of Paris with the allure of Provence.

As Ms. Sowarby tells it, it was "a serendipitous encounter with a parfumier from Grasse in 1991" that really got things rolling. It took the parfumier two years to create the fragrance Ms. Sowarby had in mind, but on the seventh try, he hit it.

"We were aided by the recession in France at the time — a renowned fragrance house only too happy to accommodate our tiny order. It was a real cottage effort — friends and passersby knew when my husband, Jack, was pouring the "juice" into the stock bottles from five-liter containers and my sewing machine whirred as we produced the first of 2000 small French cotton bags in which to present our signature home scent."

They called it Le Cherche Midi after the street in Paris. Over the next few years, the home fragrance began to earn fans from all over, many of whom started wearing it as a cologne.

And so the line has expanded to 10 products, all with the same alluring scent, which has citrus top notes — lemon and bergamot — with lavender, jasmine, vetiver, sage, rosemary, and sandalwood. If you respond to the fragrance as we did on that bench in the park, you can have it on hand as an eau de parfum, soap, candle, and hand lotion. It's available at Takashimaya and from the website. The eau de parfum is $65 for two ounces.
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