One night, at a disco on the outskirts of ’Frisco, I was cruising with my favourite gang ...
It’s the opening line to He’s The Greatest Dancer, the 1979 anthem by Sister Sledge, backed and produced by pioneering disco outfit, Chic. A squelchy-bassed eulogy to a ‘champion of dance whose moves will put you in a trance’, to an unnamed ‘crème de la crème’ of the dance floor, dressed – unforgettably – in Halston, Gucci, Fiorucci.
The Scentimentalist has always regretted being born too late for disco, and has sought determinedly (and successfully) to make up for this ever since. Much of her adolescence (from the mid-to-late 1980s) was spent gyrating beneath glitter balls and frugging to Donna Summer and Sylvester. And, on reflection, little in this scenario has evolved even to this day.
Yet, in spite of relishing the ‘disco sound’ of at least a decade earlier, when it came to wearing perfume The Scentimentalist of the ʾ80s was resolutely of her era: not for her the pull of Charlie, Rive Gauche or Charles of the Ritz. Rather, she – like most of her sheep-like peers – was flirting timorously with Paris, Poison and Ysatis, to be succeeded finally by Coco and Calvin Klein’s Obsession.
Little did she know that, in as late as 1988, two bodacious (and borderline anachronistic) chypres were sashaying through the dry ice and onto the perfume scene: Estee Lauder’s Knowing – which, typically, came in with a multinational bang – and Halston’s gloriously louche chypre throwback, Couture, which – on British shores at least – scarcely registered a whimper.
A chance encounter two years ago with a 4ml vial of the latter transported The Scentimentalist, for the first time, to an olfactory Studio 54. This – so much more than Halston’s wildly successful 1975 eponymous scent – appeared to conjure up the glamour and sleek chic of the Halston epoch.
With its amber-tempered patchouli and its languorous mossy base, Couture is the very Ultrasuede of chypres; it is Bianca Jagger, boldly astride a white horse. A scent that drapes the skin then clings ʾtil dawn, it is iconically enrobed in its Elsa Peretti bottle, half funky sterling silver and half round-hipped, frosted glass, and with its infamous angular neck that proved such a headache for its manufacturers.
The irony, of course, is that Couture was created some four years after Halston had been fired from his own company (his already disordered directorship was compounded by drug addiction). Hence, this scent is a strange, but fabulous, pastiche of a cultural moment when the jet-set and Beautiful People swayed in syncopated glitziness and descended into irreversible, hedonistic decline.
Given that this scent has been discontinued for many years now, hardcore fans of chypres should snap Couture up wherever they may find it. Mercifully, it still appears on the occasional discounter's website and is rarely overpriced. Seductive and sophisticated beyond the capacity of most contemporary perfumes, what is certain to The Scentimentalist is that, as with Sister Sledge's 'Greatest Dancer', when in Halston Couture, you’ll never leave the disco alone.
What perfume did you wear to the disco? Share your memories here with The Scentimentalist.