My sad story in a bottle: Angel

Sunday, July 30th 2017 0

Musings on Thierry Mugler's iconic fragrance

The first perfume I ever really wanted was Angel by Thierry Mugler. I hadn’t smelt it but I had read that Britney Spears wore it, and made up my mind that it was my favourite too. I bought a bottle wore it every day for many years.

Angel was my perfume through a time when I was creating memories that, I didn’t realise, would go on to resonate with me for years to come. A whole host of firsts came with that perfume, and as such it was kind of a secret weapon that saw me through leaving home and coping with loss.

The strange thing about Angel is that it was very much a part of my beauty regime at a time when I didn’t really have one. From a young age I have always been fascinated by make-up and loved experimenting with colour, but anything else hadn’t occurred to me to be important. As soon as I began my first internship at the Vogue beauty desk, I realised that lots of different things, fragrance included, were going to be important to me.

Nicola had requested that I do some research for a fragrance feature, and handed me a copy of Luca Turin’s Perfumes. Before I read this book, I thought that everyone was of the same opinion as me and perfume was something that you might be so lucky to get in a gift set at Christmas. I vividly remember being horrified that my beloved Angel was in there as quite the controversial choice. When reading such emotive tales and musings on each fragrance, I realised how invested people can come to be in their chosen perfume.

There is one strong moment etched into my heart and it was the moment that turned my love of Angel into hate. I was on and off with someone I hoped very much to be on with, and one evening at a party with our friends I was sat on his lap. His head was nuzzled cosily into my neck, and between our chats with the world he kept reminding me quietly how much he loved my perfume always had done. It seemed, I suppose, like a declaration of love for me too.  A short time after this evening, he had found someone new, and from then the smell was like a little horror film.

Anyone who has ever encountered Angel will know that it is incredibly powerful. With no floral notes whatsoever, it is a heady and overpowering blend of sweet foods. Chocolate, vanilla, caramel are just three of the compounds that make an elixir my sister wouldn’t allow in the car. After this nuzzling memory, I felt that my secret weapon had been turned against me. My fragrance felt like a cruel memory of a closeness that was no longer there. I felt powerless when faced with how quickly a single smell of this perfume could take me straight back to a time I wanted to forget.

I always have a bottle of it in my cupboard but I never wish to smell it and wouldn’t dream of wearing it. Each time I catch an air of it, I feel a stab to my stomach and it will alter my mood in a heartbeat.

Earlier this week, a friend and I were in a restaurant bar. A lady walked by and her perfume arrived before she did; it was the unmistakable Angel from my teens. Knowing the answer, I asked her what she was wearing, only for her to proudly declare that she had worn it for years. It’s something I find myself doing whenever I smell it; I have to know the story behind why someone is wearing Angel. My curiosity gets the better of me and I feel an urge to understand whether their story might be as sad as my own.

For years I have wondered if I might ever share this story. Yesterday, I had a conversation with someone that took me right back to my Angel and this moment. With two days off this weekend, I had planned all of the beauty stories I was to write and share. But today, for some reason, all I could bring myself to think about was this one, so there we have it. My sad story in a bottle: Angel.

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