Imprévu Vintage Eau de Cologne (Coty)

One week before AppendixFest brings VintageFest to a (literally!) screeching halt, I sit mired in frustration over a stalled review of Coty Imprévu. That Imprévu is a firm favorite of mine ought to ease the path of criticism-- yet I find myself struggling in vain to articulate exactly why this chic green-leather chypre sends me.

Noting my descent into literary quicksand, my husband tosses me a line. Would I care to come away from the computer and watch the premiere of We'll Take Manhattan?

He reads me too well, that man of mine.

A joint production of Ovation TV and BBC-4, We'll Take Manhattan depicts the sweet-hot dynamic between model Jean Shrimpton (Karen Gillan) and Vogue photographer David Bailey (Aneurin Barnard)-- two youthquakers loosed upon the hidebound world of haute couture. In the year 1962 (the precise moment at which Cecil Beaton's mannered mannequins have begun to appear as stiff as their plaster counterparts) these two Young Turks conspire to introduce flippancy and fun to the pages of top fashion rags.

Of course, not everyone in the docudramatic world of Manhattan is pleased. Vogue fashion editor Lady Clare Rendlesham (Helen McCrory) reacts with horror at Shrimpton's predilection for posing sans hat and gloves, legs splayed and arms akimbo. Ladies don't DO that, she argues. Oh, don't they? Just watch!

The morning after the broadcast, I pull out my beloved 1966 volume of Glamour's Beauty Book, where photos of "the Shrimp" are legion. Gazing into her vast Bambi eyes, I feel strangely protective of her. She's only twenty-four in these photographs -- a mere thousand days past being named Glamour Model of the Year -- and already her camera fade-out has begun. Any minute now, a sixteen-year-old waif nicknamed Twiggy will supplant her, first on magazine covers, next as the Symbol Supreme of a decade.

Yet Jean's smile is tranquil. She radiates a lucid, self-possessed quality impervious to the passage of five decades. She looks as though knows something. But what?

I close the book, put it away, reach quite naturally for Imprévu-- and finally understand what keeps me reaching, and reaching, and reaching.

In fifty years, pop culture has reinvented itself a hundred times over. Interleaving yesterday's conventions with tomorrow's trends, it strives with varying levels of success to claim eternal youth. But every once in a while, some mere kid -- insouciant, artless, and devastating -- flits through and blows that pretense to smithereens. They may not understand what they've done, or even notice. They're here and gone... and we build new civilizations atop the wreckage.

It's not that Imprévu is necessarily a game-changer. While it projects that aura of chic indispensable to modern living, it wasn't the first gem of its kind to sparkle. A revolutionary army of chypres and leathers paved its way-- but the thing is, Imprévu doesn't get hung up on concepts like gratitude or legacy or debt. With breathtaking arrogance, it swings merrily along as though it owns the whole road. It is what it is and it does what it does with minimal effort and maximum impact-- and not for a single minute does it take a damn thing seriously.

In short, Imprévu is young. Not eternal, not timeless, not endless-- but new and now. I don't wear it to remind me of anything. I wear it to walk forward into the future... sans hat and gloves, easy and free.

Scent Elements: Bergamot, bigarade, aldehydes, cloves, oakmoss, patchouli, leather