Two Girls’ Florida Water (1898)

© Victor Wong
© Victor Wong

“You can use it as a mosquito repellent too,” said the sales woman, as she put the perfume in the shopping bag. I really wished that she didn’t say that – come on, it’s a perfume with over a hundred year old history, but you had made it sound totally utilitarian. The perfume I bought was Two Girl’s Florida Water.

Two Girls was established in Hong Kong in 1898, and it was the first cosmetic brand ever registered in China. Their “Florida Water” (an American version of Eau de Cologne) was widely popular in Asia till the 50’s, and on the bottle label always sports the iconic illustration of a pair of young ladies in traditional Chinese long dress.

I found it very intriguing that I knew of this brand since I was a kid but I didn’t recall anyone in the household ever owning or using a bottle. It was until a few years ago I saw a Two Girls TV commercial in Hong Kong  that totally caught me by surprised – woah, they still exist? At that time I wasn’t obsessed with perfumes; but now I am, so when I recently visited Hong Kong I had decided to get a bottle for nostalgic reason, and also to find out what it really smelled like.

It was a challenge to find their “flagship” store in Hong Kong. I thought they had a glamorous shop located in some high-traffic mall, but instead, it was hidden on the second floor of a rather small and old shopping building. The reason was obvious after I found out how much a bottle cost: $40 Hong Kong dollars for 100ml (roughly $5 US). It’s simply a product made for the masses and the prices were set accordingly.

Two Girls’ Florida Water is essentially a lavender cologne heavily infused with cloves, cinnamon, bergamot and peppermint, ingredients that are easy to harvest and distill. It smells unsophisticated and rustic, and even a bit of bug repellent, but this might be the best a woman could get when Hong Kong was still a developing city under the merciless hot weather.

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Author: Victor Wong

A perfume lover - niche, designer, modern, vintage, I love them all. I am also the owner of Zoologist Perfumes, a small Canadian perfume house. Please visit www.zoologistperfumes.com or www.facebook.com/zoologistperfumes for more info!

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