Paco Robanne’s Calandre (1969)

© Victor Wong
© Victor Wong

When I first discovered niche perfumes, I shamefully looked down upon all designer perfumes. The one that I most detested was Paco Rabanne’s 1 Million. The gold bar bottle looked so tacky to me but it seemed like the whole world were crazy about it. Then one day I went through Luca Turin’s book again and to my surprise, he had given a 5-star rating to a Paco Rabanne’s perfume, and that perfume was Calandre (1969).

Naturally, I started looking for a bottle of Calandre in Toronto. At Shop A, I found out that they still had 3 bottles available, and because they were quite expensive ($100), I didn’t have the impulse to get one immediately. A few months later I visited Shop B and saw a bottle of Calandre on the shelf. I asked the old shopkeeper lady for the price, and the drama began: “Huh, Calandre eh? Everyone is looking desperately for a bottle and only I have it. $150, take it or leave it.” The pride and contempt that belonged to a spoiled girl appearing on a 60 year old woman was not easy to swallow. I said, “well, I saw some in another shop and I just want compare prices.” Her smirk disappeared and she said, “come back when you’ve changed your mind, but I won’t put aside a bottle for you because everyone wants one!” She squinted her eyes as if she was trying to direct some focused attitude beam at me.

I visited Shop A again (are you bored yet?) and asked for a bottle of Calandre and the shopkeeper said, “Sorry, we are sold out.” I stood in the shop frozen in horror as tumbleweeds blew across the shopping mall behind me. I could hear the old shopkeeper laughing in my head. “Are you f**king serious?” “Oh wait, we still have one, lucky you.”

Feeling a bit wounded, I test-sprayed some at work and my coworker sitting close to me said, “Hmm, I could smell some hair spray.” I looked at her and she could probably feel a silent nuclear bomb had just detonated in my head.