Blog post by Gwen

J. Crew No. 31 – floral and boozy and vintage-feeling


Photo: perfumeniche

On October 20, 1942, art collector, bohemian and socialite Peggy Guggenheim opened The Art of This Century gallery on the top floor of 30 West Fifty-seventh Street in NYC.  The gallery quickly became a success and soon became a meeting place for artists, art critics and collectors and played a crucial role in launching the careers of Abstract Expressionist artists like Jackson Pollack.

Riding on this success, Guggenheim decided to have a show featuring only modern female artists, and so the Exhibition by 31 Women opened on January 5, 1943. Imagine the scene at the gallery that night: artists, left-wing radicals, and bohemians rubbing shoulders with New York’s upper crust among works by like Frida Kahlo, Kay Sage, Hedda Sterne and Dorothea Tanning (who later ran off with Guggenheim’s husband, Max Ernst) displayed from the curved oak walls of the gallery. The smell of smart cocktails mingled with the scent of women’s perfumes, men’s colognes and the frisson of excitement in the air when people know they are experiencing something memorable.

Hailed by the press as the party of the decade, the Exhibition by 31 Women opening party inspired two scents from New York City-based niche perfumer Arquiste for clothing line J. Crew No. 31 and No. 57.

I am always a bit wary of collaborations between chain stores and perfumers (have you smelled the fragrances from Aldo shoes? Don’t.), but Arquiste carries some weight with me and so off I went to J. Crew to try #31 and #57, and now I’m wearing them.

Let’s talk about No. 31. It opens with a sweet note of sweet red vermouth with cinnamon and vanilla facets, and when it links to an eau de vie accord, they create a spicy, fruity booziness that gets the party started. This calls up a note of lush, rich Bulgarian rose; its cinnamon, cloves, and raspberry facets are on full display. Damson plum is the perfect partner for the rose, giving it depth and darkness. It smells clandestine and furtive. Patchouli at the base adds an earthiness and woodiness reinforced with oakmoss. The result is a fragrance that dries down to a sensual, addictive scent that has a vintage feel but is totally modern.

The Exhibition by 31 Women opening must have been some party, but instead of feeling that I missed something wonderful, No. 31 makes me feel part of something just as wonderful.

Check out J. Crew No. 31 in our Shop.