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J.Crew No. 31 and No. 57 Arquiste – The feeling of something wonderful – January 5, 2015 New Fragrance Listing

Invitation to the party of the decade

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 key 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, exactly 71 years from today.
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 that’s 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 was the inspiration behind 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.

The J. Crew website says: Don't think of Carlos Huber, an architect specializing in historic preservation and the man behind Arquiste fragrances, as a perfumer—he's more like a storyteller. Inspired by lightning-rod moments in history, his aromatic creations call to mind (and nose) a specific time and place. These two scents (created exclusively for J.Crew) were inspired by Exhibition by 31 Women, the first all-female modern art show in the United States, curated by Peggy Guggenheim in 1943.

Let’s take them in order. No. 31 opens rich and jammy from a note of damson plum that leads to a lush full rose. It smells deep dark and seductive. Soon a boozy note of vermouth starts to swirl in the background. The package says there is an “eau de vie accord” and frankly I don’t know what that is, but the fruity booziness is there, so let’s attribute it to that. Patchouli at the base gives it an earthy, woody aspect while oakmoss gives it a hint of bitterness – as it often does on me.

Fruity, floral and boozy it blooms beautifully on the skin, and has a vintage feel, while being a modern fragrance, that creates the sense of being are in a room full of partying, perfumed people.

No. 57 was inspired by the aromatic cocktails and curved oak walls of the gallery. It opens with a mouth-watering note of warm, deep, whiskey. It smells of sweet hay, honey and oak barrels. A note of cinnamon extends the spiciness of the whiskey note, giving it a seductive warmth. I get whiffs of oakwood and cedarwood that give No. 57 a clean, sophisticated woodiness. Leathery labdanum gives it depth, while its amber sweetness is heightened by a soft note of vanilla, making No. 57 a perfect cocktail mix.

Both No. 31 and No. 57 are marketed as unisex, even though I feel that No. 57 is more masculine than No. 31. But when Carlos Huber was in Toronto a while ago to promote the fragrances at the J. Crew store on Bloor St., he was asked which of the two he wore, he said that he started out wearing No. 57 but now finds himself wearing No. 31 more often.

The Exhibition by 31 Women opening must have been some party, but instead of feeling that I have missed out on something wonderful, No. 31 and No. 57 make me feel like I am part of something just as wonderful.

No. 31 and No. 57 are listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 each for 1 ml.