No jokes about that new-car smell, please: This week, Mercedes-Benz celebrated its two fragrances with a party at Doubles, a private club in New York City. The host committee included actress Kick Kennedy (RFK’s granddaughter), singer Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin, and Morgan O’Connor (the Rasta-haired Ralph Lauren model who hails from Palm Beach society). I realized that if anyone knew about the smell of money, we’d find experts here, so I asked the guests about scents they recalled from their well-heeled youths.
Kick Kennedy(above, far right): “I was going to say that once I start making any, I’ll tell you. The generic answer is Chanel No. 5. But it’s true—if I smell it, I’m back in Hyannis Port at my grandmother’s. Do the men there wear scent? In general, everyone smells like saltwater in Hyannis Port. It’s not the most fragrant crowd, my family.”
Wendy Carduner(owner, Doubles): “I don’t think people relate fragrance to money. And I don’t think that people think of money when a woman wears it. But Joy [by Jean Patou] was what I wore and what my mother wore. There was also a classic candle that we used at Doubles. It was called Virginia by Charlotte Moss. People used to come down the stairs and everybody would ask about the scent. Sometimes, here at the hotel, when you get into the elevator, you can identify the person who was in there before you. Women used to wear scents that were more pungent. They’re staying away from that now, in my opinion, because it tends to turn people’s heads. They’re noticing you, but perhaps for the wrong reason.”
Morgan O’Connor (above, second from right): “The scents in Palm Beach? Fresh-cut lawns, the ocean. My grandmother wore Chanel No. 5. She still does. I love smelling it. Her house smelled like flowers and Chanel No. 5. I never knew what the scent was until a girlfriend of mine was wearing it. And I said, ‘What is that? You smell like my grandmother.’ I wear Ralph Lauren Blue a bit, and sometimes I like Armani Acqua di Giò.”
Cole Rumbough (jazz singer and great-grandson of Marjorie Merriweather Post): “My grandmother’s perfume is Amarige by Givenchy. That is a strong memory. And I remember men wearing Vetiver by Guerlain when I was growing up. I wear Carnal Flower by Frédéric Malle. Other scents I remember? Gardenias—I think they smell expensive. Tuberose is very romantic.”
Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin (above, second from left): “My grandmother was Iris Vanderbilt Christ, and she did have a very, very floral lily smell—I don’t know the scent. And my stepfather wore an amazing Giorgio Armani scent I loved, and my dad, Polo by Ralph Lauren. My mom also loved to wear Polo for men, and she smelled fantastic.”
Olivier Cresp (perfumer who developed the Mercedes-Benz fragrances): “The original Mercedes-Benz fragrance is based on violet. I used some bergamot and vetiver as well. There is a trace of leather. The second, Mercedes-Benz Club, is the idea of dry woods combined with rhubarb as well as some grapefruit. When I create something for Mercedes, I’m using top quality; I’m thinking luxury. I take the best quality, the best violet, the best orange blossom, the best quality of paper. And yes, I was inspired by the quality of the leather inside the car.”
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