On that note, both in impact and ubiquity, there was no scent more synonymous with Studio 54 than YSL’s iconic, best-selling Opium perfume. The spicy, sensual blend of jasmine, vanilla & myrrh was worn by many of the club’s party-goers who relished its sexiness and unapologetic decadence. “I travelled with my toothbrush and Opium 1978,” says makeup artist and Studio 54 fixture Sandy Linter of toting her signature scent around while she was living the decade’s work-hard-play-hard lifestyle. “The 1970s were an era of heady white floral perfumes, and since flowers like jasmine and tuberose can smell elegant and a little dirty at the same time, those were a good fit for disco nights,” adds Murphy.
From its very introduction, YSL’s Opium has been steeped in lore. “The celebration for Opium’s American launch was more extravagant than any fragrance-related event that had come before,” explains Murphy of the infamous party, which began with a gathering at South Street Seaport, on a tall ship decorated to the nines, continued with a viewing of fireworks over the East River, and ended with a late-night party at (where else but?) Studio 54. “The guests weren’t just beauty and fashion industry types—Diana Vreeland was there, but so were Cher, Grace Jones, and Truman Capote,” she adds. The way Murphy sees it, the evening encompassed the spirit of Studio 54 as a whole. “It was over-the-top, boundary-breaking, headline-making, a potent mix of celebrity and fashion and nightlife,” says Murphy.
While many of the biggest fragrances of the ’70s have been discontinued, Opium, along with its newer sister fragrance Black Opium, continue to capture the imagination of glamorous night dwellers. But at a time when nightlife is all but dead, does a night-out-in-a-bottle still have its place? Murphy says yes. “Studio 54 was a sanctuary for people seeking an escape from the daily turmoil of 1970s New York City,” she explains. “We’re seeking sanctuary in a different way right now, and we might be looking for small ways to add variety to our new routines. A new perfume can feel like an olfactory ‘change of scene.'”
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