My father's old office was around the corner from an Escada boutique. I used to work for him during school breaks and while in college in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I remember walking past the store every day, looking at the power suits, colorful printed silk shirts, and the ladies with the frosted hair who bought and sold them, knowing with certainty that this was never going to be my style. The same was true for the perfume Escada launched in 1990 and was beautifully displayed near the entrance.
Escada Margaretha Ley is actually a child of the 1980s. A big and exuberant floral with a tropical vibe. In later years, Escada took the beachy element and released a never-ending stream of rather insufferable summery fruity-florals. But the original perfume was a rather delightful thing with big hair, shoulder pads, and the walk of a supermodel on the catwalk.
Escada was a creamy white floral, sweet enough to produce a certain cleavagy sexiness but never going into the yummy territory that took over the 1990s by storm. Ylang-ylang and coconut can be as silky as those yellow Escada blouses I remembered. I used to think that the perfume also had quite a bit of tuberose, but apparently it's a phantom note. All the other white flowers and coconut make me feel tuberosy even when that's not the case. Escada is a loud and not very refined, perhaps, but it's sexy in its own way. Sometimes even touching the bottle feels like over-application, and the ripeness of the fruit can be too much in the heat (never ever ever wear it to the gym. Just take my word). But by the time the sweet sandalwood milk and musky vanilla dry-down arrives, wearing Escada is quite enjoyable.
The original Escada Margaretha Ley was re-orchestrated and later discontinued. It's still possible to find the original heart-shaped bottles here and there (the reformulated version came in a taller and leaner bottle). I suspect that the mini I have will last me for the next few lifetimes.
Notes (via Nigel Groom): bergamot, hyacinth, peach, coconut, jasmine, ylang-ylang, orris, orange blossom, sandalwood, musk, vanilla.