In his day,  Paco Rabanne was the Clockwork Orange of fashion: an iconoclast smashing the past;  futuristic, sci-fi; metal-fixated. The brief given to perfumer Michael Hy, therefore, for the edgy, yet ironically soon-to-be-classic perfume Calandre,  was to capture the feeling of a couple making love on a car: elegant, undressed bodies caressing and thrashing on metal (the name refers to the metal grille on the front), he picking her up chez elle;  white gloves;  leather seat;  the streets passing by, leisurely, but with purpose, to the pre-designated forest clearing.



Despite the shimmery and musky, low and erotic undertones in the base of this scent, though, there is nothing explicit or vulgar about Calandre: quite the opposite (which I suppose sums up the genius of French perfume). The man involved in this vernal escapade must have been really quite the seducer, and quite the dresser, too, I imagine, as the woman in question here is about as aloof, and as classy, as you can get. From the current perspective, where sexuality seems to have lost much of its mystery and little is sacred or clandestine, it is hard to imagine how such a well-behaved scent as this could once have ever been considered risqué, as it is in essence just a cooler, more metallic interpretation of the classic, floral, woody aldehydic; a silvered, rose-hued moonbeam resting on skies of green: seamless, powdered; yet also a somewhat brow-creased and moody scent, with its sharp floral top notes of hyacinth and iris, its citruses and rose oxides: its pensive, almost depressive, heart of woods, soft mosses and musks that murmur self-knowingly beneath.




Similar in theme and execution to Yves Saint Laurent’s Rive Gauche, which came out a year later (created also by Michael Hy, who seems to have been quite brilliant at producing these cultured, effortlessly elegant scents, being the author, or co-author, of such other beautiful perfumes as Ivoire, Y, Signoricci, and Farouche), Calandre is nevertheless more distant and strange: less flirtatious, less full-bodied than Rive Gauche, who with her deep self confidence, vivacity and more upfront sexuality likes to usually take the lead in these matters.   Calandre most definitely wants you to do all the work.


Filed under Flowers

24 responses to “SHUT UP AND DRIVE: CALANDRE by PACO RABANNE (1969)

  1. I remember wearing Calandre, but my favorite Paco Robanne fragrance was Metale. At that time, although very white flower floral, I thought Metale was the edgy one, but I could have been wrong. I still have an opened an one unopened bottle of that fragrance.

    • I ADORE Metal and agree it is edgier ( while still being very pretty ),but then again it did come a decade later. Metal is more florid and luminous: Calandre more shadowed and demure. I think it is extremely elegant.

  2. Katherine

    What a gorgeous description..

    • Thankyou. I think you might like this, actually. Incredibly ‘classy’: subtle, undemanding on the wearer but intrinsically enigmatic. Silvery and green, tres tres French.

      • Don’t misinterpret my inverted commas.

      • Katherine

        Oh well thanks, if you think I’m classy! Ha. I do love the visuals your description created, a ‘rose-hued moonbeam’ silver, green, and the idea of sexuality being clandestine! Annoyingly I strangely had accumulated some money in my account which I emptied yesterday on a pre-spring whim in topshop (some rather impractical and out of character garments, including a calf length high necked baby pink prairie dress which I can’t quite imagine walking down the street in) anyway, otherwise I would be straight on ebay. Incidentally, I was going to comment on your patchouli post, as whilst walking down Wigmore St yesterday I passed a young man who I came aware of as I smelt him after he passed, smelling so fresh but with an exciting, perhaps pink, fizzy something, and I thought of Patchouli. He looked pretty expensive/sporty/good, I thought maybe Comme de Garçon patchouli, but after reading your review it couldn’t be, I wonder what it was, I so rarely catch interesting smells. Anyway I went and purchased some patchouli oil from the shop down the road this morning and unfortunately it does remind me of a greasy long-haired man who frequents the cafe/bar I work at, so I put on Guy Laroche’s Clandestine over the top, but rather wish I was wearing something like this or Metal.

      • Clandestine! What a brilliant thought!

        the comme des garçons patchouli is fucking foul, though i say so myself. ugh, good god, that celery soup hippie hair nightmare.

        might it not have just been straight patchouli oil? that often does work the best, you know.

        as for the pink prairie dress, i reckon it is calling for some calandre. can i send you a vial of the parfum? it has lost the greenness and the edginess, but it has the heart, which is kind of lovely.

  3. Katherine

    Ah bless you, of course!

  4. Dearest Ginza
    Why did I think you’d written about Calandre before?
    And why don;t they give out perfume briefs like that anymore?
    Perhaps they do, but the perfumes just are made that match them!
    Now, I do get something of the industrial chic roughing it about this number, I was thinking about it only at the weekend in fact.
    It’s a stiletto scent for me.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • Definitely a stiletto scent. Very kept together, but with some sad yearning beneath, in my view.

      And it’s funny what you say about me having written about it before. I also felt deja vu when I put it up. I may have mimicked another review I did.

  5. jtd0000

    I was temped to leave if at the visuals and, “shut up and drive.” Would have been a great experience with just that. But am glad I read on, and am just thrilled by the way you keep alive what I might relegate to the vintage bin without further thought. Just applied Calandre and am taking if for a spin. Considering it in light of both Rive Gauche and your recent thoughts on sibling Metal. And, oh! Y! A fav of mine, often overlooked as a plain jane sort of chypre. Hadn’t known Calandre was penned by the same perfumer. Ivoire as well. Such food for thought.

    • I didn’t know that either until I looked it up yesterday. And I LOVE Y as well: how can it possibly be thought of as a plain Jane?

      I love this family of perfumes unconditionally. And as for Ivoire…..heaven.

  6. jennyredhen

    There are 2 vintage bottles of Calandre on sale on Trademe in new Zealand at present. They want NZ $199 which is about $175,000 yen I think they are unopened but not 100% sure cant remember. I think rhats quite expensive but they are emphatic about the price at the moment

  7. emmawoolf

    I’ve wondered about this for a while. This keeps popping up in non-vintage form in TK Maxx. (Impossible to try scent anywhere these days, would have to gamble on a hermetically sealed version). Would I like it, do you think? It is available for a somewhat bargainous £40 for a giant bottle. Given the Y and Rive Gauche connections, I am tempted. Thoughts please? xx

  8. emmawoolf

    I’ve ordered you a bottle. Will send it to you after it arrives. Belated birthday present x

    • WAAAAAH oh my god that is fantastic. I love its snobby green top notes – complete ELEGANZA; really excited you are enjoying it too. For me it allows me to ‘float above’ everyone and everything, if you know what I mean. Thanks E!

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