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.