I have never liked the brand Ralph Lauren. In its prim Russo-Anglophilic conservatism and elitist, traditionalist log-by-the-fire Ivy Leagueness, there has always been something extraordinarily unimaginative for me that appeals on no level. When the flagship store in Kamakura closed down in the nineties, with its hideous fixtures and furniture and house stylings and plaid skirts and blazers, (to be taken over by a bank) I was strangely relieved. I didn’t want to see it. I don’t really like horses either.
The perfumes by the company are also dire (if perennially uberpopular. While I have a grudging respect for the artful engineering of the original Polo and do definitely consider it a masculine ‘classic’, I don’t have any love for it personally. As for the rest, I can understand why people like them – athletic; strong; ‘fresh‘ etc – even if the original Safari For Men made me want to actually commit murder – but it is an aesthetic that to me will remain forever alien.
The original perfume from Ralph Lauren, however – ‘Lauren’, by perfumer Bernard Chant, the author of Cabochard, Aramis, Aromatics Elixir but also the quintessentially clean and ultra-American Antonia’s Flower range (which I strangely like), is an exception to my rule. I am ill-advisedly wearing this today, imagining recklessly that I can somehow pull it off – I can’t – but I saw the vintage parfum bottle I have earlier in my collection and couldn’t resist having a bath and then applying it in droves.
It is lovely.
Lauren is a fresh green floral of its era that is gorgeously crisp: lovers of perfume on Fragrantica and other websites talk of how girls with long hair in the seventies would be wearing this perfume drifting (or Love’s Baby Soft, or Cacharel’s Anaïs Anaïs), floating musk down the air waves of summer high school corridors – shampoo clean and inviting (in the top accord, marigold/tagetes, the smell of a bright new day and one of my favourite notes in perfumery; broom, blackcurrant, cantaloupe melon; green leaves and citrus for strictness, a touch of herbaceous thyme…………..while a delicately floral (rose, jasmine and ylang ylang) heart covers a subtly woody, musk base of cedar wood, sandalwood and oakmoss that remains carefully defined, not animalic. The perfume is not hypnotic, or erotic, even, in and of itself, but in the vintage pre-formulation I own (changed beyond recognition and not really worth bothering with now), in its steadfast belief in the powers of goodness and freshly showered femininity, this creation has all the boy-crazyingly seductive power of a Brian De Palma heroine.