LAUREN by RALPH LAUREN (1978)

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.

20 Comments

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20 responses to “LAUREN by RALPH LAUREN (1978)

  1. Anne M

    Perfume mostly makes me sneeze but I read every word you write because the way you play with, wield language delights me completely

  2. That’s what I love about your writing, among other things, your ability to bring to my mind things that I have forgotten until you bring them up. And to add, I was NEVER a Ralph Lauren fan except that I did like their men scents and also liked Safari for a short while. I guess I always knew, but somehow don’t always acknowledge, how much perfumes have dominated my life since my late teenage years. I am still into perfume and wear it every day (sometimes several different ones in a single day), but although I can never imagine having a day pass by without wearing a fragrance, I am not as obsessed in the same way I used to be. However, I still love perfumes and wear something each day unless I am physically sick, at which time I want nothing to do with perfume. But for the most part, my life would feel barren without the adiditional of a beautiful scent (or at least a scent I am into at the moment.

    • Absolutely. The odd day or two without it is nice sometimes for a reset, but I am the same as you. A soundtrack to my life. And Ralph Lauren was never my favourite singer or group, but sometimes you can enjoy songs by people you don’t ordinarily like. I am no Rolling Stones fan but like Angie, and for some reason, Undercover Of The Night.

    • Actually, thinking about it, I do quite like Chaps. My friend Zubeyde literally dug a bottle from the earth at a construction site and gave it to me, being Chapman and all, and I remember David on here saying what a great leather it is. I might go and put some on for bed now actually. I know some love Safari the original for women – I remember it being bitterly sharp and fruity – too much so. And the men’s had the twisted mouth of the ashen breathed bigot.

  3. Tara C

    I wore this one back in the day, it was pleasant if unremarkable. Never bought another Lauren perfume and don’t care for the style.

  4. I recall sniffing that fragrance when I worked at the Ralph Lauren Home store the month of Christmas ’84 in San Francisco. I wondered why it was in a red bottle when it smelled so bright & almost bitterly green. Never cottoned to any RL fragrances though they were ubiquitous at that time. Someone gifted me a bottle of Safari for women in 1990- citronella based bug spray was my impression.
    I believe that photo of Catherine Zeta-Jones was from the RL Santa Fe collection of 1981.
    I never cared much for RL’s ultra WASP-y aristocratic pretense. The muddy muted palette and retro traditionalism of RL was quite the contrast to the glitzy glam & brash flash that were on offer everywhere else in the 80s. Wowzers were the prices high in that RL Home store – (we’re talking $7,000USD duvets, $4,000 footstools, $30,000 faux antique armoires, etc) and people bought them! That was the Reagan 80s. Never mind the homeless folks sleeping in the doorway.

    • I can see the appeal for some people – ‘traditional taste with a label, served’ – but I was WAY more about Calvin Klein in terms of cool at that time. Bitter green in a read bottle, YES – perhaps that is the strange appeal of it, actually. If it had actually been in a green bottle it might have been too much.

  5. Robin

    I went through a happy Laurent phase and have bottles of the pre-reform edp and parfum, which still smell good and not dated.

    While I’m 100% with you on the phoney Ralph Lauren WASP-y log-cabin shtick, and don’t like the aesthetic of his releases generally, I have to stick up for the vintage women’s Safari. The quality is excellent, particularly the galbanum, tagetes, vetiver, orris root and narcissus. Original combo of greens and powder. Great performance all the way through, top-notch far dry-down. Not phoney, contrived or pandering at all. I don’t ever remember seeing it in 1990 or thereabouts when it was released, oddly. It just blipped on my radar maybe ten years ago. I think I was looking up Dominique Ropion, and then some time later I found two full bottles in a consignment shop for next to nothing. And hell, I do like the bottle. I think it would be good on a man. (Note to self: maybe throw a bottle in Ric’s medicine cabinet.) So, you may well not agree, and I understand, but we can’t agree on everything. What would be the fun in that?

    • I am pretty sure that if I smelled it on you I would love it! I hated the man’s one so deeply that I would probably have just summarily dismissed the women’s one as well (though I know I did smell it several times). Galbanum and etageres and vetiver? I really want to smell it now and would probably actually love it.

  6. Robin

    Lauren not Laurent. Very strange auto-correct.

  7. Robin

    Also, tragic events in your home town. Very, very sorry to read about it. My thoughts are with Birmingham tonight.

    • I was freaking out as the internet was down for some reason and I couldn’t get any information. At first, with all the weird reports of lots of people fighting in the streets down near the gay district I presumed it was some kind of co-ordinated hate attack but it seems that it might just be one deranged nutter. Knife crime has unfortunately become a vile reality of the UK now – but imagine how much more damage he could have inflicted with a gun…….

  8. I had a friend, she had rich auburn hair and was quintessentially all-american, who used to wear this sent as her signature while we were in high school; this was back in 1986. She was so adoring of this scent and I think it was mostly because of the deep garnet colour of the bottle, which resembled the striking colour of her hair. She eventually fell in love with Samsara in 1991, such a completely different scent, again the bottle and cap had that rich garnet coloured accent though. I was already wearing Samsara at this point, so I did not truly associate it with her, but Lauren will always strike me as “her” scent. After reading your post though, I think I may have to find a vintage bottle on eBay and give it a try. Maybe enough years have passed that I will not associate this with my high school friend.

  9. Kdangeruss

    I was given this from someone in my family, an aunt who didn’t want it anymore, when I was about 9-10, and this started my perfume obsession. I think about that bottle, and the scent all the day.

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