I once had the pleasure of attending an event at Les Senteurs in London hosted by Francois Robert, creator of the Roses De Rosines originally reincarnated fragrances and there to promote his latest work for Londoner BEX : a range of perfumes aiming to capturing the essence of various districts of the capital. He was witty, passionate and approachable, and it was great fun talking to him in person (we both share an appreciation of Paco Rabanne’s legendary La Nuit).
I was also somewhat in awe (to put it mildly), to think of this perfumer’s lineage, to imagine that through just a few degrees of separation, I was standing next to the son and the great nephew two of the greatest perfumers of all time – Mr Robert’s father was Guy Robert, creator of Doblis, Calèche, and Equipage for Hermès, as well as Madame Rochas, Dioressence, and Amouage Gold; Francois Robert’s great uncle was of course none other than Henri Robert, the nose behind three adored Chanels: Pour Monsieur, Cristalle, and Nº 19, as well as the cold and diaphanous primaverile beauty that is Coty Muguet Des Bois. Aside from Jacques and Jean Paul Guerlain, in honesty it is difficult for me to imagine two more highly esteemed perfume creators, and I felt almost faint with excitement, standing there (almost) in their presence.
It is interesting, sometimes, to delve, if you get the chance, into the back catalogues of great perfumers and sample the perfumes they have created that are no longer with us; the more obscure and less famed productions from their oeuvres that yet must contain a fingerprint of their basic modus operandi (looking at the perfumes of Henri and Guy Robert, for example, we see that the former had an exquisite predilection for the cold, the elegant, and the green, while the latter, while equally prepossessing and chic, tended towards a slightly fuller and a fondness for rose jasmine and sandalwood).
Henri Robert – an absolute genius of elegance – first made Ramage (‘tree branches’) for Bourjois in 1950 – a green chypre I have not smelled personally (has anyone else on here?), but would love to.
In Guy Robert’s formidable osmography there are also some outliers (not every album you release can be a Greatest Hit): Mérefame by Menard, neither the perfume house nor the name of which I have ever heard of before until just this moment,
– and also on his curriculum vitae, a lesser known perfume by Jean Patou: Lasso from 1950 (which has also never crossed my path – and please do let us know if you know anything this one: Gabrielle I imagine you have them both! ).
Lasso is apparently a musky chypre floral from 1956, long disappeared.
One of Guy Robert’s less famous perfumes that I happen to be familiar with and do know well though is the lovely No. 1, atypical for the house, and in a globe of its own.
As a brand, for me Gucci has a less consistent image than other perfume houses (if you consider Chanel, for example); there is little consistency in terms of packaging, bottles, scent: now it is all Guilty and Flora; a great commercial behemoth; in the late nineties/early 2000s it was all the sleek, plastic Tom Ford Rushes et al, while the 80’s saw the hirsute hypervirile perfumes such as Gucci Nobile when Gucci was still all about those old fashioned Italian clasped bags, before the then still family owned business had regained its worldwide cool.
In terms of the Gucci perfumed ancestry, I have always rather liked Eau Parfumée Concentrée
– an Anaïs Anaïs on steroids from 1982 that I wear blithely on occasions when I feel like an easy eighties breeze reminding me of spoiled French or Italian exchange students in straw boaters and white blouses rowing on rivers in England in the summertime; one of those ‘private perfumes’, just for you, if you know what I mean, that you wear for the heck of it once in a while for the sensation that it gives you (but only at home).
I also like Gucci N⁰ 3 : more my thing, more chypric and taloned,
– more generic mid eighties megalith (but still quite fresh and understated in some ways – great for an evening sat knowingly at the bar in sophisticated expectation of your prey.)
Guy Robert’s N⁰1 for Gucci, on the other hand, is quite different.
A tender beauty; demure yet (somewhat( self assured.
Fresh, floral green and aldehydic, with notable carnation floral tones and the familiar woody musk undertones typical of this classic kind of perfume, to me No 1 smells like the lovechild of Guy Laroche Fidji and Ricci L’Air Du Temps, with some DNA from Paco Rabanne’s celebration-of- a-bubblebath masterpiece, Métal. Delicately peached, leafed and garlanded with florals, this perfume is far too ‘untouchably feminine’ for me to wear on my skin personally. It simply wouldn’t work. And while lovely, N⁰1 doesn’t, I would say, have quite the uniquely recognisable heft of perfumes in Mr Robert’s revered gallery such as Calèche, Doblis, or Madame Rochas. And yet it is its own creature. Nothing else is quite the same. And I sometimes take the small parfum that I own and smell it from the box. I like having it there.