If the word ‘ambivalence’ were to be stamped on one perfume – one that I both really like and strangely dislike simultaneously – it might be the original Eau De Givenchy.
There is nothing else like it. Although officially categorized as a fresh floral with fruit facets, for me, whenever I smelled it – quite frequently, as a day to day basis on a couple of girls I knew who wore it back when I was seventeen – to me it always smelled like a marine, before that was even a category. Co-author Daniel Moliere ( the other perfumer was Daniel Hoffman) clearly had a proclivity for the wet and watery, creating the intriguing aquatic hyacinth Huis Clos for Diptyque in 2003 (as well as the horrifying fresh watermelon floral, Fleur D’Interdit, for Givenchy in 1994), but he also made the very dark, starkly masculine, aromatic fougere Santos de Cartier in 1981, a perfume that could hardly be more different.
These contrasting tendencies can be found in Eau De Givenchy – a very original composition that combines dour, melancholic, briny, even slightly pissy elements – oakmoss musk sandalwood (vetiver patchouli ?) against a very vivid springtime meadow of narcissus and cyclamen and other vernal flowers – cyclamen, or the idea of cyclamen the key to my eye – – bracing herbaceously and energetically in the top notes with grapefruit, mandarin orange and mint : at once outdoorsy and lighthearted, quite liberating in many senses for its unsweetened androgyny, its post 70’s dose of fresh air
—- while also to my mind somehow depressive, insistent – deliberately diffident and passive aggressive.
I never entirely liked Eau De Givenchy when I smelled it on my friends at school, while also respecting them for wearing something so ‘intellectual’, stern, and overtly unsexy (though it actually is) ; yet still always inhaling deeply, fascinated when inhabiting their space. This scent clung to me, to my deep seated memories of that time, which is why, in my shop the other day I couldn’t resist buying a sealed and cellophane wrapped vintage soap, still in its unopened plastic case.
It still smelled great ; weird ; potent : undiminished: exactly as I remember it in the early eighties. D hated it immediately – ‘sickly’ was his intuitive response, and I must agree that there definitely is something clammy; enticing, but offputting, here, as if Anais Anais had drowned herself sadly in a rock pool, reeds willowing gently beneath her feet like Ophelia.
But I also know that I have a miniature in my collection somewhere, and there might easily come a day in the spring – a private day, alone, when I might need it ; when I suddenly feel like showering down to the nub with the soap, not with preservation, but total abandon – like Emma Corrin dancing naked with the beautiful Jack O Connnell in sudden torrential storm in the brilliant, and naturalistically stark and passionate new film adaptation of Lady Chatterley’s Lover; then wear this curiously disturbing gem : corn blues and honeysuckle and eglantines ;: drenched in a vivaciously mournful, late April rain shower.