FOR THE PALLID :: EAU DE GIVENCHY (1980)

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.

15 Comments

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15 responses to “FOR THE PALLID :: EAU DE GIVENCHY (1980)

  1. Nelleke Oepkes aka Booknose

    Breakfast in bed with a Black Narcissus … beats the hell out of a grey Monday.
    I was really intrigued by this scent. The word Eau always puts me off a little, don’t know why. Except in Eau d’Issey because I always dreamed and still dream sometimes of great nomadic journeys.
    Will have a sniff, I think in summer as you suggested.

    • I can imagine you liking it perhaps like me, in a specific mood : there is something about this Givenchy ( and Givenchy perfumes in general actually – why ?) that pisses me off, but I also love. This is ‘sporty’, very bespectacled girl in polka dot dress and slightly wrong straw hat ( as almost all hats are ); there is a time and a place : Amsterdam might be it x

      • Nelleke Oepkes aka Booknose

        You make it sound even more intriguing.
        Polka dots definitely offputting and the wrong hat sounding like me in a what the hell mood ..
        on my recent acquired bicycle . I left the former one with the keys inside, might as well have left it gift wrapped with a card attached.
        X From Amsterdam to Ginzaintherain

    • PS : Eau D’Issey : Christ what a torturous scent no matter what it evokes

      lemon oyster metal horror – and indeed, ‘cyclamen’

  2. Your description is absolutely spot on. I know exactly what you mean! I wore it as a teenager: no wonder I liked it at the time: depressed and passive aggressive just about sums adolescent me up. I’d love to smell this again – a few years ago in destitute and unwaged times I found a bottle at a car boot sale and then eBayed it, but I wish I’d kept hold of it, as it’s so difficult to find these days. I’d love a sniff. Beautiful and yet…there’s something not quite right about it. Definite ozonic notes. As you say, ahead of its time. But wear it? I probably wouldn’t.

    • And yet with your exquisite wearage of Cristalle and Eau Du Sud – somehow you make these slightly melancholic scents smell crisp and energizing and we would definitely have been friends at school as I would have followed you around in Eau De Givenchy ( in my own, not quite right on me Givenchy Xeryus) and brought you out of your shell.

      I agree it was very ahead of its time : extremely original- and I reckon you could still pull it off beautifully x

  3. Robin

    I wore this in my youth when it was first released and thought it was fresh and energizing, modern and aggressive, entirely abstract, androgynous, different than anything else, without knowing anything about what I was smelling. Back then, “notes” weren’t even on the radar, unless it was obviously a soliflore such as Yardley Lavender. I haven’t smelled it in forever, but I can conjure up a clear mental profile of it. Must have been crammed with new aquatic synthetics. You describe it, as usual, with uncanny accuracy, dear N. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane.

  4. I have this and absolutely adore it in the Summertime. I love the touch of mint in it that makes it tingle your senses a bit. I do understand it feeling a bit off-putting, or depressing, it is not a bright scent, but it does have a freshness about it that I adore.

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