Sprawled on the sofa next to our red sequinned Salvador Dali lip phone last night, mulling on Italia and sipping some celebratory red with an order in pizza, I found myself nonchalantly reaching out for the bottle of Ferre by Gianfranco Ferre that resides there like a patiently waiting hand grenade (the original flacon also had black lace stretched over its perimeter). I inhaled. Same reaction as always. Yes, it struck me once again: this really might just actually be the sexiest perfume of all time. It is crazily, ludicrously seductive – if by seduction you mean the stereotypical puta/ madama and mistress and mother and goddess tropes all wrapped into one in the shameless classic virgin/whore duplicity ; a perfectly constructed and balanced floral explosive device that D brought me out of the blue three years ago when I was in hospital and where, with the sterile surroundings, it could not have been more out of place if it tried. I remember laughing out loud impotently as I smelled it. Useless, and sutured; still convalescing and painfully immobile in my pyjamas, I wrote in my notepad :
‘Ferre di Ferre. This is one of those mad, lipsticked Italianas I remember from the early nineties; a glammed-up, Monica Bellucci bombshell whose bottle was even shaped like a grenade and whose smell: sweet, heady, aldehydic, heavily floral, mightily musked and sandalwoody, is proclamatory: gorgeous. You almost fear her.’
You do. This is one mean femme fatale. Una donna fatale. ‘So sexfully ripe and bustiered Bellucci it could practically turn a gay man straight’, I also wrote, trapped in my wheelchair ( you see I just could not get myself away from Monica). But imagine this woman striding into a room, chest forward, all eyes on her, breathing it in…………..with a hot, powdered, musky fever of jasmine, orange blossom, and a pheromonal, Samsara-like sandalwood that is nevertheless far more suggestive and unbuttoned brassière-about-to-pop-open come to mama than any Guerlain could ever even dream of being, this really is the aforementioned Monica Bellucci, bottled: Bond girl, Matrix dominatrix ; (im)possible sex object of ferocious Sicilian adolescent lust in Malena; ex-wife of the dastardly Vincent Cassel; Mary Magdalene in the Passion Of The Christ; muse and lipstick queen of D+G and Dior; bloodthirsty vampiressss in Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Dracula’ ………………… with this perfume drifting like sweet poison from her shoulders you know this woman could easily have you for breakfast.
Despite what some people say, sex has always been the main push point for popular perfume; it is what the adverts sell to us; secretly, we want that magnetism. Many fragrances these days for women though just pile on and compress too many nasty, melding synthetic ingredients into the chamber pot; ‘patchouli, synthetic vanillins, ‘woods’, ‘fruits’, ‘head space flowers’ and ‘spices’ all ramped up until the point of nausea and for me – most unforgivably – deep vulgarity (there is vulgarity and vulgarity). What is fascinating about the only delicately vulgar Ferre is the very simplicity of its formula; smooth, contoured, deep, it is certainly over the top but somehow isn’t too much ; the perfume veers to the edges of ridiculousness but just about holds itself into its garters and stockings and other strategically worn lingerie so you never get to see the naked, flagrant full picture. The poussing aldehydes and vanilla do make some wearers think of Chanel Nº5, or even Arpège on certain fragrance fora; but to me those perfumes belong to Ferre’s more restrained and older female forbearers, more mannered and more welcomingly dressed back home in Roma and Umbria. Ferre by Ferre is classically ordained, but a product of the eighties and nineties: big, bold. Di Napoli. Cannily beautiful. A bombshell.