There is a certain vernal regality to some of the more obscure and classic Creeds, a blasé timelessness – and I love Fleurissimo. Vivid, green; a verdant, fresh bouquet of happiness, this perfume was apparently created especially for the wedding of Grace Kelly to Prince Rainier of Monaco. It must have been perfect: a lovely, natural-smelling scent of freshly cut flowers – jasmine, tuberose, rose, lily; ventilated, enfreshened– all suspended in a clear, leafy accord of the freshest soap. Fleurissimo is a sculptured, very classical creation that happens also to be loved by Madonna (presumably for those more virginal, lady-of-the-manor days she occasionally has, simply existing in her own time and space). The woman clearly has good taste in scent, because Fleurissimo is great: a romantic, joyous scent, light yet heady, for days when nothing will stop you from being free.
Tag Archives: 1970s scents
PACO RABANNE METAL (1979) : CHAMPAGNE JACUZZIS, BIANCA; BUBBLE-FOAMed ECSTACY, AND THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO
This week I find myself deeply drawn to Paco Rabanne’s Métal.
It is spring outside. Bright, something between warm and cold, and the flowers are blossoming slowly: tulips pushing through, peach blossoms already blown away by the wind.
With the sunlight, the new air, and all the freshness I feel in the atmosphere, as well as the freedom of being off work for almost three weeks (sheer heaven), I want optimism: zest, but with emotional, and aesthetic, intelligence.
Métal, a sly, forever fresh, delicious concoction, fits the bill perfectly, a scent that is not often written about for some reason, but one that I find very beautiful, and strangely not dated considering the fact that it is already 34 years old.
No: Métal is ageless. A shimmering, (dirty) angel of the disco set who constantly has one eye on the next: a laughing, exuberant, parfum savonneux: always soaped down and lightly fresh from the shower, washing away the sins from the night before with dismissive,deft swishes of the hand;a foaming, aldehydic sparkle of fresh greens; ylang ylang, white iris, rosewood and peach, all gently laminated with the classic, subtlely metallic sheen of rose à la Calandre, Paco Rabanne’s other, rather more philosophical and held back masterpiece from 1969.
Upon contact with the skin, this lugubrious scent bursts with life: quills forth from the bottle clean and energized, elegant, green and sweet, the protectant veil of aldehydes preserving the joyous flowers and fruit within in a bubble of about-to-step-out-the-house ecstacy that never fades; a white pant-suit (white, white, most definitely white – the white of Bianca Jagger and her Studio 54 stallioned entrance, the white of the Scarface mansion: that seventies, flared Travolta white; the white of the lights; cocaine, and the mindless, careless, flamboyant last days of disco……)
Under the glorious sheen of this scent is that effervescent, pampered smell of expensive designer bubble baths that was taken up again later in the eighties in such scents as Courrèges In Blue (1983) and Byblos (1989). Beneath all that luminosity, if you look at her closely, Métal is smiling, of course; but wide-eyed, with gleaming shark-white teeth. Though she never betrays it, there is something depraved beneath this epidermis, and herein lies the real beauty of the perfume: unlike other disco era perfumes of the period – Ivoire, Scherrer, Rive Gauche, Michelle – which all have some internal self-awareness of their in-built shelf lives, an inner knowledge of their decadence, Métal conceals this side of herself to mad perfection – even to herself :: we see just a glimpse of it, occasionally, under her future-seeing façade, in her eyes: and, as with other such perfumes such as Chanel’s Cristalle, to which this perfume bears a slight resemblance (though fruitier, younger, less haughty), this is, to me, what seals the scent in forever-fresh immortality.
Unlike the ‘clean’ fragrances of current climes though, which are so chemically preened you immediately smell a rat, Métal is evincibly human ( if perfectly put together: it is very difficult to pick out individual notes – all so sheened and shined together effortlessly in a manner very much of the time); a scent that must have smelled stunningly beautiful emanating from the shoulders of the disco creatures of that era; or the valiumed wives moving about their bay area lidos and mansions, as sunlight spliced their vodka martinis and their long, floating sleeves trailed the secretive jungles of their houseplants.
As they, like Nina Van Pallant in Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye, concealed the potential numbness within the cold veneer of the current, of the fashionable, the momentary; the flesh that would decay; but which, at this moment in time, laminated in Métal, felt preserved.
To me, there is definitely something of all this in this scent, like the liana females who also inhabit Harry’s House, one of my favourite songs by Joni Mitchell…
Caught up at the light of the fishnet windows
Washing those high fashion girls
Skinny black models with raveen curls
Beauty parlor blondes with credit card eyes
Looking for the chic and the fancy
He opens up his suitcase
In the continental suite
And people twenty stories down
Colored current in the street
A helicopter lands on the Pan Am roof
Like a dragonfly on a tomb
And businessmen in button-downs
Press into conference rooms
Battalions of paper-minded males
Talking commodities and sales
While at home their paper wives
And paper kids
Paper the walls to keep their gut reactions hid
Yellow checkers for the kitchen
Climbing ivy for the bath
She is lost in House and Gardens
He’s caught up in Chief Of Staff
He drifts off into the memory
Of the way she looked in school
With her body oiled and shining
At the public swimming pool….
Yes: these slender, maquillaged, loose-limbed, pant-suited women who, in the movies at least, exist to rest on the arms of the rich men who own them…
And the white Art Deco mansions, in Florida.
I have referenced De Palma’s perennially popular classic Scarface before in relation to Léonard’s lovely, if simple, Tamango (1977), which always reminds me of the character Elvira and her gauche, ‘bored’ moves on the dancefloor early on in the film as Tony is listing to possess her, materialistically, as his trophy wife. Métal, which is far more complex, expensive smelling, and downright gorgeous in many ways, might, in some ways, be the same character a couple of years later, when, married to Pacino, we see her, still beautiful, but pining away in their gilded mansion, their giant, ivory jacuzzi filled with foam, champagne bottles and excess.
This perfume might almost be what holds her together: it never loses its ever-recurring sparkle, its foaming, delirious lustre.
For this review I have been discussing two bottles of vintage Eau De Metal, and also the parfum (pictured), a bit ropey and old now, but still lovely. There is not a great deal of difference between the two perfumes; one is just lighter and fresher, the other more long-lasting, as you might expect. Ultimately, though, I think I like Eau De Metal best and would recommend it to anyone who goes for this deeply appealing, timeless, feminine sheen, still easily found at discounters online. Get vintage if you can.
A bright winter’s morning. The bathroom of a stately home.
On the wash basin, lies a pristine bar of soap.
It is the most perfect soap imaginable; a hard, impenetrable, triple-milled yellow soap; the clean, heart-clearing brightness of bergamot: the finest essences of sun-binding neroli all married grassly to a light, fresh note of cool, purified vetiver root planted down, somewhere beneath the surfaces, in its fragrant, pounded, centre.
A vetiver, then, of spanking immaculateness and spruceness; a perfect accoutrement to the face-splashing morning ritual: a scent that very reeks – very nearly, ALMOST – of trust.
Until you smell Signoricci that is, when the artificial, clammed together, and somewhat hysterical brightness of Creed’s Original Vetiver is suddenly exposed……
Signoricci, one of the few key masculines from a classical house that, in its heyday, produced some of the most delicate and exquisite feminine florals ever created, predates Creed’s scent by three long decades and is of a similar soap-cleansed theme; citrus (lemon, verbena and lime), over delicate, cologne-steeped vetiver, but in this long discontinued perfume the effect is incredibly, incredibly refined.
I first smelled smelled Signoricci at my brand new friend Federico’s apartment in Rome one October afternoon – standing there, alone as it was on his wooden bookshelf in his room – and I remember how immediately blown away I was by its deceptively simple beauty; a beautiful conception of fine-hearted masculinity that is almost impossible to imagine now in today’s world of hard-hitting woods; spices; and designer-bearded synthetics.
Beginning with perhaps the most piercing, yet simultaneously gentle and perfect citrus top note I know of, the vetiver, cedar and sandalwood heart of this composition is revealed gently and gradually; an accord of almost heartbreaking cleanliness: a perfection and purity of soul.
Its perfection notwithstanding, if there can be any criticism of Signoricci (and must there be, really?) it is just that: this perfume, in all honesty, is possibly too perfect; a saintly, flawlessly scrupled man who seems too good, almost, to be possibly true.
Like doubting Thomases, we stand agape.
Mon serpent, mon cygne…………… D’HUMEUR JALOUSE by L’ARTISAN PARFUMEUR (1994) + L’OMBRE DANS L’EAU by DIPTYQUE (1983) + EAU DE CAMPAGNE by SISLEY (1974)
I find myself in a green temperament; aggressive almost, for fresh, sharp, verdant scents that match the shooting growth and push away the winter, the comforting sloth of my recent smothering orientals and let me feel like a snake shedding its skin.
And D’Humeur Jalouse is the snake: possibly the greenest scent ever made (please tell me if you know of one that is greener);: almost painfully so at first – a serpent in the grass, the eyes of jealousy; spiked, strident tones of malicious stinging nettles and grasses, softened, only barely, with a sinuous touch of barely detectable almond milk to temper a rather curious, olfactory sketch that is bitter, unusual, and solitary: green to the point of catharsis.
A movement from the river bank under the shades of weeping willows- a swan glides slowly by…..
Evoking a green riverside garden, the shadows of plants rippling the waters, L’Ombre Dans L’Eau (Diptyque’s most iconic perfume?) is at first intensely green – a sharp, rush of galbanum resins entwined quite cleverly with the lush, tanging tartness of blackcurrant leaves, but from this compacted flourish there then emerges, unhurriedly, the quiet, more melancholic dignity of the Bulgarian rose: calm, romantic, yet austere, rather supercilious and snobbish even, and thus, the main theme of L’Ombre Dans L’Eau (‘the shadow in the water’) is set.
As light fades, and the murmurs of evening approach, a soft base note of pot pourri-like rose, with the slightest hint of something like peachstone, finishes off a singular, enduring composition that breathes an air of familiar timelessness.
Eau De Campagne
The perfect green?
This classic scent from 1974 is the summer; the exhilaration of meadows; of stalks crushed underfoot, swords of sunlight infiltrating blades of grass.
Chlorophyll at dusk; ladybirds….
Cabochard, Bernard Chant’s classic patchouli chypre from 1959, looms large and elegantly in the Parisian canon as an archetype, and it is not surprising therefore that the house of Madame Grès should have wanted to capitalize on its success with a perfume that was the same, essentially, but different: a Cabochard re-made for a new generation.
Quiproquo, one of the rarest of my vintage finds in Tokyo antique shops, is a reworking of the powdery patchouli of its exquisitely tailored predecessor, in the sportier, eau fraîche style of Ô de Lancome (an in-house restitching in those more seventies, tennis-white contours), and a quick internet search has confirmed my instincts: both were created by the same perfumer, Robert Gonnon (who was obviously something of a genius – he also made Métal, Anaïs Anaïs, and Empreinte among others; all delicate, yet shadowed, creatures that I adore…)
Less floral and vetivered than Ô, whose pre-reformulation was one of the greatest, cold-creamy citruses ever made, Quiproquo has the imprint of her older sister but with smoother brow, a more relaxed, upbeat scent overlaid with the brightest, most perfect lemon-leaf head-notes: like pinching the leaves from the trees, ripping them apart and letting their essence ravish your hands as you raise them up to smell on a cool, summer’s day. This gorgeous opening then subdues to a more refined, citrus-powdery chypre note as QPQ, having made her point on this dramatic family reunion, settles down for a game of scrabble with flinty Cabochard: : French windows open, siblings easing into familiarity (their strikingly similar younger brother, Monsieur Grès (1982) has also made it up to the house for the weekend), mineral water sparkling in glasses, breeze from the gardens and tennis lawns, this Saturday late in May, drifting in gently.
THE SARACEN AND THE COSSACK: TWO CHEST-BEATING LEATHERS – YATAGAN by CARON (1976) & CUIR DE RUSSIE by PIVER (1939)
According to the house of Caron, the yatagan was a Turkish saber once used by the fierce, proud horsemen of the Ottoman empire, with a ‘curved and finely sharpened blade’, its very name hinting unambiguously at the unmerciful, sheath-laden phallus and its inexorable, compulsory conquests.
A virile journey: a battle in the sour-thighed, chest-rugged stakes with a similarly resolute fragrance, Piver’s classic Cuir de Russie. Both flowerless, dry, rugged creatures, expertly constructed to throw up jaw-clenched, fist ready accents as the accords develop within their worn, leathery hearts and they prepare to slay their (knee-buckling, pliant, and often extraordinarily willing), victims.
Yatagan is severe: dry, spicy, with precious woods, artemisia, styrax, and a good, healthy dose of sweaty leather. It is a pine forest: our frowning Saracen alone, in battle garb, listening to the trees and the smell of the soil.
In the distance are snow-capped mountains.
The Turk, growling, quite sure of himself, is a more ferocious stalwart than his Russian counterpart, and we watch him prowl his terrain; alert, ever-ready to wield his not inconsiderable weapon.
Later, when finally reaching home, exhausted, there is a lingering of smoke and incense as his wife pulls off his damp clothes by the fiery light of the hearth and she administers, lovingly, a sweet and sincere kiss to his rough and weathered cheeks.
Cuir de Russie is the smell of a proud cossack’s boots: animalic, manly, and polished, as he rides out across the steppes in his attempt to slay the Turk. While similar in theme, the cossack is more swarthy, rugged and sour, has more tobacco, a wide, salacious splendour of dry leather. More convivial too: there is humour in this vodka-swigging man: refinement even, though never ostentation….
THE WITCHY CHYPRES : Mon Parfum by Paloma Picasso (1984) + Magie Noire by Lancôme (1978) + Eau du Soir by Sisley (1990) + Sinan by Jean-Marc Sinan (1984)
I was, in some ways, quite a weird child.The boys would be playing football, play-punching, or moronically shooting each other with invisible karashnikovs. The girls would be playing with dolls and each others’ hair, skipping daintily, bitching, and doing whatever else little girls do.
I was always off somewhere with my posse, imagining I was a warlock doing magic with my petalled potions; reading my secret collection of Flower Fairy books, or else pretending to be a black panther (which was my ultimate dream at the time…)I would lie in bed at night and see myself morphing, slowly, into that beast, feeling the power of the claws start to surge as I leapt off into the undergrowth…
Might these childhood urges be one of the reasons why I am so drawn to the sleek, pantheresque perfumes that follow; the rose/patchouli/ leather chypres, those taloned, ruminating creatures that come nearer to approximating that black cat in perfume than any other type? Those perfumes that have been replaced in the contemporary canon by industrial effluent and the drabbest of candyflosses, but which, when worn correctly (and knowingly), can be quite delectably pointed and erotic?
In Annick Le Guerer’s academic treatise ‘Scent’, the panther, long venerated by various cultures for the beautiful perfume of its breath, is said to have been historically viewed as ‘prudent, intelligent, and cunning…’, emitting an odour that is ‘agreeable to all other animals’, a blessing/curse of nature that allows it to hunt, furtively, by ‘remaining in hiding and attracting animals to it by its smell…’
And, like a beautifully-attired woman sat in some late night bar wearing Paloma Picasso, esconced patientlyin her corner with her trailing cigarette, ‘…. it conceals itself in a dense thicket, or in deep foliage, and is invisible; it only breathes. And so fawns and gazelles and wild goats and suchlike animals are drawn by the spell, as it were, of its fragrance and come close up…….
Whereat, the leopard springs out and seizes its prey…..”
MON PARFUM by PALOMA PICASSO (1984)
Probably the most successful of perfumes in the chypric rose genre, by contemporary standards Paloma smells hopelessly out of fashion and animalic: just smell the beaver. Less pronounced in the eau de toilette form, which is essentially a different fragrance and less impressive, in the eau de parfum, the oily, leathery note of castoreum, extracted from the sweat glands of the Canadian beaver – troubling, aphrodisiac – is very apparent in this perfume and verges on shocking. It is, nevertheless, with a flourish of Iberian magic, extravagantly cloaked in woods; lashes of patchouli; a spiced Spaniard heart of the deepest rose, jasmine and mimosa; and a sharp, sassy green top note like the click of glinting heels on a Barcelona sidewalk.
The perfume has been around for quite a while now, and despite the fact that the world’s tastes in scent have since changed irrevocably since its release, in a survey done by various global beauty editors and perfume people (and not so long ago, either), Mon Parfum by Paloma Picasso was voted the sexiest perfume on earth. While I am not sure if the perfume can definitively claim this title, it certainly is damn good on the right person who can carry it off, and it is very hopelessly difficult to resist.
Mon Parfum is just so…….cocksure of itself: an adult woman with experience, sexual confidence and power coursing through her blood. It needs a glammed up, lipsticked predator with attitude to do it full justice, to unleash its torrid potential – a woman, or man, who doesn’t mind, in fact loves, its eighties femme fatale clichés.
MAGIE NOIRE by LANCOME (1978)
Paloma’s darker, occultist, more serious elder cousin, Magie Noire has a similarly ensorcelling theme of sharp green notes contrasting with a rich Bulgarian rose heart, patchouli and provocative, animalic/woody finish. But in Lancôme’s finest scent there is very little sweetness (there is a touch in the heart of Paloma) and the sharp green/earth divide (a mesmerizing accord of galbanum, bergamot, raspberry and hyacinth, contrasting with a mossy patchouli note tempered with honey) only grows more potent and disturbing with time, stronger and more scary as the day, or night, progresses.
It is witchy, truly, but also tender, mysterious, elegant, erotic, and a touch sinister, as you are gradually drawn into the depths of a midnight forest. Or at the very least to a very edgy seventies dinner party hostess in a busy black dress.
EAU DU SOIR by SISLEY (1990)
Eau Du Soir, especially in vintage, is more dormant, and quietly explosive, than either of the above scents, a tasteful and intoxicating brew that, as its name suggests, is the evening perfume par excellence, absolutely made for black and grand occasions.
What I love about the Sisley perfumes is their lack of the saccharine ; where their first perfume, the classic Eau de Campagne (created by Jean Claude Ellena in 1974) is astonishingly green, almost unbearably so, as if you were trapped inside a giant basil or tomato leaf, Eau Du Soir is Campagne’s night counterpart, similarly dry and unsentimental: a ravishing patchouli, rose d’orient, seringa, juniper, and Moroccan rose absolute accord with a centerpiece of the perfume’s star ingredient, Egyptian jasmine absolute (less civilized, rougher, more animalic than its French counterpart), which purrs and insinuates itself beautifully within the radiant, effortless chic of the spicy chypre base. Eau Du Soir is a difficult scent, almost formidable.
You would never mess with someone wearing this.
SINAN by JEAN-MARC SINAN (1984)
Sinan, an obscure fragrance not so easy to find these days, is another taut, chypre animalic with a full-bodied, sweetly lingering rose twined with woods and patchouli: one more fur-clad siren leading her black-widow victims to their (always willing) fate….
The perfume bears some similarities with Paloma, and also Lauder’s fabulous Knowing (which took this essentially European idea and Americanized it), but where that perfume has a certain seamless infallibility (present in all Lauder’s creations) prone to exaggerations with its honeyed electric rose, Sinan presents a similarly perfumed face but less emphatically; not a white-gated mansion in the centre of Florida, but a house, near the woods, somewhere in the depths of France…
“There she goes, the independent woman. The girl who’s so contemporary – she’s having too much fun to marry”
………..”Nothing like the past”
proclaims a soap opera husk, concluding this clunky and hilariously gauche late 70’s TV ad for this perfume, as a blowsy discolette sprays her legs up and down with Yves Saint Laurent’s Rive Gauche:
“…the right perfume from the left bank of Paris…..”
Which is funny, because I always in fact associated this legendary smell, this legendary perfume, with tights – that musky smell of stockings coming off at the end of the working day; the holy grail, perhaps, of a (not so) secret foot fetishist like Quentin Tarantino.
Not that there’s anything remotely unsavoury about Rive Gauche: quite the opposite – it is beautiful and delectably charismatic. But its flirtatious, polished exterior conceals a very animal sexuality deep down in the mix; a mossy, ambery musk that proclaims – unambiguously – real, flesh and blood woman.
Often compared to the strikingly similar Calandre – which preceded it by two years – and sometimes described as ‘a sculptured perfume’ – aluminium-cool; white contoured – the silvery finesse of Rive Gauche comes from a metallic, green/floral aldehyde opening, iris/jasmine; bergamot, peach, and a rosy, sandalwood, musked human heart.
Though I possibly prefer Calandre myself, with its melancholic, arched gaze, it can sometimes seem as if its tender green heart has gone cold. Rive Gauche is alive, knowing, and devastatingly attractive. The current version, as you will expect, has been tampered with (‘reorchestrated’), has less of the frank animal sexuality of the original, but is still a monument.
Infini is probably the vintage perfume I have found the most at flea markets in Japan: I have had bottles and bottles of it. Some of which I have worn myself; many given away as presents, and far, far, too many that I have spilled.
I grew up being told I was the clumsiest boy in the world and it was/is true (I even, and I can’t quite believe I am writing this), managed to drop and empty out two thirds of the most perfect Je Reviens parfum the other day, the one that was used to write my delirious review of that unearthly creation…….
Tragically, Infini has had a similar fate….the bottle you see in the picture has a stopper that comes off ridiculous easily and oops..……..see, smell, that gorgeous golden liquid splash down and stain the tatami mats….I have done this so many times now that it no longer surprises me, yet to people who know how beautiful this perfume is in its vintage form, reading this must be like a pain in the spleen, lip-bitingly frustrating: such a terrible, terrible waste……………….
(I know, I know, but there is also something so horribly decadent and deliciously nonchalant about not caring..)
I tell a lie. Infini may not be the absolute most common perfume I have come across at the flea markets, but it is certainly one of those that I have bought the most and that have given me the most pleasure (the honour of most ubiquitous vintage perfumes on sale would probably go, in descending order, to N°5, L’Air Du Temps, Miss Dior, Madame Rochas and Diorissimo). All those perfumes are well-know masterpieces, however, which in their heyday were in such high levels of production as emblems of ‘French Perfume’ to bring back home to Japan from trips to Paris that you would expect some unwanted bottles to eventually resurface. Infini is no way near as globally well-known, so I can only surmise that there must have been a surge of interest in all things French and futuriste at the beginning of the 1970s (around the time of the space age metallica of Pierre Cardin, Paco Rabanne and Courrèges) which Caron managed to exploit in the lemming-like fashion-conscious Japanese market. Perhaps this was the big Tokyo hit of 1970 (the year I was born, incidentally, and another reason I love the scent) : the burgeoning, post-war, and by all accounts quite electrifying, Bubble Era of newly prosperous Japan. Rich, beautiful, knowing women in furs, trailing its delicious, dry, woody floral chic down the boulevards of Ginza…… a perfume marketed as an expertly blended liquid perfection to stretch, beckoningly, into the infinity of the air behind you…….
Caron’s futuristic project, to bring the house of its powdered, spiced, and sometimes fusted shadows, was apparently fifteen years in the making, as the perfumers in question attempted to find the most indefectible equilibrium of sharp green florals; woods; aldehydes, and musky, skin-lingering animalics, the result – unseamed, flawless – being in my view one of the finest scents ever made – elegant, refined, and mesmerically beautiful. A perfectly balanced, multilayered perfume.
I highlight that word because so many fragrances these days are more like simple accords : blocks of scent or smells ( I would even include a lot of my favourite perfumes such as those by Serge Lutens in this classification: scents I wear for their instancy and aromatic appeal, but which possibly lack a certain psychological complexity…..)
Infini was different. It was the last of a dying breed …the late progeny, direct descendant, and final refinement of the floral aldehydic innovations of Ernst Beaux’s N° 5, and more obviously, the aforementioned Madame Rochas. The Caron take on this well-loved theme and bears resemblances to these richly orchestrated jewels – perfumes to be treasured, loved and worn for a lifetime because they had souls – but to my mind it is even better: deeper, more androgynous.
Intense woods (sandal, and a beautifully rich, dry cedar); vetiver, patchouli, and subtle, erotic animal undertones in the perfume underlie a gentle, light-fused masterpiece of floral construction: jasmine, rose, tuberose, and, notably, a top note of yellow narcissus blooming hypnotically in the head notes at unusually high strength (backed with a sharp floral bouquet of muguet, iris, and night-blooming hyacinth), all layered, effortlessly, with fresher notes of coriander, neroli, peach, bergamot, and aldehydes; fusing into a captivating, yet very understated and subtle perfume that lingers for hours and becomes part of your being. It is an archetypal feminine urban feline in fur, yet beautifully warm and sexy on a man also ( I love it on myself in summer in a white shirt…)
Note: as a person who has known many bottles of Infini, I can tell you that in the vintage they vary hugely – a testament, I would say, to the number of natural oils in the blend. Sometimes there are no green notes: no narcissus or hyacinth or even vetiver; at others all is simply faded musty,’old perfume’ smell. The new version, still available from Caron boutiques (editor’s note: I thought so, but having just checked the Caron website it seems to have been deleted from the catalogue: how sad!) is recognisably Infini in its basic template but lacks the sex. Thus, angling for an e-bay purchase of this perfume is always a gamble: you never know how close the perfume will be to the original (oh to have smelled it! Even my best vintage purchases are up to forty years old, so undoubtedly lack the punch of the green notes and hyacinth that must have featured in the head notes of the original……)
Of the many different concentrations of the scent that were originally released, though, my own personal favourite by far is the parfum de toilette (see my almost empty bottle below….)
This is the bottle that made me fall in love with Infini and one that I am desperate to find again. At that point (about fourteen years ago) I didn’t even know of its existence, but of course knew the name Caron, so bought it, on a whim, when I found it at the flea market, for my collection, just to have. Just to see.
I couldn’t believe, as the notes settled into me, how much I was enjoying it, how beautiful it was. I felt like an angel in the sand dunes; released…..
Politics and fashion obviously influence all fragrance houses, so while the fifties perfumes tended to scream ‘madam’; the sixties ‘young and beautiful’ and the eighties ‘sex and power’, the seventies, in general, to me at least, shout ‘depressed.’ Yes, there was disco and emancipation, but the dark, masculine chypres that abounded for women in that difficult decade were just that: dark. If they had a colour it would be brown. This was fine for houses like Givenchy, whose Gentleman and Givenchy III were convincingly hairy, animalic and horny, ready to get out the velours and groove. Nina Ricci, however, whose lady-like fragrances of the prettiest porcelain pink and yellow are some of the lightest and most feminine scents ever made, could never be described as brown (incidentally my most hated colour).
It is fascinating, then, to look at the scent that Ricci released into this velvety seventies environment, ‘Farouche’ (which translates as sullen; shy; lacking social graces…) a strange choice of theme and her only ‘moody’ perfume, a weird floral chypre that Michael Edwards, world authority on perfumes and author of many a seminal text, lists as one of the all-time greatest perfumes ever made. Though on Fragrantica, where you can still get vintage bottles of this long forgotten creation, there are fans clamouring for its return to the main Ricci lineup because they love its delicacy (no chance in hell, ladies!), I must say I personally agree with one reviewer who phrased it perfectly:
“It’s very dated; cranky like it’s wearing polyester, and shy because it’s older than everyone else at the party and wants to go home; put comfy shoes on and be wild in the only way it knows how: dancing alone to Neil Diamond”.
I once had a beautiful vintage parfum of Farouche in Baccarat crystal flacon, but could never fathom its mysteries no matter how many times I tried it (just couldn’t connect to the crestfallen, more narrow-eyed formation of the classic Ricci template – those strange additions of galbanum, clary sage and cardamom to the usual aldehydic florals and musks), so I gave it to my Japanese dressmaker friend Rumi, who immediately pronounced herself in love. To her it has a dignity and mystery, an emotive sense of detachment, and is also redolent to her of Japanese paper and of incense in temples – the smell of the wood after decades of smoke – and, most crucially, intelligence.
I could agree. But there was just something in that sour, dusty, exacting and ill-humoured perfume I could not abide.