Tag Archives: Christian Dior

THE SPRING FLOWERS THAT ENDURE : Nymphéa, Flower, J’Adore, Antonia’s Flowers, Floret, Romance, Pleasures, Bouquet De La Reine

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It is that time.

NYMPHEA / IL PROFUMO (2004)

I am not sure how such a heavenly creature actually works on a real life girl, but this dreamy, artful, fresh-green bouquet (bamboo, fig, white waterlily, lotus flowers, water jasmine, and white rose) is, in my view, almost heartbreakingly lovely. Il Profumo describes it as having a ‘lacustrine tranquillity’, and it does have such a transparent, lake-like, lily-pad beauty that I am compelled to agree.

ANTONIA’S FLOWERS/ ANTONIA’S FLOWERS (1985)

Antonia was a florist in The Hamptons, and knowing her flowers, and adoring freesias, and being dissatisfied with the floral scents available on the market, set out to create her own. In the process she produced three American classics: Antonia’s Flowers, Floret, and Tiempe Passate, all of which have apparently been among the best selling fragrances since their launches at Bergdorf’s and Barney’s New York.

Despite my own personal love of fleurs à la Parisienne, there is no reason why the classic French model (flowers, woods, musks and animalics) should necessarily predominate in a person’s floral wardrobe; not everyone wants that suggestive, ‘come-thither’ quality in a perfume – sometimes you want a scent that goes on fresh and clean and stays that way. And what distinguishes the Antonia’s Flowers perfumes from the mass-market chemical-sheen ‘flowers’ like Romance and Happyis a natural, well crafted, ‘made-with-love’ quality that, in the case of this, her eponymous fragrance, shines all the way through the brilliant fusion of light-shimmering, china-dry rosewood and crisp, springtime flowers (mainly freesia, magnolia and lily). It is a highly unusual fragrance – the intense but beautifully natural bois-de-rose note is too much for some – but one I would recommend to anybody who loves flowers and just flowers.

FLORET/ ANTONIA’S FLOWERS (1995)

Or alternately, try Floret: a tightly controlled, crystal-clear, sweet-pea floral, with  rose, tuberose and marigold, and a delicious, transparent apricot top note. Pure, feminine, it is springtime in a bottle: the olfactory equivalent of pressed, clean clothes in an airy, open room.

FLOWER BY KENZO/ KENZO (2000)

‘A flower with no fragrance.’

Kenzo, who I have always liked (for their Kenzo Homme, L’Eléphant, Le Tigre, Summer, Kashâya and their sensuous, eponymous original scent) suddenly became a major contender in the perfume world when, thirteen years ago, in a marketing act of brilliance, they released a rather stunningly designed bottle, which appeared to contain poppies at various stages of growth, and cleverly filled airports and department stores with them. The effect was startling, the concept (‘creating the scent of the poppy’) an instant hit with consumers, and thus cities were suddenly filled with scent of young office girls going to work in Flower.

It is a very pleasant scent, like anything by the company; airy and green, with soothing, gentle notes of Bulgarian rose, hawthorn, cassie and parma violets over a sheer, powdery almond base: gentle, carefree, light, and safe – like running through a neighbouring field in freshly tumble-dried, clean smelling clothes. Which is another way of saying that it is fragrant, and nice, but rather dull. I quite like it, but don’t get my friend Helen started on how much, and why, she despises this to the extent that she does.

J’ADORE/ CHRISTIAN DIOR (1999)

Knowing what the women wanted – something fresh, light, sophisticated but somehow ‘vulnerable’ – Calice Becker, one of the world’s undisputed masters of florals, created a scent for Dior in 1999 that  went down a storm – J’Adore is now one of the world’s best selling scents, and I can certainly understand why. Despite the usual fresh floral metallica, this perfume does have that ‘classic’ stamp on it; the greenness of the fresh ivy top notes; the gleaming flowers (orchids, champaca, white roses, violets – apparently it was designed as an ‘emotional floral’); the fruitiness (Damascus plum and blackberry musk), the gentle, skin-tone, base notes. This scent is ‘pure woman’, and something you can’t really go wrong with. For evenings out. For romantic dinners. For engagement parties and anniversaries: the magazine adverts featuring Charlize Theron say it all – in gold; glamorous, pretty, charming and ‘dazzling’.

Despite my objective appreciation of its charms, however, I myself don’t  like J’Adore at all, and, as the murdered woman in Goldfinger was to find, all that gold can be suffocating.  The perfection; the flawlessness, is all too much for me I’m afraid, and it catches in my throat; hysterical – a sharp, processed, gilded lacquer.

ROMANCE/ RALPH LAUREN (1998)

True-blue thoroughbred, how could Ralphie go wrong with an advertising campaign that played up to every Tiffany-dreaming, happy-ending, Caucasian fantasy? And the smell! So clear, so sheer, so ‘romantically’ floral and clean: so ‘right-for-every-occasion’.

Inevitable then, that Romance should be such a big hit. I can’t personally say that I like it (shrill; synthetic; far too conservative for this writer), but it might be what you are looking for if you want an inoffensive, indistinct scent for that wedding or baby shower.

PLEASURES/ ESTEE LAUDER (1995)

Pleasures is, I think, aimed at the same target audience as Romance; thirty-something mothers of a stable income and societal position who shun any hint of prurience (or even any acknowledgement they have a body) in their scent (what would the other mothers think?!?). For the successful original advertising campaign, that foxy British minx of the upper-middle classes, Liz Hurley, donned a lilac cashmere sweater, and, airbrushedly, tumbled about with a Lenor-washed puppy in a field, a thousand miles from the cleavage Versace It-dress that made her famous. The message was clear: like Romance, this woman was a Good Girl, and her family values were most Virginally Intact.

The difference between Romance and Pleasures, though, is that Pleasure has character, and lots of it – only characterful creations are this recognizable. So powerfully, translucently floral it almost hurts, this complex bouquet of rain-drenched flowers (lily, lilac,  violet leaves, peonies, baie-rose…) can be hypnotically feminine, mysterious even, on the right person if used in small doses (I have known women who have smelled quite gorgeous in it) but, ultimately, it is so resolutely ‘pure’, so WASP, I have to say that it rather scares me.

BOUQUET DE LA REINE / FLORIS (2002)

Middle England: a secret, illicit tryst between two married people, in love,  speaking in quiet voices under their drinks in the hotel bar.

He is wearing Eucris (Geo F Trumper): she is wearing this: a pretty, insistent bouquet, green and fresh (bergamot, blackcurrant buds, violet leaf,  rose, ylang and jasmine) that is respectable, pliant, and womanly. He leans in closer, and, furtively watching and smelling from a distance, we don’t doubt for a moment the passion that will later ensue.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Floral Bouquet, Flowers

POISON by CHRISTIAN DIOR (1985)

 

 

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There was a time when a new perfume launch by one of the big houses was of great import, the quest for timelessness and fragrant immortality often leading to a greater artistry and perfectionism.  Perfumers pored over, and tweaked their formulae for years until they found that magic formula that sent the nostril hairs and brain filaments zinging with pleasure….

Between 1947 and 1963, Dior released just five perfumes – Miss Dior, Diorama, Eau Fraîche, Diorissimo, and Diorling –  all of which are considered classics. Since then, in a vastly oversaturated market, more than that are often released by one house in one year, mostly forgettable flanker scents that come and go like passing ships in the night, never really getting under your radar. The same cannot be said of the perfume we are looking at today, because despise, love, or merely tolerate it, Poison is most certainly memorable; intensely so – seared as it was onto the collective memory when released to the world at large in 1985; a perfume that even the perfume haters were unwillingly forced to inhale on a daily basis as lustrous sorceresses clicked their heels on the pavements of world cities enveloped provocatively in mushroom clouds of venomous berries and plummy-cinnamon, purpled tuberosa musks…..

At this time, a project such as Poison was as secretive, as closely guarded, as a new film by Kubrick –  and unveiled with as much publicity and fanfare, with launch galas and champagne parties of the crème de la crème partying under the giant factice flacons and juicily indulging in the sheer excess of it all, the centre of the eighties, the shameless vortex of capitalist fun made even bigger, more implacable, in a smell.

The name that was saucily given to that aroma was the first thing that guaranteed this clever product would capture our attention (apparently it was seen as literally scandalous that the maker of such refined scents as Diorissimo and Diorella could come with such a monstrosity), but the juice itself was an entirely new departure in scent as well, so different to anything preceding it. How often can we say that now? In recent times, few perfumes can claim similar levels of pioneering, especially not in the commercial arena, where new fragrances are consumer tested, sanded down and sanitized to the sellable point where they smell pleasant (though that is debatable) and lack any obvious personality. With Poison, this real shock of the new, both in terms of marketing/advertising and the gloriously vibrant liquid within, really worked; the perfume was an enormous international hit, but was vilified in equal measure, being one of the three ugly sisters who were famously barred from restaurants and boutiques (the others being Obsession and Giorgio) due to their extraordinary potency: many simply cannot bear Poison.

 

 

I myself love it. Partly because it so beautifully captures my world of mid-eighties teenage self-discovery (all the bangle-wearing Madonna wannabes and naughty girls at every party I went to smelled of it, as did their mothers), but mainly because I just enjoy its daring, delicious, purple toxicity – that rich, sweet potion of pimiento spiced berries, coriander,  honey, opoponax, and carnal tuberose that glows from a woman’s skin with such brilliant alacrity. It is not a ‘pretty’ perfume, is not subtle, but to me Poison is a great classic; fruity, fun and ludicrously seductive.

 

 

 

 

 

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Note: The current version of Poison has been diluted and reformulated, as is often the case with formulae that are expensive or ‘difficult’, and the current perfume hangs her head, thinned and embarrassed, as though she has been through bouts of electric shock treatment therapy. She has been punished….

Yet I do still smell it on the streets sometimes: this must have been a big hit in Japan too, back in the day, as you sometimes catch drifts of the vintage jus surrounding Japanese older women glammed up for the theatre or some ladies’ function, especially in winter, when it warms the cockles and the lungs (just as Madonna herself still rocks that gutsy tuberose Fracas by Piguet, she herself no longer a young thing). Here, middle aged and older women are often very desexualized and put down by their male counterparts the older they get, an aspect of living in Japan that infuriates me to the core, and to me, their wearing Poison along with their furs and finery somehow seems like a quiet middle finger; a proclamation of self-worth and untapped, wasted sexuality. It smells wonderful.

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Filed under Floriental, Flowers, Perfume Reviews, Tuberose

BEAUTIFUL POISONS: FOUR PERFUMES FROM THE EARLY 90’s : Allure, Cabotine, Dolce & Gabbana Pour Femme + Tendre Poison

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The perfumes of the nineties do not have the ‘loud’ reputation of many eighties blockbusters, though this was still a period when the big houses – Dior, Lancôme and so on, still invested a great deal of time and money on development before launching an ‘event’ perfume, and the results were usually equally characterful (which is why all four of the perfumes below are still worn today: will today’s mainstream releases (La Vie Est Belle, anyone?) have similar longevity?

 

 

CABOTINE/ GRES (1990)

I have never liked this perfume personally, while admitting that it is a perfect execution of its obvious ideal – to turn a pale-skinned girl into a flesh and blood (ginger) lily.

It is beautifully done; a host of fresh white florals with green overtures; in essence a ‘soliflore’ ginger lily achieved with other notes, but there is, to me, a false modesty here: this innocence just doesn’t compute (that might be just my distaste for the sandalwood/neroli/green accord, though, which I personally find gratingly ‘coquette’.)

This sly perfume achieved a lot of success, especially in Japan where almost every woman wants to be as girlish as she humanly can, and on whom this perfume did smell rather erotic when I arrived here in 1996.

 

A touch dated now, but if it works, it works.

 

 

 

TENDRE POISON (1994)

 

 

I have always felt that Tendre Poison, though attractively poised, is a somewhat presumptuous perfume, making steamy claims on your attention that you may not be willing to give.

Unruffled, this sharp-eyed vamp just comes on loud and sticks her claws in anyway – venomous, stalk-green galbanum over orange blossom and sandalwood; the embittered older sister perhaps of Cabotine ( more demure), Red Door (lower IQ), and Fleur de Rocaille (pseudo-chic).

 

It is very slinky, and sexy, to be sure, and recommended, but absolutely not tender, as its name erroneously suggests.

 

 

 

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ALLURE/ CHANEL (1993)

 

 

A big hit for Chanel worldwide and still going strong –  a ‘multifaceted’, warm, floral-sheened scent with vanillic undertones that doesn’t obey the usual structure of perfume in that what you see is what you get: no top notes, dry down, no secrets (surely the key to true allure?), no real development. Department store perfume workers apparently often recommend this as a solution to those who have no clue about perfume, or those who are just dilly-dallying, as many consumers seem to acquiesce quickly to its simple lack of pretence and apparent modernity:

 

WOULD YOU LIKE SOME ALLURE FOR YOUR WIFE, SIR?

 

 

 

I loathe this fragrance, while fully seeing its easy appeal. It is a true ‘all-rounder’: ‘sultry’ yet mild mannered: womanly, smooth-edged; clean, suitable for ‘office wear’ and ‘special occasions’ one and the same. It is well blended, and can smell acceptable on the odd lucky person, but for me is simply extraordinarily vulgar and crass. Whoever thought such a thing could be written about Chanel?

 

I woke up one summer morning at my parents’ house, and on opening the bedroom door was shocked to see that the feeling in the house had mercurially transformed; thick with banality: some throat-coating, oyster-pink air sludge.

 

And it wasn’t until my mum cheerily called out ‘I’m just trying Allure today’ that I realized what had happened.

 

A woman who smells so beautiful in her chosen favourites (First, Joy, Jardins de Bagatelle) had been rendered into a marketing-led dotard.

 

 

 

DOLCE & GABBANA/ DOLCE & GABBANA (1992)

 

 

When they came out, I overdosed on both the Dolces, and ‘Pour Homme’ is the only scent that I’ve ever had strongly derogatory comments on ( I was so into the novel tarragon top note I didn’t realize how harsh I was smelling to the world).  I could never wear it again.

 

The signature scent for women, in that red velvet box ( in its original incarnation – I haven’t smelled the tamed down reformulation which was launched recently), is similarly problematic. That top note, that rich, gorgeous mandarin and basil petitgrain melting powderfully into those piquant divine florals – it’s all extremely addictive, and I was quite frankly obsessed with it for while. But with the potent, skin-clinging vanilla-musk-santal finale, as things start to get very messy with Basil, it is as though an Italian opera singer were having a nervous breakdown live on stage; foundation and mascara merging in a sweaty, oily mass of face powder under the breakers.  It can all get a bit much; a big smudge of olfactory OTT.

 

 

So, one for special occasions only, and in moderation. Dolce & Gabbana is certainly a gorgeous perfume, but it is overwhelming. I personally prefer it on older women.

 

 

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Filed under Basil, Flowers, Lily, Orange Blossom, Perfume Reviews, Powder

KEEP YOUR FLOWERS: :::::::::::THE ORIGINAL MISS DIOR by CHRISTIAN DIOR (1947)

 

 

 

 

“My dream is to save them from nature.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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So, apparently, said Monsieur Dior.

 

 

And his first scent, the marvellous Miss Dior, was the highly abstract, crisp and green aldehydic chypre that was the sensation of its day, a refreshing post-war antidote to the idea of woman as flower. In its original form, this was a lush, complex, and very poised blend that managed to be womanly without even a hint of sweetness, like a sharply-tailored tweed suit. The keen-edged aroma that you experience as you first apply the perfume comes from a vivid, racy blend of green galbanum; clary sage; bergamot and fresh gardenia petals, on a spiced, and unfloral, heart of rose, jasmine, muguet, carnation and orris, and it is one of those dastardly well constructed scents that brilliantly radiate out these ingredients so you experience each soloist in turn – yet never out of step with the whole ensemble. Dark, musky depths of mosses, patchouli and woods finish the scent with a lingering suggestiveness and a touch of leather, and it is this quality, the combination of a masculine accord with the crisp fresh florals of the top, that gives Miss Dior its unique allure.

 

 

 

A touch kinky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I KNOW YOU WANT ME: DIORLING by CHRISTIAN DIOR (1963)

 

 

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A very rare find, my eyes almost popped out on stalks of amazement when I saw Diorling standing there impassively and forlorn, neglected by perfume-blind passersby at the Sunday Shinagawa flea market. Didn’t the seller standing obliviously at his stand know that bids for this perfume start at extortionate prices on e-bay? Did he not know that some perfumistas would be clawing each other’s eyes out to get their hands on a bottle of this rare and rarified creature?..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dior Diorling and other Dior fragrances vintage 1955 ad (hprints.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The feeling of discovering these long forgotten treasures is, as you know,  one of the most constantly nerve-crackling moments of my life. One that never fails to send my red blood cells, anaemic from a week of too much reality, writhing and thickening with adrenaline. Perfume REVIVES me, like a vampire right after a feed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the past, during my expeditions among the various recycle shops and fleamarkets here,  I have come across countless vintage Carons;  a Guerlain Ode extrait;  oodles of Chanel parfums, and things I had never even known the existence of, such as Quiproquo de Grès (a lemon-leaf reinterpretation of Cabochard) and the exquisite Michelle by Balenziaga ,my avaricious thrill of clutching my Diorling (‘Mine!  Mine!! ! MINE !!’!  !) being childishly tempered, only slightly, upon then finding that the perfume had, at Roja Dove’s request, been made available again at the Harrod’s Haute Parfumerie, along with the legendary Diorama. It was thus not quite as precious or as exclusive a find as I initially thought. However, debate has raged over how tame the recent Dior reformulations have been: this edition is definitely the original, dirty-elegant dissipation from 1963. And while the top notes may have deteriorated slightly ( I am not getting much of the muguet/rose said to be in the blend), you would hardly know it; you would also hardly imagine it to be designed for a woman. Like  Cabochard, this type of chypre is a category of scent that in dry down is irrevocably bi-sexed: suave, nonplussed and wordly on a man as it is on a woman.

 

 

 

 

 

A shrewd creature dressed in tweed and satin and wearing Diorling could have a room in the palm of their hand.

 

 

 

 

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Luca Turin once wrote of  ‘parfums fatigués’, those sly, ironic scents with hints of overripe melon and a whiff of decay; scents that reek, basically, of decadence, even death. Diorella (1972) is one such scent – a brilliant mix of fresh/stale; clean/dirty, at once citric and animalic. Dior somehow mastered this type of scent better than anyone else, Guerlain included – that regally supercilious Parisian paradox of chic and fromage.  Even the angelic Diorissimo has that corrupted aspect somewhere in the heart of its innocence; that depth and knowing. These scents have such style:  a true, fuck-you grace that can be almost daunting. And Diorling is of course possessed of similarly exquisite taste; restrained, low-registered, composed, but, if required, quite ready to pounce. I see it on the incestuous matriarch of Visconti’s ‘The Damned’, contemptuously lowering her lacquered eyelids, her half-forgotten, ever-present cigarette……. invincible, magnificent. That is, before her destruction at the hands (and body) of her son, played with malevolent disdain by the beautiful, and ice-hearted Helmut Berger.

 

 

 

The cruel vulnerability of a scent that tries to reason with your emotions even while dominating them. The laconic orange blossom;  peach-tinted flowers layering a subtlely spiced, wood-bedded scent laced with tobacco and patchouli that then softens to a complex, secretive series of moments (who was the Japanese woman that owned this perfume? Why did she discard such a treasure  at a flea market?); gives nothing away, titillates you with visions of times forever gone.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Chypre, Leather, Perfume Reviews