Lanvin Arpege New and Vintage : Perfume Review

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Arpege_30

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

Among the fragrances André Fraysse created, none can rival Arpège, which the perfumer composed in 1927 for the French couturier Jeanne Lanvin, in collaboration with Paul Vacher.  Scandal (1932), Rumeur (1932), and Pretexte (1937) followed after the success of Arpège. Jeanne Lanvin dedicated Arpège to her musician daughter, Marie-Blanche, who picked the name for the fragrance.

The original 1927 formulation of Arpège is true to its name–a musical concept of arpeggio–in a sense that individual notes are played distinctly one after another instead of simultaneously. Rose dusted by opalescent aldehydic shimmer unfolds first, followed by rich jasmine.

André Fraysse was known to say that, “like love, perfume must captivate the woman as of the first contact…” Indeed, my experience with Arpège was such. The layers unfold on the skin in rapid succession, drawing one deeper and deeper in the seductive darkness of a warm musky accord. The composition plays upon the indolic richness of white blossoms, weaving them through the musk and sandalwood laced base. It is at once airy and languid, dark and soaring.

In 1993, the legendary Arpège was reochestrated by Hubert Fraysse (after André Fraysse and Paul Vacher’s formula). Unlike many examples of reformulation, the modernized Arpège plays homage to its classical roots, with the carefully balanced composition and the high quality of its ingredients. It is not the same fragrance as the original Arpège, but it is a beautiful composition nevertheless. It has a radiant sweet character that is clearly in the tradition of Chanel No. 5, with the floral rainfall against a curtain of aldehydes. The gentle clarity of floral notes lends the composition an ethereal feel. Through the haze of aldehydes, the floral notes appear in rapid succession before dissolving into an elegant base. If the original formulation is reminiscent of layers of black brocaded silk, the new is of embroidered velvet. The note of vetiver is like cool glass beading against the smooth softness of an oriental accord comprised of sandalwood, patchouli and musk. Its cool mist soars about the warmth of the base notes, just like aldehydic veil was shrouding the sweetness of flower petals earlier.

The flacon is quite legendary in itself. Black glass orb, boule noire, in Art Deco style was created by Armand Albert Rateau and decorated by Paul Iribe. The golden image stamped on the glass by Iribe depicts mother and daughter, Jeanne and Marie-Blanche preparing for a ball.

Advertisement from psine.net. The notes of the 1993 version include bergamot, aldehydes, peach, orange blossom, honeysuckle, iris; rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, coriander, mimosa, tuberose, Parma violet, geranium; sandalwood, vetiver, patchouli, vanilla, musk. Arpège is available from a variety of retailers, including online discount stores. Google search for Arpège would reveal a variety of reasonably priced options.

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32 Comments

  • parislondres: I adore the flacon and now the juice. This was one perfume I was rather wary of but I really appreciate it now. Roja Dove has a HUGE (presumably dummy) flacon in his boutique and it is gorgeous.
    Hope you are well dear V!

    🙂 October 4, 2005 at 2:40am Reply

  • helg: Dear V , no opinion on Arpege here. ( I like it , but not crazy about it). Just wanted to congratulate you on the new , improved look of your site. Well done! October 4, 2005 at 5:23am Reply

  • Octavian: “In 1993, the legendary Arpège was reochestrated by Andre Frayssé, Hubert Frayssé, and Paul Vacher…”

    Are you sure that Andre Frayssé and Paul Vacher were still in life in 1993? October 4, 2005 at 6:47am Reply

  • Tania: I love Arpège. I too see a big similarity between reformulated Arpège and Chanel No. 5, but with the flowers a bit sweeter, and with a huge deluge of sandalwood over the whole. It was the sandalwood I fell in love with when I tried the new one in a sample vial.

    The original is like an entirely different fragrance altogether. Your description of it was perfect.

    The black glass bottle, of course, is a beaut, with reference to the classical, stark look of an ancient Grecian amphora. I wish I had one! My Arpège (new) is in plain clear glass, and my Arpège (old) is in a rectangular flask.

    And like Octavia, I too am a bit skeptical about the original perfumers being around to oversee the reformulation. It would be nearly 70 years later, so is it possible? Or are they credited with the new formula just as a respectful gesture? October 4, 2005 at 9:44am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear N, it is definitely a memorable fragrance that is amazing in that it is really true to its name–the notes rapidly succeed each other. It is beautiful, and I really wish I could have a black orb myself. I love its Art Deco style. October 4, 2005 at 10:17am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: E, thank you! I appreciate your kind comments. 🙂 By the way, do you have any idea what perfume Lauren Bacall has in “To Have and Have Not”? October 4, 2005 at 10:18am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Octavian, no, most certainly not in 1993! That is an example of why I need to stop writing articles late at night. The sentence is worded incorrectly. October 4, 2005 at 10:19am Reply

  • Anya: I keep a bottle of vintage Arpege by my bed for the occasional spray before sleep. I have loved this scent since childhood. If I had a spray of Chanel No. 5 I would probably also use that, since, as mentioned, they are so similar. October 4, 2005 at 10:29am Reply

  • Liz: I’ve decided to wear this today (thanks for the nudge) and am now eyeing several tasty finds on ebay. My Sin and Arpege perfumed pens, anyone? 🙂 October 4, 2005 at 10:29am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tania, I agree about sandalwood. Sandalwood and vetiver is what made me fall in love with Arpège. The vetiver note is so beautifully woven into the base accord, lending it a certain coolness.

    Original Arpège fits perfectly into its dark orb. It starts out on lighter floral notes and then deepens, which is a part I love.

    Like you, I also crave a dark orb, because my original comes in a rectangular flask and my new in a clear flacon.

    Andre Frayssé and Paul Vacher are credited in the reochestration of Arpège, because Hubert Frayssé used their formula, even though it is not likely that they were around by 1993. Both are such amazing perfumers. They created fewer fragrances by today’s standards, but almost every single creation was unique. Much like Roudnitska’s. October 4, 2005 at 10:29am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Anya, it has a very comforting quality for me as well, much like Soft Florals (flowers and aldehydes a la Michael Edwards’ categorization) do. I keep my bottle on the lower shelf of the fridge, where I store all of my vintage fragrances. October 4, 2005 at 10:33am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Liz, I am glad to hear this! 🙂 Ebay is such a mine of absolutely amazing things, even though one has to be wary about the age and the storage conditions. October 4, 2005 at 10:35am Reply

  • Liz: Like Iris Poudre, this is another fragrance I’m not supposed to like, but it strikes me as warm-elegant rather than cool-elegant, and it sucked me right in with its effortless polish. As for ebay, I’ve been pretty lucky so far (despite the sealed and boxed Cabochard that was nonetheless partially evaporated)… October 4, 2005 at 10:55am Reply

  • Robin: Lovely review V, and one of my favorite bottles of all time. Are you going to review Eclat d’Arpege? I’d love to know what you think of it! October 4, 2005 at 10:58am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Liz, I have to agree with you referring to it as warm-elegant. The original is even warmer, but the reochestrated has the same enveloping warm quality that I find ravishing. October 4, 2005 at 11:04am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Thank you, R! Looking at the ad makes me want that bottle even more. I think that only parfum comes in it, but I should research this more.

    I was planning to review Eclat d’Arpege, but now I cannot find my sample. My sample organization needs a serious overhaul. I am sure it is someplace here. At any rate, I recall not being taken with it much, but I need to retest again. October 4, 2005 at 11:06am Reply

  • mreenymo: Great review, V. I love that bottle, but have not tested Arpege in ages. I do own a bottle of Eclat d’Arpege, and would love for you to find that sample and review it for us. I give the fragrance three or four lippies, depending on the weather and my mood, but the bottle and the juice are very pretty.

    Hugs! October 4, 2005 at 11:34am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, thank you! I love the purple juice in a bottle with a silver trim as well. I need to revisit it soon. On the other hand, I shall be reviewing Arpege Pour Homme this week. October 4, 2005 at 11:54am Reply

  • Liz: And yet again, I am getting an odd marijuana note in the drydown of Arpege. 🙂 It must be the vetiver. I’m not complaining per se, but it is very striking! October 4, 2005 at 2:48pm Reply

  • Marina: I like Arpege a lot, most probably I have tried the reformulated version, but it is lovely nevertheless. “Lovely” perhaps is not a word to use here, since it is a demanding kind of scent, on my skin, alike Chanel No 5, it asks for an occasion to wear it, or for at least a very classy, elegant outfit. The story behind Arpege appeals to me so much, especially today *wipes a tear* 🙂
    Having said all that, have you tried Eau d’Arpege…that one was ghastly on my skin, very unpleasant. October 4, 2005 at 3:10pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Liz, very interesting! I get a lot of vetiver, but perhaps that is exactly what gives the earthy, wet note you are picking up. October 4, 2005 at 4:02pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Marina, happy birthday to the little angel! 🙂 I somehow like the dissonance between my sartorial choices and my perfume. For instance, yesterday I was working from home and wore ballet top and skirt and Arpege. The outfit was definitely completely wrong for the image, yet the elegance of the fragrance conferred the feeling onto me.

    I have not tried Eau d’Arpege, and I cannot even find a reference to it. Maybe, do you mean Eclat d’Arpege? October 4, 2005 at 4:08pm Reply

  • Katie: I read this book a while back, and it had pictures of the most fascinating sculptural flacons for Arpege. You know the mother/daughter on the bottle – that was the sculpture. It’s even more striking than the orb, which is fairly appealing itself.

    http://www.powells.com/biblio?inkey=0-0500280444-0&PID=30118&PID=30118
    And like mentioned above, I’d love to read your take on Eclat d’Arpege. All in due time, I know. And boy oh boy do I sympathize with the samples in anarchy situation. I’d been looking recently at tackle boxes for fly fishermen (bigger drawers for them) but none have any drawers that are quite tall enough, even when they’re long enough. If I hit upon any really good solution I’ll let you know, too. October 4, 2005 at 4:54pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Katie, I can only imagine how beautiful that might look! The bottle on the cover of the book is amazing.

    I have a vision of acquiring a large 18thc style table with numerous tiny drawers, however in reality I might have to settle for a tackle box. 🙂 October 4, 2005 at 5:26pm Reply

  • Katie: Heh heh, I have the same vision. Or stumbling across some wonderful old set of apothocary drawers for next to nothing at an antique shop. If only. SIGH. October 4, 2005 at 5:56pm Reply

  • Marina: V., I am sorry, ECLAT, of course, that is what I meant. October 4, 2005 at 7:37pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Katie, yes! That dream goes into the same category as finding a bottle of Guerlain Apres L’Ondee parfum for under $100! October 4, 2005 at 8:44pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, I tried Eclat d’Arpege before once, and I did not think much of it, however I really need to resample. I shall review it soon. October 4, 2005 at 8:45pm Reply

  • Romina: Happy, happy memories about this one. One of the three greatest perfumes ever made. Outranks No.5 imho.
    Sigh. June 23, 2006 at 11:05pm Reply

  • Catherine Czerkawska: Had to write – love the reorchestrated Arpege (and like Anya above, I too occasionally spray a little of it on before I go to sleep – it is the loveliest fragrance to fall asleep to) but I have only just acquired a bottle of vintage Arpege – and it does indeed seem like a different fragrance, subtle and seductive and I love it. I don’t know which of the two I like best. Your blog has become my constant reference point in my exploration of old fragrances – many many thanks. I have other favourites, L’Heure Bleue and Mitsouko,perhaps most of all – but the one that elicits most favourable comments, always, is vintage Mitsouko – the last from a Frenchwoman, who asked me what wonderful scent I was wearing! June 14, 2007 at 4:51am Reply

  • Ariadne: I used to wear the “old formula” Arpege and adored it. I did not like the new as much and abandoned it. If you crave the tradition of the original Arpege please try Sonoma Scent Studio’s Nostalgie, which is very similar but totally forward going and modern, (and just downright rich & super yummy!)It also would really please anyone who loves Maja but is frustrated by its wimpiness. February 27, 2012 at 7:49pm Reply

  • Enrique Elizondo: In the 90`s or about 35 to 40 years ago i bought my first Arpage for men and it became an addiction. i went back to Joe Brand store in Laredo Texas until i went and puff it was discontinued. i have been long time looking for the vintage aroma. It came in a crystal or glass bottle looks like a ship at the bottom or a triangle it was dark green atomizer and it was out of this world. Enrique Elizondo August 31, 2014 at 8:14pm Reply

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