Dawn Spencer Hurwitz YSL Retrospective Collection : Perfume Reviews

by Suzanna

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is a Colorado-based niche perfumer with an extensive catalogue of scents. Exploring the DSH Perfumes site is a tantalizing affair that takes you down the boulevards of Paris, through ancient Egypt, and at present, through the fashion and perfume history of Yves St. Laurent.

DSH’s latest project is a collaboration with the Denver Art Museum on a set of fragrances (DSH calls them her “designs”) that complements a touring exhibition of Yves Saint Laurent’s fashion.  The exhibition is the first complete retrospective of YSL fashion. The museum is the only American stop on the touring schedule and DSH’s fragrant tributes are available for sale at the museum, at the DSH Essence Studio in Boulder, Colorado, or on her DSH Perfumes Web site.

The YSL Retrospective Collection is DSH’s fifth such collaboration with the museum (others involved King Tut, Cities of Splendor, Artisans and Kings, and Color as Field) and it is one she has executed with intelligence and artistry.  Each of the scents is itself a piece of artwork that complements the fashion-as-art aesthetic of the exhibition.

DSH has approached this task as if “appointed in-house perfumer.”  It sounds like an impossible task, but DSH has made it a successful one.  Her six fragrances are soft-focus designs that span the five decades and showcase the highlights of YSL’s career.

Ligne Trapeze

Ligne Trapeze is floral that celebrates a silver trapeze-shaped dress from YSL’s first collection in Spring/Summer 1958.  Ligne Trapeze is spangled with aldehydes over a misty violet bouquet whose drydown has a distinct ambrette seed note.  A touch of castoreum in the base joins a suede accord to give Ligne Trapeze a supple, skin-scent quality.

The Beat Look

The Beat Look is a leather chypre inspired by both the 1960 “Beat Look” collection for Dior and by 1964’s fragrance debut “Y.”  Like “Y,” The Beat Look opens with the crispness of aldehydes over pulpy fruit notes (peach and plum).  White florals comprise the heart:  jasmine, gardenia, honeysuckle, neroli, and rose bloom over an elegantly earthy drydown that is smoky, resin-y, mossy perfection.

Le Smoking

Le Smoking celebrates 40 years of YSL’s tuxedo designs for women.  DSH interprets this theme with herbal, fruit, and floral notes over tobacco, marijuana accord, incense, peru balsam, oakmoss, leather, and castoreum.  The brilliant touch is that this fragrance, which might sound like a heavyweight, dries down to a light, erotic skin scent.

Euphorisme d’Orient

The iconic Opium (1977) forms the idea behind Euphorisme d’Orient, which DSH places in a “Spicy-Oriental” category. Euphorisme is based upon the original Opium formula, which DSH has enhanced.  It sounds as if it might be dangerous territory, but DSH handles it smoothly, creating not a dupe but a chypre/Oriental for the 21st century with delicious orange/pimento notes shining through a veil of carnation and spice. DSH added honey and pink pepper notes that were to the best of her knowledge not in the original.  Euphorisme is seduction by spice.

La Vie en Rose

Alongside Opium, Paris (1983) was YSL’s triumphant moment, a symphonic rose/violet with a sweetly candied core.  DSH interprets both Paris and YSL’s famous “Paris Rose” satin bow (Fall/Winter 1983) in La Vie en Rose. Competition was tough, but this was my favorite of the collection.  Lovers of the original Paris should fall in mad, crazy love with La Vie en Rose. I ran through my sample, spritzing with abandon, in a few days.

DSH used the idea of the original as a springboard to add what she calls “sparkling notes.”  La Vie en Rose was like a silk ruffle of rose, violet, linden that was less weighty than the original, with more added natural notes and expanded drydown.  The linden separated the rose and violet while still showcasing the original’s unique cosmetic/candied appeal.

Ma Plus Belle Histoire d’Amour

The last scent in the collection is based upon an evening coat of quilted silk with a linden and wisteria print from Fall/Winter 1994.  In Ma Plus Belle Histoire d’Amour, linden is blended into ozone for a weightless, silvery souffle.  Ozone note lifts this modern floral beyond the skin and into the air around the wearer. Fans of linden will adore this literal fragrance; it’s like walking through early summer where linden trees bloom.

All of the scents are treated with delicacy.  This is important where the theme might seem to dictate weighty scents like the originals.  The leather chypres are as easy to wear as the florals. The YSL Retrospective Collection is a thing of beauty that has been created with obvious love for and understanding of the YSL legacy.  From the demure violets of the late 1950s through the spice route of the disco age to the airy florals of the 21st century, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz covers the fashion/fragrance career of St. Laurent with passion and exemplary care.

On line, the fragrances are available as 1 ml samples (individually or as the set), as 10 ml EdP or as one dram parfum. A collection box of all six scents in 5 ml miniature flasks of EdP is available at dshperfumes.com.

Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective at the Denver Art Museum (www.denverartmuseum.org) runs through July 8, 2012.

Image: Models wear Yves Saint Laurent art-inspired dresses at the opening of the Yves Saint Laurent Room at the National Gallery in 1998 by Stephen Lock.

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25 Comments

  • rosarita: Thanks for these reviews, Suzanna. DSH is a genius. I would love to smell her Opium interpretation. May 24, 2012 at 7:51am Reply

    • Suzanna: Rosarita, you can feel confident trying DSH’s Opium-inspired design. I’ve worn it for a week and it keeps delighting. You can get a sample from the DSH Perfumes Web site and do let me know what you think! May 24, 2012 at 9:16am Reply

  • Therese19: Very nice. Ligne Trapeze and La Vie en Rose intrigue me.
    I wore Paris for quite a while and thought it was the epitome of femininity. Your description of La Vie en Rose makes it sound like the original Paris+.

    Now that Paris has been reformulated, its good to know that somebody cares enough to create a Paris interpretation. Someone with a true passion to create only the best. May 24, 2012 at 8:51am Reply

    • Suzanna: Therese, Dawn’s ode to Paris (and to the bow gown) is a stunner. The linden note adds crispness to the rose/violet that gives it a “modern” feel. I’m crazy about it. Highly recommended for anyone who wore (or wears) Paris, and for rose lovers in general.

      Thanks for commenting! May 24, 2012 at 8:55am Reply

  • Absolute Scentualist: Suzanna, I was in love with this idea when I first read about it but after reading your reviews, this collaboration has risen to the top of my must try list. Each and every scent sounds wonderful in its own way, and I’ve been longing to try some DSH perfumes for years now and this seems like an ideal way to do so. May 24, 2012 at 8:53am Reply

    • Suzanna: Absolute Scentualist, you can order a set of samples of all six frags from the DSH Web site. If you are like I am, you will zip through the samples. My only regret about this collaboration is that I can’t visit the exhibit! May 24, 2012 at 8:58am Reply

  • Elisa: There’s a real polish and sophistication to Dawn’s recent creations I think. I tried all of these recently (I live in Denver) and also fell in love with La Vie en Rose, and bought a tiny bottle of the parfum. And I actually am not a big fan of the original Paris!

    I also bought purse sprays of Pretty & Pink and Sweet Dreams, more recent additions to her line — they are fab! May 24, 2012 at 10:18am Reply

    • Suzanna: Elisa, I’m glad you mention that even though you are not a big fan of original Paris, you love Dawn’s “design” based in part upon it, La Vie en Rose. I feel the same way!

      Also, thanks for mentioning Sweet Dreams and Pretty & Pink. These two, plus Guimauve de Soie, are the latest additions to her line. I tried all three and really enjoyed them and hope to review them in the future (they didn’t fit with the YSL review, of course). Sweet Dreams is a wonderful comfort scent, with some of my fave notes: lavender, frankincense, juniper berry, and clove. May 24, 2012 at 10:40am Reply

      • Kristy: Please tell me more about Guimauve de Soie! I was curious about it but I worry about it being too sweet. May 24, 2012 at 3:06pm Reply

        • Suzanna: Guimauve is a violet macaroon! You must like the sweet, clear violet note to appreciate (I do). It’s a tender, low-key sweet scent but not sugary, if you follow. I, too, don’t care for the overly sweet, and I thought this was lovely. Worth sampling! May 24, 2012 at 9:41pm Reply

  • Vishishta: So nice to see DSH reveiwed here. I Love her fragrances! And her King Tut show ones were spectacular–based on ancient formulas. I have worn her Cardamon and Khypre for about a year and there is nothing like it out there in the perfume world. She is an amazing creator. May 24, 2012 at 12:00pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Vishista, Cardamom and Khyphi was the first DSH scent that blew me away. I’d been looking for an incense that wasn’t too smoky, and cardamom is my fave spice note.

      I’m glad that you tried the King Tut scents! DSH has now done five collections, so it is interesting to hear from those who have tried them! May 24, 2012 at 12:06pm Reply

  • Kristy: I love DSH Cimabue and Cardamom and Khyphi, so Euphorisme d’Orient might be the one for me.

    The line is fab but the website is impossible to navigate. Sorry if I sound cranky, but I can never find anything there. 🙁 May 24, 2012 at 2:26pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Kristy, based on your liking of Cardamom and Khyphi, I imagine you would like Euphorism d’Orient very well!

      Try the “What’s New?” section under the “Our Products” tab. Scroll down and you will see the individual scents and also the collection. May 24, 2012 at 2:41pm Reply

  • Sara: I don’t really need another rose so I haven’t tried La Vie en Rose. But I love DSH, so I’m going to look for it. Thanks for these beautiful reviews, Suzanna! May 24, 2012 at 5:05pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Sara, I hope you try it–it’s delightful. I, too, don’t need another rose, but what a rose this is!

      Glad you enjoyed the reviews. May 24, 2012 at 9:42pm Reply

  • Undina: I still can’t believe how much I loved the whole collection. Now I’m just trying to decide if to go for a couple of 10 ml bottles of those I loved the most or to get a collection set. May 24, 2012 at 7:16pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Undina, tough decision! They are all lovely. I know you will enjoy whatever you choose. May 24, 2012 at 9:43pm Reply

  • DSH: WOW! Suzanna! 🙂 Thank you so much for your delightful and insightful review! I just love how you’ve expressed each perfume so beautifully. No artist could wish for more! May 25, 2012 at 2:08am Reply

    • Suzanna: You are welcome, Dawn. You brought a new dimension to the exhibition with your marvelous designs. I’m not sure that just anyone could make that work, but you hit it out of the ballpark. Cheers! May 26, 2012 at 1:12am Reply

  • Cynthia: Thank you for this interesting piece highlighting Dawn’s latest creations. After trying my samples I couldn’t decide on just one, I had to get the collection. They are all stunning in my opinion. May 28, 2012 at 7:09pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Cynthia, I am glad you loved the entire collection, and I agree that it is hard to pick just one!

      They are indeed stunners! May 28, 2012 at 10:48pm Reply

  • Caroline: I realize it’s been almost a year since this post, but wanted to mention that reading it prompted me to go back & retest my sample of Le Smoking. Glad I did–really enjoy this fragrance, and I never would have guessed it was for me, based on the notes. Thanks to Suzanna for mentioning that it wears as less of a heavyweight than it sounds–I do love my chypres! April 7, 2013 at 4:50pm Reply

  • Suzanna: I am still crazy about the whole collection. Wow, this was almost a year ago indeed!

    Glad you liked Le Smoking. April 8, 2013 at 11:07am Reply

  • Joan Goddard: Loved learning about a Colorado based line-thank you!

    Interested in knowing what you think of Clive Christian scents? August 14, 2013 at 7:14pm Reply

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