Ralph Lauren Lauren : Vintage Perfume Review

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Lauren was one of the greatest American perfumes that made a big splash in the 1980s, but where is it today? Ralph Lauren counters rarely feature the familiar red bottle shaped like an ink well. Moreover, like most classics, Lauren got so many face lifts that it’s barely recognizable. I’m still learning to like it in its pale green and soft version, but my memory of the juicy cantaloupe and jasmine folded around mossy cedarwood is still too poignant. My readers Michelle, MaryAnn and Renée felt the same way, and I’ve decided to review Lauren and turn to you for possible alternatives to this lovely fruity floral fragrance.

Now, ‘fruity floral’ and ‘lovely’ rarely appear in the same phrase on perfume blogs, mostly because the onslaught of identical and boring fruity florals has devalued this charming perfume family. Lauren is a great example of how appealing and delightful the marriage of flowers and fruit can be. Right from the moment you put it on your skin, it feels sparkling and refreshing, like a sip of iced cocktail. It’s green and tangy like Granny Smith apple skin, but also velvety like a ripe melon.  In today’s Lauren, the top notes are mostly green—a tangle of leaves and a squeeze of tart grape juice.

The musky richness of black currant tones down the exuberance of fruity notes, and when Lauren reveals her floral side, I’m smitten. The jasmine, freesia, lily of the valley and rose are rich, but not heavy. It’s as if they are rendered in pastels—much like the cashmere twinsets that the Lauren woman likes to wear. A cool brush of moss, a touch of sandalwood, and Lauren feels like someone’s soft skin—wholesome, clean, but also alluring.

Lauren is a glimpse into the world where women have perfect chignons and men not a single crease on their white linen suits. It’s an American dream, a perfect aspirational fantasy on which fashion designer Ralph Lauren built his house. But Lauren isn’t stuck up or aloof. In order to look for fragrances that would satisfy our cravings for Lauren, I decided to explore other perfumes that combine fruity effervescence and floral elegance.

My first recommendation is Hermès Amazone. When perfumer Bernard Chant created Lauren in 1978, Amazone was a fragrance that had already made a big splash on the market and no doubt its combination of black currant, jasmine and mossy woods inspired Lauren. Chanel Cristalle is another interesting option. Like Lauren, Cristalle is citrusy and leafy at first, but it hides a delicious peach under its orange blossom, jasmine and bergamot. Go for the Eau de Parfum version of Cristalle, if you crave more flowers.

For a more contemporary fragrance, I would recommend The Different Company Osmanthus and Ormonde Jayne Frangipani, which infuse their floral notes with the green apple accents that I love about Lauren and set them against a soft, polished backdrop of cedarwood.

To get the most out of the melon-jasmine combination that I love in Lauren, I sometimes reach for Frédéric Malle Le Parfum de Thérèse. It’s more of a bombshell than Lauren. ‘Lauren’ would sit and patiently observe her partner playing polo; ‘Therese’ would be loudly rooting for him. She is a very different character, but she is likewise irresistible in her jasmine and melon dress.

Do you wear Lauren? Do you have other recommendations on fragrances similar to Lauren?

Ralph Lauren Lauren includes notes of lemon, orange, tangerine, black currant buds, ylang-ylang, jasmine, mimosa, carnation, broom, marigold, thyme, cedarwood, sandalwood, and oakmoss. Available from select Ralph Lauren counters.

Sample: my bottles from the 1980s, 1990s and this year’s sample.

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47 Comments

  • Suzanna: Great review! And Lauren is something I did wear–and love–back in the day. I can’t recall it today, though, not in its current iteration or from smell-memory. I do remember it being unusual in a field of massive and ambery Orientals that dominated the shelves at that time.

    I also think Lauren had perhaps run of half a decade before vanishing, along with KL and Geoffrey Beene Red.

    The scent was a good match for the house fashion, too. There was a hint of business about it as well as a sporty edge. Nice combination of both; a true day-to-night scent. June 29, 2012 at 8:14am Reply

    • Victoria: I think that next to the modern fragrances with fruity notes, Lauren doesn’t seem all that fruity, and I like that abstract feeling. It’s like you get a whiff of melon (but not the typical perfume melon, a real juicy cantaloupe!) rather than have it smeared all over you. So, it feels lighthearted, but also put together and elegant.

      Interesting enough, Lauren was a real hard sell for the Ralph Lauren customers at first, because he was associated so strongly with masculine fashions. For this reason, Polo was a runaway success, but Lauren always lagged behind. June 29, 2012 at 8:26am Reply

  • Deborah: Delightful to read your blog this morning. It is one of the first 5 stars I’ve seen you lavish on a fragrance, and I agree! Lauren was an absolute favorite of mine during the 80’s and still now I can bring forth its essence in my mind. Gone for years, I am ready for another one. However, I won’t settle for a flimsy remake and would only purchase a vintage. Thanks for the memories! June 29, 2012 at 9:14am Reply

    • Victoria: Deborah, I agree, if you wore a perfume and loved it, it’s very hard to settle for the reformulated version. Some fragrances I grew to love in their new versions, but often I never really knew them that well in the original formulations (so, I may not have missed them that much). At least, the older bottles of Lauren are easy enough to find on Ebay. June 29, 2012 at 11:15am Reply

      • Pam peery: Alas – i bought 2 bottles of “vintage” Lauren on eBay and had to return both because they were both reformulations! So it’s not so easy to find the real vintage. I Still don’t have it : – ( January 24, 2015 at 6:40pm Reply

        • Victoria: That’s a shame! The original might be getting more difficult to find and more difficult to find in a good state. These kind of light green florals don’t keep well, unless one takes all precautions (storing away from light, radiators, etc.) January 25, 2015 at 3:21am Reply

  • Jillie: I think you described this perfectly, Victoria. And I am wishing I hadn’t given away my two bottles (I think an edt and an edp – one was in a narrow little tube of a bottle with a big gold ball for a cap) when we moved house four years ago! I wore it when it first appeared, and I suppose I always liked it rather than loved it, as it seemed more like a strong eau de cologne to me. I now realise that I didn’t appreciate it enough…..

    It’s funny, but as I read your description, I was thinking of Cristalle and Amazone – I’m wondering if the two layered together might work! Perhaps Jacomo’s Silences might be a little like it? June 29, 2012 at 9:53am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Jillie. I like your suggestion of layering Cristalle and Amazone. That might be very interesting, especially since both perfumes are a bit thinner now than they used to be (well, at least, Amazone is). So, I will be sure to try it. Jacomo Silences was more like No 19, but you’re right, it has that crunchy green grape note that I smell in Lauren too. June 29, 2012 at 11:38am Reply

  • fleurdelys: I wore Lauren back in the 80s, after smelling it on a work colleague and falling in love with it. It was addictive, and I couldn’t get enough! After a few months of wearing it, though, it went completely off on me, and I mean OFF. It was sour, and didn’t even smell like it had in the beginning! So disappointing. Now I think it’s because my skin doesn’t do fruit well, with the exception of peach/plum/apricot (as in Femme, Mitsouko, and Poison, all of which smell fine on me). June 29, 2012 at 10:54am Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, that’s too bad! I think that green notes aren’t as popular in fragrances, because they are much more difficult to wear, and Lauren has them in spades. I’m partial to peaches and plums myself. They smell so creamy, different from other fruits. June 29, 2012 at 12:28pm Reply

  • Patt: Love Lauren and your review on it. Fortunately I stocked up on it in the 90s so that there is no chance of ever running out. I also like Safari and Polo Sport Woman, though Romance left me cold. June 29, 2012 at 12:02pm Reply

    • Victoria: Romance smells so clean that it’s pretty much sterile. I don’t mind it, but I find nothing romantic about it. But what a success for Ralph Lauren it was! It’s still among the top sellers. June 29, 2012 at 12:30pm Reply

  • Cybele: Hi Victoria, I personally don’t find Amazon comparable to Lauren, I perceive it as sharp, abstract, cold, and serious (I do still like it) while Lauren was tender, playfull and understated and more real floral to me. June 29, 2012 at 12:04pm Reply

    • Victoria: I guess Amazone is more serious–an icy blonde wearing a trench coat and her Hermes scarf tied just so. Lauren is more approachable. Not a perfect substitute, of course. June 29, 2012 at 12:31pm Reply

  • operaFan: The only Lauren product I ever bought was a Safari gift set in the early 90’s. It came with a Lauren gwp. I’ve never opened that tiny bottle of perfume. Perhaps it’s time to break the seal.
    Lovely review, V- Thanks! June 29, 2012 at 12:08pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you! Do open that little bottle of Lauren please. I’m almost envious–smelling and discovering something so good for the first time! Please let me know what you think.

      By the way, Safari is wonderful, isn’t it! I can’t believe that I’ve smelled it only recently. It’s such a stunning perfume–warm amber and hyacinth. And then it’s also green and bracing. June 29, 2012 at 12:54pm Reply

  • Memory of Scent: I too have lamented the slow disappearance of Lauren. A friend of mine used to wear this back then and I still have a very vivid memory of it. I didn’t know that it was a Chant creation. It makes sense… one of the greats. June 29, 2012 at 1:25pm Reply

    • Victoria: It really was a fragrance that defined the era, in a way. It wasn’t as huge as Poison or Giorgio, but for some women that’s what the decade (1980s) smelled like. And yes, Chant was a great perfumer, and by all accounts, quite a character. June 29, 2012 at 2:57pm Reply

  • Mj: What a great trip down memory lane. I loved Lauren back in the day. I always knew it was green, but I’d never thought of it as a “fruity floral” Ran to my perfume dresser to dig out my Lauren collection. I loved it so much that I could never part with any. The spot of perfume hasn’t aged very well, but my canister of powder still reveals the essense of the scent I remember wearing everywhere. Interesting you mentioned Amazone. I had a treasured sample. Way above my price range in those days. Too bad it has been changed I would have revisitied. I remember trying to like EL’s Aliage also greeen with peach I think. Had just sprayed Hermes Un Jardin sur Le Nil which I usually love. Smells like nailpolish remover next to the revined Lauren. June 29, 2012 at 1:28pm Reply

    • Victoria: Amazone still smells great, if slightly less mossy and sharper overall. But it’s still an impressive and beautiful fragrance. Aliage is another beauty–a “sports” perfume that still manages to smell elegant. June 29, 2012 at 3:02pm Reply

  • Erika: My uncle’s wife wore Lauren. I was probably around 12 (1989) when I met her. I thought she smelled amazing. I must have told her that because they got me a small bottle for Christmas one year. I wore it for quite a few years. A big fragrance for a little girl but it made me feel beautiful. June 29, 2012 at 1:28pm Reply

    • Victoria: I love your story, Erika! A big perfume for a little girl maybe, but what a fantastic introduction to fragrances. I also remember how much I loved my aunt’s perfume. I adored her (well, I still do), and I just wanted to wear her clothes, her perfume, her makeup. 🙂 June 29, 2012 at 3:04pm Reply

  • Blacknall Allen: Lovely review, and wasn’t Lauren a rich graceful concoction? I hadn’t known it was by Bernard Chant but as it was, how about Antonia’s Flowers as a sort of substitute? June 29, 2012 at 2:38pm Reply

    • Victoria: That’s such a great suggestion! Antonia’s Flowers is based on the freesia accord, and I think that Chant started working on that accord with Lauren. It completely slipped my mind, but I’m so glad that you’ve mentioned it. June 29, 2012 at 3:05pm Reply

  • Jessica: Oh! Thank you so much for this review. It makes me happy and sad at the same time. I owned a brass travel atomizer of Lauren (monogrammed!), gift from my grandmother. It was my favorite for much of the 80s. It was soft and pretty enough for high school girls, but also sophisticated enough for adult women — a rare combination nowadays!! June 29, 2012 at 3:18pm Reply

    • Victoria: So true! Back then, young girls wanted to smell grown up, today adult women want to smell like kids. That’s why Vera Wang Princess is such a smash hit.

      Do you still have that travel atomizer? June 29, 2012 at 4:37pm Reply

  • Alityke: I think the nearest was another vintage gem, Nicky Verfailles Grain de Sable June 29, 2012 at 3:36pm Reply

    • Victoria: Grain de Sable is beautiful, as I’ve discovered thanks to Jillie who commented below. But it’s even more difficult to find than the vintage Lauren. June 29, 2012 at 4:38pm Reply

  • Emily: Lauren is the only perfume I remember my mother wearing in the ’80s. She had the square bottle and the longer, skinnier bottle that Jillie mentioned — I remember that I asked my mother what the difference was, and one was EDP and the other EDT (can’t remember which was which, and I’m sure my eight-year-old self had no idea what those terms meant anyway). I unfortunately have no recollection of what they smelled like, but I was so fascinated by the bottles.

    My mom has recently started wearing perfume again, and I’m thinking it might be fun to find a vintage bottle of Lauren for her. It’s highly unlikely that she still has her old ones, given the amount of moving we did after the ’80s. June 29, 2012 at 7:11pm Reply

    • Victoria: I think that she will appreciate it! You might also want to introduce her to some of the newer fragrances in the same family. It would be fun to share your hobby with your mom.

      My mom used to wear Diorissimo and Fidji (among some other things), and at one point I kept bringing all of the samples I liked home and she started trying them too. She’s become quite a Lutens fan. I got a bottle of Fidji too. June 30, 2012 at 4:21am Reply

  • Kaori: Victoria, very nice reviews. Due to some distubution problems, I have wore only two American fragrances, Lauren and Knowing. both purchased overseas. I happily finished them:)

    Cool and sporty friends at school wore Amazon in the 80s. Now I can try it!

    I have found a small perfume, 1/4 oz, of Guy Laroche Fidji , less than $10, at a flea market and luckly it seems to survive well 🙂

    Kaori June 29, 2012 at 9:50pm Reply

    • Victoria: I haven’t worn or smelled any of Lauren fragrances until I came to the States, so I’m a late comer to them. Lauder, on the other hand, was popular, and I remember Estee, which to me smelled of green chrysanthemums and bitter woods.

      Your Fidji find is fantastic. What a deal! June 30, 2012 at 4:23am Reply

  • maggiecat: I did wear and love Lauren when it first came out – I was working for a department store at the time, and to me the scent smelled rich and sophisticated. My sister and mother loved it too, as I recall. Thanks for the memories! June 29, 2012 at 10:05pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for sharing yours! I worked for a department store in high school/early college days, and I remember how good the perfume area used to smell (to me at least!) 🙂 It all seemed so elegant and special. June 30, 2012 at 4:35am Reply

  • renee: Victoria!Thank you for this review!!!
    I miss this perfume so much.It was, indeed, sparkling and not at all overwhelming,but very elegant and caressing.
    Thank you again! June 30, 2012 at 9:07am Reply

    • Victoria: You’re welcome, Renee! Glad that all of you gave me an incentive to write about Lauren. Such a special fragrance! June 30, 2012 at 10:36am Reply

  • MaryAnn Hardy: In the early 80’s a friendly sales assoc. suggested Lauren when I told her I needed something light and lovely to wear with linen on a trip to Palm Springs. And that was my introduction to the wonderful Lauren! I wore it until they changed it (Why, Lord! Why!!!) and I miss it so much. It never let me down. It was my summer fragrance, it never failed to make me feel absolutely beautiful. It was the fragrance I would wear any time I wanted to be taken seriously too, such as to job interviews. Never overpowering…never left anyone gasping for clean air…always garnered compliments. Lauren, I loved the old you!!! thank you Victoria, for such a great review. July 1, 2012 at 5:14am Reply

    • Victoria: MaryAnn, thank you for sharing your lovely stories and for inspiring me to revisit Lauren. I wore it the other day and found that it was beautiful and wistful. I hope that you can try some of my suggestions, and perhaps some of those fragrances might fill the void that Lauren left (if only partially!) July 1, 2012 at 5:39am Reply

  • Linda Forrest: I so miss Lauren.
    I used to ask any friends who were visiting USA to bring me back a bottle. It was very difficult to find in UK.
    I will certainly try your suggestions for a possible replacement.

    Linda
    Glasgow, Scotland June 17, 2013 at 11:55am Reply

  • erry: Which concentration did you try for this review? I found one in edt concentration yesterday. The price was quite a bargain. Unfortunately, I couldn’t try it because it was the only one they had. I think it was from their old stock. I love Chanel Cristalle, and reading your review and the notes listed, I should love it. But, I still want to try it on my skin first.

    And they also have kenzo eponymous perfume. What do you think of it? June 17, 2013 at 9:54pm Reply

    • Victoria: It was the EDT (and the parfum too), but I mostly talked about the EDT.

      All old Kenzos are terrific, but I wouldn’t recommend buying them blindly, since they all have some quirky twists. June 18, 2013 at 10:44am Reply

  • Allison: I was a student working at bloomingdales when Lauren was 1st introduced & I loved it. The only thing the same about it is the bottle. Very disappointing! Wish they’d relaunch the original. You don’t tamper with a classic!! June 22, 2013 at 10:00am Reply

  • Lesley: I still miss this perfume! I loved the original Ritz spray as well by C of the Ritz. Both are discontinued. And Max factor geminnesse! September 9, 2013 at 5:16pm Reply

  • Audrey: Thanks for posting these alternatives. I have migraine headaches and can’t switch fragrance from day to day. But I’m finally running low on what was at one time a lifetime supply of my beloved Lauren and need to choose a new scent. Amazone and Cristalle will be the first I’ll try. (My other favorite, Calandre by Paco Rabanne, gave me headaches.) I might also troll Ebay for lotions or other Lauren items to help me layer the scent. March 9, 2014 at 3:33pm Reply

  • Maggie: I began wearing Lauren the month it was first released and didn’t stop until Balmain released Ivoire a few years later.

    If you want the original juice, look for the square red bottles (or columnar red laydowns) that are marked cologne. That was the only concentration it came in when first released, other than pure parfum.

    I have a price list/order card from 1980, the kind the department stores used to send you in your monthly credit card bill, showing all the bath products and bottle sizes. I’d be glad to send you a scan if you’d like one. (Also have cards for Bal a Versailles and Cinnabar.) God, how I miss all those wonderful bath products that fragrance houses used to produce.

    FYI, the list shows the 4 ounce Lauren cologne cost $26.50 and a quarter ounce of parfum was $35. That was a HUGE splurge when I was 25 years old. June 23, 2014 at 3:41pm Reply

  • Tammy: I have worn Lauren since the 80’s and have just now run out of my Vintage collection of bottles. I did find a tiny red bottle at an estate sale recently, but it had gone bad.

    Curiously…I suppose because I have worn it daily since the 80’s, I cannot smell it when I apply it, but others do and always comment on the nice fragrance.

    Do you remember Lauren’s “Tuxedo?” I never cared for it, but had a tuxedo looking Christmas gown (1984) and bought it for that event. Never really cared for it, but the bottle was pretty. SImilar to the Lauren, but was black. November 20, 2015 at 11:57am Reply

    • Victoria: I do remember Tuxedo. It was a lovely fragrance, but it wasn’t a market success, mostly because of the marketing and the name. November 20, 2015 at 2:05pm Reply

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