Reading French magazines never feels as indulgent as spending a lazy Sunday afternoon with a pile of American Marie Claires or Vogues. “It’s language practice,” I say to my husband, who gives me a look indicating that he’s not buying any of it. Little does he know that it’s also an interesting cultural study, because whatever the globalization adherents believe, France and USA remain distinctive, right down to their fragrance preferences. One example is the choice of perfumes that French magazines consider sexy.
“Parfums sexy” editorials were all over the magazines leading up to Valentine’s Day and now they’re resurfacing again in preparation for the summer holidays. I suppose that when you have 30 paid vacation days, why not use some of that time for seduction.
At first, I skimmed through them, expecting to find nothing interesting, but when I spotted Clinique’s Aromatics Elixir, a dark, earthy diva, in a couple of different publications (Marie Claire, Elle, Vogue), I started to pay more attention. There was nary a foody vanilla in sight and apart from a scattering of some new launches, the choices covered a wider range than I had anticipated. In the end, I compiled my notes for your enjoyment. Now I can read French magazines and proudly call it “research.”
Parfums Sexy Pour Elle
Guerlain Shalimar–featured on many French lists of sexy perfumes, Shalimar is just as perfect for dabbing in the morning on the way to the office (and I say dabbing, because this beauty has a powerful voice) or applied more liberally in the evening. But do wear it to seduce yourself first.
Guerlain L’Heure Bleue–another jewel in Guerlain’s crown, a baroque vignette of orange blossom, iris and tonka bean. It wears like an opulent velvet gown.
Clinique Aromatics Elixir–few people would argue that Aromatics Elixir is a masterpiece, but this dark and earthy perfume created by the same perfumer, Bernard Chant, who gave us Aramis and Parfums Gres Cabochard, has so much character that many consider it challenging. Still, Aromatics Elixir deserves a long courtship to get to know it.
Dolce & Gabbana Pour Femme (2012)–a sweet, marshmallow orange blossom. Not a personal favorite, but it’s a steady best-seller in France.
Kenzo Amour–fine, there is “love” in the name, but this Kenzo perfume clings to the skin like warm silk and smells of warm musk, whipped cream and frangipani petals.
Estée Lauder Sensuous Noir–caramelized woods and patchouli, with a flourish of pink pepper. I prefer the original Sensuous, but its darker sibling is interesting too.
Chanel Coco Noir–well-crafted, polished older sister to Coco Mademoiselle.
Yves Saint Laurent Manifesto–a lighter, less exciting form of Thierry Mugler Angel with a jasmine tea accent.
Calvin Klein Euphoria–cotton candy + patchouli + a dramatic green top borrow from Estée Lauder Aliage. And it’s a sillage monster that will announce your presence.
Christian Dior Hypnotic Poison–a perennial French best seller and a perfume gem worth checking out, whether or not it reads to you as sexy.
Parfums Sexy Pour Lui
This list is less interesting than its feminine counterpart, but it might be selection bias because I read mostly women’s fashion magazines.
Givenchy Pi–the cool top notes of basil, tarragon and mandarin are contrasted with warm vanilla and toasted almonds. I don’t know if Pi was reformulated, but when I smelled it at Planet Parfum (our local version of Sephora), I was surprised to find it smelling like a cheap vanilla candle.
Gucci Guilty Pour Homme — a competent fragrance blending earthy and herbal notes (fougère) that’s given a modern, bright treatment. It’s too polished for my tastes to be truly sexy.
Tom Ford Noir–Tom Ford does Guerlain Habit Rouge, a dandy-like blend of orange blossom and amber. In the case of Tom Ford, he accents it with plenty of leather and incense.
Tom Ford Extreme–dramatic and dark, but just enough to remain acceptable amongst polite company. The drydown has a suave leather note that on the right person is irresistible.
Christian Dior Fahrenheit–for my money, this is the most alluring of the masculine bunch, and I even wear it myself. The violet tinged leather is devastatingly sexy.
Dolce & Gabbane Pour Homme–a pleasant, casual blend of lavender and blond tobacco.
Calvin Klein Encounter–I haven’t smelled Encounter, so if you have, please comment. The notes of mandarin, cardamom, cognac, and oud sound interesting.
What are your “parfums sexy”?