In the 1940s the Carven fashion house was famous for its youthful and wearable designs, but it truly made a splash when Ma Griffe launched in 1946. Exhilarating, bold, and playful, its first perfume aimed at young women found a loyal fan base. A few notable and not so notable perfumes later, the house entered into slow decline. Few will remember Variations launched in 2000 or the excitingly named Carven Homme dating to 1999. Today Carven is experiencing a revival, and for its debut, Carven Le Parfum, the house teamed up with Francis Kurkdjian to design the perfume and Thierry de Baschmakoff (he also worked on The Different Company concept) to create the packaging.
Everything about Carven is as you would expect. Mostly, it’s because like many new launches today it doesn’t offer anything new. Carven took few risks with this sparkling white floral blend. If you like smelling clean and fresh–straight out of the shower sexy, as many in the industry like to call it–then Carven would be the right choice.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with pretty, easy to like perfumes, and I have plenty of favorites that fit this category such as Jour d’Hermès, L’Artisan La Chasse Aux Papillons, Cacharel Noa, and Elizabeth Arden Green Tea. They may not warrant a chapter in Perfume Legends, but each has a quirk.
At best, Carven reminds me of an expensive soap. But if I’m picking up a bottle of perfume, I want something that smells more luxurious than my hairspray. Considering that scents for shampoos and styling products are getting more and more sophisticated, fine fragrances better match up.
Carven holds some promise in the beginning when it showers you with white petals, but things quickly dull to a predictable and familiar floral blur. It’s as if jasmine, tuberose and orange blossom went through a hot washing cycle before ending up in the bottle. After the sparkling floral interlude, you’re in the long lasting drydown of pale musk and patchouli.
Technically, this fragrance is polished, remaining radiant but not loud. I want to admire the delicate composition and the way jasmine and orange blossom playfully embrace the soft patchouli, but all it brings to mind is shampoo, soap, and dryer sheets. You see what I mean? I want some glamour, but instead I get the most quotidian connotations.
If this were a Bath & Body Works launch or a fragrance made for a more casual brand, perhaps it would have been fine, but Carven promises luxury, sophistication, and sensuality. Le Parfum doesn’t fit any of these points. It’s pretty but too much of a wallflower, delicate but too inoffensive. Michael Edwards’s Fragrances of the World encyclopedia lists around 250 other fragrances in the similar fresh white floral style. Do we really need another one?
Carven Le Parfum Eau de Parfum includes notes of mandarin blossom, white hyacinth, sweet pea, jasmine, ylang ylang, sandalwood, osmanthus, and patchouli. Besides the Eau de Parfum (30ml/£38, 50ml/£55, 100ml/£72), there is also a collection of bath and body products.