Jean Carles: 5 posts

Jean Carles on Olfactory Training and Perfumer’s Organ

“Perfumery is an art, not a science, as many seem to believe. A scientific background is not necessary for the perfumer; scientific knowledge may even sometimes prove an obstacle to the freedom required in perfume creation,” wrote Jean Carles (1892-1966), the perfumer whose fingerprint is on Miss Dior, Carven Ma Griffe, Dana Tabu, Schiaparelli Shocking, and my absolute favorite, Elle… Elle by Lucien Lelong.

“The creative perfumer should use odorous materials in the same way that a painter uses colors and give them opportunity for maximum development and effect, although it is understood that potential reactions such as discoloration within the ultimate formulation and also the stability of the perfume should be given due consideration. This is about the only use the perfumer will be able to make of his scientific training, if any.”

Today many would disagree with Carles’s dismissal of a scientific background, especially when a perfumer is expected to create fragrances for a variety of products, from laundry detergents to candles. Carles himself approached perfumery in a scientific manner, laying out the techniques in his influential “A Method of Creation and Perfumery” published in 1961. All perfumer trainees, myself included, studied according to his theories of smelling and composition.

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Madame Carven and Ma Griffe

She dressed Edith Piaf and Leslie Caron. She created uniforms for more than a dozen airlines and dressed French traffic police. When she launched a fragrance, she provocatively named it Ma Griffe, which can mean either “my signature” or “my claw” in French. She was a force and a character. She was Carmen de Tommaso, or as she was better known in the world of haute couture, Madame Carven. Yesterday Madame Carven passed away at the age of 105, leaving behind an incredible legacy, both in the world of fashion and fragrance.

madame carven

De Tommaso was introduced to couture by her aunt Josy Boyriven–the last three letters of whose name, “ven”, got joined with “car” of Carmen to form “Carven”–and she started designing both out of fascination and frustration. She was dismayed by the limited choices for petite women and the lack of attention from the fashion masters.

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Schiaparelli Shocking : Vintage and Modern Perfume Review

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

The Muse

Elsa Schiaparelli was a designer who set lasting trends in fashion with her richly embroidered jackets, shoe shaped hats and lobster dresses, but I discovered her whimsical side through Shocking, a perfume she released in 1937. Shocking was a dazzling collaboration between Schiap, as she was known, Jean Carles, who created the perfume, and the Surrealist artists Marcel Vertes and Salvador Dali through whose drawings the sultry fragrance came to life.

This month, the Metropolitan Museum in New York opened the exhibit “Schiaparelli & Prada, Impossible Conversations.” Running until August 19th, the collection explores the work of two designers in a compare-and-contrast setting. It was the first time I’ve seen Schiaparelli’s work close up, and I was mesmerized. The clothes weren’t simply beautiful; they offered a glimpse into the designer’s vibrant imagination.

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Robert Piguet Visa : Fragrance Review

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

Although Fracas and Bandit are the fragrances most firmly linked with Robert Piguet’s name, the perfumes credited to this house include a range of other memorably named creations: Calypso, Hirondelle, Mimo, Cattleya, Futur. Visa was created in 1947, its seductive and voluptuous form contrasting markedly with the restrained elegance of other fragrances launched during the same year – Christian Dior Miss Dior, Caron Farnesiana, Balenciaga Le Dix. …

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Christian Dior Miss Dior : Perfume Review

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

Who is Miss Dior? She is half Anna Karenina, half Brett Ashley. Created for Christian Dior Parfums, Miss Dior appears to be lady-like and soigné, and yet it hints at the worn darkness of leather saddles and the smoke of slender cigarettes. Although one can enjoy Miss Dior for what it is—a gorgeous classical chypre with a unique green freshness, I find that understanding its context heightens my appreciation for its heartbreaking beauty. Born in 1947, the fragrance carries connotations of the hunger for glamour, the austerity of war and the hopes for future. …

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