Yves Saint Laurent: 12 posts

Yves Saint Laurent Oriental Collection Majestic Rose : Perfume Review

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It’s easy to dismiss the Oriental Collection from Yves Saint Laurent as yet another banal attempt to capture the attention of the Gulf markets. Hence, we have the luxury packaging, high prices and a trite press release. Noble Leather, Majestic Rose, Supreme Bouquet and Splendid Wood are said to be inspired by “the splendor of the East.” But overload of orientalism aside, the collection judged only on its olfactory merits is very good. The ideas are clever, interesting and well-executed. And, as I discovered when traveling in Oman, traditional Gulf perfumery is spectacular enough to emulate.

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In traditional Middle Eastern and Persian Gulf perfumery, rose and oud are important players. With the discovery of oud by European and American perfumes, dark roses have become common enough, and every line worth its prestige brand name has attempted them with varying levels of success. Blend rose with enough dark woods, and even a novice can approximate something vaguely “eastern”, but what makes traditional perfumery and fragrances like Majestic Rose interesting is their use of bright accents. Harmony, especially if we’re talking about dark, rich notes, is hard to achieve.

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Yves Saint Laurent Y : Perfume Review

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Elisa on a timeless, elegant and somewhat underrated chypre.

A green chypre can feel golden and warm, like the opulent Safari by Dominique Ropion, or chilly and aloof with iris, such as the archetypal Chanel No. 19 and Paco Rabanne Metal. I associate the warm, galbanum-dense chypres with autumn, while I always seem to reach for cool chypres like Metal in spring.

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YSL’s Y, released in 1964, is immediately recognizable as a green chypre, but has a different feel from others in this family. To me, it’s a summer chypre, with the same aspirational mansion-in-the-Hamptons air as Estee Lauder White Linen. When I play tennis, I do it on free courts, not in backyards, but either way, this seems like the perfect perfume for a doubles match, especially if you’re wearing a skirt. If you prefer to watch from the lawn with a glass of white wine, it would be lovely for that too.

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Yves Saint Laurent Opium (New) : Perfume Review

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Opium. Even if you haven’t worn Opium yourself, just the name of this perfume by Yves Saint Laurent is enough to conjure its controversial and dramatic personality. Opium came out in 1977 and it marked a whole era with its spicy, fiery carnation scent. In the 1980s, when neither perfume nor hair could be too big, it held its own alongside Christian Dior Poison, Giorgio Beverly Hills and other heavy hitters.

opium

My relationship with Opium and other big 1980s perfumes is ambivalent. I recognize their genius; I admire their boldness and verve. But whenever I wear Opium in all of its “pre-reformulation” spicy glory, it feels like I’m playing dress up. I can’t make it my own. But Yves Saint Laurent left us with no choice. In 2009, the house discontinued Opium and reintroduced a new version. The original formula of Opium contained so many ingredients considered allergenic that trying to save it was a losing battle.

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Yves Saint Laurent Paris : Perfume Review

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There’s a twenty-year-old ad for Yves Saint Laurent Paris that says everything you need to know about this iconic fragrance.  In the ad, the model Lucie de la Falaise leans against a wall while holding a huge bouquet of light-pink roses.  Everything but the model’s face and the bottle of perfume is in gauzy soft focus, including in the background the Eiffel Tower.  De la Falaise looks otherworldly in this city of muted pinks and greens, serene, elegant, and very, very French.  Surely the City of Light is scented exactly like this, is it not?  Isn’t Paris a veritable rose macaroon, tinted pink as Yves Saint Laurent’s fantasy fragrance is?

Paris is an ebullient and romantic daydream of a scent that interlocks a fruity, jammy, and abstract rose with violets that smell the way candied violets look.  One spray and (nearly) all is revealed. This is not a perfume of special effects but one that opens big, stays big, and gives you a bit of sandalwood as a basenote souvenir.

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Yves Saint Laurent Manifesto : Fragrance Review

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Take Thierry Mugler Angel and dilute it with sheer, lemony jasmine till all you have left are the pastel colored outlines of the original gourmand patchouli. Shake it up, label Yves Saint Laurent, and you have Manifesto! I complained that Lancôme La Vie Est Belle is unexciting, but next to Manifesto it’s downright avant-garde.

My qualm with Manifesto is not that it’s a bad perfume, but that it doesn’t have much character. Smell it once, smell it ten times, I guarantee that you won’t remember it. Of course, not every single fragrance needs to make a statement–mild, unobtrusive blends do have their place, but Manifesto could be inside any bottle: the latest celebrity launch, Escada, Calvin Klein, Coty, Avon or even Bath and Body Works. It’s not entirely clear what makes this perfume Yves Saint Laurent. It doesn’t have the bravura of Opium nor the voluptuous beauty of Paris. It lacks the sensuality of Cinéma or the moodiness of Nu. It smells trendy, like a scent you’ve noticed  many times before at the mall or inside a crowded subway car–a cotton candy laced patchouli, with a soft blur of flowers.

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