Lily of the Valley: 15 posts

Hermes Muguet Porcelaine : Perfume Review

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Last week I talked about perfumery as “the art of fortunate proportions,” and one of the best examples for this idea is the newest fragrance from Hermès, Muguet Porcelaine. Created by Jean-Claude Ellena just as he prepared to give over the reins of the house to Christine Nagel, it feels like a recap of his work over the past few decades. Ellena is not leaving Hermès, and he will be delighting his fans with other perfumes, and yet, there is something nostalgic in Muguet Porcelaine, a tender lily of the valley.

muguet-porcelaine

Muguet Porcelaine is also a tribute to a legendary perfumer who influenced Ellena, Edmond Roudnitska. Ellena, however, denies it, commenting that it was time to create lily of the valley for Hermès’s portfolio, but it’s hard not to spot the parallels between the two. In my review for the Financial Times’s HTSI column, I follow the clues. Muguet Porcelaine is delicate without being precious and ethereal without being evanescent. It lingers for several hours and creates an illusion of a springtime breeze.

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L’Occitane Arlesienne : Fragrance Review

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Elisa on the return of an old-school rose.

Ultra-feminine and quite literal roses were popular during my childhood, in the ‘80s. Think Perfumer’s Workshop Tea Rose, which is fresh, pink, and photorealistic, but – somewhat undermining the delicacy of its namesake – possessing mushroom-cloud sillage and nuclear tenacity. Or Her Majesty’s Rose, the rose soliflore available at Victoria’s Secret, back when its aesthetic was more lacy-nightgown-in-a-country-cottage and less sex-bomb-in-garters. I had a coffret of perfume minis from VS when I was about 12, and the rose one, while pretty, reminded me distinctly of potpourri in antique shops.

Arlesienneroses1

I apparently wasn’t the only one to make that association. Moving into the ‘90s, roses that smelled like roses were about as uncool as you could get. In junior high, my mall-going friends and I ditched Her Majesty’s Rose and the other overt florals and embraced Tranquil Breezes, an intense and distinctive cucumber-melon scent. Around that time the perfume I most wanted to smell like was Calvin Klein Escape. Over the next few years I ended up with bottles of CK One, L’Eau d’Issey, and Polo Sport – aquatic, blue-smelling calone bombs to a one!

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Miu Miu Perfume Review

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Launching a perfume today requires an intricate–and costly–configuration of product development, marketing, and distribution. Small brands may risk taking their own idiosyncratic course, but large fashion houses usually rely on another brand to create and distribute their fragrances. If they want to make real money, that is. For Prada’s sister Miu Miu, the partnership has been with Coty. It means in practical terms that the Coty fragrance development team weighs heavily on the finished creation, subjecting it to market tests and other scrutiny; after all, the success of it will reflect as much on Coty’s profit margins as it would on Miu Miu’s. In other words, don’t expect avant-garde or cutting edge.

miu miu

And so I didn’t. But I was still taken aback at the wan aura of Miu Miu. I am certain that in its early iterations it must have been more interesting, since it was composed by Daniela Andrier, a perfumer noted for the elegance and polish of her creations (Marni, Bottega Veneta Knot, Prada Infusion d’Iris, Martin Margiela Untitled, all among my favorites). But what I smell on my skin is pale and far from the flamboyant chic of Miu Miu fashion. There is definitely quality, there is attention to detail, but it feels like the numerous cycles of market tests stripped Miu Miu of its more distinctive parts.

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Lily of the Valley Potpourri

A couple of years ago my aunt gave me a book called L’Art de Simplicité (The Art of Simplicity) that promised to declutter my life. After the first five pages, I felt like a failure. My bedroom is nothing like a room at a Zen monastery, my kitchen resembles a spice aisle at Kalustyan’s, and my living room with its overspilling bookshelves is more reminiscent of a public library during children’s hour than a space where two adults live.

lily of the valley potpourri

After reading much sensible advice on paring down and retaining only the essentials, I put L’Art de Simplicité down in my ziggurat of other books and haven’t picked it up since. You know what? I like having a bit of chaos in my life. It doesn’t stress me out that my perfume samples aren’t sorted alphabetically or that I have far too many bottles of flavored vinegar. What are the essentials anyway? What if I want to make salad with blackcurrant and rose vinegar today and try grilled chicken marinated in the juniper variety. I also can’t decide whether I want to wear a cologne or a voluptuous rose, so all options are around.

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B. Balenciaga : Fragrance Review

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As I take whiffs from a blotter of B. Balenciaga, I think of curves. Or to use French perfumery jargon, gras. Call it whatever you want–richness, unctuousness or fat, it denotes a certain voluptuous quality. Chanel No. 22 has plenty of it. Robert Piguet Fracas is positively wallowing in opulence. Bottega Veneta Eau de Parfum, to use a recent example, has a discrete but well-judged dose. By contrast, B. Balenciaga is a slender creature.  Not many curves on it.

balenciaga

The lack 0f curves in B. doesn’t entirely detract from its charm. It’s true that many big launches are so market tested and panel judged that by the time they hit the store shelves, they’re nothing but pale bones. (If you want gras, then you have to explore boutique brands, but that, forgive the pun, requires a fat wallet.) B. is much better than most. Yes, it’s sheer and mild mannered, but it makes up for the lack of lush, soft layers with sparkling accords of green buds, spring blossoms and crisp amber. It has a contemporary radiant aesthetic, and the kind of versatility that makes B. suitable for all sorts of occasions.

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