Carven Le Parfum : Perfume Review


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.



  • Aisha: This is exactly what I’ve been noticing with some more expensive fragrances that I’ve been testing lately: they smell too much like my hairspray on me. And although I do like the scent of the hairspray I use, I really don’t want to smell as if I applied it all over myself. 😉

    Hairsprays really must have improved over the years. August 19, 2013 at 7:43am Reply

    • Victoria: They really have! Hair products used to smell of apples and pears, but today you can find all sorts of interesting scents, from patchouli to jasmine, lavender to chocolate. But like you, I would still like my perfume to be more exciting than my shampoo.
      And some household product formulas smell even more expensive than that of certain “luxury” fragrances. One of Mr. Clean products my husband used on our floors had so much expensive amber, I thought for a second that he spilled perfume in the bedroom. And whenever I Febreezed my coat after it got contaminated by smoke at a barbecue restaurant, I kept receiving compliments on my “delicate floral perfume.” August 19, 2013 at 8:53am Reply

      • Aisha: Oh, that made me laugh! Gotta love Febreeze. I have their Hawaiian Aloha spray, which the company describes as being inspired by “the vivid yellow Hibiscus celebrated as the state flower of Hawai’i.” August 19, 2013 at 9:57am Reply

        • Victoria: I really like the original Febreeze scent. At one point, I toyed with an idea of reviewing it here for a laugh, when I realized that it actually smells more like a fine fragrance than some fine fragrances! August 19, 2013 at 4:27pm Reply

      • nikki: Hmm, I want that Mr Clean! Do you remember which one it is Victoria? I am all for great smelling, useful products…maybe an idea for a list in the future? August 19, 2013 at 10:40am Reply

        • Anne of Green Gables: Sounds like a great idea, nikki as I’m also interested in functional fragrances. August 19, 2013 at 1:57pm Reply

          • Victoria: I’ll be taking notes, Anne and Nikki. It’s a fun project. 🙂 August 19, 2013 at 4:38pm Reply

        • Victoria: I don’t remember the exact product, but I will try to check at the supermarket next time. My husband usually buys cleaning supplies, and he always rotates, so he doesn’t remember either. But I have to say that most Mr. Clean products (called Mr. Propre in French) smell great.

          Happy to make a list! For instance, Carrefour organic brand kitchen cleaner smells like Jardin Apres La Mousson, minus the fruity notes. Very fresh and cardamom rich. August 19, 2013 at 4:31pm Reply

          • nikki: oh my, I am bathing in Un Jardin Apres La Mousson here in Arizona’s summer, so a kitchen cleaner smelling like that would be great! Thank you for checking with him, I will go smell Mr Clean at the supermarket in the meantime. I am looking for a great smelling floor cleaner…there is a vanilla/lavender softener which is amazing and also one particular dishsoap which is highly perfumed. August 20, 2013 at 10:19am Reply

          • Linda: And Mr. Clean is known in Italy as Maestro Lindo! (master of clean). The label art looked exactly the same, as I recall.
            Yes, I did clean with it! September 26, 2013 at 8:11pm Reply

      • minette: ha… love this conversation! have been noticing for years that dryer exhaust and men’s colognes are interchangeable around here! a while back, a neighbor’s dryer exhaust smelled just like revlon ciara, and last night, i got a blast of dryer exhaust that smelled like my indian temple incense oil!

        now, on the other hand, if they would make a perfume that smells like l’oreal elnett hair spray – a truly wonderful musk – i would be quite happy.

        sad to hear about the carven being so dull. i grew up with magriffe as my mom’s signature, and was hoping for something really nice from this house – a recapturing of its former glory. ah, well. tant pis. August 19, 2013 at 4:50pm Reply

        • Victoria: I noticed how different the fabric softeners smell in Europe as opposed to the US. In the US, we really like powdery, musky scents, but here you find more variety (as well as powdery and musky). But I really have to say that I love the original Downy fabric softener. So cozy!

          Your mother must have smelled great. I have a vintage bottle of Ma Griffe, and I smelled the fresh original version at the Osmotheque, and it’s gorgeous. The combination of crisp green and white floral notes is just shimmering. August 20, 2013 at 8:39am Reply

  • maja: Such a shame that perfume houses think people actually like scents like this and it is a shame most of people expect exactly this kind of scent. It is a vicious circle in my opinion. I saw his recently in the nearest Rinascente but didn’t try it. The bottle looked plain, too. We need to hope in an advent of some kind of edgy baroque era. 🙂 August 19, 2013 at 9:09am Reply

    • solanace: Ditto! Enough of clean and basic, I want golden spirals and fireworks! August 19, 2013 at 10:31am Reply

      • Victoria: Yes, please! All of that in a perfume bottle. 🙂 August 19, 2013 at 4:29pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s just an easy way to launch (in the short term, that is). I like simple, pretty scents, but there should be some match between the brand and its output. In this case, it just doesn’t cohere for me. August 19, 2013 at 4:23pm Reply

  • Alicia: I remember fondly Ma Griffe…, and am sorry to hear that Carven is following this dismal trend of soap and water fragrances. It makes me think of the architecture of the 50s which produced innumerable box houses stripped of all ornament, identically boring…I have just returned from Portugal with extraordinary architecture since the Middle Ages. I stayed in the Avenida Palace, built at the end of the 19th century in the Beaux Arts style, beloved by the nobility, international spies and the Ballet Russe. Each salon in the grand style offered many a surprise. It made me think of Mitsouko, not out of the shower. When I buy a fragrance my heart rather wishes for out of a dream. L’Heure Bleue will do. August 19, 2013 at 9:46am Reply

    • Victoria: Your description of the Avenida Palace had me googling for the pictures. I would so love to visit it! And like you, I also imagine something baroque and plush fitting its ambiance. Maybe even Feminite du Bois, for something modern with a classical twist. August 19, 2013 at 4:25pm Reply

      • Alicia: Yes, Victoria, Feminite du Bois would be lovely. Perhaps also my beloved Bois de Violette. But I can’t stop thinking of Mitsouko because Diaghilev stayed there often and, as you know, he adored Mitsouko. I remained until late at night in one of its salons trying to conjure in my mind Nijinsky’s shadow in L’apres midi d’un faun. Yes, Feminite du Bois will do. August 19, 2013 at 6:17pm Reply

        • Victoria: Bois de Violette was my other choice! You and I share a few favorites in common then. August 20, 2013 at 8:40am Reply

  • Barbara: I had this experience with new Ivoire. It smells like soap to me. 🙁 August 19, 2013 at 9:50am Reply

    • Victoria: The original Ivoire also had soapy notes, but it was more in line with the character of the perfume–someone warm skin, traces of soap, jasmine powder and crushed leaves. August 19, 2013 at 4:26pm Reply

  • george: “Quotidian connotations!” I haven’t been so excited about a phrase since “it’s so trashy”- after my italian/romanian flatmate pronounced it in such an extraordinary way. “It’s so TRRRRRRAAAARRRRRRRRRRSHEEEEEEEEEE” August 19, 2013 at 10:30am Reply

    • Victoria: I had fun with a slight alliteration! 🙂 August 19, 2013 at 4:28pm Reply

  • Austenfan: Well, Robin of NST was reasonably pleased with it, so I have actually tried this one. The thing is: I can’t remember a thing about it, which I suppose is explained by your review. It didn’t bother me as much as Elie Saab ( which it reminded me of a little), I have a vivid memory of that one, and not in a good way. August 19, 2013 at 10:48am Reply

    • nikki: austenfan, I tried Elie Saab as well because I want to try all of Kurkdijan’s creations. I didn’t like it in the beginning either, however, the drydown reminds me a lot of APOM which I love. August 19, 2013 at 10:56am Reply

      • Austenfan: I am afraid I didn’t like Elie Saab at any point of it’s development, I am sorry to say.
        I think I once tried one the Kurkdijans from his own line but cannot remember which one it was.It may have been APOM.
        The one creation of his ( and I haven’t tried that many) that I do love is La Promesse de l’Aube from Parfums MDCI. August 19, 2013 at 11:32am Reply

      • Austenfan: Are you the same Nikki who is so knowledgeable about Marlène Dietrich? If so, you gave me quite an enlightening answer about the (in)famous Dietrich interview by Schell. Thank you for that! August 19, 2013 at 1:59pm Reply

    • Victoria: I had a similar impression–I liked it more than Elie Saab, but at least, I can remember Saab well. Not so with Carven. August 19, 2013 at 4:33pm Reply

      • solmarea: Have you tried Intense by Saab? Was curious to know your thoughts on it. August 20, 2013 at 6:16am Reply

        • Victoria: When I tested it, I thought that it was better than the original, because the floral notes toned down the sharpness. I don’t remember more than this, so I should revisit my sample. August 20, 2013 at 8:46am Reply

  • Amy: What a waste of a huge talent. Kurkdjian knows how to put a great perfume together – APlS and Enlevement au Serail are in my regular rotation and both are positively swoony. But another bland white floral the world does not need, and neither do I. August 19, 2013 at 12:02pm Reply

    • Victoria: Those are some of my favorites from Kurkdjian. There is absolutely no denying that he’s impressively talented, and if given a chance, he can create magic in the bottle. August 19, 2013 at 4:34pm Reply

  • Chayaruchama: I couldn’t agree more.
    I try my hardest to be polite when lifelong friend SA’s ask me what I think.
    Even harder when the indie vials in my purse are of far greater originality, beauty, and give so much more pleasure.
    (Even their materials are superior)
    It makes me very sad, V. August 19, 2013 at 12:30pm Reply

    • Victoria: It feels like a missed opportunity, since they had involved so many great creators and the brands is a very interesting one. Why do something so predictable? (I know, I know, few brands can afford to take risks). August 19, 2013 at 4:36pm Reply

  • Nancy A.: A recent test at a department store lauch was disappointing for a classic perfume house. Your review is on point! August 19, 2013 at 12:47pm Reply

    • Victoria: I wore it for several days, trying to find something to like about it. In the end, I gave up. August 19, 2013 at 4:37pm Reply

  • behemot: Flowers that ” went through a hot washing cycle before ending up in the bottle”. Your words describe this fragrance , and at least 40% of mainstream modern florals perfectly 🙁 August 19, 2013 at 1:17pm Reply

    • Victoria: Some niche too, in all fairness. I just tested Byredo La Tulipe, and that’s another fine approximation of what Febreeze smells like. Nice enough, but at that price, I want something more exciting. August 19, 2013 at 4:38pm Reply

      • behemot: Yes, La Tulipe was a disappointment to me.. August 19, 2013 at 5:42pm Reply

        • Victoria: So far I haven’t found any Byredo fragrances I was crazy about. Some are nice, but by and large, not nice enough for the price. August 20, 2013 at 8:40am Reply

      • Katie: I purchased a FB of Byredo Gypsy Water and had the same experience. I don’t know what ever posessed me to buy that! It’s nice and all but just not the wonderful I ususally save for a Full Bottle splurge! August 20, 2013 at 5:54pm Reply

        • Victoria: I kept hearing such great things about the brand, so I order a big set of samples. Wish I had spent that money on something else instead. August 21, 2013 at 5:56am Reply

  • Sandra: I really liked this one. I know perfume is all about personal preference but I really enjoyed the sillage and “fun” side of this perfume. My sweetheart seems to like it also. August 19, 2013 at 2:03pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, with perfume, the adage “your mileage may vary” really holds true. The one aspect of Carven I found really interesting was how diffusive it was despite being mild mannered. If I left a blotter in the office, it filled the air very quickly. If it works for you and you find pleasure wearing it, that’s all that matters. August 19, 2013 at 4:41pm Reply

  • solanace: Thank’s for the review, V, I won’t be wasting my skin space with this one. Since I take my showers on a regular basis, I don’t need my fumes to smell clean or soapy. 😉 Bring that Fumérie Turque! August 19, 2013 at 2:14pm Reply

    • Victoria: If you pass by the counter, do give it a try, but if you don’t care for clean, fresh florals, you might find it a tad dull. My favorite expensive soap like perfume is still Balmain Ivoire. August 19, 2013 at 4:43pm Reply

  • rickyrebarco: These were my thoughts as well, but I was not as charitable. I thought the fragrance got hopelessly muddled in the middle notes and never recovered. I do like the reference to the hot wash cycle- I can relate to that. This was a big disappointment to me. I was hoping for a nice re-introduction of this house as Balmain did a couple of years ago but not to be! August 19, 2013 at 2:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: I was really hoping that they would do something quirky. You can still do something interesting and remain commercial (nothing wrong with easy to like perfumes). August 19, 2013 at 4:44pm Reply

  • Elena: What a good idea! I would love to read a post and comments about this topic! August 19, 2013 at 4:23pm Reply

    • Elena: This was supposed to be in reply to nikki’s comment above, oops! August 19, 2013 at 4:24pm Reply

      • Victoria: Gotcha! I will put it together. August 19, 2013 at 4:45pm Reply

  • Julie: So love the bottle and packaging, but sorely disappointed with the scent. You’re spot on with the dryer sheets description! My husband called it an expense version of Bounce [dryer sheets]. August 19, 2013 at 8:16pm Reply

    • Victoria: The packaging totally fits the brand–simple, elegant, but modern. And the color of the juice–that pretty peach–was alluring. Too bad that the fragrance didn’t match up. August 20, 2013 at 8:42am Reply

  • annemariec: I could tell from one glance at the waif in the ad that this perfume is not for me, so your review brings no new disappointment.

    I reach for NR for Her, Kenzo Flower, and EL’s and Pleasures when I want this kind of thing, and I’m going to re-visit Jour d’Hermes too, this summer. The clean florals that survive on the market seem to be the ones where the creators have realised that there just has to be something that lifts the the perfume out of the functional perfume category, or people are going to stop bothering to buy it.

    I finally got hold of a sample of Noa, by the way, but am disappointed. I get all the nice bits and none of the quirks! My 10yo daughter likes it though, so money not wasted. August 19, 2013 at 8:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: Ralph Lauren Romance is another clean floral. Maybe, too clean, but it’s memorable. I also like Tommy Girl, despite smelling far too much of it during my high school days.

      Glad to hear that your daughter likes Noa, even if you didn’t find it all that interesting. August 20, 2013 at 8:43am Reply

  • kaori: It is sad to hear another disappointing review. I expected something pretty and youthful from Carven. So many new ones and so little to worth testing….

    Kaori August 19, 2013 at 9:50pm Reply

    • Victoria: For pretty and youthful, I would rather go for Repetto or new Calvin Klein Downtown. Not sure if Repetto already made it to your city. August 20, 2013 at 8:45am Reply

  • Katie: Victoria – when I was young my dad worked for Renault Automobiles. Renault used Carven, MaGriffe as a promotional item for some of the execs. My dad had many bottles and I actually used to give them to teachers as gifts! I can remember the green and white boxes so well. When we cleared out my mom’s house there were still a few bottles left. The odd thing is that my mom never wore the fragrance. She only wore Blue Grass and then Jean Nate (yuck) . I still have one vintage bottle of the MaGriffe and I can’t imagine why my mom never gave it a try. August 20, 2013 at 5:50pm Reply

    • annemariec: That’s interesting. I have a faint memory of seeing a bottle, maybe a mini, of Ma Griffe at home when I was a kid. My father did not work for Renault but he did work in a sales area. Now I wonder if he somehow had the Ma Griffe passed to home from someone else who did not want it. My mother would never have worn it in a million years though. She wore Yardley’s April Violets.

      Anyway, thanks for mentioning the Renault story, it helps to make sense of a memory. August 20, 2013 at 7:35pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much for this great story! And how lucky you are to have a vintage Ma Griffe in your possession. Do you wear it time to time? August 21, 2013 at 5:55am Reply

  • Nicole: Considering the trend of major fragrances these days, I’m not entirely surprised that Carven released this fragrance. From what I gather on most of the fragrance boards and from the comments here, these light and fresh scents aren’t made for people who really love and appreciate perfume. Are companies simply trying to appeal to a world of increasingly sensitivity? Or, is it just easier not to create anything new? All I can say is, I am thankful that there are still niche perfumeries that aren’t afraid to stretch our imaginations. August 20, 2013 at 8:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: This is a false light scent though, because it’s extremely persistent and long lasting, with a powerful sillage. So, I don’t know if they are trying to appeal to people who like delicate scents. My observations is that these kind of easy to appreciate fragrances generate good first sales–they are easy and instantly likable. If you wear it longer, you realize that it doesn’t smell of anything specific, but you’ve already purchased the bottle and that’s all that’s required of you. Since the way fragrances are retailed today favors the burst in sales, this is a common strategy. Then the brand launches a flanker after flanker to boost the declining sales and so on…

      It’s still my belief that you can do easy, likable and interesting. August 21, 2013 at 6:00am Reply

  • Annikky: I tried it yesterday and despite of being forewarned, was still disappointed – it’s just unbelievably generic. To me, it smells vaguely fruity in addition to the “pretty flowers”, but I honestly cannot describe it further. Optimistically, I had sprayed it on skin and later felt like apologizing to everyone on the metro: “I’m sorry, I didn’t know it would be so bad. Honestly, I usually never wear stuff like this, it was an unhappy accident!” Even more than offending people with my scent, I was afraid that someone would compliment me on my fragrance and I wouldn’t know what to say…

    Apart from the utter non-originality of this fragrance, I’ve got a long-standing problem with perfumes that do not fit the brand. I realize that this is more of a personal pet peeve, but still – the market is so overwhelming already and it would be helpful if the brand name functioned as a rough guide (that’s what brands are for!). Specifically, I get irritated when fashion forward brands put out bland fragrances and Carven is a perfect example of that. Today’s Carven is not quite the Carven of Ma Griffe, but it’s a high end brand that does take risks with it’s clothes and has been doing interesting things fashion-wise for many seasons now. After hiring a good perfumer and designing a very nice bottle, it’s a pity there was no courage or creativity left for the actual juice. August 21, 2013 at 4:50am Reply

    • Victoria: That’s the most frustrating aspect to me, because Carven is a very interesting fashion brand today–elegant but quirky. I wonder what perfume might fit it better. Maybe even something like Bottega Veneta Eau Legere? Something that’s still effervescent and bubbly, with a bit more character. August 21, 2013 at 6:52am Reply

      • Annikky: Eau Legere would certainly fit better. I was thinking along the lines of a white floral, but with a noticeable touch of wood or leather or incense. OJ Champaca also came to mind, but Carven is so French that I couldn’t suggest an English perfume 🙂 August 22, 2013 at 6:32am Reply

        • Sandra: I absolutely love Eau Legere! With all these perfume launches from different houses, Bottega Veneta came out with a winner in my book! I find myself reaching for Eau Legere more then the other perfumes I have in my wardrobe. I still like Carven though its not popular on this thread! August 22, 2013 at 8:17am Reply

        • Victoria: I know what you mean! I also almost suggested Ormonde Jayne, but then thought better of it. 🙂 August 22, 2013 at 9:31am Reply

  • Gudrun: Too bad about Carven. My mother said it was the only scent she could wear that didn’t give her a headache. She still wears it, and she’s going on 93. I loved Robe d’un soir and still have a smidgen of perfum. What ever happened to the line from song the Buckboard Bounce “French perfume the rocks the room”? I have friends that want to cancel their symphony subscription because their seat neighbor is wearing perfume. Stay home and buy the CD! Where should you wear a scent if not to a gala evening! September 3, 2013 at 11:21am Reply

  • Gudrun: I forgot to mention that I still have a dress by now way too small that has green and white gores in the flair skirt that looks as though it is a MaGriffe box! September 3, 2013 at 11:24am Reply

    • Victoria: The dress sounds beautiful! September 3, 2013 at 12:14pm Reply

  • tiffbenson: Victoria! I’m head over heels in love with the smell of polish, makeup, and hairspray! Ugh!!(especially hairspray, lol). I’m truly adore the opening of this fragrance. A sparkling, tarty, chemically sweet, fruitiness… ::cough:: Hairspray!!! Can you suggest anymore like it? Specifically a scent that would stay as sharp as the opening. I would be forever grateful! October 16, 2013 at 2:49pm Reply

    • Victoria: La Petite Robe Noire Eau de Toilette by Guerlain comes to mind immediately. Or Ferragamo Incanto Charms (and all of its flankers). These sharp top notes are not meant to last though, but some perfumes stay fresher than others.
      Ralph Lauren Ralph or Romance might also be other options. Romance is more floral, while Ralph is fruity. October 16, 2013 at 2:56pm Reply

  • Isis Gupta: Ciao,
    I love this blog.
    I just purchased Le Parfum along with the body milk and I like the subtle soft scent. It reminds me of a smokey breeze. This is my 1st Carven purchase. August 5, 2014 at 2:37am Reply

  • Heather: I only just came across this fragrance in store the other day and tested it – it immediately reminded me of MFK Amyris, which I have and find fits the description in your review here too for better and worse (and it’s so much more expensive than this one). I actually think this is a nice choice for a young woman, and is probably meant to be just that from the look of the model used to represent it – an entry level fragrance to the brand. I wear Amyris on days when I want something light and pretty, which doesn’t make a strong statement. In future I’ll buy this instead. Pretty bottle too. August 29, 2014 at 5:44am Reply

  • Maggie Chang: The negeri Carven Dans ma Bulle is better March 20, 2021 at 7:08am Reply

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