audrey hepburn: 5 posts

Givenchy L’Interdit 2018 : Fragrance Review

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Givenchy the couturier was catapulted into stardom by his work with Audrey Hepburn. Their partnership resulted in one of the most distinctive wardrobes in fashion history, from the embroidered gown of Sabrina to the little black dress of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Equally important was Hepburn’s role in making Givenchy the perfumer. L’Interdit was the first Givenchy perfume, and whether Hepburn wore it or not, she claimed it as her signature fragrance. 

The original 1957  L’Interdit was a floral aldehydic with enough elegance to make one feel dressed up, even if you wore only pyjamas. Think Chanel No 5, but soft, warm and with a delicious strawberry note.

I say was, because in 2005 Givenchy reformulated it. The change was done by perfumer Aurelien Guichard, and it made the fragrance less aldehydic and starchy, but also simpler. Still, as far as updates go, it was decent in that it retained the character of the original. You can read my more detailed review, in which I compare the original and the 2005 version.

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Monsieur de Givenchy : Cinema, Fashion, and Perfume

The great couturier Hubert de Givenchy passed away at the age of 91 on March 12th. It’s fitting that in remembering him every obituary mentions his collaboration with Audrey Hepburn. It was thanks to her that he found fame, recognition, and a chance to design the wardrobes of Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Princess Grace of Monaco. Today we take for granted celebrity endorsements, but in the 1950s it was novel. Yet, the collaboration between Givenchy and Hepburn was different from today’s business ventures between Hollywood stars and designers. The duo inspired each other, serving as each other’s muses. Givenchy’s clean, elegant lines and innovative techniques left a lasting imprint on fashion.

Hepburn contacted Givenchy to design her clothes for Sabrina (1954). Givenchy was in his 20s, running his first boutique on Plaine Monceau in Paris, having previously trained with Elsa Schiaparelli. Givenchy had an impressive career working for Christian Dior, Jacques Fath, Lucien Lelong, Pierre Balmain and Robert Piguet, but he was unknown. Hepburn felt that his designs would be perfect for a young woman who returns from a sojourn in Paris. The Hague exhibit told the story of Givenchy initially refusing the offer. As he told at the interview recorded for the museum, “I was busy preparing my next collection so I told her I wouldn’t be able to do it, but she was very persistent. She invited me to dinner, which was unusual for a woman to do back then, and it was at dinner that I realized she was an angel.”

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Audrey Hepburn : Scent, Spring, Rome

The other day I was reading through old issues of Vanity Fair and found an interview with Luca Dotti, the second son of Audrey Hepburn. He was reminiscing about his mother, her relationship with his father, her acting career, her dismissive attitude to her looks, her thoughts on aging and the things she enjoyed the most. Audrey Hepburn’s image is such a familiar one that it’s difficult to see the real woman behind the large glasses, little black dresses and Givenchy couture. Dotti’s interview, however, is refreshing, and those who find Hepburn fascinating should take a look at it.

Yet, one part above all others caught my attention. Dotti was describing the ways in which his mother remains in his life and the small things that remind him of her. He said that he and Audrey had a ritual of noticing scents–of flowers, food, any other aromas. Audrey had an acute sense of smell, and when Dotti is thinking of scents, he feels that his mother is near.

When asked in what way his mother remains most physically present in his life, Dotti says, “Through scent.” Not perfume, but “the light sensation of a smell,” Dotti says his mother preferred. “We joked a lot together about the fact that both she and I have a very good sense of smell. So there are certain scents, you know, a certain cake, or a flower, things like that. It’s not so physical, but it’s powerful. And every spring, especially here in Rome, you have this smell of orange blossom in the air. Spring is coming and it was her favorite season. It makes me think of her.”

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Perfume Muse Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn has been a muse for film directors, couture designers, and makeup artists. She also inspired perfumers, and while Givenchy L’Interdit was created especially for her in 1957, many a fragrance creator mentions the actress and fashion icon with reverence. I can understand it, because there is something about Audrey that I find touching and poignant. It’s not just her elegance or sense of style; it’s also her grace, warmth and a certain fragility. Audrey charms as much as she intrigues me.

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This year, the National Portrait Gallery in London is celebrating Audrey’s legacy with an exhibition showcasing Audrey’s life and career through photos. It spans her childhood in Holland and early years as a dancer in London. It then tracks her rise to fame in Hollywood and concludes with her work as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. Audrey worked with some of the best photographers, including Cecil Barton, Irving Penn, and Richard Avedon, and many of her images can be counted as part of pop culture–think the famous Holly Golightly half turn with a cigarette holder. What’s fascinating about the exhibit is the inclusion of rare images and personal photographs donated by Audrey’s sons, Luca Dotti and Sean Hepburn Ferrer.

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My Ideal Celebrity Perfume

Today we have a guest contribution from Jillie. You’ve probably chatted with Jillie in the comment section both here and other perfume blogs. When I asked Jillie how she fell in love with scents, she replied, “I think I was born a perfumista!  I toddled around smelling flowers and shrubs in the garden before I was two, and progressed to climbing up onto relatives’ dressing-tables to douse myself in their perfume.  As soon as I got pocket money, I would save to buy cheap scent at Woolworth’s and ended up with a shoe box full of my precious possessions, which I would take out each day and sniff.” As they say, the rest is history.  

What perfume would Vivien Leigh have worn?  Clark Gable once said that when he first met her at the house of David Selznick, the producer of Gone with the Wind, he noticed that she smelled of violets. I ran through my mental list of favorite violet perfumes and decided that it surely must have been Balenciaga’s Le Dix. A delicate violet wrapped in a veil of amber and vanilla, it would have complemented Leigh’s ethereal beauty. I shattered my own illusion when I discovered that Le Dix was created eight years after Gone with the Wind was filmed, but I still like to think that it would have been the perfect fragrance for Miss Leigh.  And you never know, she might have discovered and worn it later in preference to her well documented favorite, Jean Patou Joy.

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Le Dix epitomizes glamour for me, as do the stars of old Hollywood, like Leigh.  Let me confess right now that I am an old-fashioned girl. I love vintage perfumes for their richness and complexity, much like I love classical cinema for its glamour and style. A celebrity scent for me is one that is worn by an actress who is amazingly striking, although not necessarily beautiful, talented and charismatic. Her perfume is an extension of her personality and a perfect fit.  And if you choose to wear the same fragrance yourself, you should feel glamorous too. More than anything, wearing scents is a way for me to fantasize and dream.

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