dior: 8 posts

The Original Miss Dior : Catherine Dior

Today’s article is written by Joan Ramirez, an ESL educator and author. Right now she is writing a historical suspense series that begins in occupied Paris in WWII and continues to present day. She is researching her new novel and the material in the article comes from the work she has been doing in the preparation. Perfume will have a role in the novel.

While she was the sister of Christian, the brilliant creator of the fashion House of Dior, Catherine Dior was a class act in a league of her own choosing. Born Ginette Dior on 2 August 1917, she later took Catherine as her name. At the age of fourteen, Catherine lost her mother, Madeleine Dior, to septicemia following an operation. She’d developed her love of fragrance from her mother. Her father, Maurice Dior, lost the family’s fortune in the Wall Street crash of 1929. The young Catherine had to accompany her father from her grand childhood home in Normandy to a small farmhouse in Provence.

Christian and Catherine were in Provence by the time Paris fell to Nazi occupation and France signed the Armistice on June 22,1940 with Germany. On a fateful day in November of 1941, Catherine bought a radio in Cannes. It enabled her to listen to Radio Londres, a station operated from the BBC by members of the Resistance to their supporters in occupied France. Around that time Catherine met Hervé des Charbonneries, an early member of the Resistance and fell in love. By the end of the year, Catherine joined him in a Parisian Resistance network.

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What Makes A Perfume Great

“The art of fortunate proportions” is how Edmond Roudnitska described perfumery. According to the legendary perfumer, a good fragrance has balance and an original form, a simple idea that is far from easy to realize. Roudnitska spent his career creating fragrances that exemplify perfumery at its most artistic—Christian Dior Diorissimo, Eau Sauvage, Diorella, and Rochas Femme. His compositions have elegance and character, but one of the distinctive trademarks of Roudnitska’s style is balance.

When I speak of balance in perfumery, I mean both the aesthetics and the technique. Consider Guerlain’s Chamade, one of the most perfectly balanced fragrances. From the bright green top notes to the rose and hyacinth heart and the velvety woody notes, the perfume unfolds like a silk scroll.  Similarly modulated is Dior’s Diorissimo, where the musky and spicy notes balance out the floral and green accords.

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Three Men’s Fragrances for Women : Modern Classics

The modern concept that scents can be gendered–roses are for women and cedarwood is for men–dates to the post-WWII consumer boom when marketing tried to find new ways to encourage people to buy more products. That’s when the different concentrations of perfume also became popular, resulting in the current trend to release Eau de Parfum and Eau de Toilette versions in the same way that publishing houses tempt the public with hard and soft cover versions of books. The idea, however, is nothing new. The Greek philosopher Theophrastus wrote in his book, Concerning Odors, that men should wear lilies and roses and women myrrh and spikenard. So, there you go.

The main difference in how gender is assigned to scents is cultural. The quintessential feminine note of American and European perfumery, the rose, becomes unisex in the Middle East. Vanilla is much more common among masculine fragrances in Italy than it is in the US. Orange blossom is association with crisp freshness in Spain and with baby products in France. So, for those who are adventurous, the easiest way to have fun is to forget the gender labels and try perfumes based on their notes or stories.

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The Olfactory Equivalent of a Souffle

Over dinner recently at Le Soufflé, a Paris restaurant specializing in the famed French dish, my friend asked me if there are any fragrances that suggest the same lightness and sensuality as this airy confection. The question took me by surprise, but I liked the idea of finding a floral scent that felt weightless without being fleeting. This was no simple task because the floral family is vast, ranging from fresh blends based on orange blossom and lily of the valley to smoldering potions of tuberose and jasmine.


In my recent FT column, The Olfactory Equivalent of a Soufflé, I take up the challenge and select three perfumes that capture the airy and decadent qualities of a soufflé.

The first fragrance I selected was Cartier’s Baiser Volé, a composition of white blossoms glazed with vanilla. Its green, sparkling opening includes rose, gardenia and white Casablanca lilies, while the sweetness is tempered by the cool touch of woods, subsiding in the drydown to musk and cedar. Despite its caressing, velvety impression, Baiser Volé retains its effervescent personality from the first to the last accord. To continue reading, please click here.

Image via FT

7 Rare Vintage Perfumes : The Perfume and Wine Class

As preparation for the Art of Perfume and Wine class that I’m teaching in April in France (more details here), I thought I would write about 7 vintage perfumes that have been influential for the evolution of perfumery and that we will smell in their original versions. There will be over 50 different perfumes in this course, but these 7 are among the most essential to learn.

Guerlain L’Heure Bleue 1912

Many perfumers will name Guerlain as the most influential perfume house, especially in its period when Jacques Guerlain was the head creator. L’Heure Bleue is a textbook example of a classic as well as of a symphonic perfume.

We will, of course, smell other Guerlain classics, from Après L’Ondée and Mitsouko to Chamade and Chant d’Arômes.

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