Do you give girl friends (or girlfriends) perfume as a gift for birthdays, Valentine’s Day and Christmas? I tend not to because, like make-up and clothes, it seems too personal. Sure, if you already know what perfumes they like, there’s no problem. But I wouldn’t just take a guess that a girl friend might like Rive Gauche or Miss Dior or even Chanel No 5. What a waste if they don’t.
In general, I’m not terribly into perfume and eaux de toilette. I know nothing about the industry but would take a guess that it uses some pretty horrible chemicals alongside the much-vaunted extracts of lily, gardenia, rose, freesia and all the other flowers.
It’s mystifying that while we hear endlessly about other products, their manufacture, their ingredients and their effect on the environment, the perfume industry discreetly retains its secrets and, for some, its glamour and mystique. The ‘recipes’ are obviously guarded because they’re commercially sensitive information, but I suppose you could say the same for Acme Meat Company’s Mechanically Recovered Meat Pie Like Mother Makes.
Who ever saw a list of ingredients on the side of a bottle of ‘serious’ perfume? Why the perfume industry seems immune from the disclosures other industries have to make is a bit of a mystery.
Having said all that, there are a few perfumes that strike me as lovely scents and if you’re thinking of giving perfume as a gift at Christmas or Valentine’s Day and don’t worry that perfume’s too personal a present, here they are in case you might like to test them and consider them as gifts. No prices are given because the prices vary at online shops all over the internet.
Clarins Eau Dynamisante is lovely. It’s perfect for Christmas, a birthday or Valentine’s Day. It’s light, quite sharp, not at all cloying or sugary or sweet. It comes in a nicely-shaped dark red glass bottle, a pretty object to have on a dressing table – which I gather is important in marketing perfume. Lots of women as well as considering the perfume itself are apparently influenced by the bottle and the label. Is it pretty enough to see every morning and evening? Is it an object you want to display in your home. (Who knew?) Well, obviously the designers know because they put huge effort into designing perfume bottles and labels. Some companies succeed in making truly ‘signature’ bottles which can become collectors’ items as much for the bottle design as the perfume, which remains untouched. Chanel No 5’s substantial right-angled bottle is the best example of an iconic perfume bottle design. It’s become practically an objet d’art – an artistic and cultural statement about its century. The gorgeous, character-filled French clothes designer Jean-Paul Gaultier attempted something similar with his perfume Jean Paul Gaultier Classique. The jokey pink bottle shaped like a woman’s body was a bit of a departure in perfume bottle design. Though the bright blue male version – Le Male – works less well to my mind, the original idea was funny, attractive and, well, original.
Rive Gauche by Yves St Laurent is another well-known perfume which, again, is light and sharp. Nothing musky or fusty or floral or sugary about it.
Either Rive Gauche or Eau Dynamisante will give a woman a lift as she sets off for an evening out or welcomes friends to her home. They’re both very fresh, invigorating scents.
L’Air du Temps by Nina Ricci is lovely too. Created in 1948 it’s very feminine and subtle. I’d say L’Air du Temps is ideal for Valentine’s Day or a birthday gift. It’s a bit too spring-like, or even summer-y, for Christmas. The advertising blurb is a hoot though, like most advertising blurbs for perfume. Advertising a perfume must be quite tricky when you think about it. If you’re selling an oven you can say “It gets hot and it cooks things.” Great, you think – just what I want in an oven. If you’re advertising a Fiat 500 you can say “It’s tiny, good in traffic, perfect for narrow medieval French streets, easy to park, light on gas and incredibly chic.” (All true and I want one for Christmas but that’s by the by.) With perfume, the advertisers have to sell something the customer can’t easily imagine. So they try to sell you an image – the kind of person who’d wear it or the kind of life you’ll have if you buy it. Look at Jennifer’s Aniston badly launched perfume. She was pictured practically naked, hugely air-brushed, draped on rocks by the sea looking, by turns, alluring or happy. The message was ‘Aspire to having this gorgeous life – slim and lovely with hair windswept by the sea’. Unfortunately the name got completely lost. What was it finally? Lolavie? Lovalie? Luvverly? I think in desperation they eventually said “Oh let’s just call it Jennifer Aniston. Who cares?”
Here’s how Nina Ricci advertisers sell L’Air du Temps. It is, they say,”the perfect harmony of an enchanting elixir, the symbol of femininity and eternal youth. The emblematic values of L’Air du Temps remain universal: Peace, Purity, Freedom and Love. L’Air du Temps is also the air that we breathe, the mood of the moment, the reflection of each era. L’Air du Temps… An unequalled moment of emotion.”
Blimey. All that in a bottle?
There’s more. The perfume represents “a legendary accord of spicy carnation and gardenia, subtly tinged with rose and jasmine from Grasse [in France] and caressed with sandalwood and iris for even more sensuality. A fragrance of emotion, L’Air du Temps exudes a mysterious power of seduction.”
I suppose they wouldn’t get paid much if they just said “Try it – it’s a really nice light perfume – bit rose, bit jasmine.”
Two much newer perfumes I’m not so sure about are Givenchy’s Play For Her and Guerlain’s Idylle. Play For Her is the female version of, you guessed it, Play for Him. It’s advertised by pretty blonde Canadian model/actress, Noot Sear. It’s lovely and fresh and orangey when you spray it on and then quickly becomes fruity and woody, with a definite patchouli fragrance. Although great at first, it becomes heavier.
Idylle features a blend of rose, patchouli, freesia, jasmine, peony and lilac. If that sounds a bit much, perhaps it is. Like Play For Her, it starts by smelling really nice on your skin. Then the heavier scent of patchouli seems to dominate and the fragrance becomes heavy and muddled. Everyone has different taste though and women who like a strong perfume may well love both scents. I’d say they’re better as Christmas or birthday presents than Valentine’s Day gifts.
Just as an afterthought, the advertising video for Idylle is pretty strange (click here to see it.) It’s a very pretty blonde girl writhing about a bit to a soppy, slightly deranged version of Singing in the Rain by Nora Arnezeder. The way the music is played – along with Arnezeder’s slightly spooky “mad-woman” voice – makes the video a bit sinister, but that’s just the way I see it perhaps. Also, I couldn’t tell if the very pretty blonde girl is Noot Sear or Nora Arnezeder as they both fairly similar-looking blondes.
Perfume and perfume ads aside, I have a hard time not reading Nora Arnezeder as Arnold Schwarzenegger. Maybe she can persuade him to change his name.
The Idylle ad video is here: http://fr.kendincos.net/video-jtdrdrp-guerlain-idylle.htmlP