Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Detchema by Revillon: fragrance review

If you have ever been wondering what lost innocence is made of, look no further than Roman Polanski’s 1968 Rosemary's Baby film classic and the floral romantic trail that accompanied the sweet and tender young protagonist Mia Farrow: Detchema by Revillon. Of course if you peeked a bit at Milton you wouldn’t be far off either, but I leave that for another post with more profound existentialist tendencies.
In the film of which a little glimpse you can catch clicking here Mia Farrow is destined to be the mother of the devil’s child, married to what seems like a great guy (played by John Cassavetes) who belongs to a sect of Satan worshipers, intent on bringing their devious plans about domination to fruition through the means of a Madonna in reverse. Everything seems normal on the surface, while deep down the ploy is getting on very well and no one suspects a thing until…..
The crucial toll of the bell comes too late for poor Mia who is hypnotized by all sorts of devious people into believing they’re all catering for her own good, hers and the child’s. Little does she know….or indeed do we all.

So her scent of choice is not far off: Detchema is indeed a gentle unassuming, powdery aldehydic floral of the 50s, introduced in 1953, a time when the ladylike florals and chypres reigned supreme.
Detchema took the theme of the aldehydic floral with a lactonic tenderness interwoven and got it to new heights along with Le Dix de Balenciaga. Less sensual than Chanel no.5, the iconic prototype of the aldehydic fragrance and somehow a bit more soapy (well, acrually quite a bit) than the gorgeous Le Dix, it still possessed professionalism and clean cut, ladylike images to recommend it. It projects a freshness of someone soignée and decked out in everyday chic the way they did it the old days.
It could also be likened to effect that the soapy Nocturnes or the tender Fleurs de Rocaille by Caron have on the psyche: instant transport into a different world.
Of course for those exact reasons it cannot claim any great demands on originality and innovation. She is one of the entourage, never the shinning star of the marquise, yet for what it is it is quite fetching.

All through the 60s and 70s this little gem had been revered and worn with pride by women while the bursting into scene of the orientals with a vengeance after the introduction of the mighty Opium in 1977 signaled the death toll. It never disappeared yet the reformulation during the 90s was inevitable to survive in a market where the vintage has been deemed old-fashioned and passé. And perhaps it is. Yet the lingering halo of innocence and timeless elegance this fragrance imparts to the wearer is reminding us of the youthful physique of Mia Farrow in this film, traipsing along New York, trapped inside the Dakota building.

The sweet armloads of ylang ylang with discernible hyacinth and the warmth of a little carnation get the treatment of a lovely and fresh peach note that along with neroli raises this into the territory of eternal sunshine. Yet the peach never becomes too pronounced, while the burst of putting this onto skin is akin to a refreshing mist on a body that is full of activity and life.
Powdered orris and tonka provide the tender drop on which the whole rests like the clean sheets of the bed on which Mia conceives baby Satan. Thanks to the inclusion of some earthy notes the whole never veers into too sweet avenues, remaining beautifully balanced.

The eau de toilette is especially powdery in the vintage while the parfum/extrait is the superior form with a smoothness that is precise and clear. The choice of Eau de parfum whom was a lucky inclusion in a package by a Canadian friend (to which I am grateful) is a happy medium and it will satisfy those who seek an insistent sillage eminently. It also lasts amazingly well. The vintage comes in a black box with gold filigree which is again fitting the visual reference I picked for it and it would be recommended to track it down in that form, although the new one is not badly made either.
Wear it and be prepared to lose your marbles. Or keep them if you’re smart enough.

Official fragrance notes: Peach, Neroli, Hyacinth, Bergamot, Ylang-Ylang, Jasmine, Carnation, Lily of the valley, Orris, Sandal, Vetiver, and Tonka.

Bottles of Detchema are on FragranceX and the Perfume House of Portland (taking mail orders)
Pic of the bottle courtesy of fragrancex, clip from youtube, song "Evil" by Interpol


  1. Anonymous15:44

    Ahhhh, Detchema. My favorite for nearly 50 years, never displaced by the Opiums and other heavy, oily scents of the 80s, 90s, and beyond. Amazingly, I just looked in the back of a cupboard and found a never-opened spray bottle of Parfum de Toilette in its original packaging, bought probably 25 years ago. It has retained its fresh, delightful scent for all these years.

  2. JennyJ018:09

    When I first smelled Detchema, it brought me to tears because it was so wonderful. And then they changed it and gone was the enchantment. Does anyone know if the old scent is still available somewhere>

  3. Anon, what a find!! Enjoy it in good health!

  4. Jenny,

    I believe there are collectors selling those vintages fragrances on Ebay and perhaps sharing sites (do you know of Scent Splits at wikidot.com?)
    Hope that helps!

  5. JennyJo20:45

    @ Perfumeshrine,

    Thanks very much for the info, I'm on Scent Splits just now. I've also been at Ebay as well but I'm confused as to which ones are the vintage, I can't for the life of me remember what the box looked like. But I'll get there, I'll let you know when I've found it!

  6. Anonymous22:12

    Anon, good for you. What a treat to find a bottle of this. I tried it just because I was born the same year it came out and I was delightfully surprised when it smelled like my idea of heaven when I wear it.

  7. Julie13:24

    I know this is an old entry in this blog and may not be seen by many, but I wanted to tell my Detchema story. When I was about 9 or 10 my grandparents did what was then referrred to as the grand tour of Europe. Upon their return , I was presented with a bottle of Detchema which they'd bought for me in Paris. It was the most divine fragrance in a twisty little pine cone shaped bottle.I wore it a long time! The perfume later became hard to find until I had a friend bring me back a bottle from France in the mid 80s. It was the last I ever had and I ended up accidentally spilling about half of it in my office many years ago. ( That was the bottle with the black stopper in it) I was recently in St Thomas and walked into a perfume store that claimed to have "everything" if by everything you mean all the here today, gone tomorrow celebrity scents. I asked, ever hopeful, if they had Detchema ( (I was willing to check out the reformulation.) A wistful look passed over thie woman's face as she said, " Ah, Detchema...now that is a name I have not heard in a long time. It was beautiful."

  8. Julie,

    it is your story that is truly beautiful.
    Ah the vagaries of fashion and the nostalgic pang for the unattainable (and poignant) they leave behind.
    Thanks for sharing!

  9. Julie14:14

    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to tell it. My search for Detchema has gotten me interested in the subject of perfume in general . I enjoy reading this blog and am heading over to the library today to pick up some books on the subject.

    1. Thanks Julie, glad you're enjoying and even happier that it sparked a more focused interest. Hope to see you often.

  10. Anonymous20:30

    It was the choice of diva Maria Callas

    1. Really? Do you have a biographical quote please, on that score? That's highly interesting. Most people deduced La Callas was using Chanel No.5 since she loved Chanel.


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