Anna was a creature of fire and spice, long tresses of chestnut trailing her back in thick curls, a straight, impressive nose under austere dark brows, but with a gregarious, roaring laughter that dared to flirt with anyone within a 10-mile radius. She dressed in full bohemia, just about 10 years after its heyday or about 20 before its resurgence, any which way you choose to see it. She wore dangling earrings made of ethnic beads and smoked heavy Gitanes. And her scent seemed to preceed her; which was not all that au contraire to the mood of the era, if only because there were numerous others, men and women alike, who followed a fragrance cloud rather than the other way around. That was the 80s, that was when Paloma Picasso launched Mon Parfum, a powerful chypre fragrance meant to embody her unique style.
Anna did not wear white shirts with black skirts, though, nor painted her lips in a crimson bloodfest that recalls the picadors in the tercio de varas. No, Anna was beyond such clichés...
The Ritual Fire Dance by Spanish composer Manuel De Falla conjures up comparable images in my mind. (the cello soloist is Julian Lloyd Webber and the clip was uploaded by gindobray)
The pungent green and dry chypré opening was like a bruise, aching long after the blow has been hit. And then roaring spices came cascading down in quick succession: clove and coriander, bold and proud, unashamedly pronouncing their presence before the hazy drop of flowers smelled at a distance was perceived, with a little hedione brightness. Rose was musty, musky, playing hide-and-seek with an effluvium of patchouli leaves with a little powder, much like that in Aromatics Elixir.
The gaunlet however was only thrown after the base notes develop, like the hides of dead animals, rich castoreum with more than a touch of the masculine, at a tannery on a warm day. The funk of a big animal in its ammoniac glory used to cure the hides is there and it dares you to bypass without closing your nostrils for a while, doubting if this is supposed to smell good or bad. A conundrum!
It came in a glorious soap formula that was made for bathing meant to make you smell dirtier than what you started with and didn't you love this, back then.
The eau de parfum was Anna's preferred concentration, encased in a black glass bottle from what I recall (current versions with lightned up base -due to restrictions in animalic ingredients used- are in plastic). And upon resniffing for the purposes of this review I couldn't but wonder how it was possible to tolerate, -nay, love madly- such a potent mix! It would take a very sparing application in this modern day and age to make it smell acceptable. But it is worth trying to find the perfect balance. The parfum/extrait which comes in a white splash bottle is perhaps the way to go as it is meant to be dabbed and not sprayed.
It's interesting to note that some modern day scents such as Sisley's chypre Soir de Lune were even inspired by Paloma's approach.
Mon Parfum was composed by Francis Bocris in 1984 with Paloma's guidance and includes the following notes:
Top: bergamot, lemon, hyacinth, angelica, ylang ylang, clove.
Middle: Rose de Mai,jasmine, lily of the valley, orris
Base: Oakmoss, castoreum,vetiver, patchouli, amber, civet, musk, cedarwood, tobacco, sandalwood
The touch of a masterful persona that purposly discards social rules to do their own is evident in Mon Parfum by Paloma Picasso. Anna wore it amazingly well. Not all do.
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