Jean Patou who had devised Joy as “the costliest perfume in the world” at exactly this time, shocking the system, was well cognizant of that axiom: fragrance was still more affordable than couture, even if that fragrance was the “costliest” in the world. The extravagance which any period of crisis brings out in people was reflected in the trends of the 30s.
In 1933 Patou came out with an invitation to “a party mood of exquisite madness” to reflect that extravagance, with his Divine Folie (Divine Folly); an ambery fragrance with a powdery feel, a scattering of slightly sour, oily blooms and a spicy note to give it piquancy. That clove-y carnation whiff reminds me of Adieu Sagesse and the two share the overture but they part ways in the coda: Divine Folie is more ambery and powdery, with a pronounced vanilla veil. It has the nostalgic feel of old-fashioned putty makeup put on to convey a gaiety that is not really felt in the heart, desperation of seeing the end looming after what seemed like the promise of happiness: a little skewed a little flawed, einmal ist keinmal.
Divine Folie resembles Sophie in Maugham’s "The Razor’s Edge", a happy life shattered by tragedy, trickling into the doom of drink, opium and the promiscuity of “dumb but beautiful” sailors. Her decadent façade merely a vitrine, putty make-up to hide the wounds of her soul, her mascara-shoot tears black rivulets betraying the better side of promise.
Notes for Divine Folie: Neroli, Ylang Ylang, Iris, Rose, Jasmine, Musk, Vanilla
In contrast Normandie is Isabel, the proper but not without passion fiancée of Larry who settles for a married rich life instead of pursuing the path to spiritual enlightment with him. Her own disillusionment after the Great Crash and her re-evaluation of her life are aspects which have not yet being explored in Normandie. The fragrance is still the emblem of the good life, of yachting, of cruising, of travelling the world over in defiance of poverty or misery. How extravagant indeed to name a fragrance after a cruise liner! Perfectly fitting the megalomaniac tendencies of the Patou brand, Normandie the liner which showcased some of the most celebrated art nouveau décor in the world and its maiden voyage in 1935 was to be commemorated through Normandie the fragrance.
“The grandiose crossing of the Atlantic. An amber perfume with a pronounced oriental note. A fragrance full of character, mingling jasmine, rose and moss” is how Jean Kérleo chose to present it in the "Ma Collection" booklet. The charming gesture of presenting each passenger aboard the ship with a sample, slot in the funnel of a stylized metal steamer was the ne plus ultra in extravagant launches, on a par with parachuting Paris with Ma Griffe samples.
Normandie blends the prettiest powdery flowers in a picture-perfect bouquet of carnation, jasmine and soapy rose that rests on a table of rich mahogany, the smell of balsam in the background. Much like Ombre Rose or 24 Faubourg, Normandie is a sumptuous, expensive, woody floral with slightly sweet vanillic base which personifies the meaning of good taste and restraint. Exactly like Isabel: well mannered, beautiful yet subtle, an excellent conversationalist, it makes for witty small-talk about the latest gossip if you wish it, but also a discussion about Götterdämmerung. The question is whether she will find the chance to dwelve in the latter and that chance you have to provide for her yourself.
Notes for Normandie: carnation, jasmine, rose, opoponax, tree moss, vanilla, benzoin
Pic of Bonnie and Clyde film courtesy of athinorama.gr, of bottles courtesy of fragranceglobe and netstoreusa.us