There was a time when Guerlain had an honestly more daring approach to everything they did. Daring in not being condescending to their audience; daring in presenting something that recalled more "barbarian" approaches which challenged the tastes of the times instead of going with the flow; daring in that they ventured into presenting something for the readers of a very popular magazine, which managed to be a thing of beauty and not some liquid complaisant trash for juvenile air-heads.
In 1996 Guerlain created a limited edition feminine fragrance for the readers of French edition of Marie Claire, simply called... "Marie Claire". A discerning collector with whom I am in correspondence sent me some to try it out and it was a revelation smelling it and comparing it to more current tastes running the gamut in the brand's offerings. Simply put Marie Claire is a "fleurs blanches" type of fragrance, a white florals sonata that is a throwback to 1948. Why 1948? Because this is when Fracas by Robert Piguet came out, a fragrance of such a dedicated following that it shows no signs of abating. The almost brutal approach of Germaine Cellier (1909-1976) in instisting on short formulae, which targeted bull's eye, manifested itself into creating the most ebullient, the most expansive and the most complacent tuberose in existence; a fragrant labrosone typhoon for women with personalities that announce their arrival from two blocks away. One almost expects a military band with euphonia trumpeting coming marching on at any minute!
Guerlain's Marie Claire is taking a page off that book and dresses it in the dusky, fetish-clad in vinyl skin of tuberose and what seems like jasmine-y ylang ylang to render an interpretation of that effect of glaring luminosity and abysmal darkness. And all that, just imagine, at the height of the popularity of L'Eau d'Issey and all those oceanic scents that acted as chastity belts for modern Victorians! The base of Guerlain Marie-Claire seems to be earthy, vetiver-rich, a memento of dry Guerlain bases from Djedi onwards; it has the caliginous ambience of a basement where dead bodies are slowly decaying over which a garden with the most dramatic flowers is growing nevertheless as a red herring.
What I was completely struck by is the awesome radiance of the fragrance which emitted its strong emanations even before spraying it and by the prolonged evaporation which lasted for days on a blotter which I used, remaining true to the very end. What can I say? If Guerlain deemed a commercial commemoration to be so worthy of attention, I sure wish they'd do more of those.
NB. Guerlain Marie-Claire was in fact re-issued in 1999 under the name Belle Epoque in the long fluted perfume bottle that is called "the umbrella bottle".
Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Guerlain series
Pic "Bewegung" by Rudolph Koppitz