Sunday, July 12, 2009

Crazy Libellule and the Poppies Tamara Charleston, Hommage a Gabrielle, Rose a Saigon: fragrance reviews and giveaway!

Crazy Libellule and the Poppies are the purveyors of cute solid sticks playfully nicknamed crazy stick and le parfum caresse, because they're meant to touch your skin. Their newest offering is an homage to fabulous ladies of the Roaring 20s, a line of solids called Les Garçonnes (after the novel La Garçonne which ignited the "flapper" vogue).

Although I would not venture to call them "proper perfume", they do present a fun and cute way of carrying around a scented little something in your handbag without the risk of spilling or staining and are airplane-friendly, making them perfect for holidays. In fact I have the sneaking suspicion that that last bit was the genius idea Isabelle Masson-Mandonnaud, co-founder of Sephora along with Dominique Mandonnaud, came up with when restrictions of liquids on board became effective! She cites her inspiration as a day of sadness from which she wanted to escape, recover "a grain of innocence and a few grams of craziness" . Hence the crazy flying lepidopter which sneaked its way into the brand name. Whatever the thought-process behind the line was, the truth is it's whimsical and super affordable, two traits that are always fun to come across.

Composed by perfumer Olivia Jan, the new line is comprised of compositions with distant and not-so-distant allusions to 20s personalities and heroines from Gabrielle Chanel and Josephine Baker to Louise Brooks and Tamara Lempicka through imaginary, unknown women.

It wouldn't be inaccurate to claim that Hommage à Gabrielle, dedicated to Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel, stands as the modern culmination of an idea which the Mademoiselle herself introduced: When asked by a young woman where to put on fragrance, she had responded wherever she wanted to be kissed. Crazylibellule has this as an idée fixe contained in their slogan "My caress-like perfume, everywhere I want to be kissed". If there wasn't a Chanel alluding composition so far it was a grave omission, now remedied in the tomboyish concept commemorating the androgynous fashions of Coco herself. Naturally an homage does not mean you're face to face with a Chanel-like creation, yet I can't but marvel at the ingenuity of the concept: There is the delicate white floral element of many of Mademoiselle's fragrances, a subtly bituminous note (Russian leather) to allude to Cuir de Russie, and a pleasing peppery incense backdrop which is a wink to the base of No.22. Someone was jotting down references very attentively! The whole is a warm floral which dries down like a woody.

Tamara Charleston is an interesting mix, inspired by the cubist-like treatment of several of Tamara de Lempicka's paintings. The juxtaposition of sweet (peach, jasmine, cut hay) and bitter notes (absinthe) grabbed me and it proved my favourite of those I tested. The peach is vibrant but well tempered through the other notes. The lisylang ingredient is Robertet firm's speciality which seems to bring a clean, airy nuance to the rest of the exotic blossoms, while imparting what I perceive as a lactonic tonality blending seamlessly with the milky peach and the soupçon of violet. The whole evokes the hedonic scent of cut grass in its wondrously both sweet and snapped-leaves green aroma.

Rose à Saïgon has a charming fiction behind it: "Her name was Rose and she dreamed of other worlds, of the effervescence of the roaring 20s. The moist air of Indochine, a crackly melody on the gramophone, and the spellbinding odor of dreams on her skin. The composition is an innocent fruity rose, more Jane March in L'Amant than Catherine Deneuve in Indochine, garlanded with classical Far Eastern leaves and grasses (patchouli, vetiver) and was the best lasting of the lot on me.

Notes for Hommage à Gabrielle: jasmine, peony, ozonic flower, cedar, incense, leather, vanilla and elemi.
Notes for Rose à Saïgon: mango, rose, jasmine, gaiac wood, ylang ylang, passion fruit, vetiver and patchouli.
Notes for Tamara Charleston: with peach, mandarin, fresh cut hay, absinthe, jasmine, lisylang (a Robertet molecule), gardenia and amber.
You can read a full report on the notes of the rest (Chère Louise, Pompon Gardenia, Jeanne Voyage, Joséphine Jonquille) on this article.

The new Crazy Libellule and the Poppies Les Garçonnes line of fragrances are available in 5 gr perfume solids based on petrolatum and paraffin in "lipstick" carbon tubes for $18 each. They are all alcohol-& parabens-free and they do not contain any colouring agents. They're not oily at all, but they stay very close to the skin, not projecting. Check out the brand on the official Crazy Libelllule and the Poppies site .Available at Beautyhabit and B-glowing in the US.

I have three "crazy sticks" to give away to our readers: Tells us which 20s heroine you would love to see inspiring a fragrance and why in the comments and I will choose three winners!

In the interests of full disclosure, I got the sticks as part of a promotion.
Painting "Where there's smoke there's fire" by Russell Patterson via Wikimedia commons. Painting by Tamara Lempicka via Femmefemme femme


  1. I'm going to forgo the glamour pusses like Clara Bow and Anita Loos and Josephine Baker; instead, I nominate my idol of English eccentricity, Edith Sitwell. (If you haven't ever listened to Façade, her wacked-out poetry readings set to music, please do -- it will blow your mind!)

  2. Tallulah Bankhead, she seems like such a free minded and open woman. Especially for those times she is so blunt and honest it would make many a woman blush today. I like it when people are so direct and I try to be as direct as I can..when I dare.

  3. julesinrose01:59

    (Marguerite) Radclyffe Hall, who lived her life out of the closet, went by the name John, and wrote some minor classics of the time period, even having to endure an obscenity trial for "The Well of Loneliness", which was not explicit in the least. She had to see all copies of this book destroyed - how tragic. How brave to live as she did in the 1920's!

    I would love to celebrate her in scent; her bravery, her unconventional beauty, and for being totally who she was, without apology.

  4. I just had to add that Radclyffe Hall would make a wonderful addition to "Les Garconnes" series for she wore the most gorgeous to-die-for menswear suits!

  5. maitreyi197804:17

    I'd like to see a perfume for Mae West. She was on Broadway in the twenties so she counts. It should have everything in it! Roses, tuberose, jasmine, lilies, vanilla, spices, etc... I would buy it.
    Please include me in the draw.

  6. I have been drawn to Kiki de Montparnasse (Alice Prin) since I was young, she was a celebrated model in Paris during the twenties, and she is the woman on Man Ray´s famous photo Le Violin de Ingres among a lot of other things. She lived hard and died when she was about 50...

  7. For me it's Vita Sackville-West because she was an incredible english aristocratic garconne, some say had an affair with Virgina Woolf...

  8. I'd like to see one created for Colleen Moore, forgotten flapper icon. F Scott Fitzgerald once said that he was 'the spark that lit up flaming youth and Colleen Moore was the torch.' She was a gifted comedienne - not beautiful like Brooks or heartbreaking like Bow, but tremendously energetic and funny.

    Hers was also one of the first celebrity scents, with packaging decorated with shamrocks to reflect her Irish roots. It'd be nice to see her get another scent 80 years later.

  9. I've written about her before, but how about pioneering aviatrix, femme fatale, big-game hunter and safari guide Beryl Markham? Her pioneering transatlantic flight was made in 1936, but she certainly was around and making trouble in the Twenties.

  10. london13:13

    I vote for a fictional heroine - Daisy from The Great Gatsby simply because it's the most quintessentially 1920s thing I can think of. Gatsby himself would be a good inspiration come to that.

  11. Anonymous14:24

    I immediately thought Sonia Delaunay. She was active before and after the 20s, but the vividness of her textiles, clothes, and paintings always recalls jazz, dance, and 20s energy in Paris.


  12. Anonymous14:38

    Dear E,

    My vote goes to Karen Blixen; the 20s encompassed that part of her life in which she struggled to manage a business on her own in a world still dominated by men. Her writing displays an ability to see people and things for what they were. She did not filter her impressions of Africans and colonists through preconcieved notions of race and class but instead saw the dignity in every one. For those reasons, she reminds me of my great-grandmother and of all the quiet heroines of the 20s, when women, many times out of necessity, had to find their place alone in a new world.


  13. I think Dorothy Day would be a marvellous subject for a 20's perfume subject - as an advocate, convert, and social activist, she represents so many facets of the 20th century zeitgeist.

  14. A favourite twenties icon would have to be Louise Brooks, a perfect representation of a glamorous "garconne", a free spirit coiffed with a perfect, period-making bob. Innovative without trying, effortlessly elegant, serene and untamed... adjectives pile up but the legend remains unfathomable. Were I a "nez", she might inspire a racy "chypre" or a woody-oriental; why not?

  15. Not sure whether it's allowed to choose literary figures ... but I'd be interested to smell something inspired by Daisy Buchanan or Jordan Baker from The Great Gatsby (1925). It's always been one of my favorite books. I've always loved both of these heroines because through all their glamor, they're both deeply flawed, very "real" seeming people.

    The aspect of Daisy that I would like to see captured in perfume is how the narrator always describes her voice - a little breathless and light, always entrancing others to lean in closer.

    The aspect of Jordan that I would like to see captured in a fragrance is in a way the opposite - how the narrator describes how Jordan always stands - leaning back, as though she is just a bit aloof - an observer, not a participant.

    I would love to be considered for the give away :)

  16. JAntoinette16:58

    I am moved by the incredible artistry of Tamara de Lempicka. How can anyone possibly be more glamorous than she was, coolly pursing her crimson lips at the helm of a green Bugatti!

  17. Anonymous17:04

    Dorathy Parker because she was a gutsy woman.

  18. Amy K22:10

    I'd pick either Alice Paul or Margaret Mead. Paul was a key figure in the US women's suffrage movement and fought for equal rights. Mead was an anthropologist at a time when female scholars were a rarity in the US and helped to start breaking down some of our Puritan values regarding sexuality. I'd have a hard time picking a fragrance for them, though! They both sound like gutsy, intelligent women.

  19. May I fudge the time scale just a little and vote for Babe Didrikson Zacharias? She graduated from high school in 1929, so I don't suppose that really counts, but she won three medals in the 1932 Olympics and for her entire life was an absolutely fearless athlete, throwing herself into whatever sport grabbed her interest: track and field, golf, bowling, pool, baseball, softball, basketball, diving--you name it. The really don't make them like her any more. I don't know if she was the perfume type--she was short and solid and no-nonsense and not at all glamorous--but I can see in her one of the garçonne scents like En Avion or Tabac Blond, I think.

    If I can't nominate her, then it would be the equally fearless Amelia Earhart. I'd put her in the same perfumes, too, actually.

  20. I can't believe no one has yet mentioned Lillian Gish! So many wonderful silent film roles. She always appeared so delicate and fragile, but revealed incredible strength. A haunting floral with a deep smoldering base note would be perfect!

  21. I would nominate Lady Astor, a witty, vivacious Virginian who became the first woman to serve in the British House of Commons in the 1920s. A flawed but vital individual, Lady Astor has always struck me as a Oscar Wilde character come to life: Cecily Cardew maturing into Lady Bracknell. "I married beneath me. All women do." Her will in equaling any man, even Winston Churchill, is particularly striking.

    For the 1920s Lady Astor, making her way as an MP, I think a floral with a dark, resinous twist, a la Caron, would match both her beauty and her notorious intellect. (Lady Astor and her sisters were supposedly the inspiration for Gibson girl, a model of American beauty prior to World War I.)

  22. Jean Rhys is my nominee. A writer who never bent to the will of men who wished to change her voice, she was singularly feminine, willing to give her last few francs for a new dress, a small posey, a beautiful chapeau to lift her spirits. She walked as a lost soul among the English, was almost recognized among the French. Always evoking the warmth and scent of her precious Leeward Isands, she stood up to every arrogant gaze that ever dared measure her. Proud to a fault, what is not to love?

  23. Always fascinated by Nancy Mitford and her family, the eccentricities and the way they all went such opposite directions is fascinating.

  24. Isadora Duncan...who believed herself the child of Isis and protected by her because she bore her name. When she danced, no one could forget her. Indeed, she seduced with nary a word. She defined sexuality with no excuses. Her scent would be a damascene rose draped in exotic Egyptian herbs, spices and olibanum. Heartbreaking, impulsive, memorable and as operatic as her life stolen by the tassels of her red silk scarf.

  25. I have to comment that there were many extraordinary women during the 1920's! The "Les Garconnes" line should be expanded to two dozen, it seems.

  26. I thought right away of Karen Blixen, then I thought of Josephine Baker (even tho she wore Sous le Vent which was made for her.) Both of them were modern women, despite living before us.

  27. ScentRed18:24

    I second the Louise Brooks nomination - the fragrance would be sassy, sexy and fun.

  28. As Louise Brooks (which is made hommage to via Loulou by Cacharel already) and Djuna Barnes (who is one of my favourite writes btw) have already been mentioned, i would love to name either Theda Bara, as she was the first female vamp in cinema and a sex symol, maybe the first of the moving images, OR Pola Negri, because she was just a poor girl from Poland who became a STAR,loved & hated, living a dream. Nothing better than her "Valentino" acting (after his death). Alledgedly, her carreer was destroyed by the Hays Code. She was inspriration for the one of the main characters (Katya Lupi) in the GRAND novel "Coldheart Canyon" by Clive Barker, i believe, although he has never confirmed. The scent would be a poisonous white-floral with chyprish undertones. And without panties.

  29. Love your suggestions, people!!
    I am very pleased to see several tremendous women I knew and a couple I hadn't even heard of, so it goes to show you these fun little giveways are educational and inspiring for me personally as well!

    I just want to remind you that Josephine Baker and Louise Brooks have already been alluded to in the Les Garconnes line (although not reviewed on this article), but I love your recs and your scented ideas. I hope the founders of CL&TP are reading and getting inspired!!

    Keep them coming, I am leaving this open till Friday midnight.

  30. I am very happy to see that someone has already nominated Amelia Earhart. This was who immediately came to my mind. I would love to see a scent that was leathery and rosy with a hint of ozone. She was an amazing and inspiring woman, courageous and beautiful.
    I would also be interested in a female scientist such as Marie Curie or Rachel Carson. Neither of these women were exactly at their peek career wise at this time but I would love to have a fragrance represent either of these brilliant ladies.

  31. Anonymous18:18

    Marquis Luisa Casati, a true character and bon vivante, artistic muse and patron, and decadent trendsetter.
    -- HVS


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