Monday, October 19, 2009

La Prairie Life Threads: fragrance reviews

It's not too often that I do "custom" reviews, and before you get any nasty thoughts (we're an independent blog here!), I mean requests from my readers. I had presented the new trifecta Life Threads by La Prairie (with a little historical comparison as to precious metals and fragrance associations) and emails started flooding my inbox asking me for my opinion on them. After replying to one or two directly, I thought you might all get a kick if I embarked on a more detailed coverage, so here I am.

If you have any modernist streak running through you, the hard-wired and Lucite La Prairie bottles display will recalimbrate your vision on where modern art can appear: Apparently apart from MOMA or The Tate, it can be hosted at your local La Prairie counter too! There was some version of plastic paneling in packaging before, notably in Roberto Cavalli scents (Just Her, Just Him) but it was done in a completely plastic-fantastic "I'm a Barbie Girl" sort of manner that defied good taste really. The La Prairie bottles take those wires and coil them round your neck tightly if you even begin to think that they're cheap: They most assuredly are not and they look ever so much better up close.

The trilogy is set to be a "provocative portfolio of fragrances [that] speaks to the different dimensions of a woman, rich with entanglements, connections and mysteries waiting to be unraveled". Reassuringly, they're not especially provocative, in the degree that you won't be rubbing your eyes "whoa! where did this come from?", however they are all polished, competent compositions that exhibit good intentions.

I was overall most impressed with Silver which is the woody floral in the triumvirate. Expansive and with an engulfing white floral heart (indolic jasmine and lots of creamy tuberose) it radiates with the same razor-sharp pitch over off-the-cholesterol-chart butteriness which Fracas does so well, thanks to the inclusion of peppery and green elements (think spicy vetiver and unidentified mossy notes, probably in synch with the upcoming IFRA44th regularions). Lovers of Tom Ford's Velvet Gardenia might also want to give it a whirl, because it shares the proper mushroom-like ambience of the real blossoms and a butyric character right out of the clotted cream recipes cookbook of Julia Child ("The best time for diet food is while waiting for the steak to get done" ~I can identify with that!). March over at Perfume Posse put it succintcly when testing it: "It was like running errands in a silk peignoir and ostrich mules. It is deeply fabulous, if very much not me, although I kind of want it to be me".

Gold is certainly shaping up to be the crowd-pleaser in the range, as it hits all the right spots for most of the consumers: it starts citrusy (mandarine, but not orchard-rich), is a little sweet (but not tooth-achingly so, an accomplishment), it's a little orientalised (but will not end you being sold in a harem), it's a little spicy (but no uncle Serge peeking through with handfuls of cumin at the ready to be thrown up your nose). The solar notes and the ylang-ylang heart compliment each other well and the solemn, yet warm note of myrrh is infusing the whole. Is a perfume that is programatically set to deny excess in any aspect worth it, you might ask. Well, in some small way it is. I wouldn't pick it as my first choice over other beloved orientals, but to make an analogy, like Yves Saint Laurent's misunderstood Cinéma it's a pleasant example of the genre that shouldn't be ashamed of itself.
Although advertised as an "elegant and edgy chypre" (a category I am especially simpatico to), Platinum didn't grab me, nor did I find it edgy. I hear it is marketed as unisex, which is a novel idea, the other two being so femme focused. There is radiance, but also a little shrill quality about it, which manifests itself in the clash of the cucumber-smelling violet leaves in the opening (this is not sweet powdery violets) with the abstract floral elements and the standard patchouli-vetiver base which we have been smelling to distraction in, oh, just about the majority of the market's share of "modern chypres" in the last 5 years or so. The latter might be the reason why I am not more enthused with the idea, although I can't deny it's a competent example and it does present a miniscule leather facet which is intriguing. I just wish it had been furthered to its full potential!

Somehow the advertising fanned out in three commercial clips seems rather cheesy to me and you can colour me unimpressed on that score ~there's even a song "inspired" by them; sometimes they seem attenuated to the point of ridicule (The heavy nuanced accent on the Platinum one doesn't really help me take this any more seriously, dear advertisers. It's not like you hired Tim Piggot Smith, you know). The stories are "real stories", aiming to provide a romantic subplot to what is a snippet of "life" for the viewers. If the La Prairie audience accustomed to their expensive skincare is fantasizing about such a life (and not already having it) is unbeknowst to me, although I wouldn't hold my breath; it certainly looks a little aspirational to those who probably save scraps for a month in order to be able to afford a pot of their creams. ("I always wanted to leave on top of the world" etc. just before the story turns into the classic "rich lady in search of macho low-class so she can feel like a woman again".) You can watch them all here or on Lifethreads.com. It's interesting to note that although it's French actress-singer Arielle Dombasle who is fronting the fragrances, the commercials so far utilize neither her voice, nor her presence. I wonder why!
The clips come with lots of voice-over. Someone needs to have a cinematic lesson: Voice-over is the surest way to have a par excellence visual medium turn into televised theatre, aka snore-fest ~if you have ever compared a live theater performance with its televised version you know what I'm talking about! It's a pity the designing team didn't work on the advertising as well. But in true cinematic mode "nobody's perfect!"

La Prairie Life Threads: Silver, Gold and Platinum come in Eau de Parfum bottles of 1.7oz/50ml for $125/100 euros at La Prairie counters, Neiman Marcus, Begdorfs and Saks.
Notes etc. on this link.

Photo by Guy Bourdin via queeninheels.com and saopauloegratis.com


  1. A few of us gave these a quick sniff at Neiman's yesterday. We couldn't spend much time with them because there was a particularly aggressive SA guarding the display. Silver certainly caught my attention, despite the scantiness of the spritz that I managed to grab before the SA bared her fangs at me. Creamy tuberose indeed!

  2. I was wondering on those, so thanks for the presentation and offering your views! Great photos to accompany them too!

    The price seems to position them in the higher end of fragrances and the concept of a trilogy in same-style bottles reminds me of niche offerings. Would you classify them as such?

  3. Anonymous14:44

    Thanks for such beautiful reviews, I want to go sample them now, even if you say the advertising is in a league with Fabio, did I get that right? lol, thanks anayway!

  4. Hey, thanks for the link! It's always a pleasure to read your reviews, it sounds as though we are in agreement on these. I was surprised at how far they took things with the silver, and I daresay the Gold might grow on me in its cuddly, mainstream way... off to look to see if you did a review of Cinema btw, I CANNOT decide how I feel about it.

  5. Mellisa,

    what a pity, as they do present some interest: handling the bottles being half of it, LOL

    I hope you get to try the Silver one at some point at leasure, it's quite glam!

  6. Sue,

    you're welcome. I got requests to review them, so...who am I to disappoint? :-)
    I wouldn't call them niche, because to me niche means edgier and certainly more esoteric both in concept and in distribution. But I'm sure niche has "lost" some of its cachet with the luxurisation it's got through established houses issuing their own "private collections" (If that clears things for you; hey, I tried!)

  7. Aline,

    that's only my personal opinion, mind you!! Lots of people really liked the "life snippets" approach to the clips (I urge you to watch them yourself, I included the link in the article). I don't know, to me they were cheesy. :/

  8. March,

    hello! You're most welcome ~it was deserved, wasn't it? :-)

    Silver would be my first choice, then Gold if someone wanted to gift me with some, although when first reading the notes I expected to fall for the Platinum. It's good to find a good, fattied up white floral always, isn't it? Sort of glam and all out. I haven't reviewed Cinema properly, though I should: I hear it's getting harder to get in the US and lots of people are wondering. It's nice in a somewhat meek way, which is in complete antithesis with that super-haute advertising, isn't it? (I seriously need that dress!)


  9. Anonymous22:43

    I absolutely love the videos personally ... but I agree that silver is my fav too www.lifethreads.com is supposed to have new videos soon i think


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