Fidji by Guy Laroche, coming out in 1966, revolutioned the industry in more ways than one: First, it was at chasm with the previous French aesthetic perfumes coming out from French houses & designers. Here there was a fragrance which represented escapism, but that escapism was communicated in very American-shaped methods. Secondly, it showcased that apart from imaginative names (a tradition which knew some excellent examples in the past anyway), every perfume had to deliver a specific story, a story that would address a need and a desire of the audience to whom it was aimed at. Fidji succeeded beautiful but it also happened to be a beautiful perfume to begin with.
Composed by one of the unknown forces in the industry, nose Josephine Catapano, long before perfumers became rock-stars or began composing fragrances to evoke orgasmic effluvia, Fidji, a freshly green floral with tropical inclusions of ylang ylang and carnation, is a fragrance representative of its times and one which influenced many following it, such as Guerlain's Chamade, Cacharel Anais Anais, Chanel No.19, Givenchy III, Climat and even Charlie by Revlon. Fidji pushed to its extremities, on both ends of its skeleton, could be said to have inspired even Lauder for her bitter chypre Private Collection. After all, Catapano also worked for Lauder and IFF for years where she later became the mentor of Sophia Grojsman. Michael Edwards confirms my theory when he says:
[Fidji] “pioneered a new generation of fresh perfumes: Norell (1969), Charlie (1973), Gucci No 1 (1975) and a hundred other fragrances following its lead”.
Guy Laroche launched Fidji at a time when the youth market seemed like a particularly desirable budding segment to advertisers; what with the upheaval of the 1960s which brought out the power of young ideals and the romanticism of following your heart, and what with the desire of the young to map out their own territories, their own olfactory landscapes. These landscapes often revolved around the East or civilizations away from the Western anxieties...such as those of the South Pacific where the Fidji islands are located and the managers of the brand were taking their vacation when the idea formed. The Beatles were leaving for India and the hippies were gathering at Haight Asbury. Refound paradises were especially suggestive. The market demanded different approaches than the traditional "keeping up with the Joneses" social approach (a respectable perfume to assert one's spending power) or the heavy seduction games of old. Thus woman became "an island and Fidji was her perfume" as the memorable motto went. Women-isles through the years clutched the bottle closely to their smooth bosoms in the glossy images; women as famous as supermodel Linda Evangelista who posed for the ads in the early 1990s.
The olfactory inspiration for Fidji comes from another youthful (in its time) classic: L'Air du Temps by Nina Ricci. The salicylate heart with the clove-y tint was taken apart and enrobed in a new cloth, the rest modernised by Catapano accordingly and given a very fresh fuzzy start which is green rather than peachy, and a base with more patchouli and sandalwood which lasts well.
Unfortunately, Fidji is among the creations which are best savoured in older formulations, as the modern Eau de Toilette, a rare sight at department stores or online, alongside its ancillary products, seems a bit thinned out, although still quite pleasant and many cuts above many more recent launches. Vintage Eau de Cologne concentration looks like a fine medium if you can't get yourself some of the old parfum. It's still available although rarer and rarer in some auction sites.
Notes for Guy Laroche Fidji:
citrus (lemon), galbanum, hyacinth, ylang ylang, carnation (via clove), spices, Bulgarian rose, jasmine, orris, vetiver, oakmoss, sandalwood, patchouli, balsam, musk, ambergris.