Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chewing the Cud on Givenchy's upcoming fragrance Dahlia Noir

Givenchy' upcoming feminine fragrance, Dahlia Noir (i.e. black dahlia), is the first house scent overseen by couture creator Riccardo Tisci in collaboration with perfumer François Demachy, but it already presents something of a challenge for reasons we elaborate on below. Fabien Baron is the creator of the bottle and the ad campaign, featuring Maria Carla Boscono, which is set to hit glossies and screens later this year, in an image of almost fetishy gothic-inspired clothing of black lace and chiffon.

The fragrance notes for Givenchy Dahlia Noir comprise such vague terms as "rose vapour, peach milk, iris powder and precious/sacred woods" and since dahlia has no smell, we are left guessing with only Tisci's feedback on what to expect. The childhood memories & associations of Tisci, on which he drew inspiration from for Dahlia Noir, include the iris-scented scent of his sisters' cosmetics (including lipstick and a shared bottle of Rive Gauche) as well as a classic scent from Italian brand Santa Maria Novella.
According to him, the concept was an abstract, geometrical floral, which leads me to believe we're dealing with a floral that will not be obviously floral (in the mould of many modern floral fragrances aimed at young people who sneer at being presented with "traditionally feminine" pretty flowers in their scents) . Tisci goes on to elaborate that the concept alluded to by the name has to do with romanticism, sex and darkness: a well-played theme by now in many a "noir" fragrance, but also supposedly standing for what Givenchy stands for as well. I think Hubert might have other ideas in his mind than "sex and darkness" back in the day when he was dressing Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy, but even though he is very much alive, his own patrician image has subtly, discreetly exited the picture on what concerns his brand.

It remains to be seen whether the darkness of Eau Demoiselle (a previous release by Givenchy played on the allure of a black mantle-dress) will now transpire into more than the innocuous woody floral musk the former fragrance equated into.

The new Givenchy fragrance reportedly "has nothing to do" with the James Ellroy novel Black Dhalia, which takes upon itself to explore and partly fictionalise the facts of an infamous real murder case, or with previous Givenchy releases; but the association with the unsolved murder case of brutally  butchered Elizabeth Sort (nicknamed "The Black Dahlia" in the call-girl circuit of late 1940s LA she was part of, due to her predeliction for wearing black) is too close to home to escape criticism of milking an infamous catch-phrase for money. LVMH, to which Givenchy belongs, is no mom & pop establishment that would fail to research a trademark adequately, at any rate, and the French posters for Brian De Palma's film a few years ago have it emblazoned all over the Internet. Let's not forget, MAC Cosmetics, another big player, who issued a comparably similarly named makeup collection. What's up with that?

Givenchy Dahlia Noir is released on 22 August in France for 57 euros for 30ml of Eau de Parfum.


  1. When I hear Black Dahlia, I immediately think of the gory, brutal murder. It is an immediate turn off for me, but maybe the story is not that well-known? Is there a romance to the story of a call girl who gets dismembered? What am I missing here?

  2. I hate what Tisci has done to Givenchy. The name of this made me roll my eyes. Please, marketing folks, no more noir.

  3. I have great appreciation for the house of Givenchy but their current perfume offerings are just blah. Luckily I can still find Organza Indecence. Dahlia Noir is at least more compelling to me than the umpteenth Very Irresistable flanker.

  4. Fernando15:33

    Givenchy confuses me. They have some things I really like, then lots of totally forgettable stuff. Is it just pre- a post- LVMH? And why is it so hard to find the better Givenchy stuff in the US?

  5. Anonymous16:00

    No matter how appealing the notes or the juice might actually be, I could never get past this association. This is a situation in which the marketing group should have done a little *more*, as in a focus group on the name. Yikes.

  6. Anonymous16:22

    I'm thinking of the murder as well. NOT something I want to smell, however nice the notes list sounds.

  7.'s hard not to think MURDER when you hear the phrase "Black Dahlia" (and those linked pics are GRUESOME). What's the "tagline" for this perfume?...."Givenchy's Black Dahlia - a perfume for those nights when nothing but dismemberment will do...." Yikes! And scarier yet - the inevitable Summer Flankers.....aaahhhhhh!!!!!

  8. Anonymous17:26

    I like the idea, dahlias, and I watched the old movie of the black dahlia with Lucy Arnaz years ago, and have kept track of it too. If the killing of Liz Short had happened now they would find the killer.

  9. Kathy,

    perhaps they just didn't research so well, or perhaps there's a time when simple things lose their simple meaning. Like the name of flowers.
    (I think we perfumistas for instance have an immediate association when hearing Black Narcissus or Black Orchid, don't we?)

  10. SS,

    no more noir is never too soon. It's almost bycode for "inspid" by now.

  11. Susan,

    the house isn't what it was, I guess. I do understand the need to modernise. But VI and its many flankers is beyond me. What the hell? (you know?)
    Hmm, let's hope this one isn't totally boring.

  12. Fernando,

    exactly! Great things and very blah things. The latest flankers of both fems and masculines are atrocious. Poorly done on a shampoo budget!

    I think "greens" or "aldehydics" don't do particularly well in the US at the moment, and that's two halves of the best offerings in the line (though I bet Organza Indencense, a pretty good oriental even though too sweet for me, is among their best-selling ones in the US). It's a momentous thing, IMO.

  13. APB,

    or perhaps they DID their research (it's hard to imagine not for a LVMH company) and they purposefully raided the name for its recognisability (especially since there's a film out and books too!)

  14. Muse,'s something that is a risk with a perfume name. It's rather creepy, to be sure.

  15. M,

    sorry for disturbing you with the linked pics. They do show the whole horror of referencing, though, don't they?
    Summer flankers would be the pits....please God, no!

  16. Barbara,

    indeed! Excellent point. The new methods of forensic science make it extremely difficult to commit a murder without sporting a full suit of plastic, a full mask, hair bonnet and those one-off plastic outwear for your shoes, not to mention you have to control everything about the environment as well as the victim's physical state.
    Imagine a disturbed murderer walking the streets like that? :-P

  17. Fernando00:48

    Actually, one can't find Organza Indecence very easily in the US. The only online retailer to carry it is Dillards, and I've never seen any of the "Mythiques" for sale anywhere. Nor can one find the Harvest collection special editions. But Amarige one finds everywhere, including the various flankers. And of course Very Irrestible and Hot Couture and Play... It's very weird.

  18. That's a pretty distasteful name, given the association with such a horrific crime. (At first glance I thought the movie poster was the perfume ad and almost fell out of my chair!)

    I always hope Hubert de Givenchy is ignoring what's happened to the house that bears his name. He's a man of such taste, elegance and class -- things the current Givenchy incarnation under LVMH is often lacking.

  19. Sofi10:37

    The dark and mysterious concept of this perfume really intrigues me! I hope that its smell will be equivalent to its name!

  20. Very unfortunate choice of a name I think.

    I guess it's a bit ummmm, Goth?

  21. Anonymous07:38

    Hate to point out the obvious but the Black Dahlia was cut in half at the waistline. Just like the "chiffon" in the ad has done. And compared to the old b&w crime scene photos, I'm afraid it echoes a bit close. "nothing to do with", my eye.

  22. Fernando,

    don't say! I was under the impression it wasn't so difficult to source. Certainly many Americans of good taste seem to love it madly, so why the selective distribution, I wonder!

  23. MC,

    yeah, the poster almost looks like a perfume ad, given the similarity of the name. :/
    It's a shame re:the house, but then look what happened to YSL too (*sobs*).

  24. sofi,

    the concept isn't bad, so let's hope the perfume delivers, though I am not too optimistic, to be honest (Givenchy rarely releases something exciting these days IMO)

  25. stelma,

    gothic is fine; crime referencing is rather much. It doesn't personally offend me (but that's only because I rather like crime investigation and gruesome things from the safe distance of my desk), but it's a little too cringe-worthy for most.

  26. anon,

    The lace bodice looks a bit like an anatomy lesson in itself. It would go unnoticed in another context, but now...
    Ah well, LVMH exploits any piquing of interest to boost sales, apparently.


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