The Armani Privé collection falls under the scope of "niche fragrances within mainstream houses" trend; exclusive, upscale compositions that are often several notches above the widely available scents by the same company (see Cuir Amethyste and Bois d'Encens). La Femme Bleue, setting you back for £375/400euros for 100ml of Eau de Parfum, is very much on the exclusive side, given that it has been made in only 1000 bottles worldwide (and it's not available in just any country! whoa!). So I was fully prepared to hate it (isn't that stratagem & pricetag obscene?), but, alas, I was hasty.
Giorgio Armani's La Femme Bleue is a lovely iris fragrance; nuanced, darkish, with its woody and incensey background and, despite the passing resemblance with iris extraordinaire Iris Silver Mist by Serge Lutens, soft, powdery, ultimately unctuous. Plus, despite having the word Femme in the name, the designer himself is quick to point out that this is a unisex scent, as is the whole Privé collection. What more can one ask for? Perhaps some dare.
The Armani Privé collection can be divided into three genres: fresh and clean-smelling Les Eaux; La Collection ~inspired by precious stones like amethyst or jade; and the decadent Collection Mille et Une Nuits (A Hundred and One Nights Collection). This is the range that includes Oud Royal, an opulent melange of amber, spice and myrrh resin. The line is not without its celebrity endorsement: Charlene Wittsock, Princess of Monaco, who wore an Armani Privé wedding gown, also wore an Armani Privé fragrance on her "happiest day"; reportedly it was the new ultra-limited edition La Femme Bleue.
The deep blue of the bottle is a direct reflection on the Spring/Summer 2011 collection by Armani, inspired by the blue tint of the Alasho of the Twareg people of the desert, nomads of North Africa.
The colour of the nighttime sky has often been an inspiration for perfumers and bottle manufacturers, starting with the iconic L'Heure Bleue for Jacques Guerlain as well as Dawamesk, passing through modern offerings such as Jacomo Deep Blue and Dark Blue by Hugo Boss, all the way to the upcoming Vol de Nuit Powder Spray bottle in gorgeous shades of midnight.
The perfumer Serge Majoullier is a talent to watch. He explains how he put the concept (the deep indigo) into fragrance:
"It’s not easy to translate the idea of deep blue, I found the way by blending oriental and vanilla notes, perfect to evoke a hot starry night; so I added black iris [ed.note: I'm assuming he's referring to iris chyrophrages], which is dark blue in nature, and whose scent at times verges on chocolate, a woody background. This way the fragrance is not just floral".This Armani fragrance feels like Haute Parfumerie and not just hot air fanned on ad copy, as many niche products do these days: The delicious undercurrent of cocoa dust laces the background of iris (this is an experiment that is also successful at much lower price points in Bulgari's Blv Notte and Iris by L'Erbolario) resulting in a fragrance that cannot be said to evoke funereal connotations like so many iris scents can; notably Iris Silver Mist, to which it bears a kinship of the spirit. After all, iris susiana, a greyish species of Iris, is affectionately called "mourning iris", so the connection is there all right. But no; not in this case. La Femme Bleue is not exactly cheerful or bubbly either, opting for a distinctive and elegant arpeggio of woody notes that surround and temper the slightly gourmand, orientalised aspects of cocoa and vanillic-benzoin caramel hints with some musk. Softness and a delicious powdery feel akin to violets greet you upon spraying, with hints of sensuality evolving as the fragrance dries down, even though it is a delicate, timid drydown that you might want to press your nose on your wrist to fully enjoy. I could picture myself enjoying this ultra exclusive fragrance if it was any easier to get ahold of.
Notes for Armani Prive La Femme Bleue: iris, chocolate, woodsy notes, incense and vanilla.
Below is the clip from the summer 2011 collection by the same name featuring Elisa Seidanoui. Enjoy!
Painting Black Iris by Georgia O'Keefe (1906).