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Monday, April 27, 2015

A Sweeter La Petite Robe Noire for Just the American Market?

In a move that aims at boosting the presence and moreover brand awareness of Guerlain in the North American continent, the venerable French company is going ahead with a whole new rendition of the ultra-popular perfume La Petite Robe Noire.

pic via kizmi.com


Targeted at a specific American market "who want something more refined and subtle than the mass market perfumes", according to William Lescure, president of Guerlain Canada, the new edition of La Petite Robe Noire will launch in 2016.

Lescure mentioned in the Montreal Gazette that although the fragrance is an international hit, the composition is considered not sweet enough for North American tastes. So the new version will be even sweeter.

 I personally find that detail kind of odd, considering that La Petite Robe Noire is among the sweetest fragrances in the Guerlain stable (contrast it with Jicky, Shalimar, or Vetiver to talk only about best-selling classics), a fact that has probably accounted for its commercial success in the first place. Many of us, perfume lovers and dedicated Guerlain customers, find it already quite sweet!

Therefore the question does arise on whether there is a point in fixing something that is not broken (La Petite Robe Noire was first and foremost an American consideration) in order to attain a goal for which the one lonely scent is but one pillar of the building. There is also the question whether there will be two editions, the American market one ultimately engulfing the international one or the two co-existing at the supreme confusion of travelers and duty free buyers. What do you think?

33 comments:

  1. Interesting! But then again how sweet and how much can you alter the original without loosing the DNA? If it's sweetness they are after make a new fragrance altogether, but an even sweeter 'flanker'? I'm lost. I find the edp sweet and boozy, but dark. The flankers are sweeter and fresher, so American, so why bother? Is La Petite robe Noire such a mega best seller that it needs another iteration?

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    1. LPRN is the giga best-seller of the magnitude of how Star Wars was for Lucas.

      I think we're going to be clabbered over the head with lots more editions in the future. It's a mystery why the original is given a new version instead of just pushing one of the already existing flankers. Obviously they must have done their research, so this is a moot point?

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    2. And the news are out; La Petite Robe Noire INTENSE. Blue juice, a blueberry note added and a dress sketch of Marilyn. It seems both versions stay, as it also seems that both versions are or will be available everywhere, not just stateside.

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  2. leathermountain14:40

    Is this that rarest of events, an announced reformulation with no name change?

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    1. Oh, I believe it's going to be a different edition, just like I said in the article.

      The thing is: will they keep both the original version and this newer 2016 version floating, if the latter far surpasses sales of the former? This is the million dollar question.

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  3. nathan15:32

    Hi Elena, I would be interested in knowing whether this type of thing has happened before, changing a well-known scent to suit local tastes? I've never heard vintage perfume fans talking about different versions from other countries to add to their collections.
    I did hear the story about how Guerlain Vetiver was originally created for the Mexican market, though.

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    1. Good example Nathan and a good story too.

      I believe there's an ongoing discussion about how the American made version of Chanels supposedly differs from the French made editions, due to the grain vs.potato alcohol, but personally I haven't detected major differences, to be honest.

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  4. "Sweeteer" and "More refined." So they are throwing the laundry detergent note in with an extra layer of sugar. Sorry I just find that to be the most anachronistic description of perfume ever. I can already see it now.

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    1. I see your point.

      I think by "more refined" mr.Lescure probably meant "not your average Lancome, YSL etc fragrance".
      By sweeter, I'm left in trepidation, because I already find LPRN much too sweet.

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  5. Anonymous19:39

    I liked the original 2009 LPRN better with its French pâtisserie golden aura, I think the new version is lackluster. It's not a bad perfume but it's nothing exceptional, I never get complimented by men when I'm wearing it, or as a matter of fact when I'm wearing anything mainstream nowdays. I wore Adieu Sagesse last week and a handsome man said I smelled good, how about that! - the 1984 Adieu Sagesse of the Jean Patou Ma Collection series, not the awful brand new Heritage reissue.

    Emma

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    1. Emma,

      I differ to your greatest expertise with LPRN, as I haven't really worn it much beyond for testing purposes. It's a competent perfume, no doubt, but not my style (from the relatively newer crop I fell in love with Shalimar Initial -alas for they axed it!!- and Insolence). But the question does beg to be asked: why mess with a good thing? The LPRN edp always did well in America, from day one. Even back when I had interviewed mme Delacourte, she had specified so. Clearly this is a decision reached outside the pure perfume board, me thinks....

      How lovely that someone complimented your Adieu Sagesse! That's priceless. The 80s Collection issues were spectacular and they keep rather well, most of them (well, probably not Caline so much, but the rest). I was psyched that the job Fontaine did for Patou would be on a par, but the allergens restrictions probably mean a limited palette compared to the 80s. :-(

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    2. Anonymous11:54

      Hi Elena,

      It was lovely indeed, it's such a wonderful perfume, in its Jean Kerleo formula.

      I tested new Adieu Sagesse in Paris, lasting power two hours at best, no projection, no depth, it has definitely been watered-down and altered, I wouldn't spend that kind of money for that.
      The 80's version by comparison is so potent, powdery in a good way, very sensual, you wake up and still smell it from the day before on yourself. I have two spray bottles, they are prized possession of my collection.

      Emma

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  6. Anonymous23:34

    I did not find the charm in LPRN-it left me cold. Years ago there was a fragrance called Exclamation! (punctuation was part of the perfume). i hated it. Cheap and pervasive-vile stuff. There was a horrible commercial that was played with it-just awful. PRN reminds me of it. I know Guerlain must be profitable to survive, but this is quite different from what I expect from them. This makes me sound old and fussy-I'm not , really! But right now I have been introduced to First, and it's so beautiful. I love classic French fumes. I also love contemporary French fumes, esp Sublime Balkis and del de Vetiver. Something about PRN rubs me the wrong way, and a sweeter version just makes my head spin.

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    1. Anon, I understand your plight completely. Perfume used to denote class and social status, plus a sense of knowing and enjoying one's sensual quota. Nowadays perfume is just for smelling fresh and young, with the suggested promise that that alone might lead to class and social status via one's otherwise inherent sensual quota, if you catch my drift. ;-)

      Love First myself but it doesn't really cut it for people under 50 nowadays, especially in cultures like the States where the "perfume-y" vibe (and those floral aldehydics give that in spades) is frowned upon. In Europe it's still saved a bit by its association with "getting groomed" (this is why irises do well here, I'm convinced).
      Contemporary French perfumes...hmmm, but those are niche. LPRN never intended to be niche or niche-smelling, just competent and fun.

      Remember Exclamation! perfectly, in fact someone had gifted me with a bottle when I was young. It was very much like Tresor (an overwhelming fume to me) and I recall it was probably too loud. Same perfumer too, as I later found out.

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  7. Oh how I hate that Petite Robe Helg .... every single one of them!
    What is Guerlain doing ----- Nuts !

    So .... now we are making that pong for different countries ..... Mmmmm..... I wonder if they do a Petite Robe for Australia - will it have gum leaves in there ?? LOL

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    1. M,

      I get what you're saying.
      I never warmed up to it either, though I haven't yet tried the latest Couture and only had a passing test of Petales (need to revisit, pleasant, but not ground breaking).

      The thing with different editions for different countries strikes me as one hell of a confusion for the frequent traveler or duty-free shopper. Just imagine: A well meaning relative buys a LPRN on the New York duty free to bring to someone living in Italy. The Italian resident loves it and then tries to repurchase locally; they're in for a horrible surprise as it's just not the same stuff!
      (Even with the name changes for the different editions, we know from experience that people don't recall the exact details, such as La Petite Robe Noire Mes Precieuses Memoires de Nuits au Fontainebleau ....they're just going to retain "robe noire" and that's it, if at all).

      As to Australia getting their own edition, dream on sistah! They're only focusing on Middle East, China and Brazil these days; those are the thriving markets for perfume. C'est la vie!

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    2. Even if Oz got their own "Robe" ... it would still be a "shocker!!" LOL

      *At the moment there is nothing out there that has taken my fancy. Bought a small Chanel Misia a couple of weeks ago but I will not purchase that again .... too violet and ... dare I say this ... too old Lady!!! Yes - and I am a old lady too! LOL

      Delete
  8. Seeing lines of (mostly) women willing to endure block-long lines at a local store to acquire pink colored cupcakes-I am not surprised. As usual, the photo is spot on. The taste here is for sweet, fruity stuff (the scrubbed white floral now a distant second). Mind you, I'm not talking about pre-teens, but women in profitable careers in law and finance, who would not dream of wearing the olfactory equivalent of La petite robe noire (and which is not a petite robe noire, ca va sans dire). Go figure.

    It would seem strange that Guerlain went through the trouble of creating two versions of a perfume. It is more likely, as you say, that they consider LPRN an American thing, and change accordingly. Note that here, unlike in Europe, LPRN (together with Shalimar and flankers, actually mostly flankers) is the only Guerlain that occupies precious shelf space in regular department stores. The classics are found, if at all, only in higher end department stores (where most of the Guerlain shelf space is occupied anyway by the expensive creams and terracotta make-up).

    cacio

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    1. The new edition is going to be that; a new edition. Probably a new name too (flank style) aka an edition for the US market that is differentiated in "recipe" while still recalling the original (using the term "recipe" instead of formula seems a propos in this case).

      The problem of distribution is one which has occupied my thoughts for a while, you know, on what regards Guerlain, and is pertinent to this issue we're discussing. I wonder whether the reverence with which Guerlain as a brand is met from American aficionados doesn't have to do in some degree with the scarcity. I know it happened for Dior, who don't stock their classics on the counters on most shops stocking Diors.
      In Greek stores Guerlain is represented by Shalimar and flankers, Samsara (notably!), Vetiver and flankers, L'Homme and flankers and the latest Aqua Alegorias. The classics are kept at the duty free concept store at the airport (!!).
      One shop owner while discussing Guerlain told me this, explaining his reluctance to stock more Guerlains, told me; "People like Guerlains when they launch and they show enthusiasm for a while, but they soon drop off. It all has to do with what is being advertised and the brands that do get advertised are Dolce & Gabanna, Dior, Estee etc so these are more popular."
      Make of that what you will.

      The success of LPRN as I said to a previous commentator is of the magnitude of Star Wars so I'm sure they will be tormenting us for years to come, if not decades (I admit I detest SW more than I do LPRN, though)

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  9. I take this as pure adulterated marketing--and pandering to less refined sensibilities (excess sweetness). The quasi-personalization ('This is for you, America!') is exceeded only by the upcoming Mon Exclusif, where, for a few dollars more, you can have the name YOUR choose for the fragrance applied to the bottle. I should have thought that, among all the perfume houses, Guerlain would not have to stoop like this.

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    1. Agh, that Mon Exclusif sounds like an oxymoron! An "exclusif" only in what pertains to the name? Rather crass.
      The effect of the LVMH acquisition is felt, no doubt, even though the pouring of money did translate in things we perfumistas appreciate too.

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  10. No doubt Guerlain has done the research but do they really want to be competing with the celeb scents for market share? I wonder what they mean "refined and subtle"? Perhaps those never ending, let's get healthy visuals of the supposedly obese North American population have convinced Guerlain that we North Americans just have to have our sweet, refined sugar - and a lot of it too? Certainly not a good fit for anyone's little black dress.

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    1. By "refined" I suppose they mean "not your average L'Oreal produced fragrance" (Lancome, YSL, i.e. their competitors).
      By "subtle" they probably mean it won't singe anyone's nose hairs. Too subtle and one risks not making it on the market...

      Clever wordplay in your comment, Gail!!
      To be honest, I always thought that the mere name "little black dress" plus the illustration was conceived from the very start to appeal to the American market. Like I had commented when this first came out, in Europe no one (unless a fashion glossy, copying other US fashion glossies) doesn't call this type of dress "little black dress", nor do they wear it with the obedience to a code of ethics re: formal cocktail attire women in the US do.
      So I believe they went after the American market from the very very start with LPRN and are now milking it for all it's worth.

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    2. LPRN is so patronizing on so many levels! The mind boggles.

      Delete
  11. Anonymous01:09

    So they are going to turn their more refined product into more of a mass-market product to sell it to Americans then?

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    1. Even more insulting: they're letting the more refined product in the hands of Europeans, Middle-Easterns and Asians and bringing a new more mass-market product to sell to Americans! The mind boggles as to what mr. Lescure was thinking when he phrased it the way he did.

      I think the concept "give to the market what the market wants" is ultimately reductionist. We fully well know the market doesn't know what it wants until it has been clabbered over the head with what it's supposed to be wanting! Like in Mad Men: "People want to be told what to do so badly that they'll listen to anyone".

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  12. Instead of reintroducing Djedi.

    Yes, I'm probably annoying with that one. But, more LPRN? Why? I mean, it's not abysmally bad as such but the world doesn't need more saccharine, thankyouverymuch.

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    1. Can you imagine Djeji doing well in ANY market at the moment? I sure can't. Selling to 1000 around the world isn't worth the money put into the re-introduction. Unfortunately...

      It was competent, if a little too frou frou for me (and you and some others), but why fix what is not broken? Can't really tell you why. I think it was selling like....cupcakes, so why the rush to revamp?
      Obviously they must have done their research and they want a stronger presence of the perfumery section (as compared to the cosmetics) in North America. It's their prerogative in the end.

      Delete
    2. I wonder how difficult is to mix the actual ingredients and fill them in some mass issue bottles? I guess that the curious and the weird would find out via the grapevine and the masses can be massaged to get LPRN by buckets anyway.
      I admit into having grown into rather odd tastes; I can appreciate a good rose or some such but I prefer to wear smoky tarry resiny stuff. People complain, though.

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    3. I think there comes a point in life when complains don't really register, unless it's something that is actually producing a real problem. ;-D

      The difficulty comes with the exterminated (as in not to be found) ingredients. There are lots of things that particular batches of made for the particular intricacies we like. It's like with amateur cooking; one might not be able to reproduce EXACTLY the same thing if they don't have a steady supply of the exact same things, even if they do remember how to do everything exactly the same way. Perfumery, alas, is transient.

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  13. Miss Heliotrope08:36

    I had a long response to this, and then hit the wrong key - but my main point was, I think, that so many of these "special for America" settings (as with books, tv, &c) are not things that anyone other than the big companies think they want - individual Americans do not necessarily sit around thinking they'd love a fancy French perfume that smells a lot more American - like they dont necessarily think that they would be unable to understand books (from AS Byatt's Possession to the Harry Potters) or tv shows (Im sure we all have lists) without them being translated into American.

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    1. There's certainly truth in what you say, in that Americans do not necessarily think (and expect things) in those terms.
      Nevertheless I suppose an awful lot of research goes into just what makes a market tick (and if anyone is funding this kind of research, it must be LVMH and L'Oreal) so I believe they're going by what Americans show that they prefer with their wallets, even if they're not consciously preferring it with their minds.
      The matter has certainly garnered a vivid interest from the headquarters with whom I'm in contact (they say changes might come into fruition till official release), so I'm positive that they're reading every little bit. And that's a good thing: we're being heard!! ;-)

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  14. Alexandros Cleo Fernandez,

    I seem to have "lost" you comment (sorry about that), could you please please please repost it? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete

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