Few toiletry indulgences feel more decadently feminine than owning a fine goose down puff for applying face or body powder. Few rituals feel more delicately ballet-like in their choreographed sequence than the traditional powdering of the body, fresh out of a bath, using said goose down puff with small pat pat pat motions that are as close to caresses as they are to little slaps, both erotic provenance of the demi-mondaines of another time. Misia the fragrance encapsulates in liquid form this graceful dance in Chanel's 15th Les Exclusifs perfume launch, redolent of the retro makeup scents of yesterday.
|Emanuelle Beart in Le Temps Retrouvé by Raoul Ruiz via|
Chanel via its new head perfumer, Olivier Polge, son of Jacques, only the fourth perfumer in the revered history of the French brand, bows to Guerlain's Après L'Ondée; a composition from the first years of the 20th century based on the ethereal marriage of heliotrope, violet and iris. Yet Chanel's Misia, like the eponymous lady friend of Gabrielle Chanel's it was named after, holds its own ground as well, an outstanding entry for Polge junior regardless of the trodden course.
Olivier Polge may have excelled in Dior Homme previously, exploring the cocoa dust facets of the iris note in a men's scent, but it is in this feminine composition that he propels the retro facets of iris in their logical apogee, somewhere between the retro cool powder of Love Chloe and the earthy dustiness of Norma by Histoires de Parfums. The "lipstick note" is after all its own perfumery meme, swirling its tutu years ago with Drole de Rose by L'Artisan Parfumeur and stomping its foot down naming names in Lipstick Rose in the Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle line. (Even Guerlain revisits their own themes, what with Meteorites limited edition fragrance and now with French Kiss.) Chanel's lipsticks account for a huge segment of the brand, so walking down that road felt like a given.
After all, Polge Junior has something of the Midas touch in him; count with me: Flowerbomb, La Vie Est Belle, Mon Jasmin Noir, Burberry The Beat...
The intensely powdery, starchy cloud of orris (the dried rhizome of iris flowers) is at the very heart of Misia with very perceptible cool, sweet violets for "lipstick" (α methyl ionone); in fact the very scent of proper, ladylike lipsticks with their violet-rose aura which separates the teens from the grown ups. While Misia starts with a bittersweet top note reminiscent of time-honored perfumery aubepine-heliotropin chord, the heart of the fragrance is pure cosmetic impression, an archetype of grooming and of la salonnière. Polge used both rose of Grasse and Bulgarian Damask rose for the floral component and a cluster of benzoin resin (caramelic, vanilla plush), tonka beans (hay and almond like) and modern musks for the downy soft drydown.
“I thought of the Palais Garnier in the days of the Ballets Russes: pearls and aigrettes in the women’s hair melding with the scent of red-tinted lips; the sound of musicians tuning their instruments; and the dancers wearing make-up from head-to-toe, warming up behind red velvet curtains. I thought of how to interpret lipstick and powders into a perfume and decided to use violet dressed with rose de Mai and Turkish rose, which trigger memories of lipstick, while the benzoin I added creates a powdery effect, like make-up. It’s very feminine and floral but it’s also sumptuous. The strong violet accord is a new ingredient in the grammar of Chanel” reveals Polge to Lucia van der Post.
It was Polish muse Misia Sert, née Maria Sofia Olga Zenajda Godebska, a Belle Epoque fixture and the subject of many a Renoir and Bonnard painting, who introduced Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel to many of her subsequent fixtures; Venice, baroque, Les Ballets Russes, Paul Reverdy...
She was also the confidant to whom Chanel poured her heart out to when the latter lost her first true love, Arthur "Boy" Capel, to a car crash.
In a way Misia the fragrance aims to be as emblematic and prophetic of great things ahead as Misia the muse was to Chanel's career. May it prove so!
Chanel Les Exclusifs Misia eau de toilette is offered in 75ml and 200ml bottles with magnetic closure, same as the rest of boutique exclusive Les Exclusifs perfumes.
Related reading on Perfume Shrine:
Best Violet fragrances guide
Powdery & Dry Perfumes
Parfums Lingerie: intimate femininity