Creating a contemporary violet fragrance was a true challenge back in 2006; Insolence by Guerlain is already celebrating its 10th anniversary and for good reason. Violet fragrances were seen as retro, reproducing the delicate, "shy violet" image of light face cosmetics and violet pastilles consumed by benevolent elderly ladies for sweetening their breath. Maurice Roucel, no shy violet himself, judging by the bold strokes of his fragrant compositions which actively paw their wearers to purring, chose to push the boundaries of both concepts to their potential extremes. He thus gave substance to a scent that can be literally tasted in the air, having the bystander engulfed by its profoundly musky violet-tinged hairspray note that announces its wearer from 2 blocks away, not just round the office corridor.
|photo by Bettina Rheims pic via pinterest|
In Sigmund Freud's seminal The Interpretation of Dreams (1899) the otherwise asexual word "violets" takes on the much more sinister nuance of "violence" and/or "viol" (French for rape) in the context of a dream. Insolence must have been inspired by the very concept, having Roucel chuckle up his sleeves while thinking about it, no doubt cognizant to the word association double-entendre, added to the illusion of violet, iris and rose fragrances perceived as soft and delicate. It was possibly the bourgeois standing of Guerlain that disallowed the risky association to surface through the advertising, going for some strobo-lights dancing Hilary Swank.
Predictably it was provocateur Tom Ford who saw the possibilities, when he baptized his own violet fragrance Violet Blonde which -of course- makes anyone think of a... violent blonde! Another missed train of fantasy for Guerlain, then, yet still a long-standing commercial and artistic success on the French brand counters everywhere.