Monday, February 3, 2020

The Unisex Beauty of Guerlain's Jicky (Photo Collection, Short Review & Perfume Musings)

Jicky by Guerlain is a gender bender perfume to end all gender benders; changing sex and direction mid-stream in its illustrious career like an adolescent fulfilling a transgender urge.
The issue of what differentiates female from male idiosyncrasies in general is complicated enough, so it's only natural that one of the most popular questions in perfume for and general discussion is how the opposite sex perceives and decodes the fragrances meant for the other sex.
In perfume terms the composition of different formulas for the two sexes, roughly floral and oriental for the ladies, with a sprinkling of chypre and fruity, reserving woody and citrus for the gentlemen, is a relatively recent phenomenon, dating from the dawn of modern perfumery in the end of the 19th century. Up till then, there was pretty much lots of leeway for men to delve in floral waters of the Victorian era or even the rich civet and musk laden compositions of 18th century decadence.

photo by Elena Vosnaki

Why the name Jicky? "From his student days, perfumer Aimé Guerlain kept the enamoured memory of a young woman named Jicky to whom he paid a beautiful homage with one of his most wonderful olfactory creations. By pure coincidence, the diminutive of his nephew Jacques was also Jicky. Jicky initiated the creation of "abstract perfumery" as opposed to "figurative perfumery". With its interplay of unique facets, it was the first in the perfume world to have such a trail and tenacity. This forerunner of new modern olfactory creations is the founding father of the legendary Shalimar."

Or so the story goes...because it is but a story, a fabricated myth that shows how fragrance tales were used to be told in the olden days...


photo by Elena Vosnaki

Nowadays, lavender , as in a classic like Jicky, is almost code-name for men's cologne, the backbone of a typical fougère fragrance for men, especially since archetypes such as this originally-aimed-at-women-then-usurped-by-men of good taste cemented this notion. The tension of the citrus top note with the animal character of the base is what makes the "jam"; lots of musk and lots of civet too in the older formula, evident in extrait de perfume formula and the not so distant kinship of Mouchoir de Monsieur fragrance, also by Guerlain.

Evaluating a masculine or unisex fragrance is always harder for me than evaluating a fragrance that is divested of its loaded semiotics of gender, or which appeals to my own femininity heads on. At least I can asses femininity first hand and dismiss the hyperbolic claims of modern advertising with a wave of a well-manicured hand. 

In perfume terms the composition of different formulas for the two sexes, roughly floral and oriental for the ladies, with a sprinkling of chypre and fruity, reserving woody and citrus for the gentlemen, is a relatively recent phenomenon, dating from the dawn of modern perfumery in the end of the 19th century. Up till then, there was pretty much lots of leeway for men to delve in floral waters of the Victorian era or even the rich civet and musk laden compositions of 18th century decadence.

It's therefore somewhat fitting the zeitgeist, with the discussion about gendered IDs flaming up again, that Guerlain revisited their roots tentatively when launching Mon Guerlain in 2017 with their merging of lavender (more prominently than in the Yves Saint Laurent fragrance Libre) with their trademark orientalized vanilla. From it, a spawn of feminine fragrances with lavender came forth like mushrooms after the rain.

photo by Elena Vosnaki

Jicky by Guerlain remains a monument, a beacon of taste in a tasteless world. 

1 comment:

  1. that's what Luca Turin writes: "One day it was finally explained to me that Jicky had been the first unisex fragrance, dating back to the Platonic era when perfume had yet to split into male and female halves. It was composed in 1889 by Aimé Guerlain, who was gay (the firm kept that quiet for more than a century) and probably named after one (unidentified) Jacques."

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