Monday, October 23, 2006

Givenchy: time for classics again?


According to industry rumours, Parfums Givenchy are scheduling the relaunch of many of their classic fragrances in limited editions to celebrate the house's 50th anniversary in 2007. Ultra elegant Hubert de Givenchy is no longer head of the house to rejoice, but I bet this would be good news all the same. In the last decade due to dubious launches, especially since the company was acquired by the LVMH Group, parfums Givenchy were seen as a poor relation to Christian Dior, Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent. The latest offering Ange ou Démon did not help in this regard, I'm afraid, although the reviews for Amarige Mariage are leaving some leeway of hope.

In this day and age the most prevalent products on Givenchy perfume counters and their best known perfumes for women are Ysatis, Amarige, Organza and Very Irrésistible. Recent attempts to spin a special yarn of quality resulting in the Harvest series of 2005 (issued however in 2006) for the above perfumes, highlighting the one pivotal flower in each of the compositions with an exceptional harvest of blooms for it -namely mimosa for Amarige, jasmine for Organza, and rose for Very Irrésistible- have met with some lovely results; my favourite out of those has been the Organza Jasmine Harvest, a trully deep floriental that is redolent of the jasmine bush. Ysatis Iris had preceeded them in 2004, but the marketing behind it did not focus on the wine-harvest connection, an aspect they have wisened up to.

In an effort to satisfy news-thristy department stores audiences the house has become tired and full of "flankers"; industry name for perfumes that follow in the wake of a previous successful release capitalising on the name and exposure of the original in order to generate more interest in the brand. Such a case it proved to be for Insensé Ultramarine (1994) Xeryus rouge (1995), Extravagance d'Amarige (1998), Amarige d'Amour (2002) , Hot Couture white collection (2001), My Couture (2002), Pi Fraîche (2001), Insensé Ultramarine Ocean spirits series for men (2002), Insensé for her (2004), Insensé ultramarine beach in Boy and Girl versions(2006) and countless others. All in all a staggering 61 perfumes in as much as 49 years, of which only 9 were issued in the first 30 years of the house's history!! That means 52 launches in the last 15 years!! (if we consider the fact that Amarige was the 10th, launched in 1991). Think about it. It's preposterous.

Many of those did not even register, not making one tiny bleep on the radar, which is quite natural when one is faced with such a wide selection of fumes to choose from. The mind boggles and the nose stops to function properly at some point. Not to mention that a perfume counter can accomodate only so many bottles before it looks like a bad case of a discount warehouse.

The most interesting and unique offerings yet have been discontinued or are very hard to find: Givenchy Gentleman, a sturdy leather/patchouli woody of 1974, and Organza Indecence of 1999, a deep cinnamon vanillic composition that proved very popular in the US, and of course the citrusy classic Monsieur de Givenchy of 1959, the one which was kept into production because it was mr.Hubert's personal scent, are all such cases. However such chic classics as the originalAudrey Hepburn favourite L'interdit (=the forbidden), a violet laced aldehydic floral from 1957 for a most elegant lady, Givenchy III a chypre of the most noble character coming out in 1970, and the even more elusive clean, aldehydic hesperidic Le De Givenchy (issued in 1957 -same year as L'interdit; something unheard of the time- and also linked to Audrey) are set to be among the new relaunches. Supposedly keeping the original formulae and issued as limited editions for fans and collectors, this is both an admirable task as well as a difficult one, what with the scarcity of certain ingredients and the lack of the bases of yesteryear. Hope springs eternal however and I can't find it in my heart to bypass such an effort. Let's see what happens.

The first to see the light of day is the original L'interdit, following its reformulation a couple of years ago which left its fans in rapt disillusionement (and yes, the oxymoron is intentional). It will be available next August. Hurray for Givenchy fans and hopefully a new begining for a house that seemed disoriented for quite some time.

Pic depicting Audrey Heburn and Hubert de Givenchy comes from

Next post will be about a thorny subject in perfume making.

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