Monday, March 5, 2007

28 La Pausa from Chanel Les exclusifs: fragrance review

As promised I start the week by reviewing in full the new Chanels, Les exclusifs.
You might have been a little bored by reading about them on the blogs by now, but I want to offer a tempered view that is completely no strings attached for the interest of balance.

Let’s start by 28 La Pausa.
According to the advertorial it is "a powdery scent based on the oil from iris pallida (known as sweet iris), one of the most expensive products available to perfumers..." and "named for a house Mlle.Chanel owned in the South of France” namely the villa on Roquebrune-Cap-Martin on the French Riviera.
Iris seems to be the one constant in niche perfumers’ obsession with coming up with rare and costly ingredients, and as iris/orris is currently the costliest ingredient to harvest this makes sense. After all someone had said before that everyone in the business wants to make a perfect leather, a perfect incense and a perfect iris scent. Seems to be de rigueur for some reason.
And judging by the issued offerings by Armani Privé, Lutens for Palais Royal Shiseido, The Different Company, Fréderic Malle or even more “commercial” products such as Dior Homme or Hiris by Hermès, iris features prominently on the stakes.
Iris is not just a flower. She is a goddess in the greek mythology pantheon, daughter of the Titan Thaumas and the Ocean nymph Electra, messenger of the Gods and goddess of the rainbow whose colour spectrum is not coincidentally called iris in greek, hence the English term iridescence and the same as the part of your eye that mesmerises with its coloured nuances.

The real question is does 28 La Pausa offer the excitement necessary and the sheer beauty expected from the definitive iris scent? Because this is how the collection has been presented and lauded and we need to check if those claims are met.
The answer is two fold.

If Iris Silver Mist by Maurice Roucel is a crepuscular -if a bit difficult- creation of sheer chill and carroty bulb undergrowth and Bois d’iris is a slightly spicy green heavier silk, 28 La Pausa is a gauzy white cloth that barely covers but lets sweet pale flesh peek from underneath.
The earthiness of bulb undergrowth is there along with a sweeter development as the very light composition progresses through its stages exiting rather soon.
A very light touch of violet is lending a green and very soft quality along with a sweetish fruity tone while some version of synthetic white musk (similar to the feel of the drydown of Pleasures) is lurking underneath assisting the view of exposed skin as described above. It is in fact mostly reminiscent of the lovely Hiris by nose Olivia Giacometti, a hybrid between flesh and flower. Which really begs the question why get both…

On the other hand if what you’re seeking is simply a wearable iris in a killer stylish bottle with exclusivity cachet, this is it; which unfortunately breaks the bubble of the innovative and groundbreaking. Simply put the soul does not soar upon smelling this if you have smelled other similar renditions, even though admittedly it’s one of the nicest ones in the new line and completely agreeable and approachable. Polge is a perfumer not best known for his highly controversial work anyway, taking into account he is responsible for some of the more mainstream Chanel fragrances created such as Coco Mademoiselle,Chance and Allure Sensuelle (although one has to credit him for the creation of the wonderful Egoiste!)and here he smoothed iris beautifully, however rendering the whole a bit derivative and déjà vu, which is the major fault of the whole Exclusives line in my humble opinion.

28 La Pausa includes elements already found in the much more distinctive Chanel #19, a work of art by Henri Robert in 1970 that is assuredly more opinionated and bracing. Perhaps its fate is sealed if they keep releasing things that temper its audacious aspect and its truly insolent character of crisp white linen shirt and lots of silver bangles on a carefree day with your hair down. This would personally pain me a lot, especially since the news about oakmoss featuring as a dangerous substance almost compared to illegal drugs one might think is any ground to go upon. Hopefully they will not substitute it with 28 La Pausa and another Chanel Exclusif, Bel Respiro, both of which draw inspiration from their predecessor's elegant green bouquet.

So, if you want to have a beautiful Degas ballerina in your collection, look no further. If on the other hand you’re moved by more challenging Goya images, this will not fulfil your expectations sadly.

Artwork by Mary Beth Schwark courtesy of

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