Thursday, June 5, 2008

Paris, Je t'Aime ~Paris by Saint Laurent: fragrance review

In a funny little tale recounted to perfume journalist Susan Irvine, the notorious Russian perfumer Sophia Grojsman was followed by a drunk one night, forcing her to walk quicker in the night streets, upon which he called out: "Hey lady, I am not following you; I am just trying to smell your perfume!" Grojsman was working on Paris, the big, ebullient rose fragrance by Yves Saint Laurent, at the time, and this was the moment she realised "she had it". Indeed Paris has the gift -and curse, if you overdo it, as so many did in the late 80s- to be perceptible at a distance, creating a wake that will make waiters swerve on their heels, small children drop their toys to hug you and men exclaiming you smell "clean and feminine".

Yves Saint Laurent, an incurable romantic, created Paris in 1983 choosing rose and pink as the themes around which the fragrance would be built and dedicated it to his beloved city of inspiration and eternal love. A strange, arguably atavistic choice for someone who had caused an uproar a mere 6 years back with his contraband alluding fragrance of artificial paradises, Opium.
The fragrance is a romantic symphony, a sonorous orchestration of reportedly 232 notes blended with the artistry of someone who knows what they are doing. Like a lavish bouquet, Paris’ deepening chords of rose petal notes make the fragrance all the richer in its expression of lush warmth and womanly tenderness.

The fragrance formula actually follows quite closely the 1947 french classic L'Air du Temps (Nina Ricci) but the violet-rose fruity accord of Paris is based on ionones and damascones, aroma materials first discovered in 1893 (ionones) and isolated in 1967 (damascones); they were first used in abundance in another rose fragrance, the fiery Nahéma by Guerlain. Damascones featured heavily in the legendary Nombre Noir and contributed along with ionones to many of the formidable "roaring rose" fragrances of the 1980s. Violets naturally smell of ionones, with equal parts woody and fruity undertones, which makes them such an interesting material for the perfumer.
In Paris the rose is never just rosy: it takes all complex shades and nuances of a living room in which they decorate a flamboyant vase. Honeyed overtones of sweet, ripe fruits as well as liquor whiffs, as of dregs left in small taillé glasses after a hearty dinner, are clearly perceptible in different stages of the development. The whole embraces you in a vice-grip which asserts itself as only very affectionate feminine relatives can be: there is no escape, but you truly know they mean well.

Paris took a more daring turn visually during Tom Ford's tenure which resulted in this racy image for the European glossies. The advertisements, in tune with current designer Stefano Pilati's fashions, have -since Ford's departure from the house- reverted to tamer connotations.

Paris eau de toilette , which is more powdery and "cleaner", has a deep pink cap, while the sweeter eau de parfum has a golden cap and is fruitier. The pure parfum, intensely rosy and potent, is crowned with a prismatic cap in the shape of a reverted cone-exposing brilliant, symbolising Paris, the City of Light; designed by Pierre Dinard according to Basenotes or Alain de Morgues according to Susan Irvine.

Limited editions of versions of the original Paris for the warmer season include: Paris Eau de Printemps (2002), Paris Premieres Roses (2003), Paris Roses des Bois (2004), Paris Roses Enchantees (2005), Paris Roses des Vergers (2006), and Paris Jardins Romantiques (2007), some of which are grouped in a collectible set of minis. Typically they are lighter, girlier and less dense, highlighting a woodier, greener or muskier accord instead.

Top: hawthorn, bergamot, juniper berries, carnation, honey, mimosa, orris
Heart: French, Moroccan and English roses, red fruits, pear liquor, violet
Base: heliotrope, musk, amber, cedar, sandalwood

Clip of Paris commercial uploaded by tylw on Youtube. Pic of ad from parfumdepub.


  1. Anonymous08:21

    ah!... thank you for this post that makes me dream of times when we were allowed to use damascenones in abundance... and thanks for the youtube video's . Love the cinema movie that follows after paris and opium!

  2. Paris always makes me think of Berlin because the scent is interwoven with my time in that city (in EdT strenghth). But i have my own theory regarding the roses: i am pretty sure whe wanted to capture the heavy smell of roses you get in the Maghreb countries. I always understood it as a childhood-hommage. And: it's the lovliest mimosa i know, in that Paris. Stunning.

  3. You're welcome, hope I didn't make you too uncomfortable by reminding you though...NN was reputedly chokeful of them!
    You mean the clip for the perfume? If so, I do love the Cinema one myself as well: the gorgeous dress, the men, the movements and of course the Bach piece.

  4. N,

    how odd and of course understandable too in a way that it reminds you of another city completely!
    Love your theory about the rose connotation: it very well could be so. Hadn't thought about it in that way, to be honest.

  5. -Monday I wore this lovely scent and what really struck was the honeyed quality of the scent.
    -Oh Tom Ford had you actually smelled the scent when you came up with this advertising idea? Paris is over-the-top romantic not a threesome where everyone in it looks bored. Which reminds me the other day I was looking at the advertising campaign that featured Sophie Marceau for Champs-Elysees and it occurred to me that the advertisement would have been perfect for Insolence.
    -I chose this video too on Monday and you know what caught me attention; how gorgeous the bottle is in it.

  6. Jen,

    thank you for your comment.

    Indeed Paris is honeyed, there is a milky mimosa note in there as if dusted with demerara...

    I think Ford wanted to inject some "sexiness" into Paris and you know (*hanging head in shame*) for a brief nanosecond I was able to shed the image of all my acquaintances over 50 who used to love it. I then came quickly to my senses, again :-)

    Yes, the bottle is great!

  7. "The whole embraces you in a vice-grip which asserts itself as only very affectionate feminine relatives can be: there is no escape, but you truly know they mean well."

    OMG, that is perfect, E! I'm laughing because it's so true.

    I have a love-hate thing with Paris, but I will never be without the edt. I always claim to dislike SG's scents, but Paris feels like a necessity in my collection. I should actually wear it sometime ...

  8. Thanks M!

    That's the feeling I get from Paris: big, gigantic actually, like seeing loving aunties when you're little but with an angle from below, them seeming monstruous-like in their size in your childish eyes, you know? (I am almost having this filmed in my mind...)

    I have the same relationship with it as you do: I genuinely appreciate the scent, but don't wear it often.

  9. Mm... thank you so much for going into YSL fragrances. I am enjoying these reviews very much, and the lemmings are a-pricking. : )

  10. Anonymous21:55

    These entries about the YSL-perfumes are very enlightening to read, and these days, very appropriate - 71 year is in a way to early to leave this world..
    I especially liked the video; the kiss, his head, the bottle, a pounding heart. (perhaps I like the visual impression of the bottle, and its heaviness, the best. Interesting contrast between that heaviness and the joyousness in the scent!)

  11. D,

    I think it was about time: my favourite designer and I hadn't reviewed any of his scents before.
    And when he died somehow I felt some guilt for the oversight...

    Haven't you worn any YSL scents in the past? Surely you must have tried at least a couple.

  12. S,

    thank you for saying so, I do hope to provide fresh info when I can.
    I agree that these days it seems like it was early.

    The bottle looks astounding in the videos; it really highlights how it is the symbol of light (yet paradoxically a heavy bottle, light being interpreted both ways), like Paris the city itself.

  13. Anonymous09:17

    My immediate association is a glowing heart. It also reminds me quite physical of hearts like they are seen in anatomy-lessons (I changed field of study!) In the video it is glowing & light reflecting, but also held at the heart´s place, so my personal associations were reinforced :) I have it in the version Nuit de fete where it is red; like a heavy-with-sweet-sap, tempting, apple.
    Well, the bottle is quite fascinating!

  14. I can see that it is fascinating to you, S!! Very interesting comment, thank you.
    It makes lots of sense the way you explain it like that.

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