Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A most obscure Guerlain! "Guerlain Marie Claire"~fragrance review

There was a time when Guerlain had an honestly more daring approach to everything they did. Daring in not being condescending to their audience; daring in presenting something that recalled more "barbarian" approaches which challenged the tastes of the times instead of going with the flow; daring in that they ventured into presenting something for the readers of a very popular magazine, which managed to be a thing of beauty and not some liquid complaisant trash for juvenile air-heads.

In 1996 Guerlain created a limited edition feminine fragrance for the readers of French edition of Marie Claire, simply called... "Marie Claire". A discerning collector with whom I am in correspondence sent me some to try it out and it was a revelation smelling it and comparing it to more current tastes running the gamut in the brand's offerings. Simply put Marie Claire is a "fleurs blanches" type of fragrance, a white florals sonata that is a throwback to 1948. Why 1948? Because this is when Fracas by Robert Piguet came out, a fragrance of such a dedicated following that it shows no signs of abating. The almost brutal approach of Germaine Cellier (1909-1976) in instisting on short formulae, which targeted bull's eye, manifested itself into creating the most ebullient, the most expansive and the most complacent tuberose in existence; a fragrant labrosone typhoon for women with personalities that announce their arrival from two blocks away. One almost expects a military band with euphonia trumpeting coming marching on at any minute!

Guerlain's Marie Claire is taking a page off that book and dresses it in the dusky, fetish-clad in vinyl skin of tuberose and what seems like jasmine-y ylang ylang to render an interpretation of that effect of glaring luminosity and abysmal darkness. And all that, just imagine, at the height of the popularity of L'Eau d'Issey and all those oceanic scents that acted as chastity belts for modern Victorians! The base of Guerlain Marie-Claire seems to be earthy, vetiver-rich, a memento of dry Guerlain bases from Djedi onwards; it has the caliginous ambience of a basement where dead bodies are slowly decaying over which a garden with the most dramatic flowers is growing nevertheless as a red herring.
What I was completely struck by is the awesome radiance of the fragrance which emitted its strong emanations even before spraying it and by the prolonged evaporation which lasted for days on a blotter which I used, remaining true to the very end. What can I say? If Guerlain deemed a commercial commemoration to be so worthy of attention, I sure wish they'd do more of those.

NB. Guerlain Marie-Claire was in fact re-issued in 1999 under the name Belle Epoque in the long fluted perfume bottle that is called "the umbrella bottle". 

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Guerlain series

Pic "Bewegung" by Rudolph Koppitz


  1. Fiordiligi20:16

    Ah, so THAT's what it was dear E! I think this is the one I was outbid on recently on ebay......

    It sounds completely wonderful and makes me long for what once was, as ever. Thank you for sharing your impressions!

  2. Oh, my sister...
    More Guerlain !

    But more curiously...that "Bewegung" you exhibit ?
    It was the first piece of art I ever chose for myself, to hang above my bed...

    I was just a girl, and its sense of lyrical movement bewitched me.

    We are connected in many deeper ways than you think.

  3. And 1996 was the year LVMH completed its takeover of Guerlain. Sounds like a beautiful perfume and an (unintentional, I'm sure) elegy of sorts.

  4. A,

    you bring a good point which I was reluctant to put in black and white. It certainly had a role in this...Pity.

  5. D,

    I can see that you're trying to enrich your collection with obscure things! Yup, it must have been it, then. Did you save a pic/link perhaps that I could use for the piece so people know about it if it surfaces up again? Let me know if so, please.

  6. Ida,

    it doesn't come as remotely surprising that we are connected on aesthetic and esoteric matters. I can feel you very close, as if you're understanding me very well. It's heart-warming and very endearing.
    This artwork has a fluidity and stylesized (wrong word?) setting behind it which produces a vivid reaction from the viewer, doesn't it? I can see how it would have been very conversation-instigating on the walls of a teenager's room too! ;-)

  7. ooh how interesting- and also it's a little bit sad- perhaps it'll get resurrected as something else?

  8. K,

    it's nice to think they might resurrect it (it's nice juice), but it's annoying to think they would probably put on some completely confusing name on it (such as Bouton Insolent de Jardins de Shalimar or any such cr@p...) and raise the price to stratospheric echelons! I'd find that completely off-putting personally, if so.

  9. You are sooo right about the name!!


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