Sunday, November 22, 2009

Balenciaga La Fuite des Heures (Fleeting Moment): fragrance review

There is no question that Germaine Cellier was a formidable woman and an innovative perfumer mapping history with her Balmain and Piguet creations. Hers is nevertheless the lesser known, but none the less majestic, La Fuite des Heures (pronounced la-fou-EET dez-erh and translating as Fleeting Moment) for Balenciaga in 1949; a Provençal herbs and jasmine formula of great radiance and tenacity.
There is an interesting snippet of fashion and perfume history pertaining to this Balenciaga fragrance, which was the second to be issued by the house: Initially composed by Cellier at Roure for the French market, it was modeled after the aldehydics established at the time (and hence in chasm with her bombastic creations for Piguet such as Fracas and Bandit).

Why is that? No.5 by Chanel was the prototype of the genre (and still is) due to its commercial success, especially after WWII when soldiers returning from the European battle-fronts had popularised it in the conscience of American bourgeoisie as the pinacle of French chic and the porthole of aspirational status. Let's not forget that even historic French houses, such as Guerlain, had followed the paradigm with their own creations, namely Liù (although the latter's history is a little more gossipy that that!). Balenciaga had already issued a fragrance, Le Dix (10), his first foray into scent, named after the address of his couture studio at 10 Avenue George V. Not unexpectedly, that one also happened to be a floral aldehydic! Another version of La Fuite des Heures, specifically aimed at the American market, was issued in the beginning of the 1960s, the Camelot days of the USA when "Parisian" didn't seem as far fetched as before. And as they say the rest is history...

The fragrance was available as an Eau de Cologne in tall cylindrical ribbed bottles with simple pastic caps and black labels with white simple lettering. My own extrait de parfum of Balenciaga's La Fuite des Heures in its shagreen container, (probably from the 60s) is well aged, thick and dark as its blobs ooze from the crystal stoppered flacon. Yet the suave jasmine and ylang-ylang glory with sweet accents of light amber in the base is still there.
The piquant herbs (anise? thyme?) and greens notes (vetiver?) along with an aldehydic vibrance (a little soapy & orris powdery the way Chanel No.5 is soapy & powdery) have mellowed significantly; they give way to the more tenacious woody and above all musky elements, a reality all too often met with when dealing with vintage perfumes. The drydown is fused with some of the most glorious musks this side of pre-banning of several valuable ingredients.
Despite its approximation to vintage forms of No.5 (such as the magnificent Eau de Cologne version), La Fuite des Heures stands alone sufficiently well and even presents itself as a most wearable specimen of an elegant creation of yore. Like a couture gown by the great Spanish master himself, lose the hat, the gloves and the pose and you might wear the lace ruffled dress with your modern stilettos soled in red and an air of bon chic bon genre socialite.

Related reading on Perfumeshrine: Balenciaga news & reviews, Vintage scents reviews

Balenciaga couture lace dress via Balenciaga La Fuite des Heures bottle pic by Elena Vosnaki


  1. Ah, drool-a-rama, Batgirl !

    You certainly have my attention...

  2. Another lost soul to dream about. I bet I would have loved this. Thanks for the tantalizing description!

  3. And the ebay hunt is on!

  4. Thank you for this wonderful review! Although Le Dix is a close second, La Fuite des Heures is my favorite Balenciaga and one of my absolute favorite vintage perfumes. The orris note in the heart harmonizes beautifully with the aldehydic top notes. It's pure pleasure!

  5. Isn't that the most wonderful bottle! Its pure "Lux" with a capital LLLLLLLLL.

    * Helg , I am a Nov 13th girl :)

  6. What a wonderful review! Thanks for brightening my morning with this nostalgic tale full of information.
    Love the bottle picture as well. Now as Melisand61 above points out I simply must lay my hands on some of this nectar!

  7. Anonymous13:23

    You got me again helg, you naughty minx, I should have known you would pick something unattainable to drool over, but hey, what's a gal to do? I think I should come to your place and go through your closets, that should be fun, unless there is some top-secret way of finding this scent someplace, is there?

  8. Fiordiligi14:06

    Eeek! You knew this one would capture my imagination, didn't you, dear one?

    I have Le Dix in that heavenly bottle; now to try and find its long-lost sister. Ah, Balenciaga!

  9. I,

    it is the scent and not I who has the power of withholding one's attention! ;-)

  10. M,

    it's certainly a pity that it's lost to us, I don't suppose there is any potential in bringing it out again (it being suich a retro genre). I wish they would, but then I am scared of the scary facelift...

    Do you like any of the other Balenciagas? I don't recall...

  11. M,

    yeah, it's probably the only way to get a bottle nowadays. Although decants from collectors are certainly available.

  12. D,

    what a pleasant surprise to see you here commenting (thanks!) and how can I not agree with you? It's among my top favorite Balenciagas (along with Cialenga, totally different animal) and I agree its nostalgic powderiness is a marvel.

    I wonder, could such a structure be remade with current restrictions today? Or is all hopelessly lost?

  13. M,

    the bottles are spectacular, I love the design so much, there is something intimately beckoning about their rounded contours...

    The date is now etched on my memory, thanks! ~and please do mail me with your address again so I send a Xmas card too :-))

  14. S,

    you're welcome, glad it pleased.

    I think you and M will be fighting on the Ebay tapis soon! LOL

  15. A,

    hehe, you are quite on a roll today eh? I had extended an offer in the past (you had been so very helpful) so should the opportunity arise again, why not? As long as you behave! ;-)
    I'm afraid that I don't know of any secret source though, I bought mine from a collector.

  16. D,

    somehow I think I did *mischievous smile*

    It's certainly one which you would enjoy, I think it's quite close to what you find most delightful (it has a south of France feel to it).
    And I've got another surprise-review for you later on.

  17. that bottle is incredible! such treasure. I will be very interested in the new Balenciaga- why they don't re use that bottle I don't know!

  18. Lovely review and I love the picture of the model - that dress is divine! I'm not sure about floral aldehydics, No. 5 is pleasant enough though I much prefer Eau Premiere but L'Air du Temps was sooooo disappointing. I have read that it has been reformulated and I'm sure it was much better originally but how am I going to get my hands on the original? Sigh ... I could weep.

  19. I collect Balenciaga parfums and was fortunate to have secured a 1 fluid ounce flacon of 'La Fuite des Heures' in parfum concentration. The bottle was boxed and wrapped with a beautiful salmon pink paper embossed with the Balenciaga logo. The sealed flacon is 85% full and it is the colour of yellow/green Chartreuse, perfectly preserved in every way, and I believe it to have similarities with a earlier perfume by Paul Vacher called 'Brumes', a floral anisic herbal extrait with ozonic amber (gris) notes and lashings of discontinued nitro musks. I'm very much tempted to open this rare gem and unleash the genie from within ........
    I adore Le Dix & Quadrille, these 2 are on my top ten 'fave' list !
    Good luck tracking this one down.


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