Thursday, March 10, 2011

Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire no.2: fragrance review

Sharing the news a while ago on a second "model" of La Petite Robe Noire, a previous Guerlain fragrance that divided perfume enthusiasts, was a double-edged sword: On the one hand, one wants to like a new Guerlain, possibly because of the heritage and the luxe French factor. On the other hand, Guerlain lately have been reviving the brand in ways which have left a bitter taste in the mouth of hard-core fans, even though it garnered them new audiences and certainly a lot money in Swiss banks. La Petite Robe Noire no.2 has a problematic name to begin with, but that's not all.

Just imagine having to answer someone asking what perfume you're wearing; that affix of "2" in the end sounds fake and ridiculous to me. I realise that copyrighting names isn't easy, but if anyone could, Guerlain is the one who could recycle hundreds of names from their rich archives to spare this embarrassment. Olfactorily, La Petite Robe Noire model 2 leaves something to be desired and I can't say it has won me over, although arguably it's rather easier and less tooth-achingly fruity-sweet than the previous first installment which scared me with its insolent intrusion into my personal space when I had placed a blotter atop my book on Minoan pottery I was consulting at the time.

To its detriment La Petite Robe Noire no. 2 still features the gimauve accord (that's the marshmallow "note"), this time garlanded by orange blossom and dusted with powdery-dry notes that are oscillating between face makeup and white suede. The opening of La Petite Robe Noire model 2, clean, scrubbed and bright, is still revealing a light gourmand character with a vanillic interlay that veers into almond nuances; but it's smoother, cuter and thankfully less berry-rich than the previous effort. The cuddly quality and the dry musky suede feel are not without some charm, better expressed on a blotter or fabric than on skin (Is this also an effort to grab the consumer into the first instances of testing?).

Still, these "hip" fragrant launches, destined by their shelf placement for the connoisseur circuit of people shopping for fragrance (and Guerlain fragrance at that!) at the eponymous boutiques or the Bergdorf Goodman "corner", pose a question: Why are they becoming a central focus requiring ample time off in-house Thierry Wasser's busy schedule instead of having these powers directed at working on a smashing new mainstream release or a beautiful classy exclusive instead (like Tonka Impériale before)? Unless teenager gamines shop regularly at the above mentioned places and are cognizant of the Guerlain brand apart from their makeup line and the Terracotta range (which still drives a huge percentage of the company sales), I'm at a loss to understand the positioning of those fragrances, just like I was perplexed by the romantic thinking behind Idylle as advertised on US soil.

Apparently Sylvaine Delacourte, art director chez Guerlain, says the first La Petite Robe Noire sold well and we do know from the US launch ahead that the American audience was (oddly?) targeted mainly: The latter isn't anything new, even as far back as Chanel No.5 and Coty's bestsellers America has been the greatest luxury devouring market on the planet and justifiably a marketer's wet dream. Often they underestimate that market.
Still La Petite Robe Noire and La Petite Robe Noire 2 occupy that middle ground that is hesitant between donning a full on couture gown for special occasions or just everyday wear with hip accents for that party and end up smelling like they don't know what they're doing, raising their cocktail glass like the nouveau rich amidst family guests at a chateau in the Loire valley.

The bottle, still in the iconic inverted heart design that houses Mitsouko and L'Heure Bleue, is now reprised in dark rose and the black dress on it is strappy with a lacy hem; more like a negligee, really, but in good fun.

Notes for Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire no.2:
Head notes: Bergamot, Lemon, Galbanum
Heart notes: Orange Blossom, Marshmallow, Iris
Base notes: Leather, White Musk

bottle pic via


  1. Honestly, this doesn't sound too bad to me... I'm an American marketing dream, I suppose. I doubt this is something I'd wear often, but wonder if it's something I'd not kick out of bed? I prefer a meatier scent most days, and especially love the older Guerlains, buy sometimes light and fluffy fits the bill.

  2. Fiordiligi16:39

    Oh dear. Guimauve? Well, all I can say is at least there is none of that horrifying sweet berry note of the first version......

    Please stop it, Guerlain. You are upsetting me. You can do so much better than this, IFRA notwithstanding.

  3. Anonymous18:58

    I actually loved the first LPRN. I realize this one is not related in theme but I was curious:

    1. How is the lasting power with this fragrance?
    2. How is the sillage?

    Some of the newer Guerlains have a tendancy to "disappear" on my skin (LPRN-1 (what a stupid acronym!) hapily excluded from that list).

    -- Nikk

  4. I did not dislike the first La Petite Robe Noire, although it is a bit too much and I rarely wear it. This one is not the same sillage monster, but on my skin it lasts forever. I found LPRN2 very comforting and I don't know why. I don't know if I would buy a full bottle, but I would gladly accept it as a gift. I have a small decant. When it is over, I will find out if I miss it enough to get another decant.

    The orange blossom on this is lovely and I normally don't like orange blossom that much. It is more wearable than by Kilian's Love and I also find it more nuanced than the by Kilian.

  5. J,

    it's pleasant, but it lacks personality. I'm sure your older GUerlains are whispering the same to you every morning :P
    I think the American audience is savvier than they take it for. But they do want to "win" over that large segment of luxe market, so their practice leaves me a bit confused.

  6. D,

    I can't really place the two LPRN anywhere in the Guerlain canon; vintage or modern. I'm utterly confused.

    I think they could do better, but apparently they must know something we don't. Sylvaine was adamant that the first one sold very well. The fact that they issued another one, a "flanker" if you will, shows that obviously it worked.

    Too upset to contemplate the future.

  7. Nikk,

    the first one was plutonium-tenacious on the blotter. This one is more subdued, but still quite convincing in sillage and tenacity. Average I'd say. It won't disappoint in that department, I just find it less ballsy than expected.

  8. A,

    Guerlain has the know how to do great things. This one is smooth and has a certain charm, but it's not the distinctive thing I would expect from an exclusive or -nay- a mainstream of the house. They do keep the patisserie touch though, which is consistent with the tradition. Now, if they managed to make it more interesting...?
    It's fine for a decant. I don't know if I would wear it lots either, it's a "no brainer" kinda scent; one which doesn't draw attention to itself.

  9. It has wonderful lasting power and comfortable sillage. No, it's not up beside Mitsouko or Derby.. not even close.. but it's better than the first one :)

  10. Anthony,

    I found it rather good in the lasting department as well. Not one of the Guerlains has disappointed me in that aspect, they're tenacious even if light (thinking original Vetiver, Apres L'Ondee).

    Agree that it couldn't be up there with Mitsouko or Derby if it tried. Perhaps one cannot expect miracles every day. That's not necessarily a catastrophe, true.

  11. Forgot to say that Derby has been bugging me more and more: Why did they have to make this scarce when it's such a beauty? I'm a woman and I swoon when I put this on... *sigh*


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