Saturday, September 3, 2011

Armani Prive La Femme Bleue: fragrance review

The Armani Privé collection falls under the scope of "niche fragrances within mainstream houses" trend; exclusive, upscale compositions that are often several notches above the widely available scents by the same company (see Cuir Amethyste and Bois d'Encens). La Femme Bleue, setting you back for £375/400euros for 100ml of Eau de Parfum, is very much on the exclusive side, given that it has been made in only 1000 bottles worldwide (and it's not available in just any country! whoa!). So I was fully prepared to hate it (isn't that stratagem & pricetag obscene?), but, alas, I was hasty.

Giorgio Armani's La Femme Bleue is a lovely iris fragrance; nuanced, darkish, with its woody and incensey background and, despite the passing resemblance with iris extraordinaire Iris Silver Mist by Serge Lutens, soft, powdery, ultimately unctuous. Plus, despite having the word Femme in the name, the designer himself is quick to point out that this is a unisex scent, as is the whole Privé collection. What more can one ask for? Perhaps some dare.

The Armani Privé collection can be divided into three genres: fresh and clean-smelling Les Eaux; La Collection ~inspired by precious stones like amethyst or jade; and the decadent Collection Mille et Une Nuits (A Hundred and One Nights Collection). This is the range that includes Oud Royal, an opulent melange of amber, spice and myrrh resin. The line is not without its celebrity endorsement: Charlene Wittsock, Princess of Monaco, who wore an Armani Privé wedding gown, also wore an Armani Privé fragrance on her "happiest day"; reportedly it was the new ultra-limited edition La Femme Bleue.

The deep blue of the bottle is a direct reflection on the Spring/Summer 2011 collection by Armani, inspired by the blue tint of the Alasho of the Twareg people of the desert, nomads of North Africa.
The colour of the nighttime sky has often been an inspiration for perfumers and bottle manufacturers, starting with the iconic L'Heure Bleue for Jacques Guerlain as well as Dawamesk, passing through modern offerings such as Jacomo Deep Blue and Dark Blue by Hugo Boss, all the way to the upcoming Vol de Nuit Powder Spray bottle in gorgeous shades of midnight.

The perfumer Serge Majoullier is a talent to watch. He explains how he put the concept (the deep indigo) into fragrance:
"It’s not easy to translate the idea of deep blue, I found the way by blending oriental and vanilla notes, perfect to evoke a hot starry night; so I added black iris [ed.note: I'm assuming he's referring to iris chyrophrages], which is dark blue in nature, and whose scent at times verges on chocolate, a woody background. This way the fragrance is not just floral".
This Armani fragrance feels like Haute Parfumerie and not just hot air fanned on ad copy, as many niche products do these days:  The delicious undercurrent of cocoa dust laces the background of iris (this is an experiment that is also successful at much lower price points in Bulgari's Blv Notte and Iris by L'Erbolario) resulting in a fragrance that cannot be said to evoke funereal connotations like so many iris scents can; notably Iris Silver Mist, to which it bears a kinship of the spirit.  After all, iris susiana, a greyish species of Iris, is affectionately called "mourning iris", so the connection is there all right. But no; not in this case. La Femme Bleue is not exactly cheerful or bubbly either, opting for a distinctive and elegant arpeggio of woody notes that surround and temper the slightly gourmand, orientalised aspects of cocoa and vanillic-benzoin caramel hints with some musk. Softness and a delicious powdery feel akin to violets greet you upon spraying, with hints of sensuality evolving as the fragrance dries down, even though it is a delicate, timid drydown that you might want to press your nose on your wrist to fully enjoy. I could picture myself enjoying this ultra exclusive fragrance if it was any easier to get ahold of.

Notes for Armani Prive La Femme Bleue: iris, chocolate, woodsy notes, incense and vanilla.

Below is the clip from the summer 2011 collection by the same name featuring Elisa Seidanoui. Enjoy!

Painting Black Iris by Georgia O'Keefe (1906).


  1. Eleonore08:50

    Reading your post, how I'd love to try this one, I'm sure I'd love it, it seems so well "balanced"....however too exclusive for me and for many it would seem (if it can't be found what's the point of Armani making us want it? just the fun of showing it's made for the happy few??? not very nice...)Since you seem to love Iris fragrances too, how does it compare to "Iris poudré" by Editions de parfums Frédéric Malle or "Hiris" by Hermès? I'd love to have your opinion on them:-)

  2. Asali17:05

    I was so curious about this one. It launched one day AFTER I left Paris, which I was very disappointed about, since I'll probably be no where near a stockist of one of the 1000 limited bottles before they are gone. You make it sound as wonderful as I imagined, so it's maybe just as well I wasn't there, I might just have gone temporarily insane and bought a bottle. (After all, compared to other über-exclusives, this price tag seems almost reasonable ;-))

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I tried this a few weeks ago.
    It was released exclusively to Harvey Nichol's Dubai.

    It smells almost exactly like Iris Silver Mist.

    I would test it further but I have enough Iris perfumes (plenty!) and the price doesn't justify its uniqueness.

  5. Eleonore,

    I think you're right on the money (ha!) re: ultra-exclusivity on some scents. It seems designers and perfumers like to play that game if only to exasperate us and feel the urge to splurge when the next one comes along ;-)

    To answer your question, Iris Poudre I don't find very iris-like, it has some cool tinge, yes, but it reads as a more ladylike, proper fragrance with its aldehydic overtones. I had reviewed it in a Twin Peaks articles (searchable on the index on the right).
    Hiris is more of an earthy iris, mid-flesh, mid-root and it can turn to carrots on some skins (thankfully not mine). I rather like it, though I rarely wear it for some inexplicable reason; perhaps it's too subtle, for once (because usually I am not overindulgent with my application and sillage).
    I think Armani's take is different than the above, iris seen through a prism of indigo, not grey, nor "earthy" nor fleshy; it's quite fetching and worth sampling if you can.

  6. Asali,

    I can understand the frusration, urgh!! The prices are overall unreasonable, remember back when 150$ seemed rather decadent?

  7. Saif,

    thanks for commenting and giving your own view on it, very useful.
    I can't say I found it identical to Iris Silver Mist, as it's less powderful for one, but it's quite close. ISM is a gorgeous reference to look up to, so all's well in my books.
    The price and exclusivity, urgh, they're looking after their image I guess!

  8. Eleonore18:14

    Thank you so much for your answer...If I can test it I'll do it gladly,just for the pleasure of it! And I think I'll have a go at ISM (easier to find at any rate)which I don't know at all:-)

  9. Eleonore,

    you're welcome :-)

    I think ISM is a much saner purchase and it's a stellar iris to try anyway. Please do and let me know of your impressions!

  10. Anonymous19:47

    Sigh, I will probably never get to smell this one. :(

    Forgive me for being reductive because obviously the quality of materials here is what is helping to make this fragrance exquisite, but is there any commonality here between La Femme Bleue and Dior Homme?

  11. Anon,

    I honestly think that Dior Homme is amongst the hanfdul of truly great releases of the last few years, so you have an affordable and approachable gem in your hands. Why ruin that enjoyment by seeking mr.Armani's (MUCHO expensive) take on iris? Now, if a sample or decant ends up in your lap through a friend, that's another matter.

  12. perfume shrine,

    Its like saying why buy a Ferrari or Porsche 911 when a Mazda MX5 will suffice.
    Well because as good as the Dior is, its not a true Iris scent.
    Of course there are other alternatives to LFB as I mentioned earlier but then again taste is subjective and no matter how similar the alternatives are, they are not replicas of LFB and those who want LFB can claim that and enjoy it.

  13. Saif,

    clever point! ;-)

    And yet...Some people spend their whole lives putting a Porsche keychain around their Mazda keys without losing face. (Many more settle for a less impressive "model" when choosing a mate/spouse, so they might be on to something). There's no harm in that, if it means they find the best attributes of the less expensive/high-maintenance to be to their satisfaction. The problem arises when they're not satisfied. The more scrupulous among them will become envious, the less scrupulous will steal cars (and other people's more impressive wives, LOL?)

    Now, seriously, indeed enjoying a precious commodity is not a bad thing. I like luxury myself. I liked LFB. It's just that sometimes the companies almost put a cheque around a bottle of perfume which can become burdensome; those Guerlain extraits in the "fountains" come to mind, especially (Partaking on a miniature split on them due to prices asked seems to me the most miserly thing there could be). The temporary thing (limited edition and then no more) also kinda chaffs me the wrong way.

    Dior Homme might not be a true iris scent, but it's a magnificent one; don't you agree? The SL is better in representing the rhizome IMO and I'm glad it's still in circulation and will be around for a long time. In the meantime, if someone gifted me with a bottle of LFB, I would gladly wear it with pleasure.

  14. I too find the price tag linked to LFB a bit absurd but then again I've paid reasonable amounts which others find absurd. So its all relative and apparently Armani are seeking a much smaller sector of the market with LFB.
    Makes sense too since I swear I saw around 50 boxes of LFB here in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.


Type your comment in the box, choose the Profile option you prefer from the drop down menu, below text box (Anonymous is fine too!) and hit Publish.
And you're set!

Blog Widget by LinkWithin