Thursday, July 11, 2013

Repetto eau de toilette: fragrance review

Do ballerinas secretly stuff their lithe forms with cherry-pie flavored cupcakes? If models routinely consume tissue paper in order to satiate their hunger, as infamously stated by Australian Vogue ex-editor Kirstie Clemens, I'm willing to believe anything. Powdery woody florals are a direction that is ripe for the picking, judging by recent releases such as Love, Chloe, See by Chloe, Esprit d'OscarBurberry Body perfume and the like, but in Repetto the direction is tilting the scales into gourmand  fragrance nuances which seem incongruent with the associations we -involuntarily- make of dancers. Musky roses (with the odd white floral mixed in) with sweet nuances, reminiscent of such girly accessories as lip cosmetics, goose feather down and tutus, date at least as far back as Drole de Rose by L'Artisan Parfumeur (1996). Perhaps what seemed new then looks derivative now, but I wasn't wowed by the newest Repetto fragrance.

Maybe it is that the brand has such an iconic pull that you expect more, more, more. In this case, however, it was a clear case of wanting less, less, less.


The cult brand of ballerina shoes the world over is without doubt the French Repetto; not only have they decked everyone from Brigitte Bardot to Vanessa Paradis, they're prized for being as comfortable as wearing nothing on your feet without sacrificing style. Just in the space of last year Repetto has seen an increase of 20%, mainly outside France where the brand is a national standby (the company is also present in 60 countries), which highlights the enthusiastic reception that this classic Gallic brand is enjoying in the domain of luxury and export. Let it be said in passing that Japan is their second biggest market outside France and they're planning on opening a boutique Repetto in Shanghai, China in September 2013.

After a spectacular development following the 1999 resurrection of the brand, founded in 1947 by Rose Repetto, costumer to the Opera, Repetto is launching their first feminine fragrance, developed with Interparfums who manage the uber-successful Burberry portfolio alongside many others. The perfumer chosen for the development of the fragrant jus is Olivier Polge, newly officially appointed to Chanel perfumes assisting his father Jacques Polge whose tenure dates since 1978.

"My goal was to create a handmade effect and bring together luxurious and authentic bases, suhc as powdery musky rose, which is the spirit of femininity. The result is a purified formula with essence of rose and vanilla", elaborates Olivier Polge. The fragrance also includes pear, cherry tree flowers and orange blossom notes, underscored by vanilla and amber woods.
The effect is powdery with the characteristic almond "fluffiness" of heliotrope and macaroons (if I were blindfolded and hadn't received info of the launch I would have pegged it as a Ladurée fragrance more than Repetto), soft, sweet with Frambinone, maybe rather heavy if you're sensitive to sweet notes like I am; heavy like an overweight ballerina in the unfair, politically incorrect world of classical dance where teachers are routinely drawing their nails along tender backs to make you stand straight. Could the Repetto-scented ballerina personification survive in that environment? Not if she shed her Dawrinian advantage, she would not...  But the crux of the matter is that Repetto isn't but a ghost of ballet. It is a brand divested of its reality, it's fantasy.

Whereas Michel Almariac chose to instill an inedible element into the scheme of the powdery musky floral in See by Chloe, opting for the bitter sheen of soap, even though the brand could do with sweetness, Polge, armed with his recent experience in La Vie Este Belle, looked into cupcakes. In fact cupcakes are part of the promotion of the fragrance (I kid you not!) In that regard, it sounds like sacrilege but Guerlain presented a better "contemporary taste" perfume with La Petite Robe Noire.

It's not required that wearers of Cabaret by Gres burst out in spontaneous songs by Patachou, but when the incongruence between brand, finished fragrance and market demographic is so diverse you have a fine mess in your hands.

Repetto eau de toilette is presented in eau de toilette concentration (39 euros for a 30ml spray bottle, 79 euros for 80ml), accompanied by a matching body lotion, while the bottle is adorned by a medallion on a pink ribbon like the one in the emblematic Carlota ballerina flat. The fact that the fragrance is inspired by ballet dancing is emphasized by keeping as ambassadress the star dancer Dorothée Gilbert (who claims “Le parfum Repetto a du poids, du charisme”). The signature fragrance hit French counters on Monday July 1st and is set to create buzz in the international market soon after.


  1. Isn't that the problem though the image of a ballerina versus the reality of ballerina. I mean lets face it a ballerina is an artist and an athlete but for the most it is rare when respect is given to these two aspects of their work. Rather we get caught up in the idea of dainty femininity of ballet and up infantalizing the dancers. Even though if you take one moment to recent search the subject of ballet you realize in fact they lead hard arduous lives that does consist of a frequently crappy relationship with food to maintain the ideal of what a "ballerina" is.

    I was immediately put off by the ad campaign for this. I thought it looked cheap and rather childish. The scent does not sound like something I would hate but like you mention food and ballet is a fraught subject.

  2. I thought pink cupcakes were popular only this side of the ocean, where the barely digestible bomb fills pseudo pastry shops.


  3. Anonymous06:37

    I don't know ..... this sounds a bit ominous for the future of Chanel. The fact that the perfumer who created this is Olivier Polge worries me. I found Lancôme's La Vie est Belle to be overly sweet and generic (nothing special), and now he offers this confection. I suppose he would have been working to a brief, but I am concerned that his new fragrances for Chanel will be equally sweet and "trendy".


  4. Yes, I was afraid of that. :(
    I wonder where does the carnal from the official blurb is actually found...?
    I really hoped for it.

  5. J,

    exactly right!
    People see the surface. If you have a ballerina remove the pointes and see their feet, they're atrocious!! Practically destroyed and at very young ages. Their torsos are flattened out and their calves could pierce walls. They're athletes all right and with the competitive regimen of rhythmic gymnasts in the Olympics who eat extremely little. So the whole "macaroon" reference is a bit of hubris.
    The powder, the rosiness, the daintiness is also a bit of an oversimplification, because it focuses on the "fairy tale" aspects of classical dance, something I'm sure the professional ballerinas abhor. Plus the short tutu is a bit of a childish image, because it does recall (to me) small children looking cute. I picture mature ballerinas with the romantic tutu which is much longer. (Just a personal quirk)

  6. M,

    they're taking over the world!!! *egads*

    There is a shop called Hamptons Cupcakes at the marina I like to stroll. Well, obviously they do carry more localized sweets and drinks as well but the cupcakes are there on display for young trendy mothers who bring up their offspring to like things that look "cute" (rather than taste spectacular).

  7. Jillie,

    this is exactly what I was fearing.
    La Vie est Belle is rather pleasant in a generic sort of way, because we don't expect something different from Lancome these days. They have exhausted their "Med" spirit in the O line and that's it; the rest can be sweet, sweet, sweet. With Repetto, I expected something else. Something powdery but more restrained. It's the fate of the modern perfumer, working like a madman on a desk, whereas every decision is taken some place else and the lab is down several doors where other people mix things and robots measure the formula etc. The whole process is disassociated from the creation spirit.

    In re: to Chanel, I expect the track of "modernised" will continue unfazed. Whether there will be some restraint as to sweetness is anyone's guess; I hope so!! (Too much sweetness and you know you're not buying class, I always say; though I could be wrong of course!)

  8. Ines,

    carnal and classical ballet do not mix. Why were you expecting it to be there in the first place? "Carnal" (like "sensuous", "luxurious", "modern" or "fresh") is just ad copy speak divested of any real meaning.

    I know how you're disappointed to hear so. If it's any consolation, my skin and the warm weather amplifies the sweetness. It might smell a bit more restrained in northern China, though I still maintain that the whole premise of the concept is somehow faulty and messily predictable.

  9. Because I kind of expect people to hold true to what they say?
    I'm pretty sure ballerinas sweat so there could be a trace of carnal they mentioned.
    Albeit the notes never even suggested it.

  10. Ines,

    in perfume advertising?? :-D
    Darling, you're not naive, you're joking surely.
    Or rather , I can see it now, you had high hopes and they were crushed. *friendly pat on the back*

    I would never, even, not even in a million years, think that they would use ballerina images and sweat in the same breath; the person buying the fairy tale of the "ballerina" buys the fairy tale of Swan Lake, watched while dressed to within an inch of their lives with diamante decorations on the hair and a pearl adornment on the neck or the finger, visiting an opera house that has just had a popular Russian troupe coming to give performances in their endless drag through several countries, and then they come back home to watch reruns of Desperate Housewives in socks that badly need mending. They do NOT want sweat mixed in their "dream"!

    It's only us, perfumistas, who think that hopefully, that daringly, that -shall I say it- creatively in regards to how a concept could have been....

    My heart goes out to you because I totally get what you're saying, even if I'm further crushing your hope.

  11. I know it's naive, and I don't really expect it to be true, but I can't not hope, that once, just once, it will come true.
    I'm an eternal optimist, what can I say...

  12. Ines,

    and that's why I love you! :-)

    (you're a person who believes: that's a very important thing!)

  13. Anonymous11:04

    Elena and Ines, I am enjoying your conversation very much!

    A friend of mine used to be a dresser for the Royal Ballet company - she had to launder all the costumes (including jock straps), and said that the smell of sweat backstage was unlike anything she had experienced anywhere else!

    Yes, Elena, I too regard sweet as being equal to cheap. I think this element is usually used to disguise the less expensive ingredients. I feel depressed that the young generation are being indoctrinated into thinking all these tooth-rotting fragrances smell good. And that will mean that more and more of the classics will be discontinued or reformulated badly because they won't sell well. Sigh....

  14. Thank you very much for saying so! :)
    I love how you always question my ideas and motives - you truly are a seeker of knowledge.

    @Jillie - thank you for sharing this information.
    I enjoy different sports so sweat has always been a normal part of my life but through the years I noticed people often regard it as coarse and uncomely (and those people are usually not fit).
    Yes, there is this "magical" image of ballerinas but I respect them much more for the seriously committed athletes they are than for the image they project.

  15. @Ines,

    aw, you're too kind. I do like to question "why" to everything, I regard this as my childlike trait. (Can be annoying! LOL)

    As to the ballerinas, I think the image in the public subconscious is more a product of the milieu that is exploiting them than of the ballerinas themselves (who are very committed to what they do anyway).
    BTW, I am sure you have watched the Birds euro-song submission by Netherlands? The ballerina "exigencies" were very much in question in that videoclip too (the trappings of this world, the crushed ambitions, etc)


    fabulous story! I am absolutely certain that the people doing this are working VERY hard to present what looks effortless to our eye. (The same can be said for anything appearing effortless: it's not). There would be sweat and often there would be blood too.

    Glad you're enjoying the convo with Ines, she's one of the more articulate and insightful readers and it's always a pleasure reading her commentary, especially since we share a sort of kinship thanks to geographical proximity and similar cultures.

  16. I forgot to say (@Jilie and everyone reading):

    Indoctrinating people to like sweet scents is no different than indoctrinating them to like "fresh" marines or classical chypres. It's cyclical. It serves a need right now because everyone is watching their calorie intake or maybe because we've all become giga versions of the homo sapiens (eating so much!), one or the other. It will pass. A generation of classics will be lost however, that much is true. :-(

  17. Anonymous12:38

    Oh yes. Another friend of mine always reminded me of a famous saying "this, too, will pass". Meaning that everything is transient, good or bad. So enjoy the positive as it will not last, but then the negative equally will fade away. And then they return for their allotted time before moving on again. But as you say, E, we will lose those classics along the way.

  18. J,


    I suppose one needs to be stoic and accept those things they cannot change. And all the while vote with their wallet when it has to do with actual consumer goods ;-)

  19. Anonymous17:21

    Heehee, this mildly caustic post had me chuckling!

    It's actually quite annoying when the fluffy fairy aspect of ballet is highlighted and not the years and years of dedication and athletic degree of fitness required. As they said in the naff 80s tv series 'Fame' - 'right here's where you start paying, in sweat'! Powdery notes are authentic, but the perfume should also smell like worn leather, sweat and the salty aroma of tears!

  20. Rosestrang,

    sometimes mildly caustic posts are absolutely necessary. ;-)

    I couldn't agree with you more!

  21. Nathan12:19

    It does smell like expensive, slightly artificial cake, but I guess(I know the Paris Repetto store very well) that it is aimed at little girls with dreams of being ballerinas. These little girls probably prefer to smell like sweets and cake rather than, for example, leather and flowers.

    I don't condone it, and they could have proposed something much more artistic, but it probably sells quite well. C'est la vie...

    On the subject of ballet dancers and eating, I know some who can eat cupcakes and pizzas who just burn it off, and others who only eat small portions of healthy foods.

  22. Nathan,

    thank you for your comment.
    You're probably right. I don't know why we expect the things we expect from brands.

    Good going on ballet dancers and eating. I suppose that burning off though only happens up to a certain age, right? Can't eat like a lumberjack all your life, I suppose.


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