As with people, you can often distill the essence of a perfume by observing its arrangements. After all, if thoughtful, one’s style is the culmination of a series of deliberate decisions; a concentration of what I am, and a dilution of what I do not want to be. The act of picking a perfume bottle is but a radical, strenuous form of this process.
On the subject, iconic bottle designer Marc Rosen (Burberry, Ricci) commented, “the bottle should be the embodiment of the fragrance.” The thought that the vessel is the window to the soul is impossibly regressive, but remains unanimous in practice in this industry – to arguable success. Oh, but how they try: a friend whose spouse designs bottles for department-store scents once informed me that it takes hundreds of sketches, months and months of bureaucratic approval, for a perfume bottle to reach a shelf. I wasn’t surprised, but it seemed trivial. Should the cap be gold or silver? Should the corners be less angular? Why does it matter?
The attempt to squeeze the scope of research findings (which profile responded to the bottle, and which to the scent?) into one small container seems laughable, but there are times when such a rigorous and absurd approach becomes useful. For one, when a bottle is vocal about its contents, it saves the perfume-seeker from having to dip her nose into the coffee beans excessively. And honestly, sometimes, the approximation is startling.
When I first saw Balenciaga Paris, I could almost guess its scent – the bottle told me everything that I needed to know, and the sample confirmed it. The neck of the bottle is soft, rounded, sweet; its foundation crystalline, sharp, elegant. It is sophisticated, but not mature. It’s gentle, but stands up for itself. (Unsurprisingly, the face of the fragrance of is Charlotte Gainsbourg.)
The fragrance does as well. The notes: bergamot, spices, pepper, violet, carnation, oakmoss, cedar, vetiver, patchouli, labdanum (which, for the interested, is a resin essential to many earthier perfumes – woody, smokey). Characterized as a chypre (an interweaving of bergamot, oakmoss, and other woody elements), it opens on a bright, natural note – violets, carnations, with glints of a metallic finishing, and dries off earthy. Comparisons have been made to Prada’s Infusion d’Iris, which is more diaphanous in my opinion, but the resemblance is there.
I’ve been more committed to this scent than I have to most – beautiful bottle or not. It’s got just the right amount of character. It won’t be loud enough to draw attention to itself, but it definitely rewards those who notice.