Scent-sational: Balenciaga Paris Eau de Parfum

3 Jun

There has always been a certain level of prestige associated with fragrances originating from France – Paris to be exact. The notion has always been that French perfumers have the nose for the exotic, the sophisticated and the timeless.  This idea probably hails from the fact that the French have been developing perfumes longer than Americans. It’s probably the reason why I gravitate towards Jean Paul Gaultier and Chanel perfumes like a moth to a flame. I recently received a gift from a friend who’s been living in Paris for the past two years with a simple note: “The French always do it best.  The only Balenciaga I can afford to gift you is this perfume straight from Paris. Thinking of you and your closet.”

I’ve always been a fan of Balenciaga, a French fashion house that was revived, in my opinion and that of most fashion critics, by Nicolas Ghesquiere in the late ’90s.  The brand had laid dormant after the death of its creator Cristobel Balenciaga in 1972, who Diane Vreeland says once caused Audrey Hepburn to “foam at the mouth,” with his of then of-the-moment designs. It is a true fact that Ghesquiere has turned the Balenciaga label around with his vision, which pays homage to the past but pushes the envelope to create relevant, beautiful yet unexpected collections. Ghesquiere has always said that he plans on keeping the Balenciaga name from becoming too commercialized while at the same time expanding its offerings to menswear and beauty.

The introduction of the Balenciaga Paris Eau de Parfum earlier this spring was an ode to spring; a late arrival that was long overdue.  It is true that there were still perfumes licensed under the Balenciaga name as late as the year 2000 but the four original Balenciaga perfumes – Le Dix (1947), La Fuite des Heures (1949), Quadrille (1955) and Eau de Balenciaga for Men, his first masculine fragrance (1962) – were the pinacle in perfumery for the French fashion house.

The birth of Ghesquiere’s Balenciaga Paris is a celebration and a commencement of the Balenciaga beauty collection, receiving accolades from beauty editors.  The perfume has is being hailed as a “lovely paradox,” which summarizes it quite well. Perfumer Olivier Polge under the direction of Ghesquiere created a crystal clear perfume from delicate purple Violet flowers.  For me, the notes of bergamot, violet, carnation, cedar wood, vetiver, patchouli, moss, labdanum leave a lasting impression that is soft and airy yet impressionable; long after the top notes have evaporated from my skin, the ghost of the Balenciaga Paris still haunts me with a wispy soft aroma that lingers like a recalled memory once long forgotten. The flacon, which evokes the spirit of modern day Balenciaga, are reminiscent of the structured cocoon dresses Ghesquiere is known for.

Perfumes are very personal and can be a hit or a miss depending on the nose or personality, which makes me a bit apprehensive about recommending them.  Balenciaga Paris is a lovely paradox and one that most women will welcome. Just as they welcomed a Spaniard who founded a lasting French fashion house celebrated by actresses and socialites in his day.  American actress Jennifer Connelly has been the face of the brand for a few seasons and would have been the obvious choice to be that of Balenciaga Paris Eau de Parfum.  Ghesquière has another idea; to choose French actress Charlotte Gainsbourg as the perfume’s muse.  Gainsbourg has said that Balenciaga Paris is the first perfume she has ever worn. Thus, another paradox is discovered. For what French woman would not wear perfume?

Balenciaga Paris is currently available at high end boutiques like Bloomingdales, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys New York and Saks Fifth Avenue and retails for $130 for the large flacon and $95 for the small.

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