La Danse, André Derain (1906)
Cristobal Balenciaga La Fuite des Heures
La Fuite des Heures, also marketed under the English name Fleeting Moment, was created in 1949 by the great perfumer Germaine Cellier who also gave us Coeur-Joie by Nina Ricci, Bandit and Fracas by Piguet, Elysées 64-83, Jolie Madame, Vent Vert, and Monsieur Balmain by Balmain, amongst others.
Her style can be characterized as bold, forceful (Bandit, Vent Vert) yet also capable of creating infinitesimally subtle nuances (Coeur-Joie). Today, one can find traces of her more forceful, almost primitive style at times in Mona di Orio's work, while her originality can be found again in Olivia Giacobetti's creations. La Fuite des Heures contains both her primitivist and softer romantic sense of nuances...
Like the picture La Danse (The Dance) by Fauvist André Derain, who was a friend of Germaine Cellier and for whom she posed, it is an ensemble of bold and graceful lines and as it turns out, seems to be colored with the same color tones: the brown of the amber, the grey of ambergris, the dark brown of leather, the chartreuse green of the anise, the darker green of thyme, the yellow of the hay, the mauve of the violet or orris, the golden hues (for me) of jasmine...
La Fuite des Heures, or The Fleeting Hours, literally translated, was Cristobal Balenciaga's second perfume following Le Dix, named after his new boutique address in Paris located 10, Avenue George V which he opened in 1948.
For the couturier, perfume is said to have been but "fashion breathing all around us." Within the perfume heritage of the brand of Balenciaga, which went on longer than the fashion activities of the house, La Fuite des Heures makes one think of Quadrille for its unconventional mix of masculine and feminine elements -and its dry aromatic character. But where La Fuite des Heures smells very original and natural, Quadrille, by comparison, seems suddenly affected, shallower, and too easily resorting to the effect of sophistication and polish that a classic coded use of aldehydes can offer. This happens only if you compare them side by side. On its own, Quadrille is beautiful.
Regarding the historical context, there seems to be little immediate available information regarding La Fuite des Heures, without delving deeper into primary sources. The Société Française des Parfumeurs (French Society of Perfumers) however describes the perfume as being based on a rich jasmine and thyme accord. We were lucky enough to find a bottle of the parfum extract, and so we will offer an olfactory description of it together with our impressions.
La Fuite Des Heures appears to be a woody herbal and floral composition with hints of leather. Its beginning is forceful, liquorishey and herbal and its drydown is soft and round, more woody and floral, although the herbal character remains throughout. The first impressions immediately brings to mind aromatic memories associated with traditional household French herbal remedies such as Elixir Bonjean and Eau de Mélisse des Carmes Boyer.
There is an amberey rush at first, which seems to layer two kinds of amber - warm sweet amber and ambergris - with its distinctive colder, saltier marine tones, slowly and more surely unveiling the chartreuse green accents of a kitchen garden full of aromatic herbs that normally and more conventionally impart interest to edible concoctions. This is followed by another rush of dry dirty herbal notes. It smells almost bad - but not quite.
The curtain then opens on the memory of a summer day during one's childhood spent flat on one's stomach, the nose being tickled by aromatic herbs while chewing on a blade of grass looking at insects getting much busier and noisier than oneself. Later the bell would ring for dinner and a cold-hot herbal soup would be served perfuming those days from then on. The fleeting hours of a nonchalant afternoon turn into a substratum of meaning in adulthood. As delicate and fragile as herbs or hay in the summer, time takes on the smells of those aromas to convey the passing of time.
The herbs seem not so much blended in the perfume as made to figuratively appear in the imagination of the perfume wearer as slightly withered herbs on which the sun and the wind would have left their marks. The floral notes make their presence felt as a field of wild flowers dancing in the wind. There are stacks of hay nearby with their blond smells. The jasmine rounds off the notes rather than appear showcased.
The heart of the perfume develops a prominent cool green anise note with sweet undertones. It is reminiscent of yet another French specialty this time based on anise, Anis de l'Abbaye de Flavigny.
The base smells like hay warmed up by the sun. The perfume softens down to very mellow woods with facets of fennel, hay, even sweet caramelized yellow onions, with yellow peach undertones. It smells like a day in the summer spent in the kitchen garden.
The drydown is extremely soft, fruity-woody, slightly leathery and peppery. It seems to smell of violet or orris, or both. The sweetness seems to derive from a very subtle vanilla. The drydown especially is particularly multi-faceted, which makes one think that there is an important proportion of natural essences.
La Fuite Des Heures is a very original and adult perfume, the perfume of one who has fully lived one's childhood and in which maturity contains that childhood - instead of reliving it. The dried herbs were made part of a perfume that is both very feminine and very masculine in keeping with its author's strong personality. In fact, judging by today's standards of marketable perfumes, it is astonishing to think that La Fuite Des Heures was meant for a wider public than the perfumer herself. It is so personal as to make one think that it was made for Cellier's nose only - and then only made more widely available.
This impression is probably not too far from the truth as if there ever was a perfumer who did not make compromises with ambient "good taste", that would have to have been Germaine Cellier.
The originality and authenticity of the perfume derives from the impression that it seems to have been inspired by first-hand sensations, directly motivated by ingredients intimately known to the perfumer, rather than by social codes.
It also shows her lack of prejudice regarding a separation between low-brow gourmand, gustatory, edible notes and perfumey ones.
Swiftly filling the symbolic gap between kitchen cupboard and perfumer's lab she has created an early discreetly gourmand-medicinal perfume resting more on savory notes than sweet ones, contrary to what is overwhelmingly the case today. La Fuite des Heures is a perfume both innocent and seductive, strange and beautiful.