Vivara by Emilio Pucci (1965) {Perfume Review & Musings}

In 1965 as Marchese Emilio Pucci of Florence was reflecting upon his place in history and more particularly upon his place in the history of fashion he had to both name a great predecessor, Chanel, and call her "out of date". He explained that if Chanel had created the casual look and casual fragrance for women that is Chanel no 5 - described in his own words as a light floral - his unique contribution, the tenor of his own sartorial revolution would have to be the specialized functional outfit from the days of his inaugural ski outfit designed on a whim for Poppi Thomas, which put him overnight on the map of international fashion, to his current clothing designs for airline crews. He explained, "I believe I started a second revolution in clothes, I started creating clothes for special activities".......

As he had started pondering the creation of a perfume ten years earlier, he finally was able in 1965 to ask himself this rhetorical question, "Would a Beatle-type woman wear pre-war perfume? Of course not, it's anachronistic." He then added, "I wanted a perfume that spelled out all the things I have been designing," and  "It had to smell like sun and sea. Like woods and snow. Like country and not like a plush living room. None of that sweet old perfume of the past that you get when you open the lid of a trunk. Like salt water."

Vivara was advertised with slogans such as "A touch of Vivara....and it is always summer,"(1966) or "The sunny perfume of the Mediterranean"(1969) or again "Invisibly dressed by Emilio Pucci" (1968) as in the ad shown here.

The perfume was created by Michel Hy. Described generally as a green chypre, Vivara named after a rock in Capri is indeed green, especially in the top notes, but it would be misleading to assume that the whole perfume is consistently green à la Balmain Vent Vert or Chanel No 19. Its complex character takes over any linear program. Moreover the green notes used here, the cypress, galbanum, and other so-called "green notes" in the perfume description are very dark green in tone with quite a bit of black thrown into the mix. In fact, Vivara seems to evolve from a more standard green chypre to an aromatic one and finally to a floral one. The general sensation it offers is one of a stroll taken in a classic Mediterranean landscape in the summer, a Greek one at that with antique ruins reverberating the sun in the distance and the atmosphere, dazzling, because of the sea nearby. Cypresses and herbs bring their suggestions of merciful shading and coolness in this open landscape. The ultimate stage of the dry-down is evocative of sun-kissed and freshly bathed skin right out of the ocean which puts it also in the tradition of the "beach perfumes" as well of which the forerunner was Patou Huile de Chaldée in 1927.

The parfum concentration we bought has deteriorated somewhat in the top notes as the initial impression feels, precisely, like the aforementioned dreaded smell of, say, an old battered felt hat retrieved from a trunk in the attic. Alas, perfumes age too. Past this antique-shop stage one is struck by the assertiveness of the aldehydes, which feel a bit raw and hungry in the old manner, on a dry herbal background with a cavernous breath-of-the-dragon effect. The perfume then leaves the shade and takes on both a luminous and peppery feel with some distinct labdanum. It is softened further by dry honeyed nuances, which evoke Balenciaga Quadrille (1955) and Norell by Norell (1967). It is at this point that the scent seems to draw a sinuous honey path with aromatic herbs thrown under one's feet to help one ascend the stairs of an antique Greek ruin, a former temple. Generous, chubby blooms of May rose and Bulgarian rose come in. The next stage changes again, always keeping a link with the preceding one and this time the fragrance becomes balmy, vanillic, then milky and peppery, developing very pretty floral notes and a subtle, exquisite floral and woody dry-down. The bottom note is subtly beach-y and salty, just the way Pucci wanted it to be.

Vivara is discontinued but can still be found online relatively easily. A new Vivara is in the making and will launch in September of 2007. The name will be the same, but the fragrance will be different except for the galbanum note and part of the design on the packaging.

Notes are: lemon, bergamot, cypress, May rose, Bulgarian rose, Mysore Sandalwood, labdanum, galbanum....

Ad is from Okadi and picture from

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6 Comments | Leave a comment

  1. Dear me, our dear Emilio was rather full of himself, wasn't he? The fragrance sounds fantastic, though, but I'd rather they re-issued it without messing with it. They could always put out a "Young Vivara" as well, couldn't they? *grumble*. Great review, thanks!

  2. Viva Pucci, the new VIVARA rembers me the old one and makes me back to the seventies...I am male but I am wearing it. It is MARVELOUS...ORIGINAL...I LOVE IT..

  3. Thank you Dinazad.

  4. Roberto,

    You make it sound wonderful and make me want to seek it out.

  5. Marie Helene
    Go ahead and let me know your opinion.Spray it on the body and I am sure you will love it. I can not wait for your opinion.
    All the best.

  6. Well actually Roberto, I reviewed it yesterday. You might not be seeing it yet because the page needs to be refreshed several times (?)

    Here it is:


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