Le De by Givenchy has the clarity and purity of a fountain of youth cascading with crystalline floral water, only emitting the loveliest of murmur in the middle of a glade in a delicate green forest. Alternatively it makes one feel as if one were walking on a ground strewn with petals of blossoms before arriving at the gates of Paradise. The strange thing is that one does not usually think of gardens of paradise. One nevertheless stops there to inhale some of the effluvia that waft out through its iron gates before stepping in.
Le De is also like the flow of an 18th century muslin textile printed with a seedbed of delicate flowers. Or a modern interpretation of it as with the Givenchy dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in 1957 precisely in Love in the Afternoon. Or again the light scent emanating from a precious letterhead or calling card. Even before one read the press release, the scent evoked intuitively the images of a refined calling card and flowing white light luxurious textile as the ones that were cut out to make the evanescent dresses "à la Gauloise" worn by Marie-Antoinette. Not coincidentally, Hubert de Givenchy is reported to have said, "Fragrance is the final touch of elegance, its identity card" or again, we learn from the press communication that,.........
"The notes are fashioned like fabrics. Pink velvet or silk organza, the textures and scents echo each other. As Hubert de Givenchy put it, "It's a language of love between fragrances and textiles." Voluptuous, sensuous, the textures have a strong evocative power, endowed with a tactile aspect.
Flowers first and foremost. Because they exalt the full-bloomed expression of femininity, GIVENCHY fragrances are predominantly floral compositions. For a creator who has always had a fondness for gardens, the elegant, delicate, subtle and varied olfactory range offered by flowers has been a rich and vital source of inspiration."
Le De is all refinement, poise, subtlety - and importantly - purity. Like Vetyver it offers a sense of purity that is indivisible from a moral feeling, not just an aesthetic one. More than with any other group of perfumes we can remember of, it makes one apprehend perfume as a moral object, a statement of intention about the devising of a better world through belief in elegance, refinement and the good. The Givenchy perfumes offer themselves as ideal forms that will help shape the world, as exempla of perfecting conduct, as glaring objects of purity.
The fragrance was initially created in 1957 for a very select group of people, the haute-couture clientèle and friends of Hubert de Givenchy at a time when perfumes that were more readily available to the public were also less vulgarized than today. According to the press communication, it was later available officially at only four department stores worldwide, in Paris, London, and New York. Therefore the standard of refinement in Le De had to be upped a bit more then to feel even more precious. Ernest Shiftan's original version, we do not know (yet), but this year's re-edition of Le De does not make one think that it is lacking in anything pertaining to the grand classic tradition of French perfumery. The surprise came for us in the discovery of a pristine understated texture where we tend to think of vintage perfumes as more heavily bodied than today's. But Le De is more like Coeur-Joie from Nina Ricci (1946), a return to a neo-romantic woman albeit endowed with a sense of classical balance after World War II had stripped women of certain classic definitions of femininity.
As an aside we would like to point out that we find it very interesting to learn that Ernest Shiftan might have contributed significantly to the creation of Youth-Dew by Estée Lauder. People usually lift an eyebrow when smelling Youth-Dew for the first time and wonder why such a rich dark scent was named with such a mismatched name in appearance. Le De, it occurs to us, is like the clear pristine side of Youth-Dew, its clearest expression of intention, its white counterpart.
The perfume opens on subtle green, fresh, and dewy almost aqueous notes with a woody undercurrent. There is a recognizable light aldehydic Givenchy signature to the scent. As the scent deepens ever so slightly some discreet indoles come to float on the surface of our perception. Even when Le De becomes slightly rounder and warmer, it is done in delicate aquarelle-like touches preserving a degree of transparency and an ethereal character all the while. The ever so light bite of the peppery coriander adds crispness and an understated rawness to the composition. The ylang-ylang is like a dash of excess and intoxication but as if proffered in a whisper. The dry-down is subtly woodsy and incense-y with a hint of sweetness and smokiness coming from what smells like Tonka bean.
Le De, named after the particle of nobility in Hubert de Givenchy's name is a masterpiece of balance and subtlety and stands as the very embodiment of Givenchy's sense of elegance, both moral and aesthetic. It is an ideal scent for those who seek subtlety. It offers also a virginal aspect that would make it a beautiful wedding perfume.
Top notes are: coriander, lily of the valley accord; heart notes are Sambac Jasmine, White Jasmine, Bulgarian Rose, Centifolia Rose from Grasse, and Ylang-Ylang from the Comoro Islands; base notes are sandalwood, Oliban Wood (Frankincense), and vetiver.
The Eau de Toilette is available at Nordstrom, $85 for 3.3 oz.