Le De by Givenchy (1957-2007) {Perfume Review & Musings} {New Fragrance}

Audrey Hepburn Love in the Afternoon.jpg



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,.........


Givenchy Gown.jpg
"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.

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34 Comments | Leave a comment

  1. Dear M-H,
    many thanks for the beautiful review of the newer version which I haven't tried yet.

    I remember the old, original one as a funny creation, lively, young by the standards of the time and with lots of expression in its aldehydic overture.

    Glad the new one -apparently- is not a travesty.

  2. Dear MH, I couldn't agree more with your analysis of this heartbreakingly lovely, delicate perfume. It actually feels too pure for my too, too solid flesh, to quote the Bard. The three other re-editions I've tested this week-end, L'Interdit, Givenchy III and Vétiver, all share that muslin-like lightness of touch and transparency, perhaps enhanced by a relatively weak concentration. They all speak of spring to me.

  3. Dear E,

    I was not familiar with the old Le De but after doing a little bit of research I saw that it was noted for its softness, so it seems to be faithful to the spirit of the original Le De.

    I will seek out the old version at some point but I am so perfectly content with this one that it requires a missing element so far to prompt me to action. Moreover I must say that oftentimes I find old versions to feel dated and less sophisticated than new perfumes. Having said that, Mitsouko was not improved over time. Need to try the new Fléchier version by the way.

  4. Dear D,

    I will be curious to test L'Interdit and Givenchy III for which I do have personal recollections. A priori they seemed less ethereal in my memory than Le De. I actually have them with me, but haven't tested them yet.

    I personally do not mind wearing a reminder of a higher order of things:) It is a welcome drop of freshness in an abundance of demagogic commercial releases. Having said that and despite the fact that many bemoan the state of fragrance creation I was pleased to see this year that next to mind-numbingly boring perfumes there were still a good number of good and great perfumes. In fact if you ask me, there are more good perfumes to wear than one can reasonably be expected to appreciate them to the full.

  5. I must finally try this!

    Audrey was so beautiful.

  6. These Givenchy re-editions so far are really beautiful. It is a great reminder that they are a perfume house with many wonderful classics. One feels like owning the whole collection, really. One wouldn't be able to go wrong it seems.

  7. Dear All,

    Well, I must be the only one disappointed...the new Le De Givenchy is absolutely nothing like the original...not a touch...so I am very upset. The new version is nice, but should not be named Le De Givenchy. Le De Givenchy was the first perfume I bought in Paris. The original one was the most feminine French perfume ever...so sexy and alluring. It made me think of french lace, silk charmeuse, pearls, Deneuve...that kind of femininity!! So, if anyone knows what all ingredients were in the original, I would surely be thankful. I shall go on a quest to find the perfume most like the original Le De Givenchy. ~Susan

    Susan Stockdale
  8. Hi Susan,

    The original notes for Le De were:

    Top: bergamot, mandarin, tarragon, coriander, rosewood. Heart: rose, carnation, lily of the valley, lilac, jasmine, orris, ylang-ylang. Base: sandalwood, musk, guaic, moss, amber.

  9. Dear M-H,

    Thanks very much. Your blog is quite amazing...It really drives me crazy when fragrances are discontinued..Did you ever try Roger & Gallet's Pour Une Femme? That one was great...but I don't know what the ingredients were. Do you know what they were?
    Does the US have any places that come close to Harrods' Perfume Dept....I spent hours there when last in London. I adore the perfumerias in Europe...there's nothing like them here in the US. I hoped Sephora would come close, but Sephora is so limited in the USA. I wish they would sell more hard-to-get European fragrances.
    Best regards, Susan

    Susan Stockdale
  10. Susan,
    I'm really disappointed, too. I started wearing Le De at age 16 and I'm now 58. I used up my last bottle about 5 years ago.
    I was ecstatic when I emailed LVMH, Paris, and they emailed back that Le De was going to be reissued. So, I ordered a bottle from Nordstrom.
    But the new Le De is an imposter! And, sadly, I've found nothing that comes close. I guess I'll never smell like "me" again.
    I don't know why they had to alter it. I, for one, would've paid more for the real thing...

  11. You should try eBay. Vintage Le De appears there from time to time.

  12. Dear M-H & Jayne,

    I am so glad that I am not the only one with the negative opinion of the reissued Le De Givenchy. I was so mad that I actually fantasized about writing to Hubert Givenchy! The only problem about getting the Le De Givenchy on EBay is that it is old and Le De Givenchy was always susceptible to oxidizing as it was such a delicate perfume. So I don't think the fragrance would be as true as when we wore it. Have you bought any on EBay? If so, what do you think? I started wearing the original LDG when I was around 22 years old. So, good for you at the age of 16!! When I was 16, I was wearing L'Air Du Temps, Yardley Violettes, Wind Song, Chanel No. 5, Avon's Brocade, etc. So you had sophisticated taste and $$ for the age of 16!! Don't laugh, but back in the 1960's Avon actually had some very good unique fragrances and the packaging was great--Brocade, Regence, Rapture, etc.! Have you ever tried the original Valentino? It was heavenly when it came out in the 80's. It was in pale yellow packaging, then in red packaging. I think it has been tweaked though...But, for those who never had the opportunity to smell the original LDG, they will never know what an intoxicating perfume it was. Best regards, Susan

    Susan Stockdale
  13. Hi M H, I too have used Le de all my life from 19 on my wedding day, given to me by my French boss, until now at 62. I still have three bottles. Got the new one at Xmas and although it is lovely it is not my Le de. I save the original for special occasions and with luck it will be with me to the end. It is very special to my husband and I. I was disappointed that the new one is so different after the first moment. It should not be called Le de.

  14. My affair with Le de began in Rome in the late '80s, as did a liason with a well known film director. He gave me an almost empty bottle, a tester, he told me, from Harrods in London. It reminded him of heady nights in the then notorious Playboy Club, dancing with a stacked bunny after a triumph at Cannes. She wore Le de.

    Long after I stopped crossing oceans to meet him, I still seek out Le de. I found a stash in an old parfumier in Gibralter, and once received a bottle in the mail, no return address. Ah, nosto segreto, Le de! Penso di lui, sta pensando di me.

    miss suji
  15. Unfortunately, and unwittingly in good faith I thought I bought the revamped 1960s gorgeous Le De fragrance as advertised. Please do not purchase if you loved and used the original, this is green. In my opinion this knock off smells worse than --- --- on me. I have the original scent to prove the powdery difference. How sad it is.

  16. Ainda bem que li os comentarios antes de comprar o novo Le De. Usei desde os 16, estou com 56. Muito triste que tenha sido descontinuado, e que a nova edição seja diferente. Tenho um frasco pela metade, uso somente em ocasiões especiais!

  17. The new Le De, to me, is still very charming. I have the vintage version now and ought to do a review at some point.

    Thank you for visiting us from Brazil :)

  18. I am 67 years old and remember the scent of Le De. I continue to search for the original Le De by Givenchy.

    yvonne somerville
  19. I am so thrilled to find other people who long for the old Le De, but disappointed to hear that the reissue doesn't match up. I too started wearing it at 16 when my roommate's mother gave me a teeny bottle--I could never afford it very frequently, so had to make a bottle last a long time--found one a couple of years ago at Colonial Drugs in Cambridge MA, but now they too are out. I am going to try the perfume reinventor at Nantucket Naturals, and see what he can do.

  20. Where can I find Givenchy III ?

    Ingrid ,Stockholm ,Sweden

    Ingrid de Laval
  21. I am delighted to hear that "le De" is in production again. As a college freshman with a new boyfriend I bought a bottle and was enthralled w/ its sophisticated, complicated fragrance and thought myself grand indeed for wearing it. It has been many years (40 ? gasp!) and I still have the original bottle. All that remains in a bit of aromatic oil in the bottom, but a sniff transports me back to the sixties and it I nearly swoon. I married that wonderful new boyfriend and we are together still. How wonderful it would be to wear that fragrance again. I pray it smells as terrific as the dregs of that original bottle.

    Linda O
  22. How wonderful it was to wear the original version of Le De Givenchy in the 60's, as it was so individual, soft as powder, and opulent. Having just received a bottle of the reissue, I could just cry--and not just for the wasted funds. I do not recognise it, and the company has a great deal of arrogance in presuming to call it by the same name! The top notes are completely different, and it is quite common, by comparison with the original. A sad copy...

  23. Why do houses reissue mangletweaked versions of the original? I have only fond memories of Le De... I hope to keep it that way...

  24. I was also disappointed when I bought the new Le De, tall bottle as against the old short flat with gold cap original one...the scent is way too far from the original soft, powdery smell which I started using since I got married 45 years ago way back in the Philippines! I wish they would bring back the original!

    Marilou I
  25. I too was so excited that Le De was again available! But, when I received my 2 bottles--I was horrified. It is not even CLOSE to the original scent. (And has been noted the packaging is tacky beyond words.) I am just heartbroken. LMVH has created a travesty in lieu of that great fragrance.

    Ruth Ann
  26. Please bring back the original Le De Givenchy. There is nothing like it.
    It is the only perfume I will use. I have tried everywhere and can't locate.
    Can you help?

    Carmen Frenkel

    • Since it is a vintage formulation, it could only be happenstance. Online stores, including auction sites, are your best bets.

      Chant Wagner
  27. So glad to have found this site and others who loved the old Le De. Fell in love with it in the 60's. When they stopped selling it in the US, my ex-husband brought me some from Paris. Haven't tried the new-I'm afraid to after reading the reviews. Tresor is my favorite now.

    • Kate,

      Thank you and welcome! I need to review the old Le De!

      Chant Wagner
  28. I too discovered LeDe in 1965 at 18 with the first love of my life when we visited Jamaica. Kept it in the refrigerator to preserve the fragrance. As the relationship failed, so did my finding of LeDe until found it on Parfum.com a few years ago. Purchased first bottle and the aroma took me back 40 years. The second bottle must have been on the shelf too long, lost its delicate scent. Please bring back the old LeDe!!!!

    • Thank you for sharing your memories of the scent. It is so cool to see that some perfumes are truly unforgettable and have had such an impact on people. It is really a perfumer's dream to see his or her perfume come alive in this way. It is a sorrowful paradox though that this realization comes in the absence of the fragrance.

      Chant Wagner
  29. I remember the scent of Le De. I continue to search for the original Le De by Givenchy.I did't like the new edition.

    Maria Izabel Besse
    • Thanks for your comment -- one more vote against the new iteration :) And another reminder that the original Le De deserves a separate review.

      Chant Wagner
  30. I believe what I have for sale is the original L'Interdit. It is the PERFUME 1 oz in the orginal red box. I did take the plastic wrap off last week to check the bottle but did not open it as it is sealed with the black string. I was looking up articles about the perfume and found this site with people posting. So, I decided to let people know I found one recently!

    Check Craig's list under antiques for photos. It is not the Toilette but is the pefume selling for 285. The fragrance smells strong through the seal.

    Robin Lippin

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