Serge Lutens Serge Noire (2008) •• "For You Ethereal Beauties! White Skins and Black Serge..." {New Perfume}

Photo © Alain Beulé/Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido 


The word "serge" may not be as commonly seen or heard nowadays as it was in the 19th and early 20th century, when this name designated a type of textile that was then very popular. Whoever has read Au Bonheur des Dames by Emile Zola (ca. 1883), inspired by the still existing Bon Marché, might remember the exotic apparition of this term in the monologues of obsessive merchants, the conversations between sellers and customers and the worried haggling over prices by money-pinching sorts. It is also the first name of its creator, Serge Lutens, who slightly shifts the expected meaning of this term appearing on one of his perfumes.

Serge Noire (lit. Black Serge, the textile) is one of the three creations announced this year by Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido, after Five O' Clock Au Gingembre and El Attarine. Like last year's Rousse, Louve, and Sarrasins, three compositions are introduced this year.

As usual, a Lutensian perfume is to be imagined both in words and images before being inhaled. It could thus be argued that such a perfume truly first opens on a mysterious preamble and that words are as laden with meaning as the ensuing perfume notes. While Serge Lutens' olfactory works are usually thought to be rich and very much indebted to the Orientalist genre - the reverse is true actually too - with all its traditional opulence, his poetic prose can feel almost lacunary in its nakedness by contrast,

"Un éther de cendres

Il s'agit de la serge.

Une façon de me créer une mauvaise réputation à valeur ajoutée."

Without going into the possible different occult and philosophical meanings of "éther", we will just point out that it could mean one of several things, to be interpreted later.

"An ether of ashes

I speak of serge

A way of creating for myself a bad reputation with added value"......

The press release offers a poetic prose poem by Serge Lutens, which is different in the French and English versions. It could be seen as a re-writing of the French text into English, rather than as a translation.

"Du pheonix - cet oiseau mythologique brûlant au zénith de sa splendeur dans un éclat final, renaissant de ses cendres - éclot une senteur, sans lieu, sans temps, ni d'ici, ni d'ailleurs.

Escarpin de poussières dans un ballet de flammes appelant au mystère d'hier sans être à demain, cet oriental gris consume ses richesses, ses couleurs au couchant, dans tous leurs chatoiements et réincarne en parfum, un subtil non-dit.

Affirmation imprécise, mémoire du vent suggérant une forme, précisant en épure, une silhouette future.

Pour vous belles éthérées! Peaux blanches et serge noire..."

Serge Lutens 


"A phoenix, the mythical bird of legend burns at the height of its splendour before emerging triumphant, reborn from the ashes in a choreography of flame, conjuring the shapes of yesterday in a dance of ashes. The swirls of oriental grey enrich the twilight with depth and intensity while windswept memories hint at the beauty of transformation.

An ode to everlasting beauty under cover of night's rich plumage"

Serge Lutens 

Serge Noire Eau de Parfum Haute Concentration is part of the export line. It is slated to be launched in September 2008 at the Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido, the Bon Marché, Printemps, and select perfumeries.

A 50 ml flacon (it can be used either as a splash or spray bottle) is priced at 95 €. 

Via Serge Lutens Communication

Read TSS's interview with Serge Lutens around El Attarine and Serge Noire 

Lire l'interview de Serge Lutens autour d'El Attarine et de Serge Noire 

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2 Comments | Leave a comment

  1. Dear Marie-Hélène,

    I have been lucky enough to try Serge Noire this Summer . It was available in the Galeries Lafayette, amongst other places. I do share your talent for putting scents into words, so I will just say that it is wonderful, but not suitable for the Southern French Summer temperatures; I shall probably acquire a bottle when I go back for Christmas.

    • Dear Natacha,

      Thank you for your kind words. I am very much looking forward to offering my impression of Serge Noire.

      Chant Wagner

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