Robert Piguet Futur (1967/2009): Drama Queen Resurrected from Cryogenic Tomb {Perfume Review}

(Green border added to the original ad)

When Futur by Robert Piguet was originally launched ca.1967 (based on the year of publication of a magazine ad that states it being "nouveau", i.e., new), couturier Robert Piguet (1891-1953) had been dearly departed for 14 years and the couture house had closed its doors for an even longer period of time 16 years earlier due to the frail constitution of the couturier.

It is not easy to come by information about Futur which seems to have benefited little from the large and numerous publicity campaigns lavished on the great Piguet classics, Bandit, Fracas, even Visa, Dingo and Baghari, nor to have been worn long enough to leave an imprint in the literary cannon. From the day of its conception, and like a baby begotten out of frozen sperm if I may, it could come across as not quite fashionably or authentically Piguet. 

Smelling the recreated perfume of 2009 which is reportedly close to the original formula according to the perfumer Aurélien Guichard himself (I cannot confirm nor contradict his claim at this point), one is invited to go back in time due to both its retro signature and anachronistic feel.

To me, Futur ca. 2009 smells like a hybrid of influences, just like it seems it was already at the time of its conception in 1967. This is to say that Futur already in the 1960s was meant to be a compromise turned towards the past although its name and the advert on which it was touted (see above) seem to point to the same future as pointed to by Stanley Kubrick's Space Odissey (1968). The closely cropped hairdo for a woman, the enormous water drop earring are here because it was the age of space attraction and Mod flair on its way to New Age. Twiggy was a feminine ideal then and so the model resembles her.

Pierre Cardin in Canberra in 1967


Even though Piguet could not try beyond his grave to emulate Pierre Cardin and André Courrèges's astronaut-inspired outfits, Futur in order to make sense to a young audience in 1967 needed to borrow from the signs that felt relevant and especially, current, or as Cardin expressed on behalf of humanity,

 'The clothes that I prefer are those I invent for a life that doesn't exist yet - the world of tomorrow'.

That was a bit of a complicated riddle to try to capture the DNA of Robert Piguet, as they would say today in marketing speak, while appealing to an audience that was fascinated by prospects of life on a foreign planet.

We are thus faced with a perfume that was never actually launched by Robert Piguet himself, but which bears his name and which was introduced when futurism was the by-word, a worldview that was foreign to the fashion of Robert Piguet. The conflation of both betrays the commercialism of the project. Smelling the perfume ca. 2009 is to discover a supplementary level of contradiction as it does not smell so much like the green perfumes of the 1960s which indeed became in vogue as more like a throwback to the 1940s-1950s with its affinities to the heaving bosom of the green leathery chypre Miss Dior or the Joy-like bouquet of White Shoulders (at the lesser grade found in the parfum, not full-blown like in the eau de cologne), but also thanks to discreet allusions to fetishistic Piguet notes like galbanum, leather (Bandit) and tuberose (Fracas).

Here is a Timeline of some representative Green Perfumes from the 1960s-early 1970s:

YSL Y; Fabergé Brut (1964)

Pucci Vivara (1965)

Guy Laroche Fidji (1966)

Lancôme Climat (1967)

Norell Norell (1968)

Etée Lauder Azurée; Paco Rabanne Calandre; Guerlain Chamade (1969),

Caron L'infini; Chanel No 19 (1970)

Estée Lauder Private Collection (1973)

Futur is heavier than those except for Azurée perhaps and was built with the intent to make a big impact.

cardin-1967.jpgNotes in Futur such as galbanum, hyacinth, narcissus, and daffodil are very 60s but the volume of the scent, its leathery animalic base are more from the 50s. It smells to put it more synthetically like the 60s-as-the-long-1950s or the conservative side of the decade, advertising notwithstanding...

One explanation I can propose is that as in many similar cases, Futur was designed as a heritage perfume, if you will, a composition meant to reinstate the values of the house, its spirit, and in so doing betrayed a clear tropism towards a preceding era. In particular, you can distinguish little quotes of the father and mother of Robert Piguet Parfums, Bandit (smoky/rubbery vetiver, leather, galbanum) and Fracas (peppery tuberose cream). Today, this orientation seems to have been preserved as Futur has a definite curatorial feel like a bubble of time preserved. It is not even nostalgic, it is like receiving a punch straight in your face from the past as if the genie in the bottle had never let up and was ready to burst out of the flacon at the top of its form. At the same time, this faithfulness to a vintage signature, which is interesting in and of itself -- I suppose this is what you would get if you plunged your head into a confined device in a museum of fragrances meant to replicate the perfumes of the past -- lacks some interiority and life scars. I am pushed to ask myself whether I retain anything from it other than the punchy personality and the instant memory recall effect. I don't feel like it is really alive and permeated with emotion or dream due to its rather linear form.


Notes are: bergamot, neroli; spring-like bouquet of violet, jasmine, ylang ylang; vetiver, cedar, patchouli.

The perfume opens on green galbanum but which were dipped into floral indoles and sweet floral honey rather than smelling like extremely sappy grass as in Vent Vert. The perfume is a loud floral with a clean soapy bubble-bath undertone far below the surface, with leathery and floral-musky facets. The composition is rather linear with a middle stage which is more spicy/peppery. The drydown continues to play the same tune but with an oxygenated effect found in lavender. Given the initial strong punch the perfume offers, it is a bit disappointing that the drydown dies down in all simplicity instead of adding something new and unexpected. In fact it thins down noticeably (this is the edp version). If boldness is the forte of this scent, complexity and longevity are not.

I have a feminine simile for this perfume.

Too much rouge were some of the initial words that came to my mind in the first moments I smelled the new Futur. But not in a harlot sense, more in an aggressive sense.

Next, I thought that this is the scent of a woman who is completely overbearing, a hold-no-prisoners kind of pushy lady born with mental football player shoulders.

If I were to come up with a feminine archetype that embodies it, it would have to be Joan Crawford with her lips overdone and made up liberally over the edge of their natural line. Since this is an adaptation it would have to be ...Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest who somehow managed to look even harder than the original model in her rendition of Crawford as a psycho.


Mommie Dearest.jpg
In fact, the original Joan Crawford had a certain softness to her features you realize when you do a search for one of her portraits. It is not easy to find a picture of hers where she looks up to her reputation of tough and terrible broad 100%. You then have to realize that just like your imagination of Joan Crawford is more terrible than the real person, the perfume smells more like an imagined ruthless man's killer perfume than an actually dangerously seductive perfume. It pushes some characteristics to some of their logical conclusions without the appended vulnerabilities. In other words Futur is a bit of a one dimensional rendition of the vintage, real woman's perfume. It has oomph, it has the capacity to elbow you out on the street, but once all is said and done, it tends to fall down like a soufflé of hot air instead of revealing interesting vulnerabilites and depth. Translated more into perfume linguo, it gives a drydown that is still a bit bad ass but curiously at the same time smells a bit like Badedas -- pun unintended but gratefully welcomed -- the fern-y bubble bath foam.

This incarnation smells like it wants to outdo Bandit and scream louder than it does. It smells very film noir, cigarette butts smeared in ominous rouge, dames on the verge of a murder and very spiky heels in hands and such other angelic vistas onto the souls of angry women. It is like the reenactment of a 1950s brand of heaving and forward femininity in heavy furs and stitched stockings.

In other words, I sense a work on volume and drama more than anything else.

Why did Joan Crawford add bigger contour around her lips? To look more menacing, tougher. It's makeup as weapon in the art of war. Futur gives this idea of a perfume that wants to make an impression on others, intimidate them rather than express any nuances of inner turmoils. It is a machine made to seduce in the most definitive manner: it is a perfume that wants to spray others like a skunk animal would except that it smells much more wearable than skunk spray, but you get the idea. But it definitely has this instinctive charge contained in it. This perfume will not be sprayed, it will spray you.

Great if you think that a slap in the face is one of the lesser known foreplay moves in the Kamasutra.  

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2 Comments | Leave a comment

  1. Awesome review. Futur seems to have gotten a lot of hype back in 09 but now it is all but forgotten about.

    Ramón Jurado
    • Yes, perfume news cycle through very quickly. It's unfair. On the other hand, niche perfumes seekers, I think, like to find more confidential gems - it's part of the pleasure of wearing a more refined perfume: you worked harder to find it.

      Thank you so much for your kind words.

      Chant Wagner

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