The official concept behind the anticipated public launch of Belle d'Opium is not very different from what Opium purported to be when it launched in 1977, to be a modern-day Shalimar better attuned to younger generations. Belle d'Opium plays the same card but by being a direct descendant of its own oriental reference, its classic Opium ancestor launched in 1977 and 1978. The luxurious USA launch party, which is still remembered t day, took place on the Peking boat docked at the tip of Manhattan in the South Street seaport in New York City in 1978 with Yves Saint Lauren himself having come to introduce his new over-the-counter drug.
For Belle d'Opium moreover "The idea is to reinvent the concept of addiction for younger generations today."
If you want to learn more about the ins and outs of the original Opium launch both in France and in the USA, you have to read the fascinating chapter Michael Edwards consecrated this modern classic which was designed from the get-go to rival Shalimar by Guerlain (1925) while drawing on the popularity in the US of Youth-Dew by Estée Lauder (1952) in Perfume Legends....
(Belle d'Opium Mix by Alexa Chung and Alexandra Richards on the left)
I re-read the chapter and was struck by the level of the marketing intricacies which preluded the launch.
Opium never literally contained an "opium" accord, but it drew on the mythology of excess that the word and the red lacquer of the Orientalist Japanese injo-inspired flacon conveyed. Before Poison by Dior, which would be the conspicuously liminal perfume of the 1990s decade, there was the equally ominous-sounding Opium, its conceptual precursor in the 1970s. The new generations which are targeted by Belle d'Opium will thus be able to replace the images of madness-inducing narcotics which could find realistic echoes in the practices of ectasis of the 1970s - and it is rumored those of YSL- by a "cleaner", less morbid but no less romantic narghile accord. The Orientalist reference softens and makes us move from the pangs of Thomas de Quincey's Confessions of an Opium Eater (1821) to the more peaceful drawing rooms of Pierre Loti in Constantinople and the volutes of smoke inseparable from the living and feeling of "keif"
The advertising campaign featuring Mélanie Thierry still flirts with the ingredient of danger nevertheless, as the actress is playing the role of one of the great feminine icons of history in a new interpretation of the dance of Salomé - another myth - in a choreography signed by Akram Khan. His style is reputed for incorporating the Indian tradition of Kathak, an ancestor of Flamenco.
Belle d'Opium is still an oriental fragrance but with less of an ambery body than Opium, it is said. It was co-created by perfumers Honorine Blanc and Alberto Morillas of Firmenich. Its notes include: Casablanca lily, sandalwood, gardenia, white pepper, jasmine absolute and a narguile accord.
The scent launches initially in France at the end of August 2010 and will be rolled out through the end of October in other countries.
We have no doubt that the marketing traditions of Yves Saint Laurent parfums have been studied and will be upheld if possible while being adapted to new media in particular thanks to the internet. The latest news? You can buy a Belle d'Opium Mix on iTunes curated by Alexa Chung and Alexandra Richards who were the DJs for the the 2010 Opium launch party. The mix feels like a homage to the high-on-drugs backdrop of the original proving that the young generations are still fascinated by the name of the fragrance.
The internet advertising push appears to be both incremental and very aggressive (in the positive American sense.) Women's Wear Daily reports that "...a substantial media investment is earmarked for digital media, including blogs and Facebook. In the U.S., the push will mark YSL's largest and most innovative digital campaign to date, ... Artists will be involved in the Belle d'Opium's online component, among other projects."