One of the reasons I personally like to review designer perfumes is that it is an exercise in perception of subtle shifts, already impacted by trend-thinking and meant to carry on major societal-olfactory trends futher. It is also interesting for a second but no lesser reason, as it is moreover an exercise for the curious of mind wishing to analyze a momentary resolution to the eternal conundrum of capturing elegance in fragrance form.
You could say that the lifelong quest of "designer perfumery" from its dawn in the Parisian salons of Paul Poiret - with Worth an ancestor of the practice - is to convey the feeling of being fashionable, but more essentially still, elegant, and even more eternally so, stylish. This is where the famous dictum by Coco Chanel applies: fashion passes but style remains; when Karl Lagerfeld says that writer Paul Léautaud is one of the most stylish men ever to have breathed under the sun in his opinion, you get his point.
Considered from a certain perspective, designer perfumery is not just about a commercial endeavor, it is very much about a conceptual one, a series of infinite experiments on the notion of sartorial elegance as tranlated into perfume...
French writer Paul Léautaud in 1953
It is with this premice in mind that I turn my attention to Gucci Première, which just launched in France a year after it was introduced in the American market, fronted by The Gossip Girl actress Blake Lively. Smelling the first olfactory cues from the cap of the bottle, as I like to do, I get this sense of vague elegance, of an aura that wants to envelop a woman and accompany her in her daily challenges.
How will it smell really? After 6 years, and a half - like children say - of writing about perfume, I am as ever ready to be intrigued. Perfume is an invisible form contained in a bottle, and like a genie, ready to pop out of it once you press your finger onto the nuzzle. Genies dwell in fairy-tales and even if you've stopped wondering whether they might exist or not in any sense, fragrance notes can play this role of enchantment for the imagination. Perfume then inches closer to men and women, rather than blewing up towards the sky and the gods. Fragrance reverberates numen towards mortals, only pretending to enchant reality.
Designer perfumes are even less lofty than some of the rarer essences and compositions; they pull down from the skies the clouds of incense. They blow them back even more firmly in the direction of hurried silhouettes adding notes that might help prop up our lives as we rush towards so many daily obligations, either mentally or physically, or both. Perfumes when sincere are designed to stop for a time our existences as squirrels, rats and bees.
So, what will Première smell like?
"The concept of this striking new fragrance takes its inspiration from the Gucci Première couture collection that debuted at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. These luxurious evening gowns are created for the world’s most captivating Hollywood stars: Salma Hayek, Jessica Alba, Cameron Diaz, Naomi Watts, Kate Beckinsale, Camilla Belle, Hilary Swank, Berenice Bejo and Li Bing Bing."
The opening of Première is both citrusy and iris-y with ambergris in the background. There is a note of clean which comes across as a bit transparent, but also dry, like in a glass of Gin and Tonic. As the perfume develops it becomes more ambery, slightly sweeter, more like liquid gold. The fragrance retains however a dry cocktail facet. Since this is not a 100% blind testing, the sensation of fluid, golden amber evokes probably the texture of golden lamé worn by screen sirens like the Gucci gown shot in the advert.
Fountain costume by Paul Poiret
Then the story falls into place. You visualize the thin straps of a golden lamé gown, the shoulders of a woman, but also the atmosphere of revelry of a scintillating soirée: Champagne, and everything brilliant and expensive. This is when the perfume comes more into its own. It smells rich, sophisticated and elegant, the latter according to a very broad, fuzzy definition of what elegance might constitute. It is an imagery of elegance more than the feeling of a rigorously tailored garb/perfume.
The perfume smells like the vision of a party of elegant women at a cocktail reception. Maybe they are not that elegant individually, but envisioned as a whole, they shimmer and shine and exude privilege. They signal elegance and a world of more refined, ethereal sensations. I would say that there is something naive and enchanted about this vision - some would use the word "aspirational". It is the golden myth of abundance as seen thought the eyes of a child irresistibly attracted to sparkle and the shininess of golden baubles.
When you thought that the main story line had been told, you discern a new level of depth in the composition. There is a significant plummy and buttery facet to Premiere evoking, well plum butter. It adds a bit of a gourmand touch together with the fizzy, glitzy champagne note, which turns out to be described as "vintage champagne" by the house. The sweetness of vanilla unfolds more in the drydown together with the warmth and furriness of ambergris. Indeed, there are notes of both leather and fur lying in the heart of the perfume
Première is not an overly complex composition, but for a time it captures well what a representation of privilege might be. It is about the myth of the golden fleece. It alludes to elegance more than it is thorougly so. It is also functional enough. The long drydown smells like citrusy and powdery baby cologne. The brand wanted it to be a woody musk perfume to illustrate feminine assertiveness bearing in mind that it was also meant to be less masculine than Gucci by Gucci (2007) which they feel have now become a niche perfume in their own catalogue. This gentler resolution seems to play the role of attenuating the stronger characteristics of Gucci by Gucci, which were not that strong to begin with. The golden quality of Première evokes a bit of a flash-in-the-pan effect; it's ephemeral, like a soirée. A première does not last for ever. There is a borderline non-perfume, vanishing quality to Première which indicates that the house is trying to woo with minimalism. It's sociologically interesting while driving at the same time a further nail in the coffin of truly complex perfumery. Gucci speak of a perfume evoking the "golden moments" of a woman. Those golden moments are not all played out within the perfume, and there seems to be an emphasis on "moment", on the wish to be unobtrusive while at the same time encouraging the habit of wearing perfume. It makes you think how the gesture of spraying perfume on is in and of itself a gesture of elegance and glamour where fragrance itself can become pretext, almost.
Notes: bergamot, orange blossom, white flowers, leather, fur, musks, woods