Carven L'Eau de Toilette (2014): The Case for Perfumers Taking Creative Leaves of Absence {Perfume Review & Musings}


The first impression conveyed by new, upcoming Carven L'Eau de Toilette to debut in April 2014 is how incredibly lush the perfume is while being at the same time much fresher than the original.

From the get-go, you are smacked in the face by the demonstrative character of the white floral bouquet. You will need to redefine "fresh" because in this opus, the flowers seem to be sweating their musks on a bed of purloined forest branches and ripe fragrant fruits. And this is the sensation you get just by smelling the first sinuous calling card sent by the perfume, the one which escapes from the confines of the bottle as if it were an overly generously-endowed bosom jumping for life out of the strictures of a Peugeot corset. Let's call it Aladdin's seductive call, or the Lasso. If the Lasso snares you in the top notes, its counterpart is the Sillage which leave people weak in the knee in its wake... 

Perfume lovers know the rapport you can establish between you, the shape of a flacon and the perfume it contains. There is no need to rush. The mystery begins by trying to guess what is the olfactory surprise to come. The outer packaging for L'Eau is white as the Carven green now has migrated to the juice. It is the reverse for Le Parfum. The glass of the bottle is transparent having lost its frosting. The new transparency encourages thoughts of clarity and limpid water. 

You can detect an accord from a famous fragrance from the past, which reminds you of a technique seen in another recent composition - also a lush floral bouquet. How do you do "lush" today? It seems that two perfumers use a similar technique. 

The fragrance composed by perfumer Francis Kurkdjian who did the original signing the return of the house of Carven to the world of perfume glamour opens up to you with cut herbs and fresh accents of greenery quickly morphing into a much more complex sensation which involves different threads: fruits, florals, skin, lipstick, tart sensations. Yes, you feel the semantic congruence of tart the adjective and tart the substantive for a fleeting moment. The green opening is meant to be an olfactory illustration of the iconic Carven green. After this quick rush into complexity, the fragrance stays at the same level of development for a a little while. It then starts taking on a more neon-lit cast seemingly deriving energy from a source of electric light. But then Carven L'Eau de Toilette chooses to abate fading into a soft sueded impression contrasted with tart jammy streaks of fruits on its surface. 

If you look for kinship, you can recall Balenciaga L'Essence for this sweet pairing of leather and fruits. Typical white floral indoles unfold, those that smell slightly oily and sesamey-like. Now the fragrance heads a bit in the direction of strawberry-scented erasing gums, a natural facet of roses. This is superseded by a more sophisticated raspberry nuance. Reverberating towards you from the external orb of the perfume, a rich accord of lychees booms around. The composition veers towards the popular genre of the fruity-floral which confirms the aim of the fragrance which is to woo young contemporary women. The more seductive aspect of the perfume can be felt in this musky nuance which conjures up sweaty flowers where the flesh of the florals mimic human perspiration. 

The covert and famous accord you could divine in the beginning is the one first smelled in Venezia by Laura Biagiotti. In 1992, Biagiotti proposed a particularly heavy and heaving floriental. It is back insideCarven L'Eau de Toilette to contribute a thick and rich structure to the scent underneath the fresh springtime accents.  Perfumer Aurélien Guichard used a similar technique in Kenzo Pleats Please which covertly drew upon the strong personality of Dior Poison to create tension in his lighter yet lush white floral bouquet. In Carven L'Eau de Toilette perfumer Francis Kurkdjian throws a blanket of fresh springtime flowers on the Oriental tapestry which is Venezia. The spicy accents are there. It feels almost more like a light version of Venezia at times than of Carven Eau de Parfum. 

It is symptomatic and worrying to see that contemporary noses do not have the time to think of a new bold masterpiece and for this reason turn to the past to draw energy from monument ladies. Or perhaps the time is not ripe. Indeed, what is taking place in both Carven l'Eau de Toilette and Kenzo Pleats Please is in truth not an act of shyness but rather the research of a tension between lightness and depth. So, this is one way to do it by learning lessons and copying accords from, you want to say, "depthful" fragrances. Those depthful fragrances are reassuring and their effects tried and tested. It is ultimately a technique a connoisseur can appreciate if not for its core originality at least for its coherence and ready-made, historical appeal. 

The question this type of styling raises is that those powerful, immediate references date back to the 80s and 90s, which tells you that today, there might still be a bold masterpiece in the gestational stage to leave its future imprint on contemporary olfactory mores. As the ingredient oud is pushing everyone in the direction of increased habituation to depth, it is quite possible that the next big thing will be a bolder than bold oud masterpiece to dethrone those decennial queens. The "raspberry" nuance in L'Eau could be a sign for oud, excised, as it is a facet of the material. Oud however is not enough and personality is required. In Carven L'Eau de Toilette, you realize that the gusto with which the immense fresh floral bouquet lassoed you in the beginning is to be found somewhere in the very long sillage left by Venezia.

It would be interesting to see a fragrance composition offering the same level of energy which would not be piggy-backing on an identifiable reference but would come from the innards and instincts of the perfumer. We say, send them to the desert or the rain forest, or to any other powerful natural location and let them drink in those natural energies. Perfumers need to get out of the classroom. They need sabbaticals. They need directness. They need creative space. 

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