As if on a whim, Frédéric Malle Editions de Parfums has decided with the latest Sale Gosse (Brat) to turn to a new genre in perfumery that the house hitherto had left untouched, that of the "baby cologne" or "cologne enfant"...
The brand apparently means to target the children of their customers, but also no doubt, adults who like to wear innocent colognes both soothing (orange blossom; neroli; lavender) and sweet (orange blossom again, tonka, vanilla.) In France, a good example of this traditional highjacking of children perfumery is Bonpoint eau de toilette sold at Sephoras, which appears regularly on beauty editors' lists as a go-to unfussy cologne smelling both fresh and nice.
Guerlain showed the way with Petit Guerlain (1994) composed by Jean-Paul Guerlain. Children's perfumes can be called so because of course they won't be loaded with musks, amber, civet, i.e., heavily sensual notes. They are softer, tenderer, more discreet usually than adult perfumery. This is why some grownups opt for baby colognes, because they are looking for near-non-perfumes. They are also studied to feel soothing, relaxing. Their creation is, hopefully, guided by the idea of imagining an ideal childhood atmosphere, which will help lil' learners construct themselves.
While market shelves are now generously plied with baby and children colognes - some particularly good - we are not used to seeing a scent composition appear on the scene, which is dedicated to impish beings in the luxury, niche sector of perfumery. Frederic Malle is iconically a brand about authorial perfumery. Therefore, a baby scent would not be thought of a priori as a logical idea for the label since the genre carries a functional aspect to it. You are not free, in principle, to produce unshackled baby perfumes. They have to agree with babies' noses, skin, cognitive capacities etc. Some do not contain alcohol for fear it might be too much for infants.
Sale Gosse benefits from an effect of surprise coming from a creative house - now operating under the umbrella of Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. They usually target serious connoisseurs who love to know more about the perfumes they wear, ready to digest a series of interviews on the latest Frédéric Malle x a renowned parfumeur-créateur. You can't imagine children reacting with a similar need for ruminations on perfume as their elders would unless it's a budding nose. Parents might still read about Sale Gosse with interest but they are a priori disqualified from the start of the project, at least officially speaking. As we noted above, there exists a trend of cultural appropriation of children perfumes, just like you might still enjoy reading, for different reasons, fairy tales as an adult - not necessarily just read them to kids.
© Chant Wagner
"Sale gosse" means "brat" in French and it has a pejorative meaning, but you can also imagine it uttered with an affectionate tone as when you want to temper a child who is a bit too rambunctious or undisciplined. In fact, the expression implies a great deal of affection and mutual understanding so that the humor does not get lost. You can use the phrase as an insult too, especially in the more indifferent plural "sales gosses", say, in the context of a neighbor who is getting annoyed by the ruckus made by a group of kids playing in the street.
"Gosse" which comes from the Provençal "gous," which means "dog", "little dog" originally, has an affectionate connotation in French. If you wanted to convey anger with more certainty, you could hammer "sale gamin" or "sale engeance". Like that other French word which designates a kid, "mouflet / mouflette", a "sale mouflet" or "sale gosse" could in fact be terms of endearment, but only if you chose the right tone. You could even say "sale gamin" or "sale engeance" with ironic detachment and they would be understood as paradoxical, anti-phrastic terms of affection. Otherwise, they're just plain ol' insults.
On another cultural note, it's going to be embarrassing (or frat boy humor material) to offer Sale Gosse in Québec as is since "gosse" there never means a child but "testicle." It's one of the prime examples that come up when you leaf through a book on québecois, which immediately wishes to warn French travellers and expats to Canada never to shout, when making the school run, say, "Où sont les gosses ?"
© Chant Wagner 2016
How Does it Smell Like?
The composition, signed by up and coming perfumer Fanny Bal, is overdosed with neroli, which bears an association with the scent of guimauve treats. There is actually a Malabar gum accord but to the nose it does not register as a 3-D effect early on. There are also green violet leaves nuances, which add a slightly crunchy sensation to the blend. While violet candies are mentioned, it's not a very palpable sensation as such. All the supposedly candies effects are subtle. The powdery Malabar note comes through better in the drydown.
What you do get on the other hand is a substantial rose note, lush, luxurious in the heart of the fragrance, as if to signify that therein lies the reason why it's made by Editions de Parfums. It's as if Portrait of a Lady by the same house had begotten a child since 2010, its cinematic rose now present in Sale Gosse like a genealogical link. Fanny Bal is a student of Dominique Ropion who did Portrait of a Lady. That rose is so big that I've noticed men like to wear that women's scent - and to the best effect.
Sale Gosse is a bit intense for a genuine child's cologne - or maybe only if lightly applied. Its rich neroli + rose accord is actually an invitation for adults to see if they'd like a grownup twist on the regressive genre. The scent profile of the composition is altogether not surprising, except for the mega and deep rose. I used to chew pink Malabar bubble gum during recess at school and exchange tattoos found in its wrapping, just like any other kid, but I can't say that I am transported back to the playground. There is, alas, no madeleine of Proust effect for me here.