It is something of a dodged bullet, I suppose. For a long time the SCCS (Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety), the advisory body to the EU, has been toying with a whole slew of ingredients that may be problematic for some people.
This is the news that fueled the stories of Chanel No. 5’s demise, but the real trouble is that IFRA, the Industry’s own organization that sets consumer safety standards for perfume, tends to adopt such recommendations as a matter of course. Could this be the end of No. 5?
Probably not, but if adopted, it will be the end of all oakmoss based chypres. You can’t make a chypre without oakmoss. There are some feeble attempts, from time to time, but they all lack the “guts”, the darkness and depth, the basso profundo resonance, that chypres need.
Chypres really are the biggest, and most obvious casualties of this decision. Nothing takes the place of oakmoss, allergen or no, and I have noticed recently that a clutch of classic old chypres are being dropped from some perfume house websites.
Take the case of the Balmains. There is no more Jolie Madame or Miss Balmain listed on the Balmain website. You can see their dilemma. They could not manufacture those perfumes without oakmoss.
It makes you wonder what will happen to Mitsouko, or Aromatics Elixir? What will happen to Bandit? Cabochard was already an embalmed corpse propped on its mummified feet, but the deaths of Jolie Madame and Miss Balmain I shall certainly mourn, along with many other perfumistas.* They were so lovely and so elegant. They suggested that a woman had not only beauty, but brains, and wit, and grit. No other genre of perfume expresses the range of femininity as well as Chypres did: woman as Medea, and not just as Beatrice, or to express it differently, we may not all be Liliths, but we are all Eves. Aquolina Pink Sugar, just don’t cut that mustard.
The Reuters article I read, highlighted on Kafakaesque’s blog which see, suggested that the Industry is caught in a sort of internal struggle, fine perfumery firms being against such total bans of natural products, and down market companies, which already use synthetics to the exclusion of naturals, being pretty much for them. Once again Brussels is proposing better living through bureaucracy.
It does beg the question of what will demarcate industrial perfumery from fine perfumery? Maybe nothing, in which case, we will all just buy our perfume from the Middle East, as they did in the Dark Ages, which, from an olfactory point of view, we will be re-entering. So goodbye, Peak Oil, hello Dubai as luxury perfume capital of the world; we will evidently not always have Paris**.
*And it’s not just feminine chypres, but classic masculines as well. No more Derby, Pour Monsieur, or Aramis.
**France may be risking certain cultural losses here, that is, outside Gerard Depardieu and Brigitte Bardot. Wasn’t it fine French perfume that excited consumers around the globe? Fine Finnish perfume, even fine US perfume does not have the same ring to it.