The story is that when Carven came out with Ma Griffe in 1946 the company dropped little bottles all over Paris from tiny white and green parachutes. Not long afterwards, the company found itself with a best seller.
Carven has always stressed youth and pert petite-ness in its designs, and the perfume first conceived for the designer was also youth oriented, a bright floral chypre. The fragrance ended up being one of those that everyone who was a young in Paris at the time either wore or remembered. The trick of the scent was a combination of new aroma chemicals that Jean Carles* put together to give Ma Griffe its distinctive scratch, a new gardenia and citrus accord that was sharper and fresher and springier than anything that had gone before it.
Ever since that first aerial assault, Carven seems to have held on to the territory of tart, invigorating green fragrances. They sold the remarkable Vetiver (that Jean Paul Guerlain outdid in 1959 with his own) they also released the green chypre Vert et Blanc in 1958, and L’Eau Vive,a bright herbal scent, twice, once in 1966, and in an updated version in 1995.
It’s good to see a new Carven on the market now, with Carven le Parfum, packaged once again in the company’s signature white and green, and in a very simple but attractive bottle with enough retro chic to recall the first one used in that parachute drop over Paris. The other piece of good news here is that the fragrance is really nice.
And I’m not using the adjective nice as code for “old fashioned” or “non-descript” either. For starters, le Parfum is a green floral, a genre that has been slowly reviving since Balenciaga’s violet scent of a few years ago, and more recently with L’Eau de Chloe, the kicker here is that I think this one is better than either of them. Le Parfum is truly floral with only a slight fruitiness on the opening and then a rural floral heart that is all about sweet peas. The top notes are supposed to contain neroli and some other components, but it comes down to a slight citrusy apricot and then a lovely sweet pea bouquet, more lasting and more accurate than either Floret’s or Si Lolita’s and you keep on smelling the sweet peas at intervals, long after you would have thought they were gone. I think I smell a little rose as well, and the dry down when it finally comes (and it’s a long time coming on me about five or six hours) is a light sandalwood. The whole thing is understated, fresh, and very, very, pretty.
In fact it was so pretty that I had to actively talk myself out of a bottle because I am currently cleaning out my perfume cupboard and not adding to it. But this perfume gives me hope that this year will not strike me as being too ho hum for new fragrances. This one is both modern and a touch nostalgic which I would say is just about perfect. It’s a floral that is all about the flowers, and how often do you find those nowadays?
* Who probably never smelled Ma Griffe due to the bungled treatment of his chronic colds by doctors after WWII. As a result, he lost his sense of smelI. My info comes from Michael Edwards’ Perfume Legends: French Feminine Fragrances