My brother as a boy once irritated me very much by passing unkind judgements on the looks of all (or very nearly all) the females we knew . In exasperation, I asked just who he did actually find attractive.
“Well,” he said after some long internal deliberation, “I guess Catherine Deneuve is sorta good looking.”
He was not the only one to think so. Back in the day, around the late seventies, Chanel itself had hit a low point in No5 profits. Their eventual salvation came with the hiring of Catherine Deneuve as the face of No 5. Her selection boosted sales immediately, and if you think these choices are slam dunks, just consider the recent debacle of hiring Brad Pitt as the face. You can go wrong no matter how beautiful your model is, if the aforesaid model does not connect in some way with the aspirations of your audience. All the women in the world wanted to look like Deneuve in 1978, but in 2011 not many of them wanted to look like the Pittster, and there were presumably not enough male buyers of No5 to make up the deficit.
Deneuve was at about that same time Marianne, personification of France, presiding over town halls nationwide, and considered one of the most beautiful women in the world. It’s not very surprising that she should shortly thereafter have gotten a scent of her own, one of the very first celebrity fragrances, simply called Deneuve.
My sample comes to me courtesy the generous Vanessa of Bonkers About Perfume, and although I had a distant memory of Deneuve it felt good to smell the real thing again. Deneuve is quite simply a very green floral with a large galbanum note in the beginning and a pronounced lily of the valley heart. The other notes, aside from rose and orris, are mostly floral reconstructions and therefore less expensive than the florals of other classic green scents like No19, but the base is warm, very lasting, and very sensual. The perfume trails a mink coat after it from a nonchalant arm, and reminds me most specifically of No19 before that perfume had its elegant furry tail cut off, whereupon No 19 became known as an Ice Queen, mostly because vetiver was substituted for sandalwood and leather. In combination with green notes, vetiver always feels like a cold spot in a perfume although originally No 19 was a green perfume, but also a cozy animalic at the end, a cat cuddle of a scent.
Perhaps the first half of Deneuve was the template for Lauder’s eighties hit Beautiful? They are both green but Beautiful had tuberose in its heart, along with lilies of the valley and some carnation over principally vetiver, sandalwood, and musk, and although the note is not listed, orange blossom. Beautiful’s was a slightly more expensive bouquet and extensively marketed. Just as with Cinnabar and Opium before them, the contest ran distinctly one way. Now Deneuve has become a relatively obscure scent and Beautiful, when I last sniffed, was a pale copy of its former self, a bar of soap abandoned in the guest bathroom of yesteryear.
Deneuve by comparison seems fuller and more opulent, although it is also dated, however this style of green floral could, with some re-orchestration, work very well for a new generation of wearers. The soapiness needs to be moderated, the florals need to come to the front of the formula, but the drydown is already a masterpiece of follow me down perfumery.
Such scents have been out for so long they might seem fresh again, and create a new working definition of beauty and come-hitherance for new wearers – boys and girls both.