To powder or not to powder? It’s not even a question of the nose, no matter how shiny, but of what wafts off your skin. Powder these days carries with it the suggestion of the infantile. I bet this has to do with a major brand of baby powder co-opting what must have been a popular scent of the thirties or forties, and sending it, in millions of talc bottles, to nurseries around the world with the result that when we smell powder, we tend to say, “Oh, that’s for babies.”
This wasn’t always the case, and if you like powder, you can sometimes find the note used in modern ways, in modern compositions. Powderiness lends aridity to a formula, but not bitterness, and can co-exist with sweetness very well, and keep the sugar from reaching the burnt caramel stage on skin. It’s not common though to find powdery perfumes, they are out of fashion, although Stephanie Saint-Aignan’s Le Pot aux Roses was a welcome exception, a very clever pairing of those time honored lovers violet and rose trysting in powder under a swans down puff. The resultant offspring was a boudoir perfume so pale that to call it rose at all was a stretch. Pot was porcelain complexioned with the slightest pink showing underneath its lacy lingerie. Le Pot managed to be floral, and not gourmand, as so many loukhoum perfumes have been since, which gave the perfume originality.
Luctor et Emergo, released by People of the Labyrinths in 1997, is not all that recent, and not nearly so floral, but also has a major powder base. The perfume is vanilla marinated cherries with some woody and flower-y constituents, but the consensus inside this bottle is sweetness and dryness augmented by a kind of amber that always reminds everyone of Play Doh. The name has to do with Zealand in Holland whose motto is: From Struggle I Rise, pretty apropos for a part of the world where dry land is frequently man made.
If you put Luctor on a sliding scale from the floral side it is much closer to some of the gourmands than Le Pot, but does not abandon the floral side completely. When I tried Luctor (courtesy Olfactif’s March sample box) I thought: “Oh this smells like Farnesiana.”
It doesn’t take you long to see why. Those same notes, except for cherry, are in Farnesiana along with a beautiful mimosa, at the outset. Then, along comes the Play Doh, subsequently something fruity, I think black current in Farnesiana, and finally a sand dune desert of pale yellow powder stretching out as far as the drydown.
Now I like Farnesiana, but have always struggled with the fruit note and the Play Doh. Frankly I struggle with the same ingredients in Luctor, but this perfume, though more modern than Farnesiana is also a great deal less subtle. All in all, I would not call it a replacement, but LeE is an everyday dry breeze, loveable if you love powder. Luctor is rolling in that.
All of which begs the question: do we love powder? * Do you avoid a perfume because you feel like the scent should be applied with a puff? Can you wear powder and not think of baby bottoms? In short, is powder modern?
* The illustration is of Caron powder puffs which you can still buy at their boutiques.