“Perfume is the first garment we wear on our skin.”
Jean Paul Gaultier
Fragile, the Eau de Parfum, was Jean Paul Gaultier’s second feminine fragrance, it was released in 1999 and followed the phenomenally successful Classique. Created by Francis Kurkdjian, Fragile couldn’t be more of a stark contrast to the warm, powdery oriental tones of Classique.
Where Classique is evocative of Gaultier’s loud, abrasive style of couture, Fragile plays on classic French perfumery. There is nothing ‘boudoir’ about it, it is incredibly enigmatic and feels almost unsuitable for everyday wear. Fragile is a perfume of the night.
Like a lot of the other fragrances in the Gone, But Not Forgotten Series, Fragile was a big love for me early on in my perfume journey. It was also my first tuberose, and whilst it may not be the best example of nature’s rawest and most carnal of flowers, it is lovely and it did kick-start my love for the flower.
“Once upon a legend… A fragrance for young women, forbidden from strolling into the tuberose fields for fear of sensory intoxication. This flower, when it is picked at night, releases a narcotic, almost poisonous perfume. But at daybreak its fresh white petals restore its virginal appearance. For Fragile, Jean Paul Gaultier has selected tuberose, and tuberose only…” 
Top: Bergamot, Orange Blossom, Ginger and Coriander
Heart: Jasmine, Tuberose, Pimento and Carnation
Base: Amber, Cedar, Vanilla and Cinnamon 
How Does it Smell?
I feel like I should start with some sort of tuberose disclaimer here; Fragile is not the tuberose it claims to be, and I wouldn’t technically classify it as a tuberose. Instead it is an unusual floral that showcases a contrast between cold and warm. Fragile is a peculiar perfume, it is, unlike it’s name suggests, not ‘Fragile’, but there is something, quiet and reserved, even withdrawn about it that makes it interesting.
Fragile’s opening is cold and austere. It starts with bright, indolic flowers with equally bright bergamot, spices and menthol. There is a good degree of pepper (thankfully not of the pink variety) that livens things up slightly, but the overall affect is cool, aloof and as classic as a couture gown.
The florals in the heart are a perfect example of an abstract bouquet. This golden bouquet features the cool green of jasmine, bright indole of orange blossom and hot flesh of tuberose. Wearing Fragile is like taking a moonlit stroll through a field of flowers, each one sparkling and dancing under the moonlight.
Fragile warms considerably with time, and what at first seemed cool and aloof soon becomes sensual and comforting. The florals are supported by a wonderfully rich base of dry woods, vanilla and cinnamon. It’s creamy, spicy and slightly bitter all at once. The base is incredibly elegant, there is a confident warmth to it that feels surprising when compared to the withdrawn nature of the opening. Fragile feels opulent and almost baroque.
It’s funny, I had intended to add Fragile to this series for quite a while but hadn’t gotten around to it and it’s been a really long time since I wore it. Spraying it on over the last few days has really reminded me just how beautiful it is, and how there isn’t really anything else like it. Fragile may not be a narcotic tuberose diva of the night, but it is a wonderful composition that shows that the ‘Queen of Flowers’ can remove her crown and sit amongst her floral comrades quite happily.
Jean Paul Gaultier is known for packing his perfume in the most unusual of vessels; male and female torsos, magnetic bottles and a dali-esque face that also doubles up as the silhouette of a male torso. His best bottle however, belongs to Fragile.
M. Gaultier is the only person that could get away with housing a perfume within a snowglobe, but it works, so well in fact that one is left wondering why no-one has done it before! A couture-clad woman stands inside the globe amongst falling sparks of gold. Beautiful!
Why Was it Discontinued?
It’s true that Fragile had big boots to fill, both Classique and Le Mâle had been (and still are) massively successful, and whilst it isn’t dull, I don’t think Fragile was daring or innovative enough to hook people. At the same time it certainly can’t be considered to be a crowd pleaser (like Classique and Le Mâle), instead it sits somewhere awkwardly between dull and fascinating.
Describing Fragile as a tuberose was also a mistake. Those looking for tuberose would have been disappointed, it’s there but it’s not prominent enough for it to be headlining the composition.
Also, the bottle probably didn’t help, as is always the case with those discontinuations, many people saw it as gimmicky rather than kitsch, which is a massive shame because I think it is one of the greatest perfume bottles of all time.
The Eau de Parfum is very difficult to get hold of nowadays, your best bet is eBay, but it does occasionally pop up on the discounters or sales boards. The Eau de Toilette is easier to come across but it isn’t anywhere near as nice.
This review is based on a bottle of Fragile Eau de Parfum from my own collection.
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