When Carven released their first perfume – the aptly named ‘Ma Griffe‘ (‘My Signature’) – in 1946 the brand dropped hundreds of parachutes over the skies of Paris, each of which carried a special piece of cargo – a sample of Madame Carven’s signature perfume. In a genius stroke of early PR, this stunt ensured that the scent of Ma Griffe was simply unavoidable:
“The lingering scent of Ma Griffe floated everywhere: at the Opera, at charity balls, at the most fashionable sports events from Deauville to Monte Carlo…”
Flash forward to 2013, following the resurrection of the fashion arm of Carven and the launch of the brand’s modern signature fragrance ‘Le Parfum‘, it is time for the relaunch of Ma Griffe. This time Carven has opted for a much more muted launch, almost silently slipping the classic fragrance back on the market in the hope that it will once again float weightlessly around city streets.
Following the earlier review of Le Parfum one was intrigued to discover the world of Ma Griffe, purely as an exercise to see how the house has changed from 1946 to 2013. The truth is that the differences between the Carven perfume of days gone by and the Carven perfume of today serve as a microcosm for how the world of perfumery has evolved over the last 70 years.
Not having spent time with Ma Griffe before its 2013 re-release has allowed one to approach it from an entirely objective point of view, reviewing it not as a long gone piece of the past but as an old school signature presented amongst the modern trends of perfumery as they are today. To say the process was an eyeopener would be an understatement…
Top: Bergamot, Lemon and Gardenia Bud
Heart: Jasmine, Rose, Sandalwood and Ylang Ylang
Base: Vetiver, Musk, Tonka Bean and Styrax
How Does it Smell?
One often talks about ‘harshness’ when referring to the great floral chypres but not with Ma Griffe, a perfume that explores the motherly softness of an often maligned genre. The opening is a big scented burst with a satisfyingly bright and bubbly blend of bergamot and lemon with an almost musical dose of green jasmine and beautifully exotic gardenia plumes.
Right from the outset there is a slightly off-kilter vibe attributed to a meaty dose of leather. This gives Ma Griffe a buxom and voluptuous feel that tempers the sharp and ocassionally hissy tendencies of the gardenia. It’s the kind of fragrance that you could happily cuddle up to in a warm and loving embrace.
Vetiver, a note which is almost a signature for the house Carven, again being used in the 1957 fragrance of the same name, is paired with rose, the angular aspects of which appear to counteract each other. As it moves into the base, Ma Griffe become softer still, settling on a sour bed of musk, benzoin and tonka (cleverly devoid of any sweetness these notes would usually bring) that is a pleasingly cushioned end to an already incredibly satisfying fragrance.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Ma Griffe’s relaunch is the ability to compare the classic against the against the brand’s new pillar fragrance ‘Le Parfum‘. The difference in style between both perfumes is startling and portrays a fascinating contrast between the Carven women of 1946 and 2013. The classic Carven woman of yesteryear seems confident, comforting and powerful whereas the contemporary Carven woman of today is clean, aloof and dare I say characterless.
Thankfully this relaunch means that one has the choice of character over cleanliness and vice versa. Ma Griffe also has the added advantage of being an olfactory time capsule, from which one can travel back in time to an era where perfume was a luxury and the world of modern perfumery was still in the burgeoning phases of becoming big business. Ma Griffe simply is a classic signature.
Ma Griffe is available in 50ml (£58) and 100ml (£75) Eau de Parfum.
Sample, notes and quotes via Carven. Image 1 via carven-parfums.com. Image 2 via leblogdemoon.fr.