Yves Saint Laurent's Rive Gauche - Life on the Left Bank
Yves Saint Laurent’s Rive Gauche – Life on the Left Bank

Consider me behind the times, but I’ve very recently fallen head-over-heels in love with Yves Saint Laurent’s Rive Gauche. Yes, I know it was launched way back in 1971, long before I was in short trousers, and yes, I’m well aware that its current formulation is a pale shadow of its former self, but I love it and I make no apologies. To me, Rive Gauche does the whole aldehydic floral thing in a way that is not over the top, nor is it viciously boardroom bitch-esque – its simply high fashion floralcy in a bottle.

Seeing as I’ve got a bit excited over my new found love, and I’ve also been taking an informal look at some of the classics over on Escentual recently (see Opium & Arpège), I took the time to dedicate my column this week to the glory of Rive Gauche. So, if you’re a fan of the scent, or if you just want to hear what all of the fuss is about (I do like a bit of hyperbole, it must be said), then simply click here to take a stroll down Paris’ wonderful left bank.

Reveal - The Latest from Calvin Klein
Reveal – The Latest from Calvin Klein

My last two Escentual posts have been a contrasting look at the old and the new, in the world of perfume. Firstly, I took a look at Calvin Klein’s Reveal a few weeks back. This is the most surprising and unexpected feminine from CK, that channels Thierry Mugler’s wonderful Womanity, of all things. Just when you think there are no surprises left to be had in the perfume industry, one jumps up and taps you on the nose! Click here to read my review.

Now we move on to the ‘old’. Following the disaster that is Black Opium, I wanted to revisit the flanker’s mother fragrance, Opium. Granted, the new formulation of Opium is reportedly a pale shadow of its former self, but the fragrance should still be celebrated for being a trailblazer that created the trend for big and bold oriental-themed fragrances that permeated the ’80s. Check out my thoughts on Opium here.

Black Opium - Even the Model Looks Bored
Black Opium – Even the Model Looks Bored

Smelling Black Opium, the latest from YSL, one finds it hard to believe that this fragrance comes from one of the most iconic and innovative designer fragrance brands of all time. Just think about it for a second, Yves Saint Laurent brought the world Opium, Paris and Rive Gauche, arguably three of the most important feminines released in the modern age. Not to forget the fact that they have also created cult classics such as Nu, M7 and Rive Gauche Pour Homme – perfumes that paint YSL as a brand with no fear, and a thirst to be different and divisive.

Black Opium is not an important fragrance, nor is it a particularly good one, and it seems that I’m not the only one to think so. Yesterday, Saint Laurent Paris (the fashion arm of YSL) distributed a press release on behalf of Creative Director, Hedi Slimane that distanced him from any involvement with the fragrance, stating that “no creative direction has been given by Hedi Slimane on the market launches and on the choices of artistic elements, or the definition of image, related to the product lines or the advertising campaigns of Yves Saint Laurent Beauté, including the ones of Black Opium”.  All I can say is ‘ouch’, that’s not a good sign.

With each release, YSL seems to be creating more and more duds (does anyone even remember 2012’s Manifesto? Exactly) whilst simultaneously unleashing a regular wave of flankers of their flagship fragrances. Black Opium is the third permanent flanker to the Opium name since 2010 (the others being Belle d’Opium and Opium Vapeurs de Parfum) and was created by perfumers Honorine Blanc, Olivier Cresp, Nathalie Lorson and Marie Salamagne – a waste of talent, if there ever was one. YSL describe Black Opium as follows:

“2014’s Most Anticipated New Fragrance [..] Black Opium, the new feminine fragrance by Yves Saint Laurent – new glam rock fragrance full of mystery and energy. An addictive gourmand floral.”

Perfume Pic of the Week: The Meditative Rose by Salvador Dalí
Perfume Pic of the Week: The Meditative Rose by Salvador Dalí

In a weird case of serendipity I have been in the mood to do things on a regular basis over the last week; wear rose perfumes and stare at Salvador Dalí’s 1958 work ‘The Meditative Rose. The painting captures the ethereal beauty of the rose, floating high in the sky, casting a tranquil scene that aptly sums up how I feel about rosy fragrances within my collection.

I’ve always seen roses as having a soft and calming presence and much like the two small figures in Dalí’s painting I find myself feeling quite contemplative when wearing any perfume with roses. Over the last week I’ve been relying heavily on Montale’s Black Aoud, a perfume that pairs the sharpness of leather and oud with the most powdery of roses. It’s exotic but comforting and allows one to shroud oneself in a red blanket, which is especially handy in this weather.

Jessica Chastain looks good in EVERYTHING, even purple paint...
Jessica Chastain looks good in EVERYTHING, even purple paint…

The stand-alone feminine fragrance is the bread and butter of the designer fragrance world. I personally find it fascinating to see what the big three houses (Chanel, Dior and YSL) will do with their next feminine pillar, as with each release one sees the change in times and tastes, and it seems that change is definitely afoot at YSL. Having recently, under the direction of Hedi Slimane, dropped the “Yves” to become simply “Saint Laurent Paris” the fashion side of the brand looks to move in a new direction and the fragrances may just follow suit.

When I think of YSL (the perfumes will still be marketed under the old name) I think of bold, fearless perfumes such as Opium, Rive Gauche, Paris and Kouros. Yes these fragrances embody the styles of their respective eras but they’ve always seemed, to me at least, to capture the spirit of Yves Saint Laurent the man and the renegade designer perfectly. Recent efforts by the brand however, have failed to live up to the legacy of the classics.

Manifesto, created by perfumes Flipo and Doc Long, is YSL’s first major feminine release since Parisienne in 2009 and whilst that wasn’t exactly a tough act to follow it feels like the pressure is on for YSL to bring out something new and daring. Well, it appears that YSL have sensed this pressure, describing Manifesto as “an attitude, a burst of laughter, a tone of voice, a presence” [1] and “the manifesto of femininity” [2]. Is it really as daring as it seems?