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October 04, 2005

Fragrance review: Lanvin Arpege, Original and Reorchestrated

Arpege_30 Among the fragrances André Fraysse created, none can rival Arpège, which the perfumer composed in 1927 for the French couturier Jeanne Lanvin, in collaboration with Paul Vacher.  Scandal (1932), Rumeur (1932), and Pretexte (1937) followed after the success of Arpège. Jeanne Lanvin dedicated Arpège to her musician daughter, Marie-Blanche, who picked the name for the fragrance.

The original 1927 formulation of Arpège is very true to its name--a musical concept of arpeggio--in a sense that individual notes are played distinctly one after another instead of simultaneously. Rose dusted by opalescent aldehydic shimmer unfolds first, followed by rich jasmine.

André Fraysse was known to say that, “like love, perfume must captivate the woman as of the first contact...” Indeed, my experience with Arpège was such. The layers unfold on the skin in rapid succession, drawing one deeper and deeper in the seductive darkness of a warm musky accord. The composition plays upon the indolic richness of white blossoms, weaving them through the musk and sandalwood laced base. It is at once airy and languid, dark and soaring.

In 1993, the legendary Arpège was reochestrated by Hubert Fraysse (after André Fraysse and Paul Vacher's formula). Unlike many examples of reformulation, the modernized Arpège plays homage to its classical roots, with the carefully balanced composition and the high quality of its ingredients. It is not the same fragrance as the original Arpège, but it is a beautiful composition nevertheless. It has a radiant sweet character that is clearly in the tradition of Chanel No. 5, with the floral rainfall against a curtain of aldehydes. The gentle clarity of floral notes lends the composition an ethereal feel. Through the haze of aldehydes, the floral notes appear in rapid succession before dissolving into an elegant base. If the original formulation is reminiscent of layers of black brocaded silk, the new is of embroidered velvet. The note of vetiver is like cool glass beading against the smooth softness of an oriental accord comprised of sandalwood, patchouli and musk. Its cool mist soars about the warmth of the base notes, just like aldehydic veil was shrouding the sweetness of flower petals earlier.

The flacon is quite legendary in itself. Black glass orb, boule noire, in Art Deco style was created by Armand Albert Rateau and decorated by Paul Iribe. The golden image stamped on the glass by Iribe depicts mother and daughter, Jeanne and Marie-Blanche preparing for a ball.

Advertisement from The notes of the 1993 version include bergamot, aldehydes, peach, orange blossom, honeysuckle, iris; rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, coriander, mimosa, tuberose, Parma violet, geranium; sandalwood, vetiver, patchouli, vanilla, musk. Arpège is available from a variety of retailers, including online discount stores. Google search for Arpège would reveal a variety of reasonably priced options.



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