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June 02, 2006

Rive Gauche by Yves Saint Laurent : Perfume Review


Rive Gauche, created for Yves Saint Laurent in 1970, is a warm cloud of silver dust slowly settling to reveal a beautiful form. The starched crispness of aldehydes foils the metallic facet of the composition, all the while as if suspending the development in time. Like Rodin’s marble sculptures, Rive Gauche presents a tantalizing contrast between the polished ivory smoothness of its main accord and the rough haze surrounding it. The two extremes complement each other perfectly, resulting in an arrangement of breathtaking elegance. ...

The abstract quality of Rive Gauche recalls the aldehydic florals underpinned by pronounced woody notes, such as Lanvin Arpège and Madame Rochas. The aldehydic crispness accented with geranium and rose absolute, which softens the harshness of the metallic accord, slowly fades into the velvety oakmoss. The character of the composition is derived from its ambery woody notes, which hit its sculptural form like a soft glow of setting sun.

The metallic note that links Rive Gauche with its avant-garde predecessor Paco Rabanne Calandre is quite extraordinary, given that this elegant accord is fashioned out of rose and diphenyl oxides, which have a harsh, green synthetic quality. Diphenyl oxide with its strong metallic geranium odour is particularly difficult to imagine in a fine fragrance, and yet in the hands of the perfumers Jacques Polge and Michel Hy, it lends a liquid silver effect to Rive Gauche. As an example of a daring and unexpectedly refined composition, Rive Gauche is unparalleled. 

The fragrance was reformulated in 2003 under the creative direction of Tom Ford. Although I never fail to be impressed by Ford’s ability to influence one successful creation after another— Gucci Envy, Gucci Rush, Estée Lauder Youth Dew Amber Nude, to name a few, I regret the modernization of Rive Gauche. The characteristic woods and vetiver base notes have been retained; however the floral heart was altered, and the aldehydic impact reduced. While this alteration caters to the modern tastes, the result is that the composition has lost some of its sculptural quality and the perfect harmony of the accords.

Rive Gauche has been pulled from the US market, yet I recently learned that once again it is available from most retailers carrying the Yves Saint Laurent line. The masculine version of Rive Gauche is likewise fascinating.

Auguste Rodin. Danaid, 1889. Photo by A. Rzepka, Musee Rodin.



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