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March 31, 2007

Chanel 28 La Pausa and Les Exclusifs : Fragrance Review

Iris_2

Rated 4.5 out of 5.0

Star rating: 5 stars--outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars--very good, 3 stars--adequate, 2 stars--disappointing, 1 star--poor.

The most intriguing thing is that the elegant and graceful scent of iris possesses a woody, chalky note, which seems incongruous with its wistful violet softness. Just as a flaw makes a face memorable, this facet raises iris beyond merely pretty and into the realm of mesmerizing. In the same vein, Chanel 28 La Pausa, named after Coco Chanel’s villa on Roquebrune-Cap-Martin on the French Riviera, is a perfect tribute to iris. It captures all of its nuances, from the delicate floral overtones to the metallic darkness and woody silkiness. …

28 La Pausa is a part of Les Exclusifs collection which debuts this month. It also includes No 22, Gardénia, Cuir de Russie, Bois des Iles, Coromandel, Bel Respiro, No. 18, 31, rue Cambon, and Eau de Cologne. The entry of Chanel into the niche fragrance category à la Hermès’s Hermessence, Christian Dior Cologne Trio and Giorgio Armani’s Armani Privé was eagerly anticipated. There are few companies that can use the kind of raw materials that Chanel still incorporates into its fragrances. Even if Chanel does not use the precious jasmin de Grasse and rose de mai in Coco Mademoiselle, one should have no doubts that they are included in No 5 (albeit, only in the most luxurious concentration, the parfum). Likewise, Les Exclusifs are marked by the kind of quality one feels when touching the finest cashmere or beholding a perfectly cut precious stone.

The luxurious feeling of 28 La Pausa is quite mesmerizing. The smoothness of iris is almost a textural sensation on the skin. The chilly undertones are subdued and warmed up delicately, rendering 28 La Pausa a living flower, rather than the exquisitely frozen petal of Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist, the black velvet of Frédéric Malle Iris Poudre, the green roots of The Different Company Bois d’Iris or the powdery cloud of Hermès Hiris. The iris is set into the frame of white floral notes and musk that heighten the softness of the composition. If 28 La Pausa unfolded as a blooming iris, it dries down to a scent of warm skin and lipstick.

“Always remove, always strip away, never add,” was Coco Chanel’s famous dictum. If I could name one qualm in regards to the collection and specifically 28 La Pausa, it would be the overt simplicity and lack of sillage. While the line’s elegant subtlety is a perfect fit within Chanel’s minimalist vision, I cannot help but think of these fragrances as accords rather than as grand French perfumes (with the notable exception of 31, rue Cambon) like No 22, Gardénia, Cuir de Russie, Bois des Iles, Coco and, of course, No 5. Perhaps this would not be the case if the concentrations were stronger, and I imagine how absolutely perfect 28 La Pausa might be in the parfum.

Nevertheless, the new Les Exclusifs fragrances are worthy of seeking out. The compositions are carefully polished and their elegance, distinction and quality are sorely lacking in most releases today, both mainstream and niche. While the iris hued beauty of 28 La Pausa captured my heart initially, I would name 31, rue Cambon, Bel Respiro, and No 18 as my other favourites. 31, rue Cambon is a chypre in the classical Chanel style. The scintillating verdancy of Bel Respiro is reminiscent of vintage Vent Vert by Balmain. No 18 (apparently, Jacques Polge’s favourite) is a luscious rose and ambrette seed marriage. For the time being, I shall leave it at that, because I plan to say more on all six of them in the future.

Although in photos the new Chanel bottle resembles the design of Marc Jacobs’s splashes, I would have to disagree after seeing it in person. The bottle is modeled on the classical Chanel cologne bottle, and even the largest size (200ml) is very elegant. 28 La Pausa, Coromandel, Bel Respiro, No. 18, 31, rue Cambon, and Eau de Cologne are available only in the Eau de Toilette concentration. Les Exclusifs collection is available from Chanel boutiques and Bergdorf Goodman.

Photo of iris from Serenity Spa.

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