Friday, January 25, 2008

The Lost Perfumes: Balenciaga Cristobal


In 1998, thirty years after Cristobal Balenciaga left his fashion house and 24 years after his death, his namesake perfume was launched into a very different fashion scene than it was during the designer's 1950s golden age.

It's interesting to note that Balenciaga's retirement is often associated with the increasing importance and profitability of the ready-to-wear market as opposed to the meticulous couture tailoring he was known for. But let's be honest: He was also in his early 80s, so that might have been a bigger factor than the commercialization of designer names and high fashion.


The perfumes that were launched by the designer himself, Le Dix (1947) and Quadrille (1955) have been watered-down and reformulated until someone at the Gucci Group, the house's current owner, has decided to put them out of their misery and discontinued them together with almost all the other Balenciaga fragrances. One of them is the 1998 Cristobal, a scent which was probably supposed to capture and evoke the spirit of the late designer.

Did the perfume succeed in doing so?
Maybe. It depends on your view of the Balenciaga label.

If you only look at the originality and detailed, luxurious perfectionism, then the answer is no. Despite the beautiful bottle with its elaborate cap, Cristobal the fragrance with its fruity-floral-vanilla based blend was far from a new concept in refined perfumery. However, dig deeper into the house's legacy and you'll find that Mr. Balenciaga was responsible for such creations as the cocoon coat, balloon skirt, the babydoll silhouette and the sack dress. Basically, some of the worst fashion trends of all time when taken out of their original context and made into an over-the-top, unflattering clothes that tend to wear the fashion victim who puts them on instead of it being the other way round.

Is Cristobal the fragrance equivalent of a balloon jacket?
Not entirely, because unlike a garment that makes your midriff look huge, Cristobal can actually be a very feminine and attractive scent, as long as you're careful not to let it have the upper hand. It's quite sexy with the ripe fig and vanilla combination, but if you're not careful the honeyed fig grows into a big juicy plum that will take over and suffocate you with its richness.

The perfume is quite sweet and there's no amount of sandalwood that can rescue it from being a big diva. I have the EdP version and only a vague recollection of what the EdT smells like, so maybe the less dense formula is easier on the noses of your elevator mates. That said, in the right setting and weather conditions (I'd be wary of wearing it when the temperatures start climbing back up), Cristobal has the potential to be a romantic aphrodisiac.

What's left of the Balenciaga perfume collection can still be found from the discount e-tailers and occasionally on eBay.

Images:
Okadi, Pheonix Art Museum and Di Moda.

6 comments:

  1. Hmm... I am not sure if Balenciaga is discontinued? It is actually really easy to find here. (not so with Le Dix, Rumba etc)

    I think you will like this quote I read in a book lately: "It was said at the time that to wear Dior, you had to have a waist, but to wear Balenciaga, you had to have character."

    Apologies if the 'quote' is a little mangled, I am going from memory!

    kisses to you

    ReplyDelete
  2. Divina, this is such a perfect quote! I'll have to remember and use it in the future.
    I'm pretty sure Cristobal has been discontinued. The bottles are vanishing quickly from the online stores (not to mention the brick-and-mortar ones). Rumba and Talisman are still easier to find, Le Dix has been gone for a while as are the older ones (I'd love to get a bottle of Quadrille extrait, but they are rare even on eBay).

    ReplyDelete
  3. It is easy to find, a number of perfumes made by Balenciaga.
    Le Dix,Quadrille,Rumba and Cristobal can be located at;parfumerie.nl.

    Greetings from a Balenciaga addict.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Where can I buy cristobal perfume in the uk? Many shops have paris but none have the exquisit cristobal

      Delete
    2. Cristobal was discontinued a few years ago. It's become very hard to find and regular retail stores no longer have any. It pops up online occasionally.

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  4. My husband wears Cristobal aftershave and I have been able to buy it from the net only for the last 5 years. This is the first year I am having problems and everywhere I try come back saying it is discontinued. It is the only scent he wore so I am at a complete loss what to buy him now. Any idea for something similar?

    ReplyDelete

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