Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cuir de Lancome- Another (Sort Of) Lost Perfume


One doesn't need to be a marketing expert to recognize the clumsiness and utter lack of thought in the way Lancome have treated their La Collection fragrances. It was a series of classic perfumes that (unlike their more commercial releases) had actually quite a bit of vision, inspiration and quality put into the juice. But ask the average Lancome customer, someone who frequents their counter to buy her skin care and lipsticks, if she had ever smelled Sikkim, Magie or Cuir. You are most likely to encounter a blank stare.

I'm not sure Cuir de Lancome has ever seen the lights of a department store in the USA. It was a case of "straight to the discounters" even though perfume lovers have waited for the 2007 release with high hopes. After all, it's not every day that a mainstream house comes out with a leather scent.

Cuir de Lancome (2007) carries the name of a 1936 release which was first called Révolte before being repackaged. I have no idea what the original cuir smelled like, but I wouldn't be surprised to discover it was a film noir kind of scent, like the great Carons and Chanels of the time. The new Cuir probably takes its inspiration from that era, but it's decidedly modern and is closer to the recent version of Chanel Cuir de Russie in its whispered leather and smooth flowers than to the daring Bandit by Piguet, a re-issue with its heels deep in the 1940s and in Katharine Hepburn's shoes.

Cuir is soft and elegant. The saffron note gives it a lot of presence and personality which is hard to ignore. I suspect this is the part responsible for any haters this scent might have. I happen to love it and enjoy the rich, buttery feeling the saffron creates. The leather note, while not overly feminine, is definitely more plush handbag than stable and saddles. There is a smoky element, but it's well-behaved and wearable. Cuir is tame and non-animalic, which might explain the lack of enthusiasm for it from many leather lovers. If your expectations were for some avant-garde scent or an innovation level akin to Cuir Ottoman (2006, Parfum d'Empire) or the wonderfully weird Cuir Mauresque (Serge Lutens), then I can see why Cuir de Lancome might not hit the spot.

However, I find it beautiful. The leather eventually melts into a smoky sweetness and I could have sworn I smell vanilla or tonka. I said above that Cuir is a lot more modern than the big leather chypres from the golden age of perfumery, but when I say "modern" I do not mean it in a commercial Sephora way, because it simply isn't. Cuir's concept is too classic, too perfumy to have a mass appeal. It has the appeal of a George Cukor film, not a Judd Apatow, which is might explain why Lancome abandoned this fragrance (with the rest of the line) in favor of the uninspired pink juice you will find front and center on their counters.

Google Cuir de Lancome and you will see all the discounters that still sell it. It can be fond for less than $50, which if you ask me is a bargain. I got a second bottle.

Photo of Norma Shearer: Zivar on flickr.com

15 comments:

  1. Hi, G.! I really quite love the new (and now defunct) Cuir by Calice Becker. I get a good dose of heliotropin from it too...
    I have the old Cuir, from what looks like a 1930s bottle, and it's absolutely, radically different. In fact, it's extremely surprising even for the time (allowing for alterations): it smells of damp leather and old stones so much it's almost creepy and gothic in feel. I really must review it one day...

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  2. I love the review, especially snce I love this particular Cuir - everyone seems to talk about Chanel Cuir de Russie (which is good as well) but I prefer Lancome's. We just hit it off perfectly. :)

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  3. Great article. I'm wearing Cuir de Lancome at the moment and I think they're trying to give it another go in the UK as they've sent press samples out.

    I agree about how the scent evolves - it starts out musky and heavy and once it warms on your skin becomes sweet with honey tones. Yum!

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  4. "carmencanada said...it smells of damp leather and old stones so much it's almost creepy and gothic in feel. I really must review it one day..."

    Oh! That sounds . . . totally weird and perfectly fantastic at the same time. I want to *read* that review one day . . .

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  5. I am a big fan of the Cuir, also...like Ines, I prefer the Lancome to the Chanel. It seems to take a straight up leather (like Knize 10) in a different different direction than Chanel does...and I guess the Lancome path fits my gait better....

    Denyce, I, too, would *love* to read that review. :)

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  6. I love it also the lancome cuir, but also love Chanel Cuir de Russe. Now your making me think I should get a second bottle

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  7. D., you definitely must review the old Cuir. It sounds like a masterpiece and I can't wait to read all about it.

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  8. Ines, I love CdR (at least in parfum. There's something wrong with the idea of a leather EDT), but I find this Cuir more accesible.

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  9. Emma, I'm thrilled to hear Lancome is giving Cuir another chance, even if only in Europe. It would have been too sad to see it disappear completely.

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  10. Nathan, I had the same thought: weird and fantastic. There aren't enough perfumes that can be described this way.

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  11. ScentScelf, Cuir has joined the ranks of perfumes that got me compliments from complete strangers, so I know what you mean about scents that fit. It's absolutely wonderful.

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  12. Neens, I keep backup bottles of few perfumes, but at the rate I've been using Cuir and considering its murky future, I figured it would be a wise move.

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  13. Only just found this post - thanks for reviewing this one, it's definitely underrated thanks to (unfair) comparisons with tougher leathers like Bandit & co. I've been wearing it regularly for a few months now & am loving the saffron aspect - it's a perfect non-winter comfort blanket, ladylike but not prissy.

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  14. Just received my bottle today. I am in love!!!

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  15. ...Me, too! I bought mine off of Amazon. The top doesn't fit properly (I think I read about that problem in a previous review somewhere) and almost dropped it as I was unwrapping it (!!) I discovered Cuir de Lancome after lusting after Cuir Fetiche but not wanting to spend the $225 for a bottle. So for a fraction of the cost, my bottle of Cuir de Lancome arrived today and I am in love. It does eventually dry down to a buttery-ness that is warm and only the tiniest bit floral. I love the description from the package insert: "The Left Bank; a back-street in St Germain...a woman steps inside the lobby of a Parisian Hotel. She drifts toward a small marble table where a bouquet of flowers and a note await her. She removes her gloves, the warm, supple leather slides over her fingertips. The flowery notes of the bouquet seem to hover in the air. The words she reads draw a smile lighting up her lips. She is, at this very moment, the quintessential woman, her fulfillment is absolute and unveliled." Wow.

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