Sunday, September 13, 2009

Balenciaga Le Dix (Vintage Perfume)

Le Dix by Balenciaga (launched in 1947) is a floral aldehydic perfume with a sweet and smooth base. One might simply shrug and label it as a product of its time, but it's good to remember that Chanel No. 5 and Arpege by Lanvin, the most famous and popular aldehydic florals, were created in 1921 and 1927, respectively. Le Dix's contemporaries were actually Bandit (1944) and Miss Dior (1947), both leather chypres.

So is there a story here? Is it some kind of reverse rebellion? An Alex P. Keaton style of perfumery from a fashion house known for innovation and daring designs? It's hard to tell these today, especially considering that Balenciaga has withdrwan from the perfume making business for a while. Le Dix and the rest of the classics were officially discontinued (though bottles of the EDT are still available for sale). Last year, the Balenciaga perfume license was sold to Coty, and while it was announced that the face of the new Balenciaga perfume will be Charlotte Gainsburg, I'm not exactly waiting with bated breath (Liv Tyler didn't make Givenchy perfumes not suck).

It's hard to trace the vision that led to the creation of Le Dix. The perfumer, Francis Fabron, was also the creator of Baghari (Piguet) and the original versions of L'Interdit and L'Air du Temps. Clearly, the man was into making really nice, elegant and approachable perfumes. Le Dix is just as beautiful. While the initial burst of aldehydes (and since my bottle isn't exactly fresh, neither are the top notes) is just what you'd expect, they are followed by a sweet and delicious bergamot-lemon veil. It has a juicy, fruity facet that feels warm and inviting, making the floral heart less about tweed and pearls and a lot more embracing.

That's where the powdery violet comes into the picture (and I considered scrubbing at first). It's hard to argue with the old-fashioned stigma that goes with this accord. But I learned to like it. Actually, I learned to love it, because it's soft and very pretty, and wearing something so feminine is actually fun. Sometimes.

The drydown is typical of this genre: vetiver, sandalwood, musk, amber, benzoin and tonka bean. It's darker than No. 5 and sweeter than Caleche. I get a lot of creamed vetiver, and the whole thing inspires me to dress nicely and pull out vintage jewelry and silk scarves.

Photo of a Balenciaga design from the designer's showroom by Mark Show:
Le Dix ads:


  1. I am completely enchanted with this fragrance--it is definitely on my "desert island" list. Thank you for providing information about the perfumer Fabron and his other creations.

    I have the EDT from several years ago (not vintage), and I just wonder how magnificant the original parfum might have been.


  2. I wish that there would be an underground vogue amongst the kiddies for things like these. They can't just go away..

  3. 'Le Dix' by Balenciaga is one of my most treasured fragrances from the mid twentieth century.
    I own and covet several bottles of Parfum, one of them a 3 fl.oz full, sealed and corded flacon in exquisite condition.
    Le Dix is a much darker hesperidic floral as opposed to Chanel 5, the drydown exudes iris, oakmoss, exotic ambers and is heavily laced with discontinued nitro musks while it's heart consists of sugar dusted violets, jasmine, lilac/hyacinth and the highest quality Bulgarian rose.
    Perfumes of this standard will never be re-issued as I believe the production costs involved would be prohibitive not to mention the scarcity of the required formulaic components.

    'La Fuite des Heures' is another long forgotten beauty from Balenciaga consisting of indolic white florals, herbs and precious amber, this was created by Germaine Cellier in the late 1940's.
    Simply divine in Parfum concentration also,
    and becoming almost impossible to find now.

    Perhaps it is best to enjoy the few precious drops still available to those of us who can appreciate these fragrant treasures from a by-gone era as well as the genius of the master perfumer's devoted to their craft !
    Merci Monsieur Francis Fabron.parfum

  4. I have a small bottle of Le Dix parfum (not very vintage - it might be late 80's?) and find it crisply lovely, like a perfectly tailored white blouse. Although it does not smell like Chanel No. 19, it does seem to share 19's confident, no-nonsense attitude. I do not smell much violet in my bottle, however.

    "The Alex P. Keaton style" made me laugh - succinct, and entirely appropriate!


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