Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Balmain La Môme

La Môme (2007) was part of Balmain's renewed effort to stay relevant in the perfume market. The license holder, Selective Beauty, seems to specialize in established fashion houses that are struggling in the perfume arena (Benetton, Sonia Rykiel, MaxMara) as well as operate as the distributor for highly successful perfume franchises, such as Burberry, Lolita Lempicka and Bulgari. While their website is practically non existent (Balmain isn't much better, by the way), it's clear Selective Beauty is a company that means business.

It made a lot of sense for Balmain, a classic French house, to use the release of the French film La Môme (La Vie En Rose, as it was renamed in the US) as an opportunity to find new customers. After all, the successful movie about a beloved French cultural icon, Edith Piaf, earned Marion Cotillard an Oscar and made her an international star. A perfume that ties in with the movie without going the route of a celebrity scent (the French don't go for this crap) sounds like a brilliant idea. Make that a limited edition and restrict the distribution, which usually makes people do the weirdest things to obtain a bottle: La Môme was an exclusive to Marionnaud stores. Doesn't all that sound like the beginning of a very bright future?

The problem started when people actually sniffed La Môme. A perfume that is all about rose, violet, freesia and raspberry was not what they expected. A tribute to Edith Piaf (who grew up on the streets of Bellevile, was raised in her grandmother's brothel, started her career singing in seedy bars and associating with pimps and mobsters, had lovers, husbands, tragedies and addictions) was not supposed to smell like candied violets. Where are the smoky nightclubs? The ladies of the night? The streets of Pigalle? The love, sex and pain? Basically, why doesn't this smell like vintage Bandit?

I don't have an answer, but this review on I Smell Therefore I Am offers a good point of view. Of course, there's also the possibility that it was simply a business decision: La Môme, limited edition or not, was still aimed at the mass market (Marionnaud is basically an overpriced Perfumania), and raspberry perfumes tend to sell a lot better than blood, sweat and tears.

If we put aside the nostalgic yearning for Paris of the 1950s, La Môme is actually a nice perfume. It does smell French to me, or maybe that's how I interpret the rose-violet core. As someone who doesn't like YSL Paris or Lipstick Rose by Frederic Malle, I'm guessing it's the candied aspect and the oriental drydown that make La Môme attractive to me. It's very feminine, even overly so, in an extra small waist and very full skirts way. My cynical side says it's more Betty Draper than Balmain or Dior couture gowns, but still. It's pretty, wearable and has a very sunshiny feel. La Môme is also very strong and lasts forever and a day, so spray with caution.

As far as I can tell, while La Môme is no longer officially in production, the huge stocks were unceremoniously dumped on the doorsteps of every online discounters. We can make it a game- who bought it for the least amount of money. If you paid more than $25 you lose.

1951 French fashion- blue suit by Pierre Balmain, pink dress by Robert Piguet-
Edith Piaf and Yves Montand circa 1945 from somewhere on the net (apologies for losing the source)

And, since last night I posted the clip of the amazing Gay Marshall singing Piaf, here's the real thing- Edith Piaf on the Ed Sullivan Show, January 1959, singing "Mon manège à moi":


  1. I win...I got my FB of La Mome as a freebie/extra in an MUA swap...if I only could bring myself to spray it on skin !

  2. LOVE those hats! My grandmother wore hats like that... sadly, they didn't survive the years (wire inside them bent, or dry rot ruined the fabric).

    I'm currently in the process of swapping for a sample of this and am looking forward to it. I liked Paris, at least the current version, but not Lipstick Rose. And I've found that some scents can read "too young" or "too sweet" for my taste, but I have yet to run across one that's "too feminine" for me.

    I enjoy your perfume posts! I should visit more often, but makeup's just not my thing... I buy makeup at the drugstore and save my pennies for perfume.

  3. Ahhh, Edith! Could anyone bring more raw emotion to a song than she? What were these people thinking - she was literally a child of the streets, and I certainly wouldn't associate her with prim flowerbeds or raspberries. Maybe if they came from a vendor's cart, with an underpinning of street odors, and the smoke and booze of a hole-in-the-wall bistro. You've got it right - Bandit, Tabac Blond, or Jasmin et Cigarette would be more appropriate to represent her. (And check out that young Yves Montand in the photo!).


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