Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Balenciaga Paris by Balenciaga

After twelve years of no new perfume release and officially stopping production of all previous fragrances, the fashion house of Balenciaga (currently headed by designer Nicolas Ghesquiere) has partnered with mega-perfume manufacturer Coty. It's an interesting marriage between a highly regarded fashion force and a company that today is mostly known for its drugstore offering and celebrity scents.

I was expecting the worst.

My surprise started with the elegant packaging and bottle. It doesn't look like the classic ones, but there's a certain elegance and aesthetics that seems to be derived from the original Balenciaga look. It's understated and doesn't look like the average item on an a Sephora shelf. The bottle itself has something of the iconic balloon silhouette that was created by Cristobal Balenciaga.

Balenciaga Paris is basically about violets. If that reminds you of Le Dix, this isn't a coincidence. It's very clear that whoever commissioned perfumer Olivier Polge to create the new perfume wanted to retain some connection to the house's original line. While this is a modern mainstream perfume- airy and thin without much complexity, it still has a vintage touch. Powdery violets are not exactly the signature of the Juicy generation.

The opening offers something peppery and green, telling you Balenciaga Paris belongs to the light and fresh category. It feels like early spring and has an unexpected cheerful attitude. The violets appear quickly and they are tastefully dry and powdery. The main point of interest here is the way the scent moves from soft sunshine to a secluded shade. But just when one hopes to find a little mystery in the shadows (after all the face and spokesperson of the perfume is Charlotte Gainsbourg), all we get is a soft woody musk.

While I'm thankful Balenciaga Paris was thoughtfully conceived and doesn't smell like another perfume for a focus group of 19 year olds who never bought a perfume outside of a BBW body spray, I still feel a bit cheated. Yes, this is a pretty and wearable scent. I already enjoy it now, in early spring, and know I'm going to wear it quite a bit in the summer. But that heavily photoshopped picture of Charlotte Gainsbourg in the ad speaks volume. She's an interesting artist with a unique point of view. In her everyday life she looks like this:

If this is your muse and you have all the history, couture and tradition behind you, I expect more than the J. Crew version of your runway gowns.

Balenciaga Paris ($95, 1.7 oz EDP with an excellent longevity) is available from Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, in store and online. I received my bottle at a Bergdorf press event.

Perfume ad from balenciaga.com
Balenciaga gown fashion photo by Willy Maywald, 1951
Charlotte Gainsbourg photo from style blog Cafe Mode.


  1. Is it the devil or photo shop? The devil can take a hike, but I need me some of that Photo shop! ;)

  2. I think this actually sounds quite lovely - powdery violets hmmm :)

  3. I haven't tried this yet but I'm glad it wasn't totally bland like the new Chloe- and violets need more love in 'mainstream' perfume. I think the use of Charlotte G, am sure she dresses up sometimes but they do seem to have stripped some of her character in that picture.

  4. I am really glad you reviewed this - been thinking about it since I swatched it at my local Neiman's. I do love Charlotte (enough to have her album) and I wish she looked like more of her natural self in the ad.

  5. I received two sample vials of this during Neiman's beauty event. The violet is very pronounced on my skin and smells lovely, but the sent only lasted about an hour :-( I was hoping for another afternoon-in-a garden type sent for summer, but this won't be it. Hopefully, others will have better luck with it.


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