Thursday, October 14, 2010

Paco Rabanne La Nuit

I was too young and nerdy in 1985 to partake in any real shenanigans. I haven't seen the inside of a real nightclub until 1987 or 1988, and even then it was all about dancing and hanging out with my friends. But maybe I was simply wearing the wrong perfume. If I had to do it all again my choice would be La Nuit by Paco Rabanne, the scent of debauchery.

Spanish designer Paco Rabanne was in his absolute best during the 1960s. He created some seriously sexy mini dresses, chic accessories and home accents that cause some serious bidding wars today (I considered selling my soul for a couple. It still was not enough). Salvador Dali called him "the second Spanish genius" and posed with Rabanne's creations. His earlier perfumes, from 1969 Calandre to the 1988 Ténéré all represent their era, and of course are now discontinued. But non of them was more out there than La Nuit.

I've seen La Nuit described as a floral-chypre, rose-chypre, leather-chypre. dry wood and who knows what else. It's kind of chypre-like, but the story here isn't oakmoss, it's civet. La Nuit is an animalic monster, once described by Luca Turin on his old blog as "Spray Tabu on a horse, and you’ll get the idea", and he meant that in the best possible way. The thing is that most versions and formulations of Tabu smell too cheap for my taste and no horse can fix that. La Nuit, on the other hand, smells like something one would wear to a scandalous Studio 54 party, especially if you want to hook up with Mick Jagger in the back room. Not exactly classy, but not Tiger Woods material, either.

I get a lot of honeyed leather, honeyed rose and honeyed wood before the civet and whatever other skank there show their teeth. It's nothing like Miel de Bois, but I won't be surprised if they have a common aromachemical. I wouldn't be surprised.

I've learned to wear La Nuit with a light hand- not more than a spray and a half. It lasts for 24 hours as it is. It's dirtiness is still shocking and I'm a regular wearer of MKK, Onda, Bandit and several other perfumes my mother would never have approved. This is not something to wear for a PTA meeting or around the "shower fresh" crowd. It would leave the average Sephora shopper speachless because most of them do not want to smell like that.

La Nuit, like most of the classic Paco Rabanne fragrances for men and women, is no longer in production. It can still be found online but the prices of this formerly common perfume have been climbing up- usually north of $100. The EDP is better than the EDT and there are rumors about a divine and long gone extrait de parfum.

I found both images on Flickr, I think, but forgot to note the original source. The first shows Andy Warhol and Jerry Hall partying at Studio 54 circa 1980. The second is of Salvador Dali and models wearing Paco Rabanne in 1960. It's from a book about the designer by Lydia Kamitsis.


  1. I have a small sample. I'd say a rose-chypre leather. It smells like the girls who had black leather purses with long fringes in high school to my mind. It's not innocent, but it's not a hardened trophee either. Elements of danger and rebellion float around with this deep red rose. It's in my keeper pile, though don't wear it out much!

  2. I would never assume to knowledge you have of different scents, but I do want to share my one memory of Paco Rabanne, a girlfriend of mine kept a handkerchief soaked with men's Paco Rabanne cologe in her dresser in college. She always told us "this is what a real man smells like". I adored the scent. It was 1982. I haven't smelled anything like it since then.

  3. I never smelled La Nuit, but loved, loved, loved Calandre. You can still find Calandre in Spain (where I live) but I suspect the scent has been reworked of something, since it doesn't smell like in the eighties.

    Salvador Dali comment was funny.... I always thought Spain's first genius was Picasso...

  4. I remember La Nuit from my final year at school. It was the best perfume I had ever smelt before or since. I wish they would bring it back, nothing can replace it.

    I am sure that I can still smell it vividly now in my memory. :-)


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