Thursday, August 09, 2012

Isadora by Isadora Parfums (Vintage Perfume)

Isadora is a truly lost perfume. It was launched in 1979 as a tribute to dancer Isadora Duncan more than 50 years after her death. The brand Isadora Parfums was owned by a man named Robert Benson who apparently had enough money to have a beautiful oriental created for him and to employ designer Pierre Dinand to create a unique bottle for the parfum extrait. The bottle was inspired by (and often mistaken for) an art deco Lalique creation (you can read more about it here). The perfume itself was clearly inspired by another 1920s classic: Shalimar.

Isadora is not a copy or a clone of Shalimar, but it can be considered a spawn. I have some 1960-70s Shalimar that has a lot of character from the almost explosive opening to the smoky vanilla and an animalic edge. Isadora, despite the scandalous character of its namesake is softer in some aspects while still making a statement. The opening is floral and even a little green. The very first time I smelled it when I found a mini bottle of teh extrait de parfum with the nude figure on top at an antique store I actually thought Isadora might be a chypre. It takes about five minutes to realize that despite a herbal leaning and maybe even some moss this is all wood, vanilla and a smidgen of leather.

The most  familiar part in Isadora is the vanilla-opoponax base. It's more innocent than Shalimar, fuzzier and even bordering on a comfort scent. It doesn't have any of the civet you still smell in older formulations of Shalimar and none of the mysterious smoky incense. Still, Isadora is quite rich and opulent. It smells expensive and well thought-out, and above all: it gives pleasure.

From what I could find out, Isadora remained in production until the 1990s. I doubt that it had a wide distribution as it seems many people outside the most devoted vintage fiends among the fragonerd community have even heard of it, and bottles are pretty scarce. As far as I can tell Isadora came in both extrait and EDP concentrations and never had a sibling or a flanker. If you've come across evidence to the contrary please comment. Also please tell me if you've ever worn Isadora.

Photo of Isadora Duncan circa 1915-1918 from the NY Public Library digital collection.


  1. Ooh, I love this fragrance. I have a little smidge left in the mini replica bottle that I've had since the 70's. I dab it on every so often and it still smells wonderful! I remember acquiring this along with the original Missoni perfume, which was another beauty. I'm always trying to find these two fragrances again, but it appears to be an impossible quest.

  2. On my skin, Isadora seems to be neither a chypre nor a Shalimar-esque fragrance but something altogether unique. It does have some of the sharpness and mossiness you'd expect of a chypre, but it's so well-blended that it never seems sour or musty the way some vintage chypres can be. it reminds me ever so slightly of Patou Cocktail, but not so much that I'd mistake one for the other. I rather like it. It's definitely interesting and hard to pin down.

  3. I have used it bought a bottle 20 years ago but unable to replace it unique pperfume ,loved it

  4. Have a bottle I keep in my fridge. Have had it for years. Wear it very only on special occasions. Once it warms on the skin it still shines. The best fragrance ever!

  5. I have 2 bottles. first found it on my first trip to ('81) Las Vegas- Caesars Palace, there was a huge display bottle on the counter. I bought several bottles every time I went there from the East Coast. If I knew they were to discontinue this fragrance, I would have stocked up. I, too, use it for special times only. It is sooo much better than Shalimar.

  6. It's the only perfume that ever suited me. I loved it. I have some left in a bottle that I've had for twenty years, but I'm not sure if it's still possible to wear it. It doesn't smell fresh anymore. I've searched everywhere for it. There were ads for it online not that long ago, but they now say 'out of stock'. It has to be reproduced, it's the perfect perfume. No other scent even comes close.

  7. I suddenly remembered that I had a bottle of this as a little girl. I wish I could locate it again..

  8. Yes, I love Isadora, and I still have about half a bottle of the eau de toilette and over a quarter ounce of perfume left. I'm 72 now, and maybe what I have left is a lifetime supply.

  9. Yes. I've worn it and have been through three large perfume bottles. Sadly, I didn't realize the perfume bottles were collectors items and the first two were thrown out, and shuffled around in my daughters' dress up drawer. With each bottle it became more difficult to find. The last 1 oz bottle was found in a little shop at Disney World on a top, dusty shelf and the price was astoundingly inexpensive (no doubt because it had sat there for years and the vendor didn't realize what a treasure he had).
    I haven't seen it in years and probably couldn't afford it if I did come across it again.
    It is the most sublime and mesmerizing scent I have ever had the pleasure to wear. Nothing compares to Isadora!


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