L'Interdit is a product of a different perfume era. It's a classic aldehydic floral with a hint of green woven throughout its development and powdery dry-down. When people say that something smells "perfumy" they mean exactly this kind of scent, and I'm pretty sure that the many similar fragrances that could be found and everywhere in previous decades were created in L'Interdit's image. After all, this was the perfume Hubert de Givenchy commissioned for his muse, Audrey Hepburn. It doesn't get more iconic than Audrey (though rumor has it that she actually favored Le De, another Givenchy fragrance from the same year.
L'Interdit opens with a big blast of greenery and aldehydes. We've all smelled this a thousand times; In my own collection I have old bottles of Hermes Caleche and Nina Ricci Farouche, fragrances from the two following decades that were clearly heavily inspired by L'Interdit. All three represent the genre of very ladylike perfumes on its pearls, cardigans and thank you-notes on expensive monogrammed stationary.
L'Interdit is a mostly non-committal abstract floral, elevated at the top by those fizzy aldehyde notes and spiced up with clove and carnation, but only a little. It's a cool and collected little scent; L'Interdit lacks the sunshine and cream effect of Chanel No. 5, which perhaps is the reason why the latter is a best seller to this day, while L'Interdit, despite several reformulations and reissues has been mostly forgotten. It's pretty and pedigreed, but the end result is just not enticing enough. Personally, when I get the itch for this kind of fragrance I reach for my vintage Caleche. It has more character, especially in the dry-down, where L'Interdit simply fades into a delicate powdered vetiver.
Notes: galbanum, pepper, clove, strawberry, aldehydes, rose, jasmine, jonquil, violet, sandalwood, amber, musk, benzoin, iris, patchouli, vetiver, frankincense and tonka bean.
L'Interdit perfume ads via vintageadbrowser.com.
Photo by Nina Leen, 1949.