Thursday, May 30, 2013

Max Factor- Primitif (Vintage Perfume)

There are several versions of the ad for Max Factor Primitif perfume, all featuring the photo of 1950s model Jean Patchett. In all of them it is very clear that Patchett (and Max Factor) mean business with this perfume- both in regular bottles and in the famous black cat presentation (usually more associated with Max Factor's Hypnotique). But it's only  when you smell this floral civet bomb that you fully get it.

Primitif, in theory, belongs in the same category with the 1950s version of Arpege and Chanel No. 5. Those were the days of your great-aunt Tilly's aldehydes, big powdery flower notes and a dry-down made of the dirtiest musks and civet (Barbara from Yesterday's Perfume discusses nitro-musks, the musks of the 1950s, in her review of Primitif). But let's face it: Max Factor was never Lanvin or Chanel. The perfume's packaging as seen in the ads tells you most of the story, as does the pricing.

I have various vintage versions of Chanel No. 5. None of them is that aggressive in its opening notes. The aldheydes are like a journey in a  time machine that takes you to Joan Holloway's pre-Mad Men (and before her Shalimar bottle) younger days. The femininity is a bit campy, but very enjoyable if you like these things. The floral heart is not all Grasse jasmine and orris butter, but more like a creamy ylang-ylang, a hint of tropical blossoms and a puff full of powder that also gets on your clothes.

The dry-down starts a bit dry and vetivery before it goes all skank and wild animals. It's as delicious and tempting as Jean Patchett's velvet skin and seductive half-smile. Some say that it's also as dated, but for those of us who appreciate the vintage look and smell, Max Factor Primitif is a delightful place to visit.

All images-- Primitif ads and Jean Patchett fashion photos --via


  1. Hmmm...interesting. Upon seeing this, I wanna grab samples of it. Kinda curious of its scent.

  2. She awfully looks like Bianca Jagger in her heyday.
    But I guess Bianca's decade was more like the 70's

  3. I've never smelled Primitif but I somehow came to own a Sophisticat. It is black with glittery pink eyes like the one in the ad and lands somewhere between campy and creepy.


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