Thursday, May 01, 2014

"S" By Schiaparelli (Vintage Perfume)

Elsa Schiaparelli started her own design studio in 1927 after several years of working as a freelancer for other brands. A year later, when she was still working in the attic of her own apartment, Schiaparelli launched her very first perfume: S. The letter S was her signature for the rest of her career. Almost all the names of Schiaparelli's fragrances start with an S, the most famous one was, of course, Shocking (1936). The original S perfume, though didn't seem to have survived for very long. By the early to mid 1940s, ads for Parfums Schiaparelli have no mention of the first perfume, as you can see in this 1945 example:

In 1961, seven years after the fashion part of the business closed,  Parfums Schiaparelli relaunched "S". Most of the bottles you can find on eBay and elsewhere are of the newer S. You can see what they look like in the second ad below:

My own bottle doesn't look like that. It came in a pink satin drawstring pouch with a white lining:

My bet is that it's still the newer version, but I was unable to find any details. Perhaps it was a GWP or other promotional item. The label doesn't specify concentration or anything else other than "S" Schiaparelli.

What I can tell you is that S is wickedly floral. It's starts green and a bit sharp. I can smell hyacinth, perhaps some narcissus, and a  lily bouquet before a distinct rose emerges, accompanied by dry iris and what I perceive as a peppery carnation. But S is rounder and fuller than that in its dry-drown. There's some really nice musk, and a hint of sandalwood that makes the rose re-emerge. I don't think there's anything exrtemely original about "S" and I'll need a lot more practice to be able to pick it blindly out of a bunch of similar vintage floral perfumes, but it is very nicely done and quite satisfying, even if I don't think it really evokes Elsa Schiaparelli and her magnificent work.

You can read more about Elsa Schiaparelli here (which was also the source of the top photo). Vintage ads via

1 comment:

  1. So glad to see your review of this! It's extremely hard for me to be remotely objective about anything by her since she's one of my absolute favorite people of all time and I very much wish that all her perfumes were as incredible and unique as she was. I'd love to smell the original S, but have been searching for it forever and still haven't found it. I have two bottles exactly like yours and another one that is the round one with the big S. They all smell pretty much the same - very slight difference, probably due to storage conditions since the bottle with the S was without a box and had clearly been used or suffered loss from evaporation and the other two were unused and in that pouch. I know it's not a wildly original scent, but I'm a huge fan of it (as I said, I have trouble with objectivity here). Your review is wonderful - perfect description and I get all the same notes. On my skin the iris, spicy carnation and sandalwood notes end up being really emphasized, but I have to stop and wonder if they actually do or if I notice them more because I love those notes so much that I'm like a bloodhound searching them out and then focusing primarily on them as I sniff it throughout the day.


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