Thursday, December 04, 2014

Yves Saint Lauren- Rive Gauche (vintage Perfume)


Rive Gauche by Yves Saint Laurent is a good reminder that the 1970s offered more than John Travolta and polyester. It's so incredibly chic that it's sometimes hard to accept it as part of that particular decade, until two things happen: you look up high fashion of that era (not the stuff your mother still stores in boxes down in the basement), and you realize that while very French and elegant, there's an edginess to Rive Gauche that doesn't exist in iconic floral perfumes of the previous decades (think Caleche, Ma Griffe, Madame Rochas, and many others).It's the same kind of feeling you get when you look at Saint Lauren's designs for Mick and Bianca Jagger on their 1971 wedding day (the same year Rive Gauche was released).



Rive Gauche is a seamless aldehydic floral. It's hard to point at most of the single notes, especially at the beginning, where this is just a cool cloud in the Parisian sky. The abstract floral heart was declared a rose by Luca Turin, and I think the degree of rosiness varies between vintages.  have a couple of 1970s bottles, bought in pristine state, and what I get from them is considerably smoother than an aldehydic rose. According to Nigel Groom the floral notes are gardenia, honeysuckle, jasmine, ylang-ylang, orris, geranium, and magnolia (while the base is sandalwood and vetiver). The truth is out there, hiding behind the metallic canister and the distinct metallic note. It's related to two Paco Rabanne perfumes: Calandre (1969, by Michael Hy who cooperated with Jacques Polge on the creation of Rive Gauche), and the greener, colder Metal from 1979.

Karl Lagerfeld's bathroom,  photographed by Oberto Gil for Underground Interiors, 1972

All of this is more a reference and a ballpark to the universe in which Rive Gauche exists (existed, rather). It's perfumy, with just a hint of powder, and a woody-musky dry-down that sends me right back to my childhood and my general idea of "perfume". In that sense, Rive Gauche is the all-chrome version of Chanel No.5 and its various offspring. Rive Gauche was a natural development: a bit harder, pointier, crisper, but just as stunning in its original state.

The dry-down of the fragrance, at least in the EDT versions that I have, goes back a bit to the familiar sandalwood and musk realm. It's easy to settle into and live with, just like a perfectly-tailored expensive pantsuit. There's dryness, courtesy of the vetiver, that I think would appeal to men who are not afraid of the aldehydes and flowers that precede it, and a depth that lets you know that whatever they put in was the real thing, before the ever receding standards (and manufacturing costs) of designer fragrances. Rive Gauche is highly satisfying when I wear it and when I pick up a scarf or a sweater saturated with it from the day before. It's more than just nostalgia: this is truly a great perfume worth exploring, because it makes everything feel just a bit more refined than it actually is: like the 1970s through this particular prism.

14 comments:

  1. Hi Gaia,
    Thank you for making the perfume and the '70's come to life! I feel like I was there.
    I was more of a Halston and then Chloe, girl myself.
    As usual, even if I don't like the scent at all, you make me like it on you!

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  2. Rive Gauche was my first perfume (along with Anaïs Anaïs). I got a gift set (parfum extrait and bath product minis) for Christmas when I was thirteen years old. Because it was a small bottle and parfum (as opposed to my Anaïs Anaïs EdT), I wore it only on "special occasions". I loved it and miss it. I wish I could get my hands on some vintage stuff, the current version is not what I loved.

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  3. I have always thought Bianca looks so chic that I wore a hat too to my wedding in the 70's .... my Mother in Law did not approve! LOL

    Love Rive Gauche and I must bring her out and have a spray right now!

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  4. Back in the 70's I babysat for a couple and the woman was oh-so-chic to me. She wore Rive Gauche and I bought a bottle a while ago when I was on a perfumesIremember kick. Didn't work for me, but passed it on to my daughter and it smelled quite lovely on her. Plus, the metal bottle is really stunning.

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  5. Mick and Bianca already look like they don't like each other!

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  6. One of my favorites that my mother wore back in the day. Although most aldehydic florals aren't my thing, I remember it fondly.

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  7. What a fantastic bathroom Karl had! Just found an inexpensive volume of the book the photo was in at Alibris and ordered it - hope there is more of Karl's home, but it looks like a wonderful design book of the era in general. So glad you posted that! And I wonder if Bianca ever wore Rive Gauche - it would have been a perfect match for her. I absolutely adore Rive Gauche. Haven't dared to try the current version, but have stockpiled several bottles of the vintage edt and parfum.
    Anna

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  8. Loved reading this post. Kills me that back in the 70s, my mom and I used to buy it 1/2 price at the drugstore on December 26th. What a glorious scent. Thanks for the cultural and fragrant memories.

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  9. Thanks for the memories. As a single 20-something in the 70s, I regularly wore Rive Gauche, Caleche, Metal, Opium and Gray Flannel. Every time I remember those scents I'm transported back to those crazy days (and nights!).

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  10. Oh, I had forgotten all about this perfume. I wore it so much back in the day! And thought it had to be the most elegant thing ever created. Wish I had some now.

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  11. Great memories...thank you for reminding us of Rive Gauche. It was an incredibly special perfume and I loved it. After wearing it for a longer period in my college days, a friend used to say that there's probably more Rive Gauche running thrugh my veins than blood. Of course I remembered that comment until today :-)

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  12. This version of Karl's bathroom doesn't include Miss Choupette so it isn't nearly as pretty.

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  13. LOVE Rive Gauche, love Karl's bathroom. Can't help wondering what the table and chairs were for. Did he soak in a bubble bath while his friends lounged in the chairs, smoking and chatting? Or was there perhaps a secretary to take notes on his creative thoughts? Choupette's lacy bed would fit in beautifully. nozknoz

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  14. This is my reformulation nightmare - the one perfume I truly miss more than all. I nearly wept when I sniffed the reform. UGH. I have to say that I have been able to partially fill the YSL Rive Gauche shaped hole in my collection with Amouage Gold Woman. Even though as a rule I loathe Bond, Madison Soiree also helped heal the wound. I miss Rive Gauche above all - my holy grail "gloriously expensive soap perfume"....

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