Friday, June 17, 2011

Deneuve by Catherine Deneuve (Vintage Extrait de Parfum)

I could get used to this. The only problem is that if I do, this bottle of Deneuve by Catherine Deneuve will be gone in no time. It won't be easy to replace it.

When thinking about Catherine Deneuve and perfume we mostly think about her tenure as the face of Chanel No.5 in the seventies or even as the friend and muse of Yves Saint Laurent (see above). But in 1986 Deneuve signed a deal with Parfums Phenix, an Avon subsidiary, to develop and launch her own perfume, Deneuve, and a matching line of bath and body products.

"It's a fragrance I really love, and this time I don't have to be paid to make that statement," says Deneuve, who adds she was involved in the evolution of the scent for more than a year. The perfume, which comes in a slim, crystal bottle with an abstract crystal bow as a stopper, created by French sculptor-designer Serge Mansau, is described as "floral/semi-Oriental." Some of the heady ingredients include jasmine, ylang-ylang, rose and orange flowers. Miss Deneuve's stellar autograph is imprinted on the box".

 The perfume was created, it earned its fans but something didn't work right:

Avon Will Sell Line in Stores
August 21, 1986 The Los Angeles Times (From Reuters)
Avon Products, the giant cosmetic and fragrance concern known for door-to-door retailing, said Wednesday that it will sell its successful new "Deneuve" line of imported perfume in department stores starting next year.

But company spokesman John Cox said the new marketing technique did not represent a move away from its 100-year-old policy of selling door to door. "Oh boy, no--that's a $2-billion-a-year business worldwide."

It sounds like the distribution mess that killed Deneuve started there. The perfume was definitely upscale (according to this LA Times in an article from April 1986 it was priced at $165 per oz, quite shocking in 1980s terms) and well-made, not exactly the stuff your Avon Lady has in her pink briefcase. Between the Avon marketing of the first year and the transition into stores something went awry, and while the perfume and the body products sold, it was apparently not enough and there was no consistency to its distribution. As far as I know, it was gone by the mid-nineties as Catherine Deneuve told to Elle Magazine in 94 :
"I've liked working for this Fragrance. But today I don't feel it. Actors and perfume is an impossible match."

I'd also go out on a limb and say that green aldehydic chypres were no longer as popular as they used to be. Deneuve, loaded in galbanum and hyacinth, drying down to an animalic oakmoss was a lot more mysterious and reserved than the humongous florientals that rules the counters. And it smelled very very French.

Deneuve by Catherine Deneuve opens very perfumy. My bottle, as you see, is of the parfum. I bought it sealed still in the original cellophane and was anxious to smell and see if the aldehydes and citrus have gone off as they often do (most vintage fans know that smell of aldehyde notes past their prime you have to brave before the real fun begins). But no, I was lucky and Deneuve smelled almost newly-bottled. I won't use the word "fresh" because it's horribly wrong in this context. You don't wear Deneuve to smell freshly showered, I promise you that.

I wear Deneuve and dive nose first into this dreamy green world. It's where perfume meets silk blouses and tailored coats in Paris of my fantasies where it's forever autumn (of course, in that universe I'm not a short and busty Jewish girl but a tall and willowy version of every French movie star that ever was, with preference to a mix of Isabelle Adjani, Juliette Binoche and Anouk Aimee). There's that soapy powdery accord of orris and lipstick inside a well-worn but very expensive purse, a hint or two of naughty thoughts and the feeling someone may have acted upon them. And oakmoss. The real thing, dark and earthy and green and it makes me want to roll in it until every last inch of skin and hair I have absorbs this scent.

Deneuve by Catherine Deneuve has become hard to find, though mini bottles of the EDT still show up on eBay and elsewhere. Yard sales and the estates of former Avon ladies are a safer bet.

Notes (from the Perfumed Court): galbanum, bergamot, neroli, basil, aldehyde, rose, muguet, jasmine, orris, ylang-ylang, violet, hyacinth, oakmoss, musk, cedarwood, sandalwood and civet.

Photos of Catherine Deneuve from and .
Photo of the perfume by me.


  1. I have always wanted to try Deneuve, it sounds like a dream come true. Maybe I will luck out one day. By the way, I believe Juliette Binoche is pretty much the most beautiful woman that ever lived, so I applaud your including her in your ideal French mish-mash.

  2. don't perfumes go "bad" over time?

  3. Yes, I used to wear Deneuve myself. It was lovely indeed.

  4. I remember wearing and loving Deneuve years ago. I absolutely adored it, it does have a structure and sophistication that is decidedly "French" but then I'm a fan of Florientals and oakmoss in particular.

  5. Thanks, Carrie, I have a girl crush on too many French actresses. And on their not-really-French first lady.

  6. Ava, perfumes can go bad, but when stored away from light they have better chance of surviving with most notes intact. I and many others who collect vintage perfumes own some really old ones that are in perfect wearing condition.

  7. Hopflower, at another time and another place I could see Deneuve becoming my signature scent. Except that I don't do signature scents and haven't even considered it in the last 20 years.

  8. Elizabeth, how sad is that the bad people are depriving us of our oakmoss?

  9. Dain, yes, I know I am. This was an amazing find.

  10. Gaia, I am smiling. I know next to nothing about scent except what I like. I wore Courreges Empreinte back in the 70s, and have been holding on to an empty bottle of it for the last 20 years. Occasionally I open it and sniff the last few drops, which are now as thick as oil. My scent preferences change, but I still love this one. Why did they stop producing it? I searched your site and found a short paragraph to my surprise. I loved your description. Can you recommend a reliable site or store that sells vintage colognes?

    1. Ava, I know it is difficult to find the perfumes we want, especially the ones first distributed year ago. If you put the name of your perfume in your browser, I think you will find what you want. I found this wonderful perfume that you mentioned.

  11. Ava, the Perfumed Court is as reliable as it gets, but very pricey. The best way to find vintage perfume is having patience and checking every yard sale, second-hand and antique store. eBay is longer reliable and prices have sky rocketed in the last couple of years.

  12. OMG! I have searched from the oceans of the world to the streets of the most elegant cities, Paris, Zurich, Vienna, Barcelona, and have never found another bottle of Deneuve! What a loss! If I ever hit the lottery, I will go to Parfums Phenix and say, how much for the formula? To purchase it and share it with other women would be wonderful, but just to have a bottle on my bathroom countertop to apply as I sit on my Empress bench would be, in the words of the man who didn't know me but commented anyway at the local supermarket, "I don't mean to be forward, but you smell heavenly!" I agree. Viva Deneuve, moss, sandalwood, and all!

  13. I too used to wear this lovely scent. Sadly, I cannot find even a spray bottle version anymore.


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