Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lanvin Arpège

Here's a classic perfume that might bring to mind your mother or grandmother or your favorite aunt. As it turns out, it's a grand perfume that's worthy of wearing more than 80 years after it first launched.

Have you seen Disney's 1970 film, The Aristocats? You might remember the scene where little Marie starts this catchy little number accompanied by her brother, Toulouse, on piano:

Ev'ry truly cultured music student knows.
You must learn your scales and your arpeggios.
Bring the music, ringing from your chest and not your nose.
While you sing your scales and your arpeggios.

If you're faithful to your daily practicing.
You will find your progress is encouraging.
Do Mi Sol Mi, Do Mi Sol Mi, Fa La so it goes.
When you do your scales and your arpeggios.

The song is called "Scales and Arpeggios", words and music by Richard Sherman and Robert Sherman. Practice is never easy, and so these kitties worked hard to refine their musical skills like Mama who sang most proficiently. Anyway, arpeggios are a succession of notes (do mi sol do, do sol mi do) as opposed to a chord with notes all played together at once--roughly speaking. Lanvin Arpège is named for this musical form because Jeanne Lanvin's daughter, whom she had Arpège created for, was an opera singer. It was presented as a gift on her daughter's 30th birthday; the year was 1927.

Arpège, an Aldehydic Floral, smells a lot like Chanel No.5 (1921) which is to be expected because it was modeled after it, like many other perfumes were around that time (Caron Nuit de Noel (1922), Guerlain Liu (1929)). I would like to address that Caron Infini (1912), an Aldehydic Floral, preceded Chanel No.5 in terms of powdery, abstract Aldehydic Florals, but it was No.5 that became the world famous star of the perfume world, which is why it was copied from 1921 on like no other. It was sort of like what Angel is today, or what Ma Griffe and Vent Vert were to greens.

(LOL vintage ad!)

I could easily say Arpège reminds me of Hermes Caleche (1961) or Madame Rochas (1960), Aldehydic Florals that were created during the ongoing trend throughout the 30s, 40s and 50s alongside Chypres, but of course, Arpège is unique in its own way. In a nutshell, Arpege is classic, rich, complex and very well-rounded (voluptuous) with a powdery, low-pitched, warm patchouli base and a sweet honeysuckle heart. After all the notes have made their way around the circle of fifths and up and down the scale, those are the notes that linger the longest for me, delivered through a thick cloud of powder with that maquillage smell (the smell of makeup, like the inside of a handbag). The scent is old-fashioned and ladylike, but approachably sweet, and with shades of the roaring twenties for a bit of pizazz. Shall we call it jazzy? "Oh, yeah...". ;-)

(Image:, Arpege advertisements, 1933, 1961, 1954)