Sunday, March 02, 2008

Paco Rabanne Calandre

Paco Rabanne was a cutting edge fashion designer who used unusual, innovative elements to create clothing with, such as metal, paper and Rhodoid (plastic). He's also known as the first to hire black models for the runway, which was such a novel concept back in the 1960s. Whatever fragrance the house launched would have had to be as cutting edge as their overall image: futuristic, progressive, the epitome of space-age mod. Calandre (1969) was their first fragrance, and it's notorious for breaking new ground, often referred to as the perfume that started the minimalist fragrance trend.

If you've been visiting Pink Manhattan blog for awhile, you may know that one of my favorite fragrances and bottles is Paco Rabanne Eau de Metal. The same bottle was first used in Paco Rabanne Calandre designed by Pierre Dinand. The bottle is a sleek, simple rectangle with metal (or white plastic as it appears in the pic) encasing the edges of thick glass. The shape is said to have been inspired by the grille of a Rolls-Royce. According to Michael Edwards' book, Perfume Legends, Calandre, meaning "grille" or "radiator", became Paco Rabanne's symbol of mobility in the year of feminine revolution. I forgot which book I found this comparison in, but the bottle vaguely resembles the shape of the United Nations building here in New York, a beautiful glass-covered building that has always been one of my favorite structures to behold, shimmering in the sun like a stream in the concrete jungle.

The scent itself is not that modern to me, but I have a hard time with oakmoss on the whole. Oakmoss to me smells more like the country than anyplace metropolitan. It smells to me like wet rain, or like wet leaves to be exact--sort of dirty, and Calandre smells like a showcase for oakmoss. It's the part of Guerlain Mitsouko I have a hard time tolerating, and likely the key note in Les Nez L'Antimatière which, as much as I can appreciate the anti-mainstream concept perfume with a total absence of top notes, smells to me like a dirty silk scarf from too many days of wear. However, I can see how Calandre roots back to classic Aldehydic Chypre-Florals like Caleche, and how it paved the way for other modern perfumes to follow: Rive Gauche and a whole slew of streamlined and higher-pitched 1970s mossy, skin cream-like green Aldehydics, perhaps Private Collection, even Shiseido Inoui which I've recently sampled and thought, "Private Collection meets Calandre". I also suspect it could have inspired green tea scents (they always dry down mossy-smelling on me), but maybe they were inspired by O de Lancome more than Calandre--hard to tell since they smell similarly mossy and sharp at once (and they came out in the same year).

Will I ever grow to love it? Why not? If I can grow to like Mitsouko, anything seems possible, and things are only as possible as they seem.

(Edited to add) The vintage smells better. The new version I've tried smells nice but a bit like a sharp, baby powdery musk with a sweeter, lily-like floralcy. I still like it, but the vintage smells mossier and softer.

(Image: Beautybuzz,