Friday, May 08, 2009

Givenchy L'Interdit

L'Interdit, launched in 1957 by Givenchy, is most notorious for being Audrey Hepburn's signature fragrance. Sources say it was actually created for her, and it was made available to the masses only after she had worn it for awhile (and maybe wanted some variety, to free herself from being a signature scentist? We haven't been informed of that part yet. Incidentally, sources say she also had worn Pierre Balmain Ivoire and Creed Spring Flower). First, before I review L'Interdit, I need to clarify that this review is for the original 1957 version. The new L'Interdit, the one that sits on the counters at department stores today, smells nothing like the real L'Interdit. The original scent which I'd tested for the first time at a Manhattan Sephora back when they used to carry lots of cool, rare stuff, was a spicy, powdery Aldehydic Floral, not this nondescript Fruity Floral on a detergentesque white musk base that the legendary perfume name and Audrey Hepburn's images now represent.

The original L'Interdit was an Aldehydic Floral in the style of Chanel N°5 (1921). If you're familiar with N°5, the world-famous iconic perfume, you know it's a powdery scent, but not powdery like baby powder but a bit sharp like the inside of a makeup bag - that maquillage scent associated with well-groomed ladies. The difference between N°5 and L'Interdit is that L'Interdit is a spicier scent, as if cinnamon and clove got in the mix and made it hot enough to warrant the use of the color red for its packaging. One might imagine blending Chanel N°5 and a classic carnation soliflore (carnation can smell spicy like cinnamon) like Malmaison by Floris of London (a scent associated with Oscar Wilde's choice of buttonhole flower), and you would come close. Better yet, you might also tone down the whole composition in the way Guerlain Liu (1929) had quieted down the structure of Chanel N°5 for Rose Kennedy because N°5 and its overdose of aldehydes were too much for her.

L'Interdit, meaning "forbidden" (because the legend goes Ms. Hepburn told Hubert de Givenchy it was forbidden to share her special perfume with the world), brings to mind a different time, when perfumes like L'Air du Temps, Heaven Sent and Je Reviens were popular. As a matter of fact, L'Interdit smells very similar to these as well, since all of them are spicy (to connote invigorating youth, perhaps, like Youth Dew?), densely powdery perfumes with innocence as the selling point. Sugar and spice and everything nice...innocent but sophisticated (and forbidden! What a way to signal the misogynistic good / bad female dichotomy while hinting at the age of consent), the gamine beauty's signature only lives on as a rare collector's item, and I dearly wish Givenchy would simply bring it back in the same way we would not throw away a Beethoven Sonata just because it doesn't fit into today's aesthetics. Rearrange it to your heart's desire but don't just replace it. Perfumes, besides being works of art born of someone's vision and creativity, are stories of people's lives, and we want to know who our mothers and grandmothers and all the women we love throughout Herstory were before us.


(Images: Parfum de Pub,