Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The magic of scent: Serge Lutens and his creations

" Perfume is a form of writing, an ink, a choice made in the first person, the dot on the i, a weapon, a courteous gesture, part of the instant, a consequence. "

- Serge Lutens

Serge Lutens is a proof that a truly gifted person has a multitude of talents. Born in 1942, he began his magnificent journey at the age of fourteen as an apprentice in a prestigious hair saloon in Lille, his home town. Fashion photography and make up were his hobbies and friends - his models. Before he knew it the hobby became a job when Lutens moved to Paris and was soon hired by Vogue as a hair and makeup artist. He worked with Richard Avedon and Irving Penn.

In 1967 he was approached by Christian Dior to design a make-up line that US Vogue called "a revolution". At the same time he created beautiful photographs inspired by the works of Monet, Picasso and Modigliani. In 1974 Luten directed his first short movie "Les Stars" followed by "Suaire" in 1976.

In 1980 he was hired by Shiseido to redisign the company image. The result was spectacular. Lutens photos were more haute couture art rather than just a make-up campaign.

In 1982 is the year when Serge Lutens creates his first perfume. Nombre Noir was a result of collaboration between Jean-Yves Leroy, one of the in-house perfumers for the Shiseido, Lutens and Yusui Kumai.

Lutens chose an extremely expensive natural osmanthus and a synthetic aromachemical, a big-stock damascone molecule of rosy-woody with prune. The perfume became infamous for its breakthrough packaging designed in collaboration among Serge Lutens, Shuichi Ikeda and Masataka Matsubara. "The most unremittingly, sleekly, maniacally luxurious packaging you can imagine: a black octagonal glass Chinese bottle nestled in exquisitely folded black origami of the most sensuous standard."

In the early 1990s he conceived and designed the now famous "Les Salons du Palais Royal", a house of perfume. In 2000, he launched his own brand "Parfums-Beaute Serge Lutens".

I must admit, I didn't know any of it until about ten months ago... I am glad this was one of my discoveries of 2008 because his perfumes to me are like a perfect little black dress. There is one created just for you and once you find it it makes you feel happy, confident, feminine, sensual and attractive to the point of no return.

I fell in love with Serge Lutens perfumes last year as I went shopping for a new fragrance. I had a few well-known names in mind and was going to stick to my "shopping list", but as I walked in a shop I was instantly drawn to a shelf filled with very simple and chic perfume bottles. The names sounded intriguing and being a typical curious woman I decided to have a proper look. The shopping list was forgotten. I was a child in a confectionery shop.

First of all, let me tell you that I have a strong belief that perfect perfume is made in France. Always. Whether they have the best noses in the industry or just the best taste in scents, French perfume is always something very special and precious to me. The beautiful bottles containing precious elixirs came from Paris. It was a good sign.

Serge Lutens didn't disappoint. His perfumes resembled memories... teased senses... Some were sweet with hints of vanilla or cinnamon, some had woody velvet notes of cedar or neroli... One of two fragrances were truly unexpected and frankly, shocking. One particular scent (I wouldn't remember its name now...) brought a nostalgic feeling of being a little girl, back at home, with my mum. Her winter coat always smelled of perfume, just a touch of scent, which would blend and melt into the fur leaving a strange but very warm comforting cloudy scent. I smelled the perfume and it felt as if my mum gave me a hug. It was truly magical.

As soon as I inhaled the next fragrance I knew it was THE ONE. It was called Douce Amère (transl. bitter sweet) and smelled of chocolate. Actually, the top note of it is absinthe, but since I've never got acquainted with the latter, I thought of citronella that melted into chocolate. It was velvety and gorgeous. My olfactory was seduced.

One thing I must say is that these perfumes really do have three distinct groups of notes. First you smell the top notes and as they slowly disappear, the middle notes come out to tease your imagination and senses. The base notes appear 30 minutes later. The perfumes seem alive and you can really distinguish the movement of each scent as it comes out and slowly fades away... Like a beautiful memory.

There are three collections to try: Beige collection (17 fragrances including Douce Amère and newly introduced Miel De Bois), Ephemeral collection (Borneo 1834), Black collection (5 fragrances). I strongly suggest that you avoid temptation of ordering any of these perfumes on-line before you actually smell them. The fragrances are truly personal and you may really hate one or two no matter how beautiful their names and descriptions are.

Sources: wikipedia, sergelutens.com. Images via: typogabor.com, googe images