Serge Lutens lovers, brace yourselves for a shock. L’Eau Serge Lutens, the Marrakech magus’s next export launch, slated for spring, is… clean.
Neither fruity Atlas cedar nor spice cocktail. Nary a whiff of incense, civet or indole. Not a smidge of resins or balms.
Clean as a freshly laundered shirt is exactly how Serge Lutens wanted it to be: an “anti-perfume”, as “a reaction to this world which is too perfumed, or better said, embalmed, because this is no longer seduction, it is mummification.”
L’Eau Serge Lutens, he states, is “a reaction, an action, a will: to be clean, to break with the fake odor that reigns over everything.”
In a press release as uncharacteristically limpid as the setting for the presentation of L’Eau Serge Lutens – a restored Mallet-Stevens glassmaker’s studio in the 15th district – he compares it with “a Savon de Marseille, a wooden tub filled with fresh water, a clothespin, a white shirt in the outdoors.”
Now, you ask, what does it smell of? Well, I’ve just discovered it today and I’ll definitely need some time to adjust to this “anti-perfume”, considering its author (who worked, as usual, with Christopher Sheldrake).
I may also need some time to recover from actually meeting a man whom I’ve admired since I was thirteen, when I discovered his work as a photographer, then as a make-up artist, long before perfumes came into the picture. In the interest of full disclosure, anything I might write today is skewed by the fact that when I caught his eye, he came over to me and said we’d met before, which we hadn’t. We ended up agreeing we might’ve met in another life (either that or I’ve got a doppelganger running around with a silver Louise Brooks bob, smoky eyes and scarlet lips).
Can I help it if this slight, delicate man worked his magic on me with a few words and compliments which, coming from such a great olfactory and visual artist – makeup artist doesn’t quite seem to cover it – left me as giddy as a moonstruck girl?
L’Eau Serge Lutens’ clean vibe may seem like a radical departure from the latest resins-and-balsams potions – Filles en aiguilles would hard to top in that direction – and Lutens may present it as a “blank page” in his opus, but it does actually tie in with a current that goes from Iris Silver Mist and Encens et Lavande through to Gris Clair and Clair de Musc. Not quite on a different planet but at a much higher altitude: instead of coming straight for the alchemist’s crucible, this one’s up in the ionosphere.
The anti-perfume will no doubt spark endless debates in the blogosphere. For the time being, I can’t be objective.
P.S. I will add this, for those of you who've been cringing at the very notion of clean: this is not, repeat, NOT an aquatic.
Image: A period photograph of the Atelier Barillet in Paris, by Robert Mallet-Stevens (1931), where L’Eau Serge Lutens was presented.