mercredi 25 novembre 2009

L'Eau Serge Lutens: anti-perfume, from where you'd least expect it


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.

36 commentaires:

popcarts a dit…

L'Animatiere immediately springs to mind because a) I can smell it, and b) it smells like clean sheets. I doubt that they smell alike in any way, but I wonder if the germ of an idea wasn't somehow planted in his mind? I also wonder whether he feels pressure to do something that represents a complete departure, like an artist trying to stay a step ahead of the times and his own body of work?

Tara C a dit…

The perfume doesn't sound interesting, but I can just imagine your heart beating la chamade as you talked to him. I'm envious!

Ines a dit…

Your experience sounds amazing. :) Now I can't even begin to imagine what this is going to smell like. I mean I know what that you wrote it's clean, but it is a SL creation. I don't think nobody is going to actually believe until they smell it. :)

Sève Exquise a dit…

I would kill to meet Serge Lutens! This is amazing.
I love this anti-perfume concept, of course according to Lutens, clean is not a perfume. It looks like a luxurious soap scent...just not a true perfume. Great idea!

carmencanada a dit…

Carter, the idea of anti-perfume may quite naturally spring from that of perfume without coming from another person. I wrote it in as a category (in which I would also include several CdG) before getting the invitation.
What's surprising is that it comes from Lutens, with his body of work. I think it's part of some sly sense of humor...

carmencanada a dit…

Tara, it wouldn't be interesting for you with your tastes, I'll vouch for that.
Actually, my heart beat didn't go up much. It was more like a short verbal tango with a magician.

carmencanada a dit…

Ines, it *is* very surprising within the collection. And it will certainly send a shockwave through the Lutens fandom.

carmencanada a dit…

Sève Exquise, he *does* call it "the most expensive soap in the world"!

popcarts a dit…

Oh, yeah, I know re the anti-perfume business. The idea behind L'A seems like something else...non-perfume? March would probably say "non-existent." I guess I was reading too much into your sketch of the new SL.

Hey! The verification code word for me to post this is "turin". Ha!

Tara C a dit…

You are right, it would definitely not be to my tastes - I sit here drenched in Ambre Narguile and a couple of shots of Encens Flamboyant for good measure. :-)

With your fabulous linguistic and intellectual skills I am sure it was a beautiful tango of words and ideas!

Nathan Branch a dit…

Beyond anything else, it certainly is a good business decision -- it adds a scent to his lineup that he doesn't already have, thereby expanding the range of potential customers.

Could it be a means of cracking the Asian market I've read some articles about how the Chinese consumer is far more interested in cosmetics and cosmeceuticals than fragrance, and that the big Orientals are not in vogue (oh, the irony!).

L'Eau Serge Lutens sounds like an excellent fit in that respect. Whatever the reasoning, I'm interested. If I'm going to include a "clean" fragrance in my collection, it's going to be one put together by Lutens -- and I can think of several friends who would love something just like this.

carmencanada a dit…

Popcarts, L'Eau is less conceptual than L'Anti-matière so that I suppose most people will be able to smell it!

carmencanada a dit…

Tara, there was no time for either of us to shine, really -- it wasn't about wit à la française, just this strange déjà vu sensation.

carmencanada a dit…

Nathan, thanks for the reality check, and you're right, commercially it's a good decision, though what's interesting about it is Serge Lutens' appropriating it in his discourse. That said, I'm sure he appreciates a clean white shirt and a just-out-of-the-bath sensation as much, if not more, than the next man.
It's as though the presence of such a scent in his line-up introduced the kind of baroque tension he usually puts *in* a scent.

Silvia a dit…

It is always interesting to follow the prograssion of an artist's work. Gris Clar to me is the smell of ironing, so why not laundry ? The scent of Marseille soap is very evocative for me, so all in all I look forward to trying this (although I doubt it will haunt me).

As to meeting the man himself, sounds like you had a "moment", one of those that stay with you for a long time, am happy for you.

carmencanada a dit…

Silvia, I had a moment indeed... Came waltzing home!
L'ESL doesn't smell of laundry, but it does smell of some kind of rather complex cleanliness...

maria a dit…

Is this a joke? After few hours of thinking I realized must be a joke.
Clean fragrances are not a new idea, the market is full of them, how could the BIG Lutens be seduced by this cheap old idea? I can't believe it. Did he grow too old or what?

carmencanada a dit…

Maria, I now own a bottle and while there may be humor in taking that direction, it's for real... I think artists are seduced by challenges, and what could be more challenging for Serge Lutens than to express himself in that register? I'd call it self-iconoclastic.

maria a dit…

For sure my small kids would be happy with it. They will have something which could reduce the permanent obsesing cleaning treatment imposed by their mother.
We are clean! Why do we need a clean perfume? And over my clean I want to wear a jewel perfume.
Anyway, it might be another great perfume and I don't expect less but somehow I'm dissapointed by the philosphy behind it. Contradiction, jumping at the other extreme, is a too easy idea.

StyleSpy a dit…

Gracious!! I'm all a-flutter just thinking about it!! Serge Lutens flirted with you!! (Because I don't care how smooth & French & genius he is, that was flirting.) More than the idea of the perfume, I really love that you have this memory to re-live every time you give yourself a spritz. That takes it out of the realm of mere fragrance and moves it into... what? Magic?

carmencanada a dit…

Maria, you have a point. But there are many people, including perfume lovers, who sometimes want a "tee-shirt" perfume, to take an olfactory break without actually going "naked". I guess if I wanted that, I'd rather take that break with the Lutens, but I can absolutely understand your point of view on the matter!

carmencanada a dit…

Great balls of fire, Amy, I believe you're right: he was flirting. Oh boy did it work. Magic is a good way of putting it. Of course, my hair and makeup were straight out of his book...

Rose a dit…

How wonderful to meet him! you must be on cloud nine!

Clean not aquatic. It could be wonderous. I love the scents you mention of his- in fact those are some of my favourites of his which I think makes me unusual in the perfume world.

carmencanada a dit…

Rose, yes, I'm still a fangirl at heart...
As for liking the scent, you'll find out in March -- I'll do a review when the launch date is closer.

zazie a dit…

Well, some "expensive soap" or "expensive shampoo" scents appeal to me, aven though the idea of a clean scent generally doesn't. I admit I love love love a spritz of acqua di melograno from Santa maria Novella* (which falls in the beautifully original expensive soap cathegory) and Beige form Chanel - definetly a decent "expensive shampoo" scent. These are clean scents, to my nose. If the LESL manages to be beautiful and original and clean, there is nothing wrong for me: as long as it is not acquatic or white musky!
* I actually think this is quite a masterpiece, in the clean cologne genre.

carmencanada a dit…

Zazie, Beige actually has quite a heady honey note (the "hawthorn") nested in it. And Melograno, which is worn by a gentleman friend (so I know it well) is molto muschio bianco! There's white musk and white musk, of course... Each exhibits different characteristics. And they can be used in various fashions: lazily, or intriguingly!

Zazie a dit…

Oh, the honey note in Beige I get... I suppose it's what hooked me: I love honeyed fragrances, almost all my HG share that note in the base!
But hey, Muschio Bianco in AdM?!? It's impossible! The only musk I like is grain de musc (I know, terrible pun, but I'm under shock!) ... Oh, well that's why I read perfume blogs, one keeps learning...
I'll try to sort that white musk out of AdM.
Well, let me get some Amoureuse, and get out of this dangerous (clean) waters...

carmencanada a dit…

Zazie, Melograno is loaded with it as far as I can tell but hey, it's not the musk, it's how you use it!

Alyssa a dit…

What a tease!

I look forward to hearing how it actually smells...

(And I agree with Style Spy. "Haven't we met before?" is a page from the oldest of playbooks, no?)

carmencanada a dit…

Alyssa: well one would expect Mr. Lutens to know how to talk to women... In this case though, it sounded more like a genuine question than a chatting-up line!

Robin R. a dit…

D, the fact it sounded like a genius question IS pure genius -- in the chatting-up department. Must've been those red lips that did him in. . .

Robin R. a dit…

Genuine/genius: didn't have my reading glasses on, but it's even better this way!

Tara C a dit…

Well you are very striking, and quite svelte nowadays too. :-) There's nothing like a magical moment to lift one's spirits - I can imagine you waltzing home! I know I would have.

carmencanada a dit…

Robin, the red lips were definitely very Lutens, but I think the silver-pewter Louise Brooks bob was the clincher: it's quite graphic and unusual, and that's what he most remarked on. The first person I texted was my hair stylist who's also a friend!

carmencanada a dit…

Tara, it did do wonders about trudging back home in the November rain...

Kristen a dit…

Somehow I'm not too hot about the scent. It's pretty good at first. But as I spend more time with it, it's just a tad too boring for my liking. I've kinda abandoned it for now.

My review's here: http://beautysorority.wordpress.com/2011/06/19/leau-serge-lutens-review/