mardi 19 mai 2009

Serge Lutens speaks to blogger Elisabeth de Feydeau on the Reformulation of Féminité du Bois

While every house is engaging in covert reformulation (albeit with tears and much hand-wringing), Serge Lutens himself is the perfumer first to own up officially to the reformulation of his classic Féminité du Bois, in the perfume historian Elisabeth de Feydeau’s blog.

For the benefit of English-speaking readers, Elisabeth has authorized me to translate Mr. Lutens’ comment:

“Because of the legislation ruling perfumery, all fragrances must be modified every three or four years. My perfumes, including Féminité du Bois, do not derogate from this rule.

The restricted materials are replaced by products of a similarly high quality. This operation is carried out by highly qualified experts. Contrary to common opinion, this modification doesn’t always necessarily mean that the fragrance is less good. Some may even be improved as a result.

Be it as it may, if it is true that there is a reformulation, for me it doesn’t modify in the least the quality (creative and olfactory) of my fragrances.

Féminité du Bois, like the others, remains authentic.”

Serge Lutens

Please respect the source and link to Elisabeth de Feydeau's news if you mention this comment.

J’engage les lecteurs francophones à se rendre sur le blog d’Élisabeth pour lire le texte original de ce commentaire.

Image: Cover of L'Esprit Serge Lutens, éditions Assouline (1992) sourced from Biblioparfum.

24 commentaires:

  1. I am pleased and unsurprised to read Serge Lutens' acknowledgement of the reformulation. Very refreshing, amongst all the denials in the industry. I would expect nothing less from a gentleman of his caliber.

  2. That's a very interesting (and very French?) definition of 'authentic.' I sort of love his brazen stance.

    I was putting off buying a full bottle of A La Nuit in spite of my panic over the jasmine regs, but now I sort of want to cave...

    And I'm glad I have the old, purple bottle of FdB.

  3. “Because of the legislation ruling perfumery, all fragrances must be modified every three or four years. My perfumes, including Féminité du Bois, do not derogate from this rule."

    While it's admirable that he's open about the reformulation of Feminite du Bois, isn't he essentially saying here that *all* of his fragrances have been reformulated (excepting the newest ones)?

    No wonder the Un Bois Sepia smelled entirely different in the bottle I bought than it did in the older sample that I tested. And while yes, it's still a quality fragrance (though I didn't enjoy the "improvements"), it would have been nice to have been given fair notice that it had been fiddled with before I shelled out for a bottle.

    I think that's all I really want -- for the companies to tell me when something has been changed instead of them changing it without saying a word and then passing it off as the original thing in the original packaging.

  4. Tara, it is indeed proof that the man really cares. There's nothing callous about him.

  5. Alyssa, I think "authentic" doesn't mean "genuine" in this case, but "true to my intentions".
    I'm sure the reformulations were carried out with much more care than in many other companies.
    But I'm thinking of nabbing Sarrasins: that can't possibly be jasmine-compliant.

  6. Nathan, I'm afraid that's exactly it. I did feel a difference in Un Lys as well.
    As there's nothing we can do, and more sadly, nothing perfumers can do about the IFRA regulations (which are *not* necessarily translated into legislation, but I'll get back to that), I completely agree with you: I want the companies to tell me.

    Actually, I wish they would forewarn us so we can at least get one or two bottles of the version we love. But that's really wishful thinking...

  7. I tried FdB the other day: I didn't know the original, but reformulated or not FdB left me breathless and enchanted.
    It is pure magic. Transparent and dark, gold and purple. Me, I am under spell. I am just sad that in the SL line you can get only the EdP. Do you know how it compares to the (disappearing)pure perfume by shiseido?

  8. Hi, D. I have been wondering about this issue of "reformulation" vs. the ongoing tweaking of formulas that are necessary to maintain a fragrance over time, given differences in the availability of certain fragrance components or how the quality of raw naturals varies from batch to batch. I'm getting the feeling that many companies do not think of this re-tweaking of formulas as "reformulations," so long as the fragrance remains true to its original intentions. But who gets to decide whether or not a formula is "true to the original intentions"? It must be, to some extent, a subjective assessment. Perhaps one person's re-tweaking is another person's dastardly reformulation?

  9. Very refreshing of him!

    I agree with Tara that his personality wouldn't allow falsehoods. And I'd venture that, as Nathan surmises/wonders, that indeed all his fragrances (the older ones) are indeed reformulated. The phrasing seems to imply that this is so, no intention of hiding it.
    But since l'authenticité here takes the meaning of "adhering to one's vision" and since this is Serge's vision to begin with, I think we're against on of the most attentive and yes, genuine, efforts in existence. Who better to re-arrange that vision than the original mastermind himself?
    (if only poor, poor E.Roudnitska's oeuvre had such luck!)

  10. ::sigh:: It all just seems so random, and arbitrary, and pointless...

  11. Hey, you can pick up some Sarrasins for me, while you're at it! I've been collecting decants stateside, but I'd have bottles of that AND A La Nuit if I had my druthers. And no, neither of them can possibly be jasmine compliant. (Though wouldn't it be fascinating if we were wrong? And--devastation and mourning aside, if that's possible--won't it be interesting to see what they come up with?)

    And yes, that is how I understood the use of "authentic," but it raises some very interesting questions for me about art, intention, and so on. It's a very "auteur" based vision.

  12. Zazie, I love the current version too, but it's been too long since I've smelled the original parfum, which I didn't wear back in the time... Maybe someone else will weigh in.

  13. Jarvis, you're right, tweaking the formula is as old as perfumery. I would say that when Lutens is at the helm, the reformulation may not be "dastardly", although some people might think so.
    I think the current regulatory massacre is what finally drove the point home for perfumers, who were, I guess, used to readjusting.

  14. Helg, yes, I'm sure this means most/all of the line has been modified to some extent.
    But even Edmond Roudnitska couldn't go from 40% hydroxycitronellal in Diorissimo from next to none. He would compose an entirely new fragrance.

  15. Amy, it *is* pointless... The anti-fragrance lobby won't rest until we're all spritzing with Perrier.

  16. Alyssa, it's totally auteur-based. Which is, you'll admit, exceedingly français.

  17. Meme si j'apprecie la soudaine honnetete de Serge Lutens, en meme temps je suis amere et decue. J'ai depense beaucoup d'argent dans la parfumerie Lutens en portant notamment Fleurs d'Oranger pendant plusieurs annees. Un beau jour en 2005, alors que je faisais confiance a l'authenticite du produit et de la marque, il a ete reformule, en tant que consommatrice je me suis sentie laisee. J'ai contacte a plusieurs reprises les Salons du Palais Royal a Paris ou on m'a jure a l'epoque que le parfum n'avait pas change de formule.
    J'ai reteste ce parfum le mois dernier a la boutique Aedes de New York, je n'aime toujours pas cette reformulation, en ce qui me concerne l'actuel FdO n'a rien de l'original.
    Si Serge Lutens estime que les reformulations bonifient certains parfums, je ne partage pas du tout son point de vue.

    I'm pleased but also disappointed by Serge Lutens. Obviously he must have read how upset I was about the reformulation of Fleurs d'Oranger (his export best seller according to Miguel from Aedes in New York), however not a word from Lutens on my FdO unfortunate experience.
    I started wearing this fragrance in the '90s, I spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars on this fragrance, one day out of nowhere they changed it, nobody informed me when I trusted the authenticity of a product and a brand name; I felt duped and disrespected.
    This was in 2005, it took Lutens four years to come clean with the truth on reformulations. Also his claiming most scents bonify with reformulations, to say that, is quite a stretch.

  18. Si j'avais, au moins, il l'a fait. Ce qui est plus qu'on peut en dire pour les autres. Cet homme qui a été tellement pionnier ne peut pourtant pas se soustraire aux contraintes de l'industrie, puisque ses parfums viennent d'un labo qui se plie aux réglementations.
    Je n'ai pas testé tous les parfums actuellement en vente au Palais Royal, donc je ne peux pas comparer aux originaux (j'ai plus de la moitié de la ligne), puisque ceux-ci ont forcément "bougé" depuis leur acquisition. Mais je comprends ta déception de ne pas avoir retrouvé ton parfum chéri -- malheureusement, c'est une déception que nous éprouverons de plus en plus dans les années qui viennent.

  19. Il me semble que déplorer sans cesse cette réalité ne mène pas à grand chose... à part alerter les marques et peut-être les rendre un peu plus transparentes, et encore...

    En revanche, si on pouvait connaître la liste des parfums les plus menacés et ceux qu'il faudrait sentir à nouveau avant d'en racheter, là cela constituerait une information utile à tous ceux qui fréquentent les blogs.
    Sarrazins semble dans le colimateur, A la nuit ?
    Et les autres ?

  20. Thierry, ce serait en effet une liste bien utile, mais ne rêvons pas: à moins d'avoir une formation en parfumerie il me semble difficile de connaître les parfums directement menacés. On peut juste y aller... au pif, et imaginer que les jasmins de Serge Lutens, par exemple, contiennent de l'essence de jasmin en proportion supérieure à celle qui est autorisée. Sans vraiment savoir.
    Et je serais plus qu'étonnée qu'une maison communique officiellement sur des reformulations prochaines.

  21. Thierry, deplorer sans cesse les reformulations ca sert au moins a ce que vous allez pouvoir faire des stocks de parfums avant qu'ils ne risquent de changer!
    Serge Lutens s'est exprime a propos de la reformulation de Feminite du Bois APRES avoir lu mes posts ou je ralais comme d'hab (l'article original ne comprennait pas cet ajout).

  22. Si j'avais, tu as sûrement raison: c'est parce que tu as insisté que Serge Lutens a accepté, à la demande d'Elisabeth, de s'exprimer enfin sur cette question.
    Je ne pense pas trahir Thierry en disant qu'en grand amoureux des classiques, il déplore aussi intensément que toi et moi les reformulations.

  23. Alors, pour Santal de Mysore, as-tu senti le testeur et determine s'il a deja ete reformule? Sinon c'est surement le moment d'acheter.

  24. Tara, on m'a dit à la boutique qu'ils avaient encore beaucoup de réserves de santal. J'ai senti le testeur mais j'ai eu du mal à me concentrer, je n'étais pas seule. Il faudra que je compare avec mon flacon!