An earth-mama chypre who’s not afraid to get dirt under her manicured nails and rip her 1930s maroon velvet dress as she wanders into the forest at dusk, mouldy autumn leaves speared by her heels, trailing uprooted clumps of violets in her hem…
Like Songes, Mon Parfum Chéri is Camille Goutal’s baby – Isabelle Doyen gave her input, but Camille wrote the formula. And though it is entirely different from Songes, both compositions have a fleshed-out, carnal heft to them that conjures classic perfumery in a way very few contemporary perfumes achieve.
Being a chypre, of course, it is darker and more mysterious than the solar Songes, and Camille did nothing to rein in this dark bent, one that is inscribed in the genre’s DNA: in fact, if anything, she’s surrendered to it heart and soul.
One could say Mon Parfum Chéri is a heels-over-head chypre, except it’s got no head, no classic citrus top notes (though the pink pepper does give off faint citrusy facets), starting dark and thick with a camphoraceous blast of un-sanitized patchouli before yielding violets, plums and the unmistakable fatty, rooty, faintly metallic notes of orris butter, softening into a predominantly plum-violet drydown rounded out by the milkiness of peach lactone.
The fragrance is also an essay on the various hues of purple. From the wine-dreg darkness of patchouli to violet, plum, dark rose, and the soft mauves of iris and heliotropin, Mon Parfum Chéri explores the nuances of the colour Baudelaire associated with “love restrained, mysterious and veiled”.
Purple and violet are mystical colours, the former an imperial and ecclesiastic attribute but also the colour of wine and of dark blood, while the latter was once worn for half-mourning. It is therefore a palette suited to a fragrance conceived by Camille as a tribute to her late mother Annick Goutal and to the perfumes she wore when Camille was a child – perfumes whose passing we might also mourn… It is, along with the moving memory of the beautiful Annick, the soul of Femme that possesses Mon Parfum Chéri: like Edmond Roudnitska's masterpiece, the fragrance is built around Prunol, the mythical De Laire base (composed of, among other things, beta ionone, methyl-ionone, “peach” lactone, “coconut” lactone, musk ketone, cardamom, cumin and patchouli).
But though it is dark, Mon Parfum Chéri is neither nostalgic nor retro: Camille has given her own, modern reading of the mythical fruity chypre. It is as though she’d ripped out the lining of a vintage gown, chopped off the frills and turned it inside out, with all the irreverence and rawness the gesture implies. Despite its sentimental-sounding name, and the emotional memories it springs from – or perhaps because of them – Mon Parfum Chéri is as tough as it is chic, with a loose, bold, broad-stroked construction that upends the classic chypre structure.
In fact, this tribute to Femme could also be read as a contemporary reading of what it’s like to be a woman – rather than a smoothed-out, photoshopped image of one. Its rose-violet accord conjures the sophisticated cosmetics of the boudoir; its curvy lactonic plushness, female flesh; its earthy, rooty, woody notes, the mystery that links that flesh to nature – isn’t the artifice of blending the smells of flowers, woods and spices with our skins our way of embracing the continuum between our bodies and the world?
Mon Parfum Chéri shies away neither from its overt artifice nor from its earthy roots. It is an intensely moving, gloriously dusky olfactory portrait of a woman ready to be kissed…
The fragrance is available in eau de toilette and eau de parfum: the formulas are identical though they may develop slightly differently. The edp packs quite a punch – one spritz will gobble up whatever else you may be wearing – so may be better indicated for evening wear, but both have appreciable sillage and good tenacity.
Illustration by Anne Mealhie (1982)