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Monday, February 26, 2007

Hopeful Rant: Reading Burr's Latest Column and Wishing for the Battle of Giants


In his latest column in New York Times, Chandler Burr tells the story of Guerlain in reverse, puzzling about the house's 2006 mass release, Insolence. I've been asking myself the same question- This is Guerlain?- for a while now. "Why did LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton buy this gem of a house if the gem is to be mounted in tin?", wonders Burr. I too would like to know the answer. "Equally baffling: Insolence was made by an extremely talented perfumer, Maurice Roucel". Indeed.

According to Burr, LVMH chairman, Bernard Arnault, "understands that of all the LVMH brands, only Guerlain can combat Chanel". It seems to me that the two go head to head in the area of "exclusives" (L'Art et la Matière vs Les Exclusifs de Chanel), and actually Chanel was lagging far behind till now, and, in fact, still can't quite compete with Guerlain where the sheer number of "exclusives" is concerned (only ten compared to Guerlain's aforementioned L'Art et la Matière, Les Parisiennes, and all the re-reissues and limited editions). In the area of mass releases, Chanel has been riding on the (to me, inexplicable) success of their Chance for quite a while, and is overdue to offer something new (completely new, sequels to Chance do not count). Guerlain should probably hurry too and release something fabulous or at least good to make up for Insolence. As far as I am concerned, Chanel and Guerlain are on the even ground and I am rooting for both.

While I am off on a rant, I'll say that I am rooting for Dior just as much, if not more. It is my hope that the impact of Chanel's Exclusifs will finally wake Dior from its long slumber (in the area of feminine scents, since Dior has been doing quite well in the masculine), put it into a competitive mode and make it a) to re-release the classics like Diorling, Diorama and Dior-Dior for perhaps an exclusive but wider distribution and b) to live up to its past glory and produce something new and fantastic, be it "a niche scent within a luxury brand" or a quality mass release...

To put the long story short, I hope that these three (former) Perfume Giants will be restored to their past glory and will start battling for our affection by trying to outshine each other by producing beautiful, original scents. Is this a completely utopian dream?...Please, don't answer that.

36 Comments:

Blogger chaya ruchama said...

Such a beautiful image [love those Classical motifs].

I'm with you, dearheart.
Nicely put.

6:44 AM EST  
Blogger elle said...

Yes, Chandler's excellent piece also had me wondering WTH LVMH is doing to Guerlain. And I'm definitely joining you in the hope that Dior will step into the ring. Frankly, I'd like to see them start w/ reissues of the classics (*minimal* tweaking please) just to get their juices going and remind them of what direction they ought to take.

7:34 AM EST  
Blogger colombina said...

Thank you, Chaya! You have no idea how hard it is to find a picture with a battle of giants :-)

8:23 AM EST  
Blogger colombina said...

L,
I'd love to take Dior people by their collective shoulders and shake them into action. *sigh*

8:23 AM EST  
Anonymous March said...

I read that article, and I totally agree, except in the other piece where he talks about how most florals are synthetic (an interesting piece) he says orris is from the root etc. because the flower *has no smell* which just makes me want to beat my head against the wall. Iris flowers (not the wee florist ones, but the big garden ones) frequently have an *amazing* smell, and enthusiasts grow them for smell the way other people grow roses. I am still fantasizing about the perfect iris-flower fragrance; AdParma Iris Nobile comes the closest, but March the Maleficent wants more, and Chandler's not advancing the cause ;-)

8:28 AM EST  
Blogger colombina said...

March The Malifecent,
Here is wishing something makes a perfect iris for you soon. There is that Guerlain's Iris Ganache coming soon...the ganache part worries me a little though...

8:34 AM EST  
Blogger lilyofbp said...

I will root for Dior's reissuing its classics with you--but frankly, I don't have much hope. Would be glad to be proven wrong, though. . .

8:55 AM EST  
Blogger colombina said...

J,
Yeah...but I just don't get what IS their problem. Everyone else is doing it, why not them? Don't they feel like they might be missing on something. Or perhaps they think that since Diorling and Diorama are sold at Dior Headquarters and Harrods, that's quite enough? Grr.

8:58 AM EST  
Anonymous March said...

ganache .... {shudder}

A dumbed-down Insolence? Insolence smells like ganache to me.

9:12 AM EST  
Blogger colombina said...

March,
What IS ganache? *ashamed and too lazy too google*

9:13 AM EST  
Blogger colombina said...

I mean, I have a vague idea of a dessert of some sort, but what is it exactly?

9:14 AM EST  
Blogger lilyofbp said...

PBI--it is chocolate and heavy cream. The word means "fool" and I think describes perfectly my idea of Guerlain for mixing this with iris (but I hate chocolate in scents, although I love to eat it!)

9:17 AM EST  
Blogger colombina said...

J,
Thank you! Chocolate, cream and iris...that sounds like a Parfumerie Generale kind of scent (and I mean it in the nicest way possible, their gourmand stuff works for me), not Guerlain. But then so few recent Guerlains sounded or smelled like such.

9:20 AM EST  
Blogger elle said...

OMG. Iris Ganache? Just the thought makes me feel ill.
I'm w/ March - iris flowers can have an absolutely divine scent. It's astounding to me how many people don't seem to realize that. I've got to try Iris Nobile edp (as opposed to edt) after reading March's comment and the Bois de Jasmin piece on it last week.

9:37 AM EST  
Blogger colombina said...

L,
Did you like the EDP? I've had samples of it for ages, but EDT leaves me so cold, I can't be bothered to seriously try it...now March's comment makes me want to.

9:43 AM EST  
Blogger Anya said...

March, as a child I discovered the fresh, lovely scent of the purple iris' in our front yard. I would sit on the step next to the stand of them and bend them over to my nose, inhaling deeply.

And as I wrote on another blog, I feel the need to send Burr a few dollars so he can buy a clue -- naming Mitsouko the greatest?! Well, yes, maybe years ago, before the reformulation turned it into pale, anemic juice, a ghost of its former self.

Now, the NYT lemmings who read his puff on Mitsouko will run out and buy the new, degraded, cheap Mitsouko (cheap as in ingredients, and cheapened by the IFRA regs.)

Pitiful.

10:21 AM EST  
Blogger colombina said...

Anya,
Good point! One has to specify what year and formulation one is talking about, these days.

10:24 AM EST  
Anonymous newproducts said...

Bravo! I am with you. I must say though that there seems to be some controversy over how "Guerlain" Insolence is, even among the bloggers, and I myself did not give it enough of a chance to say either way, definitively. I do hope the Chanel Exclusifs will spur the other houses on to create and re-release beautiful scents.

10:33 AM EST  
Blogger colombina said...

M,
To me, it's only Guerlain in a way that it sort of makes one think of Apres l'Ondee...but so do other violets...

I am hoping for the best...:-)

10:35 AM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

Yes, Mr. Burr makes a good point but I think he is a terrible critic. He compared M7 to a car wreck with gasoline fumes and burning tires. Then he said that M7 Fresh smelled like a waiter in a white shirt that you want to take home...huh? Yeah, that's crystal clear! Anya, brilliant comment about Mitsouko. I think Mr. Burr kisses up to the big guys so he can hang with them at parties. I know I would! I just wish Marina would have gotten the job at the NY Times and not Chandler Burr.

10:47 AM EST  
Blogger colombina said...

Kelley,
HA! You are way too kind. :-)
I enjoy reading Burr. I think a person in such a position will always be criticized, because he is in such a spotlight. He probably feels a lot of pressure to do right by everybody, and it is, of course, impossible.

10:53 AM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

I also enjoy reading Burr but only for entertainment purposes. I mean, where is the substance? His reviews are pure fluff, filled with adjectives of the most flowery nature! I used to love to quote his reviews because I couldn't really tell if he liked something or not! I think he has a promising future as a romance novelist!!! (I know, I am going to hell for sure)

10:59 AM EST  
Blogger colombina said...

Kelley,
I think that Burr said somewhere that his column is aimed at regular folk, not perfume nuts, like us :-) And I think, if I were a "normal person", I'd be fascinated and intrigued by his writing.

11:18 AM EST  
Blogger TMH256 said...

Good Morning Colombina!

Chanel has definitely given Guerlain and Dior a run for their money. Let's hope that good ole' healthy competition inspires creative juices. I'm with you C.

:-)

11:31 AM EST  
Blogger colombina said...

Tamara,
Fingers crossed! :-)

11:36 AM EST  
Blogger Patty said...

Yes, I'd like to see the Titans square off, it would be great for the consumer -- two old, storied perfume houses producing scent after scent, each better and more different than the other.

Oh, oops,I just woke up, but it was a nice dream! At least Chanel has made a great start with their six scent. I know there's some grousing about them, which they shouldn't appeal to everyone, but I think they did an awesome job in making something that will have broad appeal, but still keep us snobs semi-happy to happy.

12:37 PM EST  
Blogger colombina said...

Patty,
I want a three-way smackdown between Dior, Chanel and Guerlain!

As for grousing...there is always grousing. Tastes differ, and that's great. MORE FOR US! :-D

12:41 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

I can only hope that this is a glitch in Guerlains oevre.

I would love Dior to awaken and join the fray!

Blogger is bugging the living crap out of me today....

12:41 PM EST  
Blogger colombina said...

Tom,
Blogger sucketh, as usual.
I am waiting for Dior's awakening with baited breath.

12:45 PM EST  
Blogger Robin said...

This is only tangentially related, but have been sort of amazed by all the mainstream press Chanel has managed to muster. It is matched, I think, only by the number of articles about Terre d'Hermes last year. By contrast, when Guerlain releases something that we "perfumistas" think of as big news, nary a word in the newspapers -- just the usual palaver in the magazines. Wonder why? Is it on purpose, that is, Guerlain doesn't seek that kind of press? Or just not as good at getting it?

1:26 PM EST  
Blogger colombina said...

R,

Very, very intersting! I've never thought of that, but it is so true, and I wonder what the reason is.

1:35 PM EST  
Blogger Faizan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2:39 PM EST  
Blogger faizanjax said...

Dior, Chanel and Guerlain have been off their game for far too long.

Guerlain and Dior have been swamping the market with tired, uninspired, pedestrian juice for over two decades now, while "chic" Chanel hasn't done much better. Come on Chanel, Antaeus was over 25 years ago, and No.5 (or insert your favorite No.X here) was over half a century ago. The rise (and recognition) of niche perfumery has turned the heat on these once great houses, and that fear is illustrated in the three companies willingness to launch "exclusif" lines.

2:41 PM EST  
Blogger colombina said...

Faizanjax,
I absolutely agree!b I do hope things will change, but will they?

2:42 PM EST  
Anonymous carmencanada said...

Re: the buzz in the press about the Chanels... Hello, *huge* advertising budget here! Chanel is only just behing Dior in total of advertising pages in women's magazines. Guerlain, not having fashion/sunglasses/handbags to tout is way behind. What interests me in the Chanel articles is that the supermediatic Karl Lagerfeld -- the best coiner of aphorisms this side of Oscar Wilde -- has entirely sidestepped the issue, surrendering the spotlight to Jacques Polge. We could dub this the "Frédéric Malle" effect: let the noses be the stars. Though, if truth be said, Jacques Polge has always been quite well known, even in pre-perfumista days.

2:49 PM EST  
Blogger colombina said...

D,
Kudos to Karl for not thrusting himself into the spotlight for once and letting the perfumer shine.

Guerlain should do handbags...I can just see them in my imagination, and I like what I'm seeing. :-)

2:52 PM EST  

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