Sheer Luxury: La Prairie Life Threads Gold, Silver and Platinum
I was looking forward to trying the new La Prairie fragrance trio; advance press seemed to indicate that they were better than Silver Rain, which is not much of a feat, but still, La Prairie is a prestige cosmetic line, and it sounded as though they had decided to put some thought and money into the new scents. I was particularly interested in trying Silver, since it is a white floral, and that's one of my major perfume weaknesses. Luckily for me, a generous perfumista friend sent me samples of all three of them in a recent swap. Cosmo International perfumer Constance Georges-Picot composed all the scents. A rather elaborate Web site complete with a video for each one tells the “story” behind the fragrances. (Does anyone but me find them a little strange?) The bottles are unusual and quite stunning.
Silver is indeed a white floral, a tender and almost wistful tuberose supported by greens, jasmine and ylang ylang. What struck me about it right away is how much it reminded me at first of the old Redken fragrance Piqué, which I always liked. It was one of those fresh and perky white florals that are innocent and easy to wear and I was sorry that it got discontinued. There is pimento plopped down in the middle of this, which I found rather odd, and it resulted in a rather thin, green character once the top notes subsided, but fortunately that phase did not last very long and it went back to being mostly sweet, with just a ghost of the green pimento in the background. However, the drydown had an oddly flat and starchy quality, possibly due to poor quality sandalwood or the “solar musk”, a term for which I have never received a satisfactory explanation. At the very end, when everything else was gone, what remained was a faint green wash of pimento. (Two of the other ingredients in the base are said to be “Cherished Vetiver” and “Peppery Moss.” I am sure we all cherish our vetiver, but really?) Anyway, this attempt at a new twist on a romantic white floral was admirable, but I would prefer a bottle of Piqué or another favorite soft white floral, L'Artisan's La Haie Fleurie. At $125 for 50 ml, this could and should have been better.
I liked Gold better, which surprised me a little, since it's billed as a spicy Oriental scent, though it's not overwhelming by any means. It has a very Eighties feel to it, and I can't figure out exactly why; it's like a composite of perfumes in a particular style of the time, a little touch of Paloma Picasso Mon Parfum, a little of something like Adolfo, a smidgen of the original Bob Mackie perfume, with something by Marilyn Miglin thrown in. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but I just feel as though I have smelled it before somewhere. It's a very bright fragrance in a way you just don't see anymore, and I always liked that style. It seems to hold together quite well too; the fruit notes (tangerine and plum) don't morph into sugary slush, the heart notes of rose and spices are very pleasing and well balanced, and the woody base with a hint of incense stands firm and lasts well. This perfume would perfect for someone who needed to pretend that they had lots of money, perhaps a surprise invitation to the country club or a charity fund-raiser, which resulted in the need to purchase a cashmere twin set in some pastel tint. It is more sheer and subdued than those powerhouse scents from the days of excess in everything, so it's actually wearable; you won't have to worry about clearing out the elevator.
Which brings me to Platinum, the most unusual of the group and certainly unexpected. It is said to be in the Chypre floral style, which is all well and good, but I think I judge Chypres more severely than I do some other styles of perfume, since I love the classic ones so much; it is difficult for a so-called “modern Chypre” to satisfy my craving for heavy doses of oakmoss and labdanum. This stuff supposedly has both in it plus patchouli, and it definitely has galbanum, leather and jasmine, but it does not really work for me somehow. There is an odd anise-like note in the opening, which gradually becomes a somewhat minty quality, which is probably the galbanum duking it out with the plum, a strange pairing anyway, and the result rather drowns out any oakmoss that might be lurking. No bergamot here, just violet leaf, which may also contribute to the weak opening. The leather note is also quite weak; if you are going to make a leather Chypre, I say just go for it, and this one is too polite. I want the filthy, sexy leather of Jolie Madame, or even the soft chamois suede of Daim Blond; this is a parched, neglected leather that is cracked and dry and in need a of a good oil treatment. Too bad, it could have been really interesting, but it faded away on my skin after a short time, got a burnt ashtray-like smell for a while in the middle and never developed a true Chypre character. The “crystal jasmine petals” (whatever!) in it are most likely from a laboratory, as there is very little in the way of truly indolic character or even normal “jammy” jasmine. I retested it just to be sure, but it was still thin and did not last very long. Perhaps I can't be fair to a perfume like this, having recently smelled some great vintage Chypre perfumes I had never tried before and also having some already in my collection, but it just does not measure up to my idea of what a real Chypre can be.
The Life Threads series perfumes are available at La Prairie counters at Neiman-Marcus and other high end retailers, $12 5 for 50 ml. You can also buy them directly from the La Prairie Web site.
Image credit: the gorgeous La Prairie bottles wrapped in metallic threads, from shoplaprairie.com