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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sheer Luxury: La Prairie Life Threads Gold, Silver and Platinum

By Donna

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

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Blogger tmp00 said...

Oh good lord: "cherished vetiver"? Frankly I'd rather have the vetiver that railed against it's stultifying upbringing, thanks ever so.

I don't even like pimento in my olive.. (and it better be surrounded by gin)

Thank you Donna for the review; I want now to get a bit of Jolie Madame.

1:21 AM EST  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

I love the thoughtfulness of your trials, here...

I think that each of these is well made, but the company's precosity of ingredient description is too much for me ;-)

I didn't feel compelling to spend !

Tomski, you read my lips :)

6:39 AM EST  
Blogger Mals86 said...

Oh, good. Donna's not compelled by these? Then I can scratch them off the to-test list. Thanks for the careful reviews.

(Tom, you need some Jolie Madame - I've always thought it would smell wonderful on a guy. It's always interesting to me how people perceive leather - to me, JM is a nice sturdy handbag on the arm of a woman carrying a large bouquet of flowers, while Chanel Cuir de Russie is Raw Cowhide + Dehydrated Iris, but I know there are people who perceive them oppositely.)

9:47 AM EST  
Blogger StyleSpy said...

I do love those descriptions cranked out by the marketing departments. They are, of course, utterly useless for figuring out what a perfume actually smells like (and so thank goodness for the blogs!), but they certainly are entertaining.

I have an unreasonable prejudice against fragrances that are released as a themed group. It makes me worry that the marketing "concept" may be more important than the juice.

10:01 AM EST  
Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

Awesome review Donna.....
When I tried these in New York, the one that I was really struck by was the gold! I loved it pretty instantly and for the very same reasons that you described. There was something sort of spicy/ sexy about it and sweet too! It made me feel very warm in between the silver and platinum!

2:25 PM EST  
Anonymous Flora said...

LOL Tom, I totally agree about that vetiver - it's just no good until it's been abused a little. ;-)

I ALWAYS want some Jolie Madame. I finally got to smell the real vintage deal a couple weeks ago - still recovering, and plotting my acquisition of the entire world supply of the stuff. Sigh!

3:36 PM EST  
Anonymous Flora said...

Chaya, that ad copy is just a scream! :-)

3:37 PM EST  
Anonymous Flora said...

Mals86, do try these if you see them, but I just can't see paying that much. I might want some Gold if it ever hits the discounters though...

3:38 PM EST  
Anonymous Flora said...

StyleSpy, good point about the themed group releases - there is usually one standout, a couple of "meh" and a dud or two in any of this type of group launch. This fits the profile!

I do find the note descriptions entertaining. My favorite so far has to be Michael Kors Island Hawaii, purported to contain "waterfall accord." Um, yeah, whatever!

3:42 PM EST  
Anonymous Flora said...

Thanks Beth! I agree, Gold is warm and inviting, while the other two are definitely cool. At least they did not do the dreaded "marine note" thing with either one.

3:45 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for your interesting review - lovely as always!
I can,t help but thinking of Gold as a different version of Coco? Well, not completely but some aspects of it? Or is my nose tricking me?
Yours, Andrea

5:31 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, those commercials. First, I have a huge urge to buy all those women some decent light bulbs--they all hang around in the dark.

Then there's the woman who is going to run off with a man, because nothing in her life of her own doing has ever really satisfied her, so, of course, running off with a man will be perfect. She seems to be the owner of some business in which, while working late, one wears cocktail outfits, which is fine, since her whole company has no computers. No wonder she would risk everything, she doesn't use the interwebs!

12:33 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great reviews, I agree with your assessments! Now I must go and cherish me some vetiver....

4:19 AM EST  
Anonymous Marian said...

Your writing is so amazingly descriptive, and the perfumes sounds so blech! What a contrast! Thanks for reminding me of Jolie Madame- this is the perfect weather in which to enjoy it!

3:31 PM EST  
Anonymous Flora said...

Quinn, the more I think about these videos, the more annoying they are!

6:34 PM EST  
Anonymous Flora said...

Thanks Marla, and I will see if I can scare up some of that "crystal jasmine." ;-)

6:36 PM EST  
Anonymous Flora said...

Thank you Marian!

There is no wrong time for JM, but she really shines when it's cold and dreary - just lifts everything up!

6:38 PM EST  

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