Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Certain Slant of Light

For Mark

This past summer I had occasion to write a short description of Dominique Ropion’s Une Fleur de Cassie. It’s short enough to reproduce here:

“Une Fleur de Cassie is as beautiful a perfume as they come. It’s like the feeling that comes when you’ve finished a chapter of Colette; a feeling, that is, wagered on the piling up of pastel adjectives – the prose equivalent of a Renoir oil sketch. Mimosas and almond milk and pearls held up in the light. It’s a floral that doesn’t project the aura of flowers. It’s a meal and a kiss and a brush stroke all in one.”

With the exception of his Amarige, I am an unabashed fan of Ropion. I adore Aimez-Moi on others; I love Vetiver Extraordinaire on myself and pretty much anyone in my immediate vicinity; and Carnal Flower, while not my cuppa tea, is very Something. Ropion is one of a dying - or rather, dead - breed of perfumers: a Classicist who’s initial capital is hard-won. He is one of those perfumers, not unlike Roudnitska père, who build a perfume from the bottom up; who see the idea of a perfume as less its gimmick than its inchoate form.

Une Fleur de Cassie is a trophy fragrance, a perfume that stands out from the rest of the pack like a Vionnet gown stands out in a starlet-of-yore’s closet. It isn’t about glitz or post-Eighties’ sex-appeal. It’s about Eleganz. It’s about a Bugatti Type 41 “Royale” crunching the gravel on its 5mph procession up a long driveway somewhere in Cove Neck. It’s about a cool April night when you’ve left all the windows open in hopes that spring (and love) have come to stay. Your nose is greeted with the most marvelous scents wafting in from the garden, but you must admit, as you reach for the box of tissues, that you’re a tad cold.

Sure, he used some very pricey ingredients - mimosa absolute, jasmine absolute, cassie absolute, rose absolute - but the parts do not justify the whole, which is much more complex than any ingredient list. It’s as if Ropion let a certain slant of light enter in between each layer of the finished product, and what’s more, he used sandalwood and vanillin in his base with such mastery as to create something on par with vintage Guerlain but worlds - galaxies - apart in style.

Just thinking about Une Fleur de Cassie makes me happy, and there are few perfumes that do that these days.

Image credit: Dale Chihuly, “Macchia” blown-glass bowl (1982), courtesy of ArtNet.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

J'apprécie moi aussi beaucoup ce parfum. Votre référence à Madeleine Vionnet me semble extrêmement pertinente. Ce parfum évoque parfaitement les robes de cette créatrice : une élégance maîtrisée ainsi que l'utilisation des plus beaux matériaux tout en échappant par son côté sauvage au style dame embourgeoisée qu'on retrouve dans beaucoup de parfums floraux.
Les 3 créations de Dominique Ropion pour F. Malle me semblent très supérieures à tout ce qu'il a pu produire par ailleurs ce qui démontre tout l'intérêt de cette maison qui ne contraint pas les nez à travailler dans 2 cm3.

January 7, 2009 at 10:00 AM  
Blogger carmencanada /Grain de Musc said...

C., I'm sure you know how much I love Un Fleur de Cassie: that "slant of light" image is spot on. The sheer complexity and sensuous stateliness of it -- with its hint of leathery stink (from the cassie) and puddles -- is astounding. I agree with Thierry above that the Malles are the best Ropions. I own them all.

January 7, 2009 at 3:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Vetivresse, happy to know that you are a Dale Chihuly fan too!
I have him linked in my friends & passions liks!!!

nice posting.love the perfume, loved the relation parfume-photo.

January 7, 2009 at 5:05 PM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

T., Merci pour vôtre commentaire et pour l'appreciation de M. Vionnet, une déesse de haute-couture. Dominique Ropion est très haut sur mon échelle de grands parfumeurs contemporains.

January 7, 2009 at 7:49 PM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

D., Thanks. I own Vétiver Extraordinaire and Une Fleur de Cassie is on my please-gift-me-with-this list. I would love to meet and talk to le Ropion.

January 7, 2009 at 7:51 PM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

+Q perfume- I am not a big Chihuly fan. I don't like the chandeliers and blobs (what else does one call them?), but I do like the bowls and vases. St Peter's Church - in the shadow of the Citicorp tower on Lexington Ave - has two pieces in the vestibule, which I admire each morning on my walk to the office.

January 7, 2009 at 7:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

C, When I first tried Un Fleur de Cassie it scared me half to death - I was convinced that nothing short of a Balenciaga ballgown was suitable for this incandescent scent. I got past that, to love it for its beauty alone and it has blown past all other Malles to become my only must-have FB!


January 7, 2009 at 8:22 PM  
Blogger Octavian Coifan said...

Tu m'as touché au coeur avec ce review du parfum et créateur que j'adore! à part la note cassie qui est tellement particulière est incomprise par la modernité, ce parfum est pour moi la parfaite illustration du cuir blanc velouté.

January 8, 2009 at 11:33 AM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

Musette- To love something for its beauty alone is a virtue in this increasingly savage (and equally sanctimonious) culture of ours.

January 8, 2009 at 1:13 PM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

O., Merci beaucoup pour ta commentaire. Je suis heureux à trouver un autre objet commun dans la poésie-dûre de grande parfumerie. Connais-tu personellement M. Ropion?

January 8, 2009 at 1:30 PM  
Blogger Flora said...

What a lovely review, such a perfect description of Une Fleur de Cassie, which I adore. I am also a great admirer of Ropion. Had he done nothing but this one and Carnal Flower he would be immortal to me.

February 20, 2009 at 11:03 PM  

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