Sunday, August 12, 2007

Fleurs d'Oranger by Serge Lutens

Serge Lutens is an icon.

For a long time, I had no idea who Serge Lutens was -- if he was alive or dead, or even a fictional character. Turns out he is alive and real and living in Marrakesh, at last report.

Serge Lutens is a French fashionista. A photog by profession, he worked for Vogue and other high profile fashion mags in the early 1960's, and collaborated with Avedon and other notable photographers. By the end of the 60's, Dior commissioned him to create a "revolutionary" line of cosmetics.

Lutens' star as a photographer rose, and by the mid-1970's he was directing "art films", good enough to be judged at Cannes. By the 1980's, Lutens was working for Shiseido, a Japanese cosmetics firm that wanted to improve their international image. And improve they did, under Lutens careful guidance. He created several winning marketing campaigns for them, and began to create make-up and perfume for them, as well.

Since the 1990's, Lutens' train has been gathering steam. He has received numerous awards and citations for his work in perfume, film and cosmetics, including, in 2006, the prestigious title of “Commandeur" in the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government. Though he conceives perfumes on his own, he collaborates closely with Christopher Sheldrake, the R&D man at Chanel. It's good to have friends in high places, don't you think? You can find all of Serge Lutens wonderful perfumes at Salons-Shiseido.

But, like I said, I had no idea who Serge Lutens was until I visited Aedes de Venustras in the West Village during a summer shopping trip several years back. It was just supposed to be a sniffing expedition. Walking around Greenwich Village, you can inhale a huge assortment of odors. Mostly good, some bad. In any case, my niece Robyn and I had just finished a delicious meal at Ray's Famously Original Pizza (yes, I know....), and we decided to walk it off. We noodled around the Village, and by the time we got to Christopher Street, I was ready for some refreshment.

Just entering Aedes is a treat unto itself. The life size peacock (taxodermied, of course) in the display window in front gives you an idea of the splendor of things to come, but I was taken aback by the ancient grandeur of the place. Lots of velvet and leather. Mahogony display cases filled to the brim with the most unique, rare and inspired perfumes from all over the world. And an ever so attentive staff. We had entered Heaven on Christopher Street.

So much to smell, so little time. My niece and I split up. She took one half of the room, and I took the other. We met somewhere in between and after about two hours of non-stop sniffing and sampling, left with three bottles of perfume: Tann Rokka, Ofresia by Diptyque and Fleurs d'Oranger by Serge Lutens. Oh, what a wonderful day!

Now, I am a floriental gal all the way. It literally takes an Act of Congress to convince me to wear anything other than a variant on Valentino or Pink by Nanadebary. Leaving Aedes, though, I knew I had been enchanted by a buttery-citrusy-floral with a wildly ethereal sillage that lasts for hours. I like the Ofresia, but I love the Fleurs d'Oranger. It is still my most favorite perfume. My niece took the Tann Rokka home with her. I have never worn it.

So, what makes Fleurs d'Oranger so different and attractive to me? The scent, the color, the way it smells as soon as it leaves the bottle and how it smells as soon as it touches your skin. It is sexy and clean, buttery and bright, all at once. Such a bundle of contradiction. The heady rush of sweet oranges is masterfully tempered by the most incredible scent of buttery tuberose ever created. I thought it might be massoia bark, so buttery it smells.

Fleurs is addictive. You just have to keep smelling it. You just want to keep smelling it. The drydown is incredible -- lusciously buttery and sweet. It goes on and on. One caution: though tempting, do NOT overuse this fragrance. It can overcome a room.

I love this scent so much, I had to make soap with it. I recently commissioned a fragrance house to dup the scent and we now have a very close version of Fleurs d'Oranger at Snowdrift Farm. I made a large batch of soap for sale to the public, as well. If you're lucky, you can catch the tail end of that batch right here. Or, try the recipe for yourself: Savon de Fleurs d'Oranger.

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