One Thousand Scents

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Imagery: Serge Lutens Gris Clair

The one thing you can be pretty sure about when you're about to smell a Serge Lutens fragrance is that it will not smell like anything else anyone else has launched. I think I know what's going on in his head, because it's the same thing that his makeup artistry for Shiseido demonstrated time and time again. "Anyone can make a woman pretty: I can make them riveting."

I think his perfumes say the same thing: any hack can make a fruity floral by chucking together a handful of commercial accords, but an artist makes art, and sometimes art is not especially beautiful.

"Gris clair" means "light grey" in French, and according to the packaging, the scent isn't actually called "Gris Clair": it's "Gris Clair...". I am not entirely sure what those ellipses are meant to signify: perhaps that the scent is "light grey plus something more". To say the least.

Gris Clair is lavender from outer space, and I mean that in two ways. It is strange, unearthly, entirely unlike any other lavender scent I've ever smelled. And it is frigid: lavender untouched by the sun. It has surely been tinkered with on a molecular level, as Jean-Claude Ellena's modern lavender was in his Brin de Reglisse for Hermes, because the real thing has a sunny glow, whereas Gris Clair is icy and remote. It is lavender dressed in the ashes of old wood, and warmed, eventually, barely, with a dab of amber and vanilla. It really is light grey.

What makes me think more than anything that Gris Clair is a work of art is that I can't tell if I like it or not. I loved Miel de Bois in a heartbeat, and I loathed Louve almost as quickly, but Gris Clair haunts me. For all its simplicity, it has facets that reveal themselves from time to time: a puff of smoke, a shard of ice, a flicker of palest green. The warmish ending is more to my taste than the cold beginning, and yet I can't get the whole thing out of my mind. I want to explore it, experience it, dive into it. If that's not a hallmark of art, then I don't know what is.

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3 Comments:

  • Reminds me of Oyedo by Diptyque. The Perfume Guide dubs that one Concorde Lime. Gris Claire... is another other-worldy fragrance which I can't decide I like or not.

    By Blogger Judith, at 7:22 PM  

  • Reminds me of Oyedo by Diptyque. The Perfume Guide dubs that one Concorde Lime. Gris Claire... is another other-worldy fragrance which I can't decide I like or not.

    By Blogger Judith, at 7:23 PM  

  • For another frigid, difficult-to-discern experience, try One Man Show by Jacques Fath . . .

    By Blogger Bryan Ross, at 8:53 PM  

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