Monday, March 18, 2013

Crave the Rose & Grasp the Thorn: Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin

 "But he who dares not grasp the thorn
Should never crave the rose.
Anne Brontë

My love affair with roses is long, complex and wrought with misunderstanding. As a child and teenager I was certain I disliked roses and their scent. It's silly to reflect on that period of my life, as I can confidently say I did not like rose because I hadn't seen enough of life to understand the sweet perfume of the flower. As far as I'm concerned, a rose's perfume is as redolent of love as it is of melancholy. Only time and life experiences could teach me to love the rose simply because there wasn't enough to truly feel passionate about (neither love, sadness nor anger) when I was younger.

Roses are synonymous with love and beauty, yes, but as far as I'm concerned there is a hint of melancholy and the suggestion of power in the scent. This is why much of the hubbub surrounding the newest perfume from Serge Lutens, La Fille de Berlin, hasn't bothered me much. Some feel that the brain child of Christopher Sheldrake and Serge Lutens pays homage to the infamous Marlene Dietrich (seen here on Bois de Jasmin), while others—most notably Lutens himself—feel that the fragrance is about beauty through adversity, and the women of postwar Soviet occupied Berlin. 

To me this is neither here nor there. Fragrance is something different to everyone, even the perfumer. Just as I associate sadness, maturity and bittersweet beauty with the fragrance of roses so too might someone else associate it with only uplifting feelings and memories. A favorite literature professor of mine reminded his students that while what the author is trying to say is important, and truly at the crux of the work, a student of literature should never feel trapped under the burden of the author's intent. The beauty of perfume, just like literature is that we have the perfumers interpretation that creates a lovely story, and then our own analysis of that fragrance.

In regard to the scent of the perfume itself, I am absolutely in love. The first whiff of rose is almost intoxicatingly strong. Immediately following application the pungent, spicy smell of rose is all I can detect, a dizzying sensation not unlike falling in love and not for the faint of heart. After the initial shock of roses fades, notes of violet and pepper begin to emerge from the shadows cast by the dominating rose notes. After hours the perfume wears far closer to my skin than the initial sillage, and sweet muskiness and woody notes mingle with a now tame rose.

Against my skin the fragrance lasts for roughly six hours, though it evolves so much in that time period that it can be easy to forget that I am wearing the same perfume I applied earlier in the day. This rose fragrance is everything I look for in a rose perfume and more: complex, both powerful and gentle, sexual (dare I say animalistic? the rose is so savage when the perfume is first applied) and ever changing. Just as Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin is a deep crimson shade in the bottle, but raspberry pink in smaller quantities so too does the fragrance dry down from an intoxicating deluge of roses to a soft, sweet bloom close to warm skin.  

Though I am new to the perfume world, and feel somewhat uncomfortable making such a bold decree, I would advise those uncomfortable with the postwar Berlin allusions made by Serge Lutens to focus on what the perfume makes you think and feel. In her novel Jamaica Inn Daphne DuMaurier states that "aversion and attraction [run] side by side," and this is indeed how I interpret the rose and the inspiration behind the Serge Lutens fragrance. La Fille de Berlin is beautiful and sad, the good rises from the bad. As Anne Brontë so astutely put to paper, "he who dares not grasp the thorn should never crave the rose," this should be kept in mind where La Fille de Berlin is concerned.

Lutens and Sheldrake certainly didn't play by the rules when they created La Fille de Berlin, and I love it. This fragrance is my go to rose and whatever the creators might say, to me this fragrance is about the incredible power of women. I'm in love, and will certainly be further exploring the world of Serge Lutens.

Have you tried Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin? What are your thoughts on the perfume both in terms of its inspiration and fragrance?