Monday, September 17, 2007

Forget me Not : Ivoire by Balmain

It’s the third Monday of the month and it is time for the first installment of Forget me Not, a monthly feature brought to you by Fragrance Bouquet and For the Love of Perfume. I wish I could offer some deep, meaningful justification on why I chose Ivoire by Balmain to be the first fragrance featured in this joint project, but I have to admit I cannot. It is not a choice that emerged after thoughtful contemplation, juxtaposing of reasons and ideals. It was instead what seemed like the only choice, for once I thought about this feature it was the first fragrance that came to mind and there it remained, with willful persistence. Despite my best efforts to veer into a different direction, it kept popping up in my thoughts in the same manner a pink elephant would, were I to try to banish all thoughts of pink elephants for the next five minutes. I have to add though, that I am deeply pleased with the fact that Ivoire enthroned itself in my thoughts and refused to leave, lest I sound like an unwilling participant. Ivoire does not deserve to sit on the bottom shelf – it deserves eye-level status in the shops that still carry it.

Its opening is soapy, effortlessly evocative of large soft hands washed with the most luxurious, ivory bar of soap. Cool, soothing and silky, these are the hands I wish to have holding my face when I need comfort. Even though the scent is clean and asexual at this stage, my mind’s eye interprets this as a paternal, caring touch. And even though the soft, clean smell of soap is so emphatic that I have trouble seeing it change to anything else, it is surprisingly ephemeral. Suddenly, not progressively, Ivoire intensifies, shedding its innocent purity. Like a chrysalis, it goes about its metamorphosis - from quiet simplicity to the complex beauty of an adult butterfly. It becomes free-spirited, fleeting and romantic at the same time: A young adult venturing into her first real love affair, still finding true commitment unthinkable. The purity and chastity of the soap now serves as a backdrop to the spicy green, intense interest of the labdanum. And as time passes by, we enter a world of florals, almost all soapiness passed by. A coming of age. Seduction is no longer clumsy, but deliberate, using all nature has to offer. Carnation holds court on a bed of assorted blooms, a scepter of black peppercorns in hand. The naturally redolent ylang-ylang plays a quieter, supporting role to its queen of choice, lovingly caressing the carnation’s dainty toes with its aromatic, golden tendrils. Muguet enhances the beauty of both with its truthful elegance. This time the change is more gradual. The florals are muted slowly, one by one, until only the memory of the carnation survives. It is strange that this, the last stage Ivoire enters is also its most intense. Unlike its inflorescence, it has refused to become muted. Instead, it grows in spirit, becoming the most beautiful mixture of earthiness, resin and moss. The moss is magnified, announcing like a Diva that this whole production was there for her to play the starring role. And this outrageous claim is actually not that hard to believe, gorgeous and glorious as she is. This drydown stage is very reminiscent of Ava Serena Franco’s own Moss fragrance, which I also love, by the way. And what has become of the emergent chrysalis, entering adulthood? She has learned how to seduce, but has she learned how to love with fervor? Perhaps she has indeed, but we will never know. Ivoire is not giving away the ending to that story, just a glimpse of a stage in her life. It is tantalizing, yet still aloof. It lacks the musk or leather that would make it a sexually active beast. But that’s alright by me: Ivoire remains a promise, a possibility. In my mind, there is no doubt that this is a fragrance that tells the story of resplendent youth – so eloquently it describes innocence and the tune a heart sings when it really falls in love for the first time. It is so optimistic, as though maturity and the responsibilities and consequences it brings with it are light years away. As far away in fact, as they indeed seem to youthful arrogance. For the cynics amongst us, this can be heartbreaking.

To see which perfume TMH has chosen for our Forget me Not Feature, please visit For the Love of Perfume.

Images Courtesy of:, butterfly image from StarJem’s webshop on Etsy


Linda said...

Dear Divina,
What a beautiful review: I immediately wanted to have this fragrance to try it out. Multi-layered but subtle and delicate, elegant like the gorgeous advert you included. Your images are so vivid - a lovely start to the week!
Best wishes,

Anita said...

Nice review, Divina, I'm enjoying this feature on both blogs very much. Ivoire on me is all moss, all the time, from beginning to end. Jolie Madame is a much better choice for me from the house of Balmain. A disappointment, too, as my local TJMaxx store had Ivoire for $15 over the summer. I love reading your descriptions, though :)

Flora said...

Divina, that is just gorgeously evocative writing! I have always admired this one but I do not wear it - perhaps because when it first came out, the perfumer said that it was formulated to smell best on blondes, which I am decidedly not. I too wear Jolie Madame instead - today in fact! I may have to revisit Ivoire after reading this -I love a civilized, mossy floral as much as the next girl!

Divina said...

Hi Linda dearest :) I really think Ivoire will suit you. Even though it is indeed subtle and delicate, its drydown is also very persistant. I appreciate that - I love longlasting perfumes.

Divina said...

Anita - really? On one hand I do get what you are saying, after some point the drydown is just moss moss moss for me too, but ...nothing else? Really? Not that I'd consider this is a bad thing mind - I am someone who loves moss - but I gather this was not what you were looking for :P I am really surprised though. Not even the soap in the opening? Did you notice any other discrepancies, like darkened color etc?

Divina said...

Flora - I had no idea this was said about Ivoire. There are a host of beautiful quotes by Pierre Balmain himself on how he was inspired by a vision in Ivory on the stairway of the Opera and how Ivoire is a gift to women...But I don't even know who the nose that created Ivoire is. Do you? Let me know if you do, please :) I wouldn't dwell too much on the quote itself though, wasn't the same said about L'Heure Bleue? I remember a nice article about that on Ina's Aromascope.

Anita said...

Hi, D, if it's not too late for me to respond (I tend to comment and go). I get galbanum at the opening of Ivoire, a fleeting poof of florals, then we're onto the oakmoss. Now, mind you, I am ever so fond of oakmoss, but not so much as a one note player. This is from sampling Ivoire from a store tester, and also from more sample testing at home. It smells great at first blast. I have the same rather frustrating experience w/Bandit, which I bought unsniffed - wonderful green, dark floral leather opener, and within a minute it's nothing but burnt rubber and car exhaust. Such is chemistry, and why all things perfume related are fascinating!

Patri said...

I love Ivoire since my twenties, and still love it in my forties. Unfortunately it´s difficult to get in my country (venezuela), but I shopp it on line.
Ivoire brings me the sensation of luxury, although is not expensive.
When I use it i feel surrounded by the luxury that is around the priceless things, like listening to good music, or a beautiful art work visiting an exhibition.
Ivoire calls atention wherever it is, so be prepared to be visible, and admired.
It´s my opinion.
Congratulations for your beautiful reviews.