Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Forget me Not: Balenciaga’s Treasures – Le Dix, Quadrille et La Fuite des Heures

For Basque-Spanish designer Cristóbal Balenciaga success came easily, if not effortlessly. Having spent countless hours of his early childhood by his mother’s side while she was working as a seamstress, Balenciaga went on to study tailoring formally in his teenage years. His designs instantly became highly sought after and he managed to open his first couture workshop, named Eisa after his mother, in San Sebastián at the young age of 16. When he was just 20 years old, he branched out, opening his first boutiques in Madrid and Barcelona, naming them simply “Balenciaga”. Highly successful, his designs became popular not only with the crème de la crème of Spanish aristocracy, but even with the members of the Spanish royal family itself. The civil war forced the Spanish master to close his boutiques and move to Paris, but nothing could quite stop the trajectory of this rising star. In 1937 Balenciaga opened his Parisian showroom at number 10 of Avenue George V. He quickly became a household name, but his fame truly rose to a resounding crescendo in the ‘50s and ‘60s. He is remembered for his work with sleeves, necklines, hems and rising or dropping waistlines, which all conspired to showcase different parts of a woman’s body to their best advantage. Most importantly though, he is remembered for his fascinating innovations: Balenciaga revolutionized the shape of women’s apparel like no other. Cocoon coats, boxy jackets, wide collars, sack dresses, balloon skirts and jackets, tunics, and baby-doll dresses all owe their place in fashion history due to this great man. Balenciaga retired in 1968, closing down his salon. Today the house has seen a revival in the hands of PPR, with head designer Nicolas Ghesquière at the helm. While Ghesquière’s designs have often seemed slightly too ‘out there’ for me when it comes to accessories like shoes, I simply cannot imagine a better choice for the house which carries this esteemed name into the future: Ghesquière admirably continues Balenciaga’s tradition in highly sculptural and architectural designs, picking up exactly where the great master himself left off. Under his creative influence, the house of Balenciaga keeps producing revolutionary designs that shape not only the face of fashion today, but also the shape of a woman’s body, once again. Like a phoenix, the house has been reincarnated, its wings gleaming with the same fire, showing us new colors, new shapes, new shades through the burning flames of success.

Today on Forget me Not we take a look at three forgotten vintage extraits by this house:




· Le Dix: Named after the address of Balenciaga’s Parisian showroom, Le Dix (No. 10) is a magnificent ambery floral. The top notes are unfortunately destroyed as often happens with vintage fragrances that feature citrus fruits, but the unpleasantness lasts no more than a few minutes. Soon Le Dix starts flying off the skin in song, glowing and beautiful. Musky lilac and caramelized violets are caressed by iris. The scent is gently sweet, with hints of restrained bitterness. The drydown is a glowing ember in the fluid darkness of balsamic resins and amber, hugged by beautiful sandalwood and sweet animalic musk. I wouldn’t hesitate to call the modern edt utterly destroyed, if the vintage extrait is anything to go by. It is light and ethereal, yes, but it lacks body and substance. Powdery and soft, it does not do much to move the heart and intrigue the senses. If I am being honest, I will say that yes, there are days that I feel like reaching for its light caress, but it simply cannot compare to the richness and darkness of the original. Surprisingly perhaps, the currently available edt smells old, dated and dusty while the vintage still shines and captivates with a beauty that is simply timeless.

· La Fuite des Heures: Another round of painfully destroyed top notes. Five minutes later and I simply cannot believe that the beauty presented to my nose has emerged through the nauseating devastation that was there moments ago. The experience starts with the sweet, milky greenness of freshly cut grass and continues to warmly bloom into a dizzyingly heady jasmine with sour, herbal notes of thyme. I find myself swoon as the heavy sweetness of jasmine overtakes me, making my head spin: I go from fantasizing over a 50’s cocktail party in the heart of summer to looking for a fainting couch that will cushion my fall. And then, suddenly, beauty again. The refuge of oakmoss covered bark amidst the thinning shower of flower petals. Deep green moss, creamy soap and the golden aura of sun-dried hay, making me dream once again of dresses that leave the shoulders bare. A gorgeous chypre.

· Quadrille: Quadrille is the only one of the three that appears to not have its top notes degraded over time; It is beautiful from start to finish. It is also the one that seems to veer off into more traditionally masculine territories. An incredibly warming fragrance, it reminds me of viscous red mulled wine. Intensely spicy, herbal and deep, Quadrille successfully combines elements that seem at once modern and vintage. In fact, I could very well see Quadrille being a successful masculine fragrance in the niche market today. It is a perfume deeply attractive to me, due to its generous use of clove, which I adore. Drenched in thick plummy juices, the spiciness becomes mellow and dark, awakening a persistent urge to press my nose against my skin so that I can explore its rich, violet-colored nuances further and further. Comforting and sensual at once, the astoundingly beautiful Quadrille makes me think of calmness and maturity of spirit. It would be very hard for me to decide on a favorite between the three Balenciaga perfumes presented here today as I find them all wonderful: Le Dix seduces me with its true animalic, ambery drydown, La Fuite des Heures intrigues me with its demanding old-chypre character, but in the end, if I am honest, it is Quadrille which truly wins my heart with its darkness, so abundantly decorated with incandescent rubies and amethyst.

Leaving a comment on this post means you will be automatically placed in a random draw for a sample of vintage Le Dix extrait and a sample of modern Le Dix edt. The winner will be announced on Monday afternoon and all entries until Monday morning will be valid.

Images: www.wikipedia.org & Author's Own


19 comments:

Claudia said...

I would love to have a chance at the samples. Please include me! :-)

Anita said...

I'm awaiting a MUA swap package that includes a bottle of vintage Balenciaga Michelle, which I don't know at all, nor do I know the ones you've reviewed, although I've read of them. The only Balenciaga scents I'm familiar with are Cristobal, which is lovely but just not me, and Rumba, which I confess I kind of love. It doesn't seem like the kind of thing I'd wear very often, though. Great pic of CB, he was kind of a hottie!

SLFerguson said...

This is becoming the summer of my vintage perfume education. Thank you for an informative post, and thanks also for the chance to actually experience Le Dix.

Nice post.

Divina said...

Sure thing, Claudia :)

Divina said...

Hi Anita! Very cool - I hadn't heard about Michelle yet. Time to do some research! And Christobal doesn't work for me either, it is just too much!

Divina said...

Hello Slferguson and thank you for the kind words :) Vintage education can be a dangerous thing for the wallet! ;) But so rewarding in the end!

maitreyi1978 said...

I love his beautiful clothes, and treasure a coffee table book of them. Please enter me in the drawing.

edwardian said...

A Balenciaga boutique opened in Milano last year and, curious as I am, last January I paid a visit. The clothes didn't really impress me, but I must say the bags look beautiful; no perfume in sight though. Put me in the draw, dear Divina.

greeneyes said...

Dear Divina, I have a sample of the "modern" Le Dix, and it's quite pretty I would love the chance to try the vintage. Please add me to the draw!

Hugs to you!

Flora said...

I have worn Le Dix in the distant past - not sure if it was the old or the new, but it is very distinctive. I also like Quadrille, and I agree that it could easily be a masculine fragrance. La Fuite des Heures is one I have never even heard of! Thank you for the lovely descriptons of these vintage treasures. :-)

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Divina, the shoes look kind of robotic ;o)
Please enter me in the drawing too.

Love,

Christine

Divina said...

Hi Maitreyi :) I agree, his designs were beutiful and it is a pity that not many people are aware that so many of the things they have been buying in the last three-four years or so lets say in the high-street are directly inspired by his innovations, whereas other designers of the past do get this recognition. He truly left a wonderful legacy.

Divina said...

Hi Edwardian dear! I loved the autumn/winter collection from 2 years ago in its entirety and I loved this year's accessories. (Apart from the shoes!) Wish I'd gotten one of the ethnic scarves. Wonder if I still can... hrrm...

Divina said...

Hi sweetie! Of course you're in the draw :) Actually the two are quite lovely worn together, I've found.

Divina said...

Dear Flora, La Fuite des Heures is definitely beautiful, but the heart notes do get troublingly heady at some point! The drydown is simply lovely though.

Divina said...

Hiya Christine :) I know! The shoes are bad, but... unbelievably, they sort of work on Rihanna?? She's probably the only person that makes them work though!
Hugs!

Anonymous said...

Have used Quadrille since 1966, and can no longer find any to buy. No one seems to have it even on the extensive sites on the web. Can anyone Help.....

First time I have been on one of these so you can see how desperate I am!!!!

It really is the most perfect fragrance.

Divina said...

Anon, yes, I found 2 bottles for you!!! One is an eau de cologne and one is the actual extrait (pure perfume) for an amazing price. The seal is original, but it seems to have been cut, even though I can't tell for certain. So there is the possibility that the bottle has been opened. I cannot say if the contents of either bottle are original (as you might be aware, there are some scandals, with some sellers refilling old bottles with other perfume or colored water). HOWEVER... The color of the pure perfume looks right. (it is about the same as mine)

Here are the links for you:
http://cgi.ebay.fr/Ancien-flacon-de-parfum-Quadrille-de-Balenciaga-15ml_W0QQitemZ320343832581QQcmdZViewItemQQptZFR_JG_Collections_Parfums?hash=item320343832581&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14&_trkparms=72%3A1526%7C66%3A2%7C65%3A12%7C39%3A1%7C240%3A1318

http://cgi.ebay.fr/INTROUVABLE-SAUF-CHEZ-MOI-QUADRILLE-DE-1-958_W0QQitemZ280317678657QQcmdZViewItemQQptZFR_JG_Collections_Parfums?hash=item280317678657&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14&_trkparms=72%3A1526%7C66%3A2%7C65%3A12%7C39%3A1%7C240%3A1318

Hope to see you again :) Do let us know how it went if you decide to purchase either bottle!

Divina said...

I forgot to add something.. I see here that these sellers might be selling only within France.. I suggest mailing them if you are interested in the bottles... Once again, wishing you luck.