Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Lolita Lempicka : I Love You Just the Way You Are (Or How I Hate Flankers, and Fleur Defendue in Particular)

Long before it became en vogue to take vintage clothes and redesign, modernize and/or embellish them, Josiane Pividal did just that, soon becoming a success, and after designing for Cacharel for a while, she went on to create her own label in 1983. The label was christened Lolita Lempicka (correctly pronounced Lem-PI-tska by the way, even though the intro on the official website would have you think otherwise), a composite name paying homage to both Vladimir Nabokov’s novel and to Tamara Lempicka, Polish art nouveau painter. In 1997, the house of Lolita Lempicka launched its first fragrance, the homonymous Lolita Lempicka, in eau de parfum. Some fragrances are the same, with very little variation when comparing different concentrations (take Allure Sensuelle for example: the edt is slightly more citrusy up top and slightly less intense overall, but is indeed the same fragrance as the edp), while others vary extensively. When the eau de toilette version of Lolita Lempicka hit the market, it was immediately obvious that it belonged to the second category – it was almost like smelling a different fragrance. Releasing an edt that is so distinctly different was a clever move, for undoubtedly, there is indeed a market for the skinny version of the calorific, opulent vanillic gourmand-oriental. It wasn’t for me however, so I never really paid it too much attention: I remain now just as devoted to the marvelous original as I was then. A sophisticated, updated version of the bombshell gourmand Angel, Lolita Lempicka is playful, feminine, sexy, edible, incredibly long-lasting and immediately noticeable. It also happens to be the one fragrance in my wardrobe that consistently garners the most compliments – both by men and women. The fact that this self-proclaimed fairytale fragrance happens to come in a bottle straight out of a fairytale itself, means I have one more reason to never want to be without it.

What I don’t like about Lolita Lempicka, is that it has produced a sea of flankers so vast, it is enough to confuse the most savvy of sales assistants. Is LL under constant threat of assassination? With more -as exquisitely dressed and fabulously made-up to be just as fair as she- decoys than intergalactic royalty Queen Padme Amidala herself, one would rightly think so! We have Fleur de Minuit (Midnight Flower), a successor to 2004’s L’Eau de Minuit, amplifying the darkness and muskiness of the original, but curbing the ivy freshness and slightly sour cherry note that made it so special. (Worth a sniff though, since the powdery note of the drydown is particularly sexy) We have Les Caprices de Lolita (Lolita’s Whims) which comprise of three different versions of the original, playing up different notes: Caprice Amarena, playing up the Amarena Cherry theme, Caprice Violette, playing up the violet theme and Caprice Reglisse, playing up the licorice theme. We have Eau de Parfum Concentre, in its very own darling vial, a more concentrated version of the original, the exact same promise made by Fleur de Minuit... We have plain Midnight AND Star Dust Midnight Fragrance. We have Eau d’Ete Parfumee, an alcohol-free version. We have Transcendant Sin, the only one so far that rightly deserves its place in the range (and one I hope will become permanent), a limited edition in crystal, which is the pure extrait concentration of the original, with a magnifying glass poised over patchouli leaves and licorice. And finally, we now also have Fleur Defendue (Forbidden Flower), which I’ll have to admit I was quite excited about before actually smelling it. Fleur Defendue looked different, with its slightly anemic, mildly poisonous looking, yellow-green, ripe avocado colored juice. The similarly colored bottle further enhanced this mental association with poisonous, forbidden fruit, hanging in enchanted orchards. I was really hoping this would be a sufficiently different scent to the original, playing with the pure green of meadows and the stinging, yellow-green of bewitched marshes. Well, let me cut to the chase: Fleur Defendue has the fruity-green overtone of Fructis shampoo and just as much sex-appeal. The juice indeed plays with the idea of freshly cut grass, but the result is harsh and badly executed. With anis, licorice and vanilla waaaay back in the background and cherry nowhere to be found, this flanker manages to shed all of the warm, playful aspects that made the original so appealing. It is not quite generic, but it definitely does not deserve to be a shareholder of the fabulous bottle: it cheapens the whole image. It is not stellar. It is not even good. But it is passable and pleasant, clearly aiming at an even younger demographic which I suspect will actually be made really happy with this release during the warmer months.

What is my point? I guess my point is to raise a question on whether all those flankers were really needed and whether they do a good thing (or indeed the opposite) for the brand’s image. Catherine Dauphin, Pacific Creation’s CEO, was quoted in Emballage Digest saying:
“With Lolita Lempicka, we spent a lot of time building the foundations. The different versions and limited editions were designed to gain a strong foothold on the market and the figures would indicate that this approach was the right one: women find Lolita Lempicka very attractive and a genuine relationship has developed between the product and its users.”
Is this actually true, I wonder? How do all these flankers actually help in building a trusting relationship between the average consumer and the brand? Personally all these releases leave me confused and disappointed: Lolita Lempicka is a fragrance I absolutely adore, so when a flanker is released it does, of course, grab my attention. However, when the line becomes so prolific, I can’t help but feel lost and disenchanted. I cannot possibly afford to invest in every different version of the scent, especially when 99% of them are so very close to the original. Many lovers of the scent will be forced to buy these unsniffed, since most department stores only offer testers of the edt and edp. The only thing that comes out of this in my eyes, is disappointment for the true devotees of the scent, who end up feeling they do not have the means to explore each stunningly bottled version of their favorite. What this extraordinarily confusing line of flankers really is, is a bottle collector’s wet dream.

Images: Parfums Lolita Lempicka


Unknown said...

My beloved first scent, I admit I don't really wear this much anymore, but I still have my original bottle and about once a year I get a craving for this that must be met. I think I will always want to have a bottle of it around, so many memories, and well it was one of those things that made high school bearable, because i felt unique and confident when I wore it. It still has one of the most gorgeous vanilla powder drydowns out there (actually I would love to know what vanilla they use and get my hands on it).

Anonymous said...

I am with you. All those flankers are such a pain to keep up with and it becomes so confusing after a while. But I am also against limited editions, Divina. I hate falling in love with a scent and then not being able to find it again. Anyway. I guess if you are really in love with a limited edition you can be wise and stockpile, but... somehow it doesn't feel right. And I also don't appreciate the 'frenzy' some of those brands create with limited editions. Anyway, enough ranting from me for a day. :o)


Morgan P. said...

Just discovered your blog tonight, and love your descriptions! Whimsical, yet very apt! (I found the site while looking for reviews of Neil Morris fragrances. Your fairy description of the Violet scent made me want to buy it right away, although I can't seem to find that particular scent online!)

This entry caught my eye, because I, too, absolutely adore the original Lolita Lempicka EDP! One of my absolute favorites at any time, but especially when I want to feel sexy and sultry. (Also what I turn to when I want my scent to last a looooooong time! This one is a marathon scent - on me lasts around 12 hours at least, to some degree.)

I, too, hate flankers, (i.e., Euphoria Blossom, any of the CK One follow-ups, etc.) but I was still clinging to the hope that perhaps LL could pull it off. Not even the Midnight scents? Ah well. They sounded like such a good idea.

Anonymous said...

To me, flankers are nothing more than a ploy for the company to make money, rather than release a decent fragrance. So much product is tossed onto the market, is around for a short period of time, and then disappears. How much of this juice is of any quality? Will they last and become classics? I doubt it, because so little time or thought seem to be devoted to them.

Divina said...

Dearest Jen, I guess we are around the same age - I also used to wear this during highschool :) That's the period when I wore it the most I guess. I still wear it, not as often, but it is always such a pleasant surprise how people respond to this scent. It's always "you smell WONDERFUL".. I wish all my scents produced the same reaction :)

Divina said...

Christine, LEs scare me too. Unfortunately for me, one of my favorite scents ever is a LE: Opium FdS. Unfortunately I have only one bottle. I think Ayala mentioned lately that the newest LE is very similar, so I might spring for it...

Divina said...

Morgan, so cool you found FB and so nice to read your thoughtful comment!

Neil's Spectral Violet is absolutely stunning. It makes my heart beat faster, it makes me feel like floating! It is from his vault like of scents which is going to be made more widely available soon from what I know. Still those scents are already available for purchase if you email them about it. Not affiliated btw, just a fan.

As for LL's flankers, it's not that they are not good (well, fleur defendue ISN'T), more that most of them are not sufficiently different to warrant a purchase and/or very hard to sample for the reasons mentioned in my post.. so people have to buy unsniffed, which is unacceptable imo. Too, the line of flankers has become so prolific that it is incredibly confusing. For a faithful lover of the original, it is painful to not be able to buy or at least sample everything.

And to answer your question honestly, yes, the Midnight Flower is VERY good.

Divina said...

Patty I can't help but agree with you. Most of the cases are exactly that, a ploy to make more money without making the same effort that went in the original. (Take Burberry Summer for example...) There are still others that capitalize on the name and success of the original while they are completely different scents, bearing no relation to the first one (like Dior's Poison series). I can tolerate some flankers and I especially appreciate it when I can detect a common thread that ties them all together (scentwise of course) but tire quickly once it starts becoming confusing.