Trust

The perfume blogosphere is agog with the news of a flanker to Chanel No 19. To be known as Chanel No 19 Poudre, the fragrance will launch in July/August.

Flankifying a great classic like No 19 is obviously risky. However, encouraged by the quality of Chanel No 5 Eau Premiere, many perfumistas are at least cautiously optimistic about No 19 Poudre. I doubt anyone expects it to have the great character and originality of the original – has a flanker ever improved on its original? – but even so, it is unlikely to be bad. To a fair extent, most of us trust Chanel.

Perfume-wise, Chanel has had many more hits than misses. The best of its perfumes are great classics, perfumes you can spend a lifetime with. Year after year, decade after decade, Chanel rewards customer loyalty by ensuring raw materials are first rate. Reformulations have been acceptable. Even the perfumes aimed at the youth and mainstream markets are well put-together (if safe) examples of their type. Bottles and packaging are never anything less than superb.

Meanwhile over at one of Chanel’s great perfume rivals – the house of Dior – things are not so good. For many years after its founding in 1947 Dior put out fragrances that any woman or man would have been as proud to own as any of the Chanels. Prouder, even, as Chanel was in a fallow period in that early post-war period when Christian Dior was making his name synonymous all over the word with beauty, femininity and French chic.

Today, in my opinion, that reputation has declined. True, many of Dior’s mainstream fragrances are very good and widely loved, but many of the great classics have been unconvincingly reformulated, or discontinued. Those that survive are sold only in inconvenient and expensive 100 ml bottles. There is some nice work in the ‘La Collection Privee Christian Dior‘ series but not much that is innovative, challenging or original. Admittedly I’ve only smelled a couple (I loved Granville), but the muted reaction to the collection has not impelled me to try any more.

Now Dior has embarked on a new exercise. A recent article on Grain de Musc quotes a French media report to the effect that Dior is deliberately reformulating three of its perfumes – Miss Dior Cherie, Dior Homme, and Fahrenheit, not because of availability of materials or to conform with IFRA regs, but because by altering the formulas it will then own them outright, and need no longer buy the perfume oils from the companies that composed them and that have been supplying them to Dior for blending with alcohol, packaging and selling. Dior is reportedly making the entire product itself in its own (or at least, LVMH’s) manufacturing plants. By making its own products and buying materials in bulk, LVMH is saving money.

So, in the case of Miss Dior Cherie, originally composed by Christine Nagel for Givaudan, Dior’s Francois Demachy has tweaked the formula and it is apparently being slowly re-branded as ‘Miss Dior’. (See the Natalie Portman ad illustrated here, and note that the main graphic lacks the word ‘Cherie’, although it still appears on the label). The original Miss Dior from 1947 will reportedly be known as ‘Miss Dior Original’, or some footling nonsense like that.

The new situation really just brings all the processes of composing, manufacturing, packaging, and marketing a fragrance back into the one company, and that may make no difference to the consumer. Probably Dior’s Escales and Collection Privee have already been produced in this way.

But it is too bad if you liked the old versions of of those three perfumes. I didn’t like MDC, but if I had, I’d be deeply pissed off (a fine Australian expression, that). Givaudan and other suppliers to Dior, and their perfumers, must be in a very deep state of pissed-offed-ness too. Naturally the ordinary consumer is never told of these shenanigans. She or he is just left wondering why their perfume is not the same any more, and why there are these weird changes of name.

Whereas Chanel (I think) deserves the trust of its customers, Dior is frittering it away. Chanel is still an independent, privately owned company, but Dior is owned by the luxury conglomerate, LVMH. Therein lies the real issue. No wonder Hermes is fighting to keep LVMH from sniping at its door.

Anyway, back to No 19 Poudre. I spoke to a lovely Chanel SA yesterday who promised to phone me the instant the new fragrance becomes available. I trust she will.

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23 thoughts on “Trust

  1. Wow.

    I had no idea that that’s what was going on with Dior… I can see it from both sides: it’s great if they can produce in house, because, in a way, that means that once the formulae is set, they don’t have to worry about bases being discontinued, etc. etc. However, Geez! What cheap skates! How sad is it that the driving purpose doesn’t take into consideration the artistry of the perfume itself. I mean, there’s a reason that Givaudan and others like them have patented novel molecules… because they’re GOOD. ***Sigh***

    I for one am very glad that Chanel is still in good hands, and I hope that the new 19 will be as lovely as Eau Premiere was to no. 5. I can hope!

    1. No, I had no idea either until wendy left a comment and a link on my older post on weird changes I had noticed on the Dior website. (Thanks again wendy!) I never had a reply to my enquiring email to LVMH.

      You are right: if LVMH can put as much into R&D as the suppliers like Givaudan do – great. If not, I guess we can look forward to ho-hum fragrances from Dior from now on.

  2. Like you, Anne Marie, any whisper of the dreaded ‘re’ word is enough to make diehards such as yourself – and even me – break out into a cold sweat, the millisecond before the hives arrive…;)

    That said, I also agree with you that Chanel has done a decent job of it. No, these are not your mother’s (or your grandmother’s) Chanels, but they are very, very close to what they were, and they are all – even those blasted ‘Chance’s and ‘Allure’s – well crafted. So as yet another doomed-till-I-die massive acolyte of no. 19, I have some expectations that it won’t be…too horrendous.

    Experience can sometimes be a wonderful thing! 🙂 Eau Premiere was gorgeous (even I think so, and I can’t wear no. 5 for love or money), so…who knows? And so far as I know, Christopher Sheldrake, alchymist extraordinaire in residence chez Uncle Serge, is in charge at Chanel now. Hope springs eternal!

    On to…the cold-blooded massacre of Diors Worth Having. LVMH has done a butcher job on most of Dior – that is to say, all of what made Dior a great perfume house to begin with. Slipshod reformulations that didn’t even try, peekaboo availability (now you see it, now you don’t!), and ‘exclusives’ that all seemed a misguided attempt to elbow in on niche without quite making an effort of it. All…bad. That’s right…. We’re so not DIor’s demographic any longer.

    Then, of course, there is the Great Miss Dior (Cherie) debacle. Nothing against the lovely (and talented) Ms. Portman, but I do declare that the first time I saw that ad in a local perfume store here, I had to physically restrain myself from drawing out my indelible ink marker and 1) Writing a big fat NOT!!!!! after the ‘Dior’, and 2) drawing a mustache on Ms. Portman. When I saw it later at a bus shelter it again took every ounce of self-control I don’t really have.

    I didn’t quite have the heart to haul out my inner punk simply because, well…they DID make Dior Homme and Homme Intense, botrh of which I own – and wear, and also…a memory from the days when Dior was Da Bomb…a day of sun and rainshowers on the Avenue Montaigne in Paris in May 1977. My fearless mother walked into the Dior boutique, cool as a cucumber, and demanded attention in the cosmetics department. She walked out with a makeover, a glossy white bag full of Dior cosmetics, and whole new attitude. Her geeky, gawky daughter (that would be me) walked out with a bottle of Miss Dior parfum, to keep that other new bottle company – Jicky by Guerlain.

    That was my own rite of passage into womanhood, and for that reason, I refrained from defacing Ms. Portman. But the things I would like to do to LVMH these days…;)

    1. No worries, tho’ I always feel I need to duck, even over in Australia, when you temper is roused! Do leave Natalie alone. It’s not her fault, and I don’t want you getting arrested. I did like those older MDC ads tho’, the ones with the blonde girl, and ribbons and balloons. I never liked the fragrance but those those ads (I’m getting nostalgic now!) we lovely. I like your phrase ‘peekaboo availability’. That applies to Givenchy too: it re-released some of its old classics in huge 100ml bottles. Too big, but at least the stuff was there. But now the ‘Mythiques” are quite hard to find, after having been on the market only a few years. Geez, make up your mind Givenchy!

      I’m sure it took guts to walk into Dior HQ on the Avenue Montaigne. I would have loved to be a fly ion the wall (another Australian expression perhaps) to have watched your mother, with you trailing behind. Except of course I’m sure Dior would permit no flies on walls.

  3. So, so true annemariec, agree with every word. I do think there are some gems in the high-end collection but what a sorry state of affairs for the mainstream scents over at Dior. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad. It should come as no surprise considering what they have already done to their back catelogue but it’s still depressing. You may as well consider all 3 discontinued because surely it’s going to have to be more than a bit of tweaking for these scents to become completely autonomous from their creators. It is indeed an erosion of trust, I had never thought of it that way before. If trust is broken, reputation suffers and in the long-term sales will diminish. Surely, the main reason they can charge big bucks is the luxury perception of the brand? Thank goodness for Chanel! I hope they remain in private hands for a very long, long time and that you are pleased with the new No. 19 Poudre.

    1. Yes, it will take more than just tweaking. I think Denyse at Grain de Musc mentions this in her post (link above). If was a MDC expert I could comment on the difference between old and new, but I can’t. The silliness over the name changes to MDC and Miss Dior is indeed laughable, but it is going to cause endless confusion for years.

    2. Adding: I need to admit that although my trust in Dior is slipping, I have just ordered a FB of Diorella from them (well, from a discounter). (I compared new and old Diorella and decided that the new is very good (I think) and so went with a FB.)

      My thinking was that to grab it now. I’ll never need to buy Diorella again. Who knows what could happen in even a few years? Diorella could be lost, or reformulated as ‘Diorella Kiss Me Baby I’m Hot’. Or whatever.

      1. LOL! ‘Diorella Kiss Me Baby I’m Hot’ That really made me laugh, annemarie, but perhaps I shouldn’t be laughing too soon. I wonder if your FB of Diorella will be the latest version as it’s coming from a discounter. The current version with the white label (as opposed to the writing directly on the bottle) is still nice but significantly weaker than the previous formulations to my nose. I’ve stocked up on Ebay so pretty much have a life-time supply now. Glad you like the current one though, makes things a lot easier.

        1. Hmm. Not sure until it turns up, but the discounter, confusingly, has two different pix on its site, one with a white label, one without. The Dior site currently has a pic of a bottle without a white label, but with lettering contained within an oval shaped depression in the glass.

          I have compared a vintage 10 ml bottle bought on eBay with a decant from TPC, and spritzes from the tester at one of my local department stores. The lasting power is not great in any of them, I have to admit, which is one of the reasons I went with a 100 ml bottle rather than a discontinued 50 mil bottle bought on eBay. I can see myself spritzing pretty freely and actually getting through 100 mls. Hope I made the right choice! Price was a huge consideration. I paid $97, whereas a new bottle retails over the counter in Australia for about $190, I think. Yikes!

          I didn’t pay much attention to the differences between bottles and labels, but even if I had, I would not have known their significance. So I hope for the best!

  4. You know how in the face of a tragedy an individual’s brain keeps focusing on some minute detail and a person in distress gets really upset about it? I do not want to say that LVMH’s butchering of Dior’s perfumes is a huge personal tragedy for me but it is a very sad situation and my thoughts keep coming back to the fact that they are renaming a classic perfume to give its name to an imposter. For some reason this fact upsets me the most.

    1. That’s a really powerfully made point. Perfume is an intimate thing. We might live with a perfume for years. We make it part of our bodies. We use it as a vehicle for our dreams and aspirations, to explore our personalities and identities. After a while it becomes sewn into our memories. When it changes, or its name is appropriated for something else, OF COURSE we feel it as a personal loss, as a betrayal.

      Still, I’m an optimist. The new arrangements at Dior might still bring forth good stuff …

  5. Deeplypissedoffness is now officially a word in my vocabulary and will be ranking in the Top Ten for a while.

    Dior is digging its own grave the way they treat their perfumes.

    They destroyed one of my first loves, Miss Dior (the original!!!!) – there’s nothing left, nothing nothing nothing nothing, of the real thing. Can’t even bear to wear the reformulated version, that’s how weak it’s become. It’s like watching an actor who should have retired trying to do his Hamlet one too many times. Unbearable.

    And I’ve read that even a fairly young scent like J’Adore was also reformulated at some point. And still Dior has kept flankers to the reformulated version coming. Why? Why? Why? Keep the old stuff, do that one right. More is not more. Less is often more. Although, I must admit that J’Adore L’absolu is really nice. But so was the original J’Adore i’ve read – so why not simply keep that one and save everyone the trouble of the flankers. A very nice SA once explained to me that L’absolu was made from particularly good raw materials, and that was why it smelled so good. Not wanting to shoot the messenger I refrained from asking why Dior would want one really good and one average version of the same perfume on the market. Why not stick with the really good one? Doesn’t make sense.

    A confessed liker (OK, lover) of Miss Dior Cherie (the 2005 version) I was hit once again by the Dior reformulation thing. Here we have entered the territory of ridiculousness. We have a girly fruitchouli with a decent amount of follwers – even some with greying hair (coughs discretely) – and then Dior wants MDC to grow up and become more mature. Wha…, wha….what??!! MDC is supposed to be girly, fruity with well-behaved patchouli. With a strawberry on top. That’s the way we like it, those of us that do!!!
    Don’t try to do your version of Coco Mad. It’s already been done. Too late!

    Dior needs a good talking to!

    I agree completely, Tarleisio – even the light-hearted Chance is nicely done and I could wear it and be satisfied, if not exactly thrilled. They do mainstream pleasantness very, very well, and I respect them for that. As a fairly new fan of no. 19 I’m not too worried about Iris Poudre either. It’s not that I’ve really felt the need for it. But I look forward to smelling it. I don’t have trust issues with Chanel and am willing to let myself fall backwards into the arms of Iris Poudre. With my eyes closed.

    Did you hear that, Dior?

    And keep your hands off Escale a Portofino. Or else. Or else some deeplypissedoffness is coming your way.

    1. Portofino seems to be the best of that group, no? I liked it, didn’t love it but liked it and thought it well done.

      I’m glad you commented Marie because I remember you liked the original MDC. Have you done a comparison with the new? Do you also wear Coco Mad?

      I had read that J’Adore is not what it was. I spritz it from a tester every now and again but find it a bit high pitched, and a bit dull. L’Absolu does not seem to be sold here. I look out for it because I had heard it was very good. I see J’Adore L’Eau all the time but it seems to be a waste of space.

      I find the current Miss Dior wearable, just. Dryer, though, and it missing something from the base (oakmoss presumably) that gave the original more depth. By ‘original’ I’m thinking of a 10 ml mini I bought a few years ago on a junk shop, with a b&w houndstooth label. Not sure what vintage it would be, as MD has probably been tweaked any number of times since 1947. (I like your Hamlet metaphor – unbearable indeed.)

      1. On J’adore: I have J’adore in the current version (a gift) and I’m quite fond of it. Not a favorite, but it has a saltiness that I sometimes enjoy – it is a bit one-dimensional, but so am I from time to time 🙂 and I like the way it smells on my clothes afterwards.

        Miss Dior definitely lacks something in the base – that’s a very good point and I also think it’s the oakmoss and probably more than that. The last time I wore it (which probably will be the last time ever) I kept sniffing my arm in search of that old Miss Dior experience – but it wasn’t there. I was so disappointed all over again. Perhaps I should go vintage here.

        1. Yes, there seems to be a fair bit of vintage around, but it is often not cheap. I wore the modern today quite happily, but I think the reason I can tolerate it is that it is quite dry, and I seem to be attracted to dry fragrances. But if it haunts you with the ghost of what it used to be, better leave it alone!

  6. Portofino definitely seems to be the best of the three. The two others aren’t bad as in BAD, just not terribly exciting in my opinion. I like Portofino’s old fashioned feel and that’s why I ended up getting it. And I still like, although I don’t wear it as often as I thought I would. Not exactly sure why. Could be that I wore it for the first time on a hot and humid day, and that was not altogether pleasant. I’d thought it would make a perfect summer scent., but I’m leaning towards renaming it my fall – or maybe even winter – scent. I didn’t really care for the heated, slightly moist herbs. It was a distinctly un-fresh experience. A bit of acidity would have been nice to shout “heel!” at the herbs.

    I like the original MDC 🙂 And for the first time in my perfume life I actually bought a backup of the 2005 version when I realized that it was going down. It will probably turn out to be completely unnecessary, but emotionally it felt unavoidable – something about that caramel strawberry combo just makes my brain light up in all the right places. Go figure. I’ve smelled the new MDC but I haven’t done a side by side comparison yet. But I will. Dee was so kind as to provide me with samples of the new version and I have plenty (plenty!) of old stuff. My first impression of the new MDC was definitely less strawberry and (believe it or not) that was a bad thing.

    I’ve never worn Coco Mad, but I smell it from the bottle or on a blotter almost every time I go to my local department store these days. At first I was mostly indifferent towards it, but it’s growing on me. It has an instant likeability factor – hmmmm that smells good, and the drydown also seems really good. I think it’s very well made and it isn’t unlikely that I could wear it in the future. Talk about late to the party! In a very round about way it could actually be MDC that leads me to Coco Mad (ah, the irony! ;-). Which I won’t tell neither Dior nor Chanel. In the past the patcholi-y florals were never really my thing, but tastes change, don’t they. It seems that Coco Mad is worn often and faithfully in many places, but honestly, I’ve never come across anyone where I could identify their fragrance as Coco Mad, so it might be a less trivial choice here than it would be in other places. Not that I should care, really, loving MDC 😉

    1. Hi Marie, thanks for your reply. I was dissatisfied with Portofino too, but could not quite pinpoint why. Poor lasting power was one factor. I gave my FB away in the end, to a male friend who loves it and wears it constantly.

      I’ve done the back-up bottle thing too, don’t worry! Denyse on GdM remarks that MDC is now ‘shorn of its wild strawberry and buttered popcorn note’. If MDC was about all strawberries and they have now cut back on the strawberries, that seems like a no-brainer to me.

      I don’t smell Coco Mad much where I live either, although my own circle tends to be a non-perfume wearing group. (I sometimes cheerfully compliment someone on her perfume, even if I don’t actually like it, just to get a conversation going.) I would like to like it, but find it too sweet. But I love the idea of a simple (ie undemanding) ‘smell good’ well- crafted fragrance, that hopefully is safe from the threat of reformulation. I would pay Chanel prices for that and for that reason do wander past the Chanel counter every now and again for a sniff of Coco Mad. But no.

  7. Hi Annemarie, I’m completely with you on the simple smell-good and well-crafted fragrance. Still looking for it. Coco Mad is a bit too sweet, I agree. I’m generally favorable towards sweetness in fragrances, but less so when the fragrance in question is a semi-oriental or at least not an outright floral which Coco Mad isn’t. When there’s tonka and patchouli a.o. I need less sweetness. I tried Estee Lauder Sensuous on my skin recently and I like it – but again I would have liked less sweetness with the wood and the amber. So that won’t be my go to well made feel good fragrance either. The hunts continues.

    A total no-brainer on the part of Dior! So unimaginiative that I feel like kicking them for it. Lazy could be another adjective. If they want something that can match Coco Mad they should put some genuine work into such a project.

    I have a feeling that I will come to the same conlusion as Denyse. It would appear that Dior has removed the very qualities in MDC that make for a happy brain experience every time I wear it. And don’t mess with a woman’s brain 😉

      1. What’s your go to feel good fragrance, Annemarie?
        I should add that between Coco Mad and Sensuous I much prefer Coco Mad – I get more nuances from CM than from Sensuous. So, the hunting gear could still very well include Coco Mad 😉

  8. Well, I’m not sure I have one, quite. Ought to be the easiest thing in the world, no? That’s why I rather envy, in a way, a friend of mine who loves CM and wears little else. It used to be Sarah Jessica Parker’s Lovely, until I got bored with it. These days it is possibly Chanel No 5 EDP, with its lovely rich vanilla. And late last summer dee sent me a manufacturer’s sample of Chanel’s Eau de Cologne, and I love it heaps and THAT may be the one, except for that it is very short lived., and no good in the winter. I’ve just bought a FB of Diorella and that is a feel good perfume except that it is energetic at the opening, rather than cosy. Sensuous was a scrubber on me, sadly. Ah well! The hunt is fun.

  9. Must check out Chanel no. 5 EdP.
    I wear the EdT but I’m always open to new ways of wearing number five.

    A comfort scent must also be a comfort in the winter, especially in the winter.

    Yesterday, I contemplated whether Chanel Egoïste could be my comfort scent sniffing it from all stages from start to finishuntil the point of hyperventilation, but no, it’s too sexy for comfort.

    Will be testing Prada Amber again – the hunt is fun!

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