For ages I have been charmed by the story of Givenchy’s L’Interdit. It was commissioned in 1957 by Hubert de Givenchy for his client, Audrey Hepburn. When its commercial release was mooted she is said to have exclaimed, playfully one assumes: ‘But that is my perfume, I forbid it!’ (‘Mais c’est mon parfum, je vous l’interdis!’)
Hepburn’s playful, elegant chic was a something I longed to emulate, if not in looks (okay, definitely not in looks!) then perhaps via her perfume. Alas, I’m not finding pleasure in Audrey’s perfume.
Vintage L’Interdit opens with sparkles of flowers and fruit – strawberry and peach – and for five minutes I like it very much. But for me powdery, indistinct notes soon take over and I feel smothered and unhappy. Angela on NST calls this a beautifully blended chiffon veil. I call it thick, aged cosmetic powder. After about another ten minutes or so the perfume starts to fade and in less than an hour I smell almost nothing.
In 2002, having discontinued L’Interdit some time before, Givenchy released a cleaned up version that drew out the fruity notes in an appeal to modern tastes. It is a pleasant, shampoo-like perfume that works nicely as a linen spray.
I think it must have flopped because in 2007 L’Interdit was released yet again in a version apparently much closer to the original. I found a tester of it once in a Sydney store and hated it. Sour cosmetic powder again, only worse. Actually, I wondered if the tester had turned a bit, under those hot department store lights. (Has anyone ever had this experience? Do comment.)
Recently I had a chance to take a couple of hearty spritzes from an almost-full bottle of vintage L’Interdit and found it no improvement on the vintage mini I bought on eBay a few years ago. So now I’m thinking that L’Interdit may never be for me.
I brooded on this awhile until a new light dawned. Effortless elegance is within my reach – literally. It is in the bottom draw of my bedside cabinet and it is my bottle of Chanel No 5 Eau Premiere.
Eau Premiere had lain undisturbed for some time because of a dry, papery quality I sometimes detected in it. But I know that perceptions change, tastes change, people change. I got it out for another try. Oh yes, this is gorgeous!
Eau Premiere eschews much (although not all) of the powderiness that makes the original No 5 (and, indeed, vintage L’Interdit) seem fusty and old fashioned to many people. EP is the same tune as No 5 but played just with the right hand on the piano. I detect citrus notes right through the development and to me they lend great clarity and delicacy to the whole.
It’s this airy clarity that I miss in L’Interdit. If L’Interdit was a room, it is a beautiful room but someone needs to open the windows, whip around with a duster and put some fresh flowers by the window. Ah, that’s better. I hate to say it but L’Interdit really does seem dated to me and I would not regret its passing out of my life, if that is what is to be.
Thinking back, I remember that I had to save up for my 40 ml bottle of EP and I’m glad I got it, as Chanel’s Australian website no longer lists the 40 ml bottle, just the 75 and 150 ml bottles. So I’m lucky. Much as I love this stuff, I’m not going to pour it on my breakfast cereal.
Will Eau Premiere eventually seem dated? Probably. I don’t care. I’m happy to accept Eau Premiere as my version of Hepburnesque chic.