Effortless elegance? Givenchy L’Interdit & Chanel No 5 Eau Premiere

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.

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20 thoughts on “Effortless elegance? Givenchy L’Interdit & Chanel No 5 Eau Premiere

  1. I LOVE Eau Premiere!

    It was pretty much love at first sniff for me (I’ll never forget the first spritz in the department store with my mom), but it took me a long time to actually purchase a bottle— but I’m glad that I did. As you say, perceptions change, and my initial love has grown over time. Now I think of it as a vanilla scent, and find it incredibly comforting: it’s a cupcake dusted with fancy lady cosmetic powder, and it makes me feel incredibly feminine when I wear it 🙂

    I’ve never tried Audrey’s scent… but I think that it’s probably not for me!

    1. EP is a work of genius isn’t it? I’m really glad it is so special for you. Funny, I don’t notice the vanilla, but I’ll look out for it next time. I get vanilla very strongly in the EDP version of No 5, realeased in the 80s. Delicious!

      Have we ever had a ‘love at first sniff’ post on BoTO before? Fun.

  2. Another EP fan here! I reckon I must be partial to one-handed piano-playing scents, then… : – ) Agree that it is a definite improvement on the original – the exception to the flanker rule, along with Fleur de Shanghai vs Opium imho.

    1. Very much an exception to the flanker rule, yes. (Another good idea for a future post.) Dee is also fond of Fleur de Shanghai.

  3. Does anyone NOT like Eau Premiere? I love it, too.

    I’m still kind of interested in trying L’Interdit… but I fear that it really cannot live up to the Hepburn story…

    1. Oh please give us a try and report back. It may be perfect. For ages I hoped I would love it but I just can’t. I see that TPC offers a trifecta of original EDT, original parfum, and a ‘reissue’. Sadly it does not say if this is the 2002 re-issue or the 2007. It would be worth checking with them before you buy.

      If anyone is browsing ebay or the discounters and is puzzled by the bottles: the 2002 version came in a distinctive red flask-like bottle. The 2007 is in a tall frosted glass bottle, same as is used for some of Givenchy’s other oldies (Eau de Givenchy, Le De etc). Anything else that you see would be pre-2002, ie ‘vintage’.

    2. I’m that one who doesn’t like Eau Premiere. I do not really dislike it, I remember liking it on somebody else. But I do not enjoy it on my skin.

  4. Part of the fun of loving perfumes and following blogs is the great variety of honest and contrasting opinions that are expressed!

    I absolutely love L’interdit and am on my second mini. The rich complexity of this fragrance is exactly what I want in a vintage floral, and it makes me very, very happy.

    Not fond of Chanel lite, however.

    1. Lovely! I’m glad L’Interdit brings you happiness, as that is what it was so clearly designed to do. (There is nothing ‘interdicted’ about it,as I think Luca Turin has remarked.)

      So, in the spirit of contrary opinion, can you say what it is abuot EP that you don’t like? As I suggest above, I have not always liked it.

      1. No. 5 and I go back a very long way, as the parfum was one of my first adult fragrances. It took me years to finish my bottle, and when shopping for a replacement, neither the EDP, EDT nor current parfum versions seemed right, so I left it and moved on to other things.

        A while ago I came upon some vintage No. 5 parfum and the world became bright and sunny. So when it comes to No. 5, nothing but vintage parfum will do for me. It’s certainly more psychological than olfactory, but there you have it. I was given a vial of EP as a gift with purchase and used it up, but would not buy a bottle because it’s just not No. 5!

        1. No, the difference between Eau Premiere and No 5 parfum, especially vintage, would be very great indeed. How wonderful to have such a great relationship with a fragrance! I’m lucky to have No 5 in many forms, including vintage and modern parfum. [Sighs with pleasure.]

  5. I have to try EP agai., Like Undina, I didn’t dislike it but I didn’t love it either. My expectations were pretty high though.

    I can’t say I feel inspired by any of Givenchy perfumes. I feel kind of “meh” about the brand as a whole. I loved your comparison of L’Interdit with the fusty room and I’m glad you found your Hepburn perfume in your bottom drawer where it was waiting all along.

    1. Thanks, yes, she was there all the time! She is not blaming me for neglecting her. I think she was having a steamy affair with Grey Flannel.

      Have you tried Le De by any chance? That and Givenchy III are the two Givenchys that I have not tried and which do tempt me. Loved Eau de Givenchy, and the reformulation is okay, a bit dryer perhaps. None of the more recent things stir my interest.

  6. I don’t know what this says about me, but I really enjoy reviews where someone says, “This definitely doesn’t work on me.” Maybe it helps me feel less….. picky?

    It seems that for every fragrance that I either fall head over heels for from first sniff (my next post is about one of those) and those that are more of a “I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore” – oooh, also a possibility for a topic, maybe even a joint post? – the majority of my testing falls into the nope/meh/nice categories.

    I need to revisit Eau Premiere, as I tried it near the beginning of my perfumista journey and remember it falling into the abyss of the 3’s: nice, but forgettable.

    1. Food for thought there. Sounds as if you may have learned not to impulse buy, if your first impressions are often not supported by later testing? You don’t strike me as the impulse buyer type anyway. (Anne-Marie hangs head in shame … ) 🙂

      The thing about avoiding perfumes that are nice but forgettable, I have found, is that you end up with a wardrobe full of masterpieces but nothing to wear to the local shops. The trick is to find something that is easy to wear but not boring.

  7. I’m not sure there is much better than discovering just what you are looking for in a bottom drawer, already owned. I completely agree with you about Eau Premiere; it is one of the few perfumes in a sort of grand perfume style (albeit pared down) that I can wear with ease.

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