Imagine a soft white gallery space. The roof and walls overhead are glass, filtered with screens to protect the space from direct sunlight. The room shimmers with diffused emerald light, flooding across floors and walls from high shaded windows. This from reflections of the grass outside, like motes of chlorophyll floating in space.
The room is empty except for a single work hanging on a vast white industrial wall. From a distance the work consists of a single image of a calamine rose on a white ground. Some texture, engraved marks in the white. No frame. But as you move closer you realise the rose is warmer, deeper in tone with tiny flashes of mauve through the captured images of the petals. The winter background is in fact washed with a subtle soft shade of green, a diluted sap tone that has settled into tiny imperfections across the canvas. Underneath the green there are tiny traces of violet and pink, washed off and the new work inscribed above, palimpsest-like.
This is how I breathe, feel and imagine L’Eau de Chloé; the latest incarnation of Chloé by Michel Almairac who also created the smash hit original all-conquering rose scent from 2008. Chloé hit a chord, the marketing campaigns were superb and the juice itself was a stylish and non-threatening blend of aspirational warm sexuality. Most of all everything felt feminine, empowered and right.
There have been other fragrances since then, the hypnotic Love Chloé (super sexy campaign…) and the oddly clinical Eau des Fleurs collection of Capucine, Neroli and Lavande. But this new interpretation of the original Chloé for me is the best so far. Almairac has pulled the elements apart and reconfigured what made the original so addictive and still managed to reassemble the parts into something fresh and utterly captivating. The most important aspect of this new scent is the articulate use of naturally distilled rose water that flows through the entire composition. This transforms the notes, coalescing the whole into a dewy palette of extraordinary delicacy and conversely steely strength and persistence.
On first application it seems as if the entire composition has been drenched with rose water, it suffuses everything. It smells and feels like one of those perfect all American verdant lawns, bordered with white picket fences, watered by the hypnotic put-put-put of a water sprinkler. But Almairac is a master of subtlety and impressionism as he proved last year with the soft floral leather he created for Bottega Veneta. His impressionistic portrait of a room with leather-bound books, open windows, grasses, flowers, the walls witness to subtle generational wealth with mannered grace and an appreciation for beauty made the fragrance a near perfect exercise in perfumed restraint and elegance.
There are lovely glistening citrus notes of cedrat and grapefruit at the top of L’Eau de Chloé, both of these ingredients have bright, sharp aspects to them, but a certain sweetness too, cutting gently through the headier more sugared tones of violet, rose and sweet peach. I do detect a underlying cocktail facet to the design of the scent, as if a dash of rose syrup was slugged into a Bellini mix, or perhaps rose petals bruised in the glass with ice then the cocktail poured over.
The base notes are cedarwood, amber and patchouli. Heavy sounding, but in reality, warming, supportive and very sensual. The amber especially gives the rose water a glow as it settles. Last year’s deliciously juicy Rose
Water & Vanilla from Jo Malone was a textbook lesson in how to use rose water, sprinkled from on high with laughter and spices, cold and silvery, like mountain spring water giggling through snowy rocks. Almairac has used the rose water in L’Eau de Chloé to soothe, seduce and caress the senses. The initial freshness drops away and reveals little wafts of vintage face powder; a delightful retro note tucked away in the witty use of violet and rose petals. But oh I love the translucency, the elegance with which the layers have carefully draped over one another to enhance the initial gauzy gulp of happiness that comes when you first spray it. Because that’s what you get, a sense of joy.
Perfumes rarely make me smile; I tend to be of a darker hue in my outlook on life. However, this fragrance did made me smile, albeit fleetingly. It’s not doing anything radically new (granted the rosewater flushed through it is invitingly innovative) and yet it feels somehow like it is.
I made a couple of student films when I was younger with student filmmakers who worked at the same arthouse cinema as me. It was chaotic and fun. And I died a little every time I watched myself. One of the films had a scene filmed in grainy Super 8 style video in a field where I had to walk toward a man near a tree in very bright sunlight. I had a boa, I can’t remember why now; I probably just suited it then. I trailed a cigarette in one hand, the other raised to shield my eyes from the sun. My hair was so long back then and whipped around my face. The music that played over the final version was weird and melancholy, but I was a lover, lost then found, meeting the flame of my life beneath a tree where we carved an anchor into the bark to celebrate our desire. As I lived with the L’Eau de Chloé scent on my skin, wearing it for several days, it was this weird scene of me swaying almost drunkenly through high grass, smoking and laughing in the bright summer sun that kept playing over and over again into my head. And I realised how much I loved the fragrance, the wealth of rose, the powder and dew, the retro violet and the kindly way it wrapped the skin in just the right amount of memory.
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