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Jolie Madame –All woman, all the time (October 14, 2011 New Fragrance Listing)

Photo - Wikipedia - Ava Gardner in Mogambo, 1953

At this very moment, 10:25 p.m., scenes for a major movie are being shot on my next door neighbour’s front porch, which in this downtown Toronto neighbourhood, is only about 30 feet away from where I’m sitting. Trucks, generators, cables, lights, boom mikes, monitors, props, actors, and at least 100 production people fill our street, which has been closed to traffic since early evening– all for 4-5 minutes of film. This is the most exciting thing to happen on our street since they did exterior shots for a Cronenberg film twenty years ago! Even the dog is peeking out the window to check out the action.

The movie biz – gotta love it! They make the movies the world pays to see. Have you seen “Coco”, the movie about Coco Chanel?  I think it’s a fascinating look at the child/girl/woman whose visionary creative drive changed the world for women in the 1920’s, releasing them from centuries of long skirts, long hair, lace  and corsets. She put women in pants, short skirts and jackets, cut their hair, and introduced ground-breaking perfumes – the aldehydic Chanel No.5 - which emancipated the feminine spirit as well as the body. (She also helped to get them smoking, but we won’t go there.)

I think they could make a great movie about the life of Germaine Cellier, another modern woman who created original art. She was a natural star - tall, blonde, intelligent and elegant, stylish, charismatic, opiniated, and incredibly talented. One of the first female “noses”, one of the first noses to create for fashion houses, Germaine Cellier broke the rules, and changed the game in perfumery.

She used notes as colours, she used short formulas which resulted in a new type of fragrance – a scent abstraction. Cellier created the first leather chypre – Bandit 1944, Robert Piguet; the first “big green” scent – Vent Vert 1944, Pierre Balmain; the first tuberose – Fracas 1948, Robert Piguet. You can read about her in this Now Smell This blog post, which was based on an excellent bio of Cellier in the Société Française des Parfumeurs by Jeannine Mongin (forewarned – it’s in French).

Germaine Cellier was a non-conformist visionary like Picasso, and she created yet another legendary perfume in 1953 – Jolie Madame for the hot fashion designer at that time, Pierre Balmain (he designed the bottle). Jolie Madame is a leather chypre, and you might have noticed from reading my recent posts, I’m into leather chypres this Fall season. Cuir de Russie and Jolie Madame are like the two Leather sisters, the older well-married sister named Jasmine, the younger unconventional sister named Violet, both exceptionally beautiful and feminine but with very different personalities, and very different from their rough-edged cousins from the Big-Leather side of the family, Bandit and Knize Ten.

Jolie Madame opens with an explosion of sparkling lush green – violet leaves, that is, mixed with light citrus and spice – and then reveals its sweeter heart of white florals, rose, and iris, still shaded in green leaves. It veers from becoming a predictable pretty scent as it develops, growing darker as oakmoss, patchouli, and vetiver float into the mix. Musk, civet and the unmistakably smoky leather basenotes transform Jolie Madame into a fascinating perfume of contrasts – appealingly feminine with a dark uninhibited side that begs to be explored.

Bright and almost lighthearted at first, then deeply mossy and at the base, animalic, Germaine Cellier created this scent for a woman, so I would never suggest Jolie Madame for someone young and untried by life – you’ve gotta have some mileage to understand and love Jolie Madame. It is, after all, a leather scent, and it is a chypre, potent and unapologetically strong, and remarkably beautiful.

I still think a movie about Germaine Cellier would be fabulous, but not nearly as fabulous as her perfumes. Wearing Jolie Madame is like being in a movie – I feel larger than life, and I love the life I’m in!

Jolie Madame tis listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.

Note: Jolie Madame was re-formulated in 1992 and 2005.  I have the 1992 version, which is closer to the original, fuller and less green than the newest version.