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Paloma Picasso – Red lipstick, etc. – November 20, 2015


Back in the last century (I can’t believe I just wrote that), fragrances like Diorella and Aromatics Elixir and Poison and Diva and Fendi and Balenciaga that are now known as vintage, were just my normal everyday perfumes, as they were for most young women moving up the corporate ladders. We all wore lots of perfume to work because we needed it to counteract the testosterone which hovered in our offices, and also, workplace allergies didn’t exist then, so we were free to spritz wherever whenever. I still have these fragrances sitting on my perfume shelves, mostly replacement bottles, and I wear them from time to time with unabiding pleasure because they are so damned wonderful. Still. If you haven’t sniffed them, they should all be on your “To Try” list because they each have such a great story to tell.

Another of these “greats” is the 1984 chypre, Paloma Picasso. First of all, it comes with the cachet of the Picasso name – Paloma is the daughter of Pablo Picasso and the writer/artist, Francoise Gilot. Paloma is an artist in her own right - her work includes interior designs, clothing, and jewellery designs, first for Yves St. Laurent and then for Tiffany since 1980, as well as perfume for men and women, and accessories such as Mon Rouge, her eponymous red lipstick.

This perfume is her personal statement, it’s about her. Paloma has a compelling beauty, dark-eyes, dark-hair, pale skin with red lips, an unusual angular face whose dramatic persona underscores her obvious intelligence and artistic soul. The Fashion Group honored Paloma Picasso in 1988 as one of the "Women Who Have Made an Extraordinary Impact on Our Industry". Paoma Picasso, it turns out, is a perfume for women, not girls. Her words, not mine.

Created by perfumer Francis Bocris, Paloma Picasso, like most floral chypres starts big and bold with an aldehydic punch in the nose. Dry and green in the first seconds with a huge dose of bergamot, then spiced up with aromatic clove and coriander, the fragrance soon reveals the bright bouquet of radiant honey-soaked florals, hyacinth, angelica, ylang-ylang, lily of the valley, which leads into its heart.

And it’s a generous heart filled with a musky rose reclining on a bed of musty patchouli, infused with blossoms of hypnotic white jasmine and powdery iris. Hedione works its magic warmth into the florals, and then the basenotes develop and Paloma Picasso begins its transformation into a smouldering voluptuous beauty. The holy triumvirate of animalics - civet, castoreum, musk – hooks up with earthy oakmoss, sandalwood, tobacco, and velvety vetiver, creating a funky leathery opulent base accord that fits the floral heart like a glove. and the scent becomes sensual, sexy, so smart and so chic. More please, more, and more, and more….

When I sniff Paloma Picasso alongside new high-profile niche releases such as Bogue Maai, or Salome, or Anubis, I understand why I still love it. This is a thirty year-old chypre fragrance that is the benchmark to which these 21st C. newbies aspire. It pulls me in right from the brash opening notes, with the delicious contrast of the dry spicy accord against the sweet warm florals, the full feminine rosy heart against the sleek strength of the masculine animalic base accord. Never meek or mild, or manipulative or pretentious, Paloma Picasso is intense, definitely assertive, fierce almost in declaring its femininity, but very sensual, alive and welcoming in its core. That’s what I love about it. It’s not a perfume for girls, it’s for women. Women with open  hearts, who aren’t afraid to wear red lipstick.

Paloma Picasso  is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.