I think it’s erroneous if one were to roll their eyes at the concept of fruit and perfume. To consider it girly, immature, or innocuous is to succumb to connotation. A rather loose association.
Guerlain will do what Guerlain does, and here the scent is put in a swirl. A dark and gloriously twisted reference to its past.
It is important to note here that objectivity must prevail. I am not one for pink toned fragrances – but their effect certainly intrigues me. In context, they work marvellously. In a Guerlain context, they are exalted to a wonderful degree – given a unique perspective to what can be a cloying, annoyingly sticky framework. Underneath a glossy berry compote is sophisticated, surprisingly mature tone. La Petite Robe Noire Couture is a work designed to be studied with prolonged, meditative wear.
Photo by Guerlain
In studying La Petite Robe Noire Couture, it is stressed that the structure should be known deeply. Uncover it on a level of indubitable intimacy, and then find the confidence to identify the structure within a perfume holistically – and then pull it apart. To deconstruct and to contrast against what is known so intimately should be a comfortable exercise. This, for me, forms part of the fragrance reviewer’s function.
The brilliance of La Petite Robe Noire Couture is the manner in which it twists and bends a paradigm that is expected. For one, look at the bottle: a graduated pink hue. But remember, it’s housed in the same shaped flacon that houses Mitsouko too, our venerable reference chypre. La Petite Robe Noire Couture is a chypre, after all, and with deconstruction this can be realised.
First comes the pink and frilly, the crystals on our little black dress, which is a deliciously sticky ‘stuck in-between the teeth’ blend of jammy fruits interlaced with praline, deep and dark Amarena cherry (say, liqueur soaked), then brightened with lemon.
A further pleasing and sensual depth is given by the way of black liquorice, unctuous and golden maple syrup, tonka bean, and a near gluttonous sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar – a brûlée to a point just before black burntness. An intriguing tar can be smelled from a distance, carrying a thematic theme.
The cool grip of raspberry remains, a fabulous deliciousness, but I detect a touch of olfactory irritation. The cooly fruit undulations which is mixed lovingly with lavender and citrus recall hygiene and obnoxiously tinted body mists (which seemingly only come in one size, excessively jumbo, and a hydrant-like atomiser). Thankfully, this dissipates quickly.
Underneath all this is a warm chypre body, expressed best in this Couture variation (Couture is for evening soirees. Of course there’s a chypre structure underneath). Our chypre has an exuberant and sly sensuality – most shocking when one recalls the story our pink top notes told just before. A cleansed patchouli with a hint of its dense earthy greenery, free spirited but somewhat chained to the other notes and the saccharine top note accord. A marvellously rooty, naturalistic and oily vetiver dances in the distance – a moreish counterpoint.
At the very base is an ambery moss, forming perhaps what is the most necessary element of the chypre structure. The almond seems to sing forever in this perfume, which achieves some interesting effects. In its green form, raw almonds are bitter and uniquely fresh, with a touch of a residual mouthfeel – I am tempted to say that this can be found at the very top, exalted with a hint of functional aldehydes. Move inwards and detect almonds, now powdery and vanillic. This is where it strikes me the most, a gossamer whisper that says “L’Heure Bleure”, “Apres L’Ondee”, and dare I say, “Farnesiana”? Why Farnesiana? As a superbly edible marzipan and play doh, a majestic pollen scent, attachments to LPRN Couture makes some sense to me, no matter how far fetched. This trio are our covert gourmands. LPRN Couture takes the covert powder inflection and adds it to the overt – not brashly, I must add.
La Petite Robe Noire Couture demonstrates a unique fragrance. One side fruitchouli, another side gourmand (perhaps that’s just a synonym), chypre, and marvellously oriental too. The sweet, bready nuances of methyl cyclopentenolone (maple lactone) with coffee, nuttiness, and maple add wonderful layers to this complex work. Perhaps LPRN Couture sparks excitement because it swaps ethyl maltol for something with a touch of gusto, something that can be treated seriously. It has the neon sketchings of the fruity Nahema and tingly sensations of Chamade. A tonka and vanilla brûlée, done before in Shalimar, but here it is drowned in fruit. And on the note fruit: Mitsouko has peach. LPRN Couture has red fruits washed with white musk.
Instead of reducing this fruit fragrance paradigm, Guerlain exalts it magnificently; properly with reverence.
Subjective rating: 3/5
Objective rating: 4.5/5