Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Carven Variations Perfume - Soo Good

                                                                (image: thechicpetite)
Today I have the distinct pleasure of wearing the vintage version of Carven Variations perfume. To backtrack a bit- Carven is an amazing house.  Established in 1945 by the petite (but with a Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen sized fashion mojo) Madame Carven. Carven began as Carmen de Tomasso, the wife of Swiss industrialist Réné Grog.  She was a pioneer in choosing to cater to a niche market, apparently not the mainstream approach of fashion houses in the 1940s. For Madame believed the petite woman deserved her own haute couture. And it's been successful too; the house remains in the same address even today at n¡6, Rond Point des Champs Elysees in Paris. Carven grew and diversified the business throughout the 1980s and 90s.
(image: thevintagefashionguild)
 Carven's fashions appeal to the smaller boned Asian women and in fact the name brand continues a pioneer role as it is goes aggressively into a new upscale market in China. Right now in Colette you can see an example of Carven's current accessories: clever "When the Cat's Away" print flats, scarf and tee. Carven has always had a love affair with all things green and white. She cuts quite a charming picture (if she is alive, as I hope at this time, she is now 101 years old). But what of her fragrances? The first and best known is the iconic Ma Griffe (1945).

(image: mes.parfums)
Vetiver was released as a masculine scent not long after- it has been in production (in many different formulations and packages) continuously. But Variations has it's own story. First released by the house in 1950, it was relaunched in 1957 and then again in 2001 although I believe Variations has again been discontinued. My bottle appears to be pure perfume and I'm guessing it is pre-relaunch from 1950s, it is the one with gold rings at the neck.
(image: mine)
The other versions I show are photos of the newer vintage and more contemporary versions.
It goes without saying that the formula has been adjusted if not outright reinvented with each repackaging. As much as I relish the abstract beauty of the original creation, I realize it will not be everyone's cup of tea.... Granted I read quite a bit into Variations because of my familiarity with the better known Ma Griffe, but the notes for Variations that I found sound quite edited, given what I smell...
 (images: quirkyfinds)
Reported notes are top: Indian Carnation, Labdanum; heart: Hyacinth, vetiver; base: sandalwood, amber. Sounds interesting, right? Well, it struck me a little different than what you might imagine. I got galbanum, aldehyde, green pineapple, sharp jasmine / LOV notes. Variations is a deep dark green floral, with a divinely biting soapy vibe. The wild jungle side contrasts the more hushed, musky undertones as only the boldest French creations of the time could. Spicy touches initially play hide and seek among deep green shadows, but become quite prominent as the creation morphs into a robust and creamy full bodied carnation soap all wrapped up in sandalwood. Variations begins to pick up a raspy tone which over time blossoms into a harsh herbal note, recalling nothing more to me than vintage Bandit parfum. I think the hyacinth combines with other things in funny ways and lends quite a bit of the soap and pairs with vetiver.. There is also an acetone note (very clean and well executed imo), that gives the whole composition an odd synthetic vaporish trail I smell well into dry down. The base has an animalic undertone that is only half revealed from within the forested depths, whereas the sap and soap tend to run freely, forming a bitter yet tonic thread that glistens throughout the composition. Overall,  it is quite femme and quite fatal; a potion for a dream in green leather.  
The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

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