Sunday, March 13, 2011

American Classics: Ralph Lauren Lauren for Women

Ralph Lauren was born in the Bronx, N.Y. on October 14, 1939.  Originally named Ralph Rueben Lifshitz, his parents were Ashkenazim Jewish immigrants who immigrated to America from Belarus, in order to escape pressure from Hitler's advancing army.  From a young age, Lauren exhibited a keen drive and clear vision of who and what he wanted to be. After school Ralph worked to earn enough money to buy his own suits and he was known for selling fancy ties to his classmates. 

Lauren graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School in 1957.  The son of a simple house painter, Ralph noted in his high school yearbook that his goal was to become a millionaire. Lauren later attended Baruch College of the City University of New York but left school after studying business for two years; he did not graduate. Lauren never received any formal fashion training either. He served in the military, married, and in 1967, with the financial backing of Norman Hilton, opened a necktie store. He sold his ties under the “Polo” label and the rest, as they say, is history. 

Today the Ralph Lauren name has become a billion dollar industry. His brand is a blend of Cape Cod, Maine influenced preppy look, a swath of English Country-side, infused with a healthy dose of rugged Western 'cowboy' (and even Indian) ethos. From him, we learned to mix stripes with plaids and lush floral prints. His ads featured 'family' gatherings including impossibly pretty, healthy and fresh looking models wearing leather, tweed and denim paired with romantic touches of lace, pattern or ruffles, all set against iconic views of wind-swept, wide open spaces.

'Lauren' launched in 1978.  The fragrance was described as 'light and contemporary' at the time; the bottle, a deep maroon cube topped with a golden, 'blob-top' shaped stopper was designed after an antique inkwell. 

Lauren (Ralph Lauren) 1978

Top Notes: Wild marigold, greens, rosewood, pineapple
Heart Notes: Bulgarian rose, lilac, violet, jasmine, lily of the valley, cyclamen
Base Notes: Cedarwood, oakmoss, sandalwood, vetiver, carnation 

Lauren was discontinued some time ago and then brought back, although in a thin and bitter approximation of the original formulation. I have the vintage version made by Cosmair, in USA, and it smells exactly as it did back in the good old days.  I wore Lauren in high school and loved it, along with Vanderbilt and several other scents. Although it is a sweet perfume, Lauren is by far the greenest and sharpest of the scents I wore back then. One of the best charms of Lauren is its amazing dry down. It works its way into all of your items and leaves a definite signature, the marigold, carnation and sandalwood linger on and on. 

For me, Lauren has a very unique smell combination: the bright, harsh bite of marigold, a thin sharpness imparted by lily of the valley and the crisp green notes, set against the lush, old-fashioned and intoxicating floral spiciness of lilac, violets and carnation. The perfumer mixes patterns here as adeptly as Lauren does with his fabrics. The first juxtaposition is set against another: the surprising and unexpected juicy sweetness of pineapple layered over the salty, smokey and darkly green twang of cedarwood, vetiver and oakmoss, and all tamped together under a smooth and winning sandalwood finish. It all works together perfectly. Lauren's scent gives us a colorful and appealing mélange of textures- equal parts ocean with a tropical twist, prairie meadow, mountainous forest and cottage garden...

Velvety yet sporty,  romantic yet fresh, Lauren was a trendsetting perfume. People in the know recommend Pure White Linen most often as a replacement scent but sadly it misses the spirit of the original Lauren fragrance, imo.  Try looking for perfumes classified as sharp, green, and fruity. But this is a floral with a particular rare structure, a clean and lean woody-chypre base; there is no patchouli, amber or musk in the base of Lauren- nothing to soften or round it out. In fact, you might have more luck matching this one with a masculine scent.... but instead of looking for a substitute, seek out a vintage bottle while it's still relatively easy to find.

Perfumes of Ralph Lauren (women's)

Lauren (1978)
Tuxedo (1979)
Safari (1990)
Romance (1998)
Ralph (2000)  
Glamorous (2001)
Romance Sparkling Mist (2001)
Romance Sensual Notes (2002)
Romance Tender Notes (2003)
Glamorous Daylight (2003)
Ralph Lauren Blue (2003)
Lauren Style (2004)
Ralph Cool (2004)
Pure Turquoise (2005)
Ralph Hot (2006)
Ralph Rocks (2006)
Notorious (2008)
Love (2008)
Ralph Wild (2008)
Romance Always Yours (2008)

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

found in mom's basement
the non-blond
quirky finds


womo531 said...

How do you tell if the bottle is the original or the reformulation?

Amelia said...

womo531: my bottles are marked 'Made by Cosmair', and 'Made in USA' right on the labels. They are 1980s vintage and smell great, so that's what I'm going by. That's not to say my method is completely fool proof- it's a place to start, though.

Also, anything sold as 'new', or sold by someone who has say, ten bottles, all in their boxes and looking factory fresh is likely to be the new reformulated version, as are things coming from overseas. Look for single bottles from garage sale type sellers, 'home-made' photographs of the actual item versus a stock photograph. Those are some ideas to get you going. Check Ebay, Quirky Finds, and other places like that.

good luck!

Undina said...

It makes me sad every time I read about another great scent reformulation. Sometimes it feels like it's better if a perfume is discontinued altogether.

Amelia said...

Undina: You are right- I think it comes down to greed in the case of bringing out poor reformulations like this one. Once the parent company realizes there is still demand for something they've killed, they resurrect it but only as a ghost: the same bottle, same name but the juice, they just make something up from whatever they have on hand. I'd rather have the real juice in a waxed paper cup-

If the regulators continue to have their way as they are now, perfume is changing into something else- apparently we can't be trusted to handle or apply such toxic substances to ourselves! Some people, like Octavian at 1000fragrances, think that in the future we will all be on the hunt for vintage fragrances, especially those from 1980 to now.

Who knows?

Melissa said...

I would love to try the original TUXEDO! I only have the Irma Shorell version and it was love at first sniff!! It reminds me a little of YSL Yvresse but without so much over-ripe fruit. The dry down isn't the "butch" leather of the original but it's there. And I agree with the creamy part. The best part is that I got a 4 oz. EDT of this version for a whopping $4.99 so I get to spray with great abandon!!!

Amelia said...

Melissa: Thank you for weighing in on this one and letting us know about that IS version- RL Tuxedo doesn't suggest Yvresse so much to me so I'm interested to see about the Shorell. I will probably pop for the IS version in the near future. I can always layer it with something leather. You did good on the price, btw!