Saturday, January 22, 2011

Vintage Perfume Indiscret by Lucien Lelong

 I love the the exoticism, glamor, mystery and drama portrayed in this 1937 shot of Loretta Young wearing a Lucien Lelong gown, photographed by Horst.

Here is Lelong's La Dame En Noir look. The black velvet and satin was just right for chic women at the height of WWII in 1945 but the sensual body hugging lines brooked no concessions to elegance, regardless of war shortages and fabric rationing.

Lucien Lelong, shown above in 1932, is my vintage crush of the week. I've been rocking his vintage 'Parfum Indiscrete' for the past few days with no sign of tiring of it yet.

Along with the more famous designers of the 20th century including luminaries Chanel, Dior, Schiaparelli  and Givenchy, Lucien Lelong was a central character at the heart of Paris fashion throughout the influential 1920s - 1940s. Balmain, Dior, and Givenchy all apprenticed with him. Lelong's fashions were photographed by avant-gardes Horst, Beaton, Hoyningen Huene, Man Ray, and Lee Miller. Never a designer in the strict sense, Lelong employed talented designers to create his visions. Yet his fashion sense was unerring; Lucien Lelong designs always bore distinctive craftsmanship, quality and style.

Lelong was a pioneer because he created many wonderful accessories specifically developed to compliment and "go with" his designs. Lelong began to produce perfumes in a large commercial scale in 1924 employing 1200 workers. He also designed many of the bottles used to house his perfumes. Although he did not personally author his perfumes, his perfumer Jean Carles never let him down. From 1924 through the 1950 and even beyond, Lucien Lelong scents were artfully conceived, thoughtfully composed and considered to be some of the most desirable of their time.

There are so many interesting twists and turns to the life of this dashing public figure yet his core is mysterious. Although he was initially tried as a traitor as a result of secret meetings with the Nazis during WWII, he was ultimately credited with saving the lives of some 12,000 French fashion industry workers and their families... Forced to close his design house in 1948 for health reasons, Lelong continued to personally produce perfumes into the 1950s. He died from a heart attach in 1958 at 69 years of age.

Now that you have a primer on LL, let's get back to the good thing, the juice! Indiscret was first released as Parfum Indiscret in 1936. Over time it emerged from the many varied scents Lucien LeLong released throughout the years as the star of the line. But Indiscret confuses some because of it's variants (and reformulations).  The scent of vintage Indiscret cologne, edt and lotion I've tried, all ranging from 1950s to 1980s, is to varying degrees green, sweet and warm. Not too heavy, approachable yet sophisticated, this fruity floral with a kick of spice dries down to a nice powdery wood and resin finish. Quite compelling!

The note list follows: (from Perfume Intelligence)
"A crisp green parfum with top notes of mandarin, neroli, tiger orchid, bergamot, white peach blossom, galbanum and orange flower, heart notes of jasmine, cypress, basil, clove, violet, ylang-ylang, tuberose, rose geranium and iris on base notes of oak moss, vetiver, patchouli, Guaiac wood, white musk and amber." Re-released in 1997.

Lucien Lelong design 1947

The vintage perfume version of the scent, called "Perfume Indiscret" and circa 1940s, is what I'm sniffing. Mine comes in the cute gyroscope presentation bottle. Perhaps the top notes are somewhat dampened over time, but it smells so beautiful and modern that I rather think it's in prime condition. The vintage parfum appears to be a more restrained interpretation of 'fruity floral'. The composition makes up for less in the way of fruit with lusciously defined arpeggios of flowers, more voluminous spices, and amplified oakmoss, resins and wood. The perfume opens with perfectly balanced citrus notes of bergamot and mandarin orange against a green resinous galbanum. The strong rich heart opens with notes of tuberose (the camphorous type I love), orange flower (the rich type I love) and ylang-ylang (the smooth type I love). Jasmine, iris, rose, geranium and I swear there is a lovely carnation or clove, rose in support. The base smells of labdanum/incense, lavish oakmoss, a touch of civet, grounded in sandalwood, tobacco. When you smell this perfume you do not think of the greens or fruits. Instead it is rich and smooth, a complex perfume with most prominent beautiful tuberose and ylang-ylang notes, against orange blossom and carnation, all standing out over a resinous, smoky, spicy sandalwood base. Glorious and complex. Although not a proper floral leather like En Avion*, there is similarity between the two scents. Those who love this rare Caron vintage may find the vintage parfum/perfume version of Indiscret worth a try.

*En Avion was released by Caron in 1929. It features notes of orange tree blossom, neroli, jasmine, rose, clove, carnation, opoponax and precious woods.

The house of Lucien Lelong has an active online site where you can read more history of Lucien Lelong and buy modern interpretations of Indiscret and many of their other classic perfumes of yore.

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

perfume ads hprints and various ebay sellers
fashion shots google images


queen_cupcake said...

Such a wealth of beautiful illustrations! Thank you for those. It's nice to read a little about these fashion & fragrance pioneers--such interesting times. I have been enjoying a decant of the spicy Balalaika someone sent to me. It seems that the Lelong frags are still affordable & available on auction sites. I will have to see if I can score some Indiscret. Love the names of this era, too!

queen_cupcake said...

P.S. Forgot to ask--have you tried any of the modern interpretations of Lelong?

Amelia said...

LL frags are highly desirable imo. Great bottles, great fragrances and history; so much fun! But those modern Lelong remakes of their vintage classics, I know next to nothing about. Other than the Indiscret perfumed body cream, which I'ved tried via samples. It was excellent, if that helps.

If you ever get to try, be sure to let us know what you think :)

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous article - Eyecandy galore ! Thank you, Amelia, for another plethora of info !
Now I just have to find some vintg.Indiscret :-)))

Amelia said...

Martina: Glad you enjoyed it. Be sure to get the perfume if at all possible:)

Vintage Lady said...

This is nice, I was speaking on my blog about LeLong Perfumes!

About Indiscret I don't know but probably i i would love to try the fragrance they make now. Hugs! Happy Week.

Amelia said...

I read your post and enjoyed it thoroughly. It's a little difficult for me to navigate with the Google translate button, but I will comment on your blog as long as you don't mind in English!

Those modern Lelong's seem kind of rare so let us know if you find one. Hugs!