Out of all the fragrance families, the chypre has had the hardest time assimilating into the 21st century. Perhaps it’s the standoffish, stoic nature of this famous patchouli, labdanum and oakmoss accord that has put it out of favour in a world that celebrates the sugary, the warm and the cuddly. Of course, it doesn’t help that oakmoss, the nucleus of the chypre has had its use in fragrance strictly restricted. But over the last ten years the chypre has had a successful resurgence in an entirely new guise – a costume that is softer, cleaner and entirely more affable.
The chypre revival started with Francis Kurkdjian and Christine Nagel’s iconic Narciso Rodriguez for Her, which used a symphony’s worth of clean patchouli against a backdrop of rose and musk, creating something with the pitch and timbre of a chypre, but with a melody that was entirely new. The effect was less aged kimono a la Mitsouko and more power suit over a lace wonderbra – powerful and confident, yes, but not traditional in the slightest. Other brands have continued this trend, creating musky modern chypres with even newer and intriguing twists, which leads me nicely to Annick Goutal’s Tenue de Soirée.
Tenue de Soirée, or Evening Dress in English, is a glam chypre that merges tropes from the classic genre with the modern. It’s an ode to tart purple fruit, paying homage to Mitsouko’s legendary peach note, whilst also nodding its head to the chypres of today with patchouli and musk. There’s added newness here too, as Goutal have launched their Evening Dress in a new bottle, complete with a rather fabulous purple puff that may get in the way just a bit, but looks super cute none the less.
Iris and Patchouli
How Does it Smell?
Tenue de Soirée opens with fruit and fizz. The sparkle comes in the form of a sherbet-like citrus and the fruit is an intriguing syrup of sharp purple fruits that are coated in a gleaming plastic sheen. There’s something really fun about the opening, an overdose of fluff and fizz that gives the impression of wacky accessories applied to a more simplistic outfit. Out of all the modern chypres, Tenue de Soirée knows how to have a good time and goes a long way to shed away the genre’s somewhat aloof reputation.
Surprisingly, Tenue de Soirée boasts a bold core of earthy iris powder, a note which isn’t often found within this style. The iris takes on the purple hue of the fragrance’s fruity notes, bridging the gap between the top and the base by serving as a link between the fruity champagne opening to the woody-patchouli dry down. This powder note also manages to add to the glam factor, giving Tenue de Soirée a cosmetic facet that feels like the perfect accompaniment to the fabulous evening dress it aims to evoke.
In the base Tenue de Soirée heads into full fruitchouli territory, meaning that it really is an essay in the contrasts between velvety fruit notes and the earthy fangs of patchouli. This contrast of textures cancels out the softness and harshness of each of the materials leading to a texture that is plush yet diffusive. A dash of woods solidify things nicely, setting everything in place so that it can live out its time on the skin in a soft, gauzy haze of warmth. Ahh, delightful.
Tenue de Soirée is a vibrant and modern chypre that gives the impression of a vivacious and exuberant dress that transitions from day to night without a hitch. It feels like a clash of elements, whether it the sharp vs smooth tussle of its texture or the classic vs modern battle of style that it exhudes. I feel like it’s the kind of fragrance that one will either like or not, which is very much in keeping with the classic chypres, which took pride in being an acquired taste. After all, one doesn’t want everybody else to be rocking their favourite scent now, do they?
Love Annick Goutal? Read my review of the Annick Goutal Les Absolus d’Annick Goutal collection here.