Lanvin Arpège was originally created in 1927 by André Fraysse, a French nose dedicated to creating scents for the house of Lanvin including My Sin, Prétexte and the original Rumeur. Arpège was reformulated in 1993 and unlike other reformulations in perfumery, this one bears striking resemblance to the original. Therefore, for reviewing purposes I will be discussing the excellent reformulation which is much easier to locate than the original and very similar to it in composition. The notes include a sparkling top of bergamot, aldehydes, peach, orange blossom, honeysuckle and iris; rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, coriander, mimosa, tuberose, Parma violet and geranium at the heart; sandalwood, vetiver, patchouli, vanilla and musk providing an ample base.
Upon first sniff, it so closely resembles Chanel No. 5 that I am left to wait in suspense as the heart unfolds. I wonder what so significantly differentiates this from the Chanel aldehydic creation. The top is nearly 100% sparkling aldehydes with an ample dose of flowers like neroli and lily of the valley, rendering it all but identical to No. 5. I do not have to sit in suspense very long, however. As warm and enveloping vanilla rolls through the fragrance, this note drops the resonation of the scent at least two octaves and it is the first base note I detect. The abundant, blooming and colorful flowers remain, but as the fragrance progresses they become much warmer and earthier. Through this stage Arpège resembles No. 5's naughty older sister, much like the contrast between Anne and Mary Boleyn during their adolescence, before Anne became crazed with obsessive love for King Henry VIII. Anne’s naïve yet manipulative, sweet yet cunning persona contrasted with Mary’s pure of heart, genuine and loving nature exemplify the differences between sparkling, bright and powdery floral to earthy, languid sandalwood, vanilla and patchouli. As one of my contemporaries mentioned, vetiver gives the base a cool aspect, preventing it from enveloping the scent with warmness. It is precisely the cool-warm base that lends this fragrance its identity, separate from Chanel No. 5 and lovely in its own right. I picture the woman who wears this fragrance as beautiful, powerful and benefiting from exquisite taste.
I am quite captivated by Arpège and very pleased to have made its acquaintance. It seems deserving to find such a lovely beauty awaiting me at the end of a perfume-scanty week. To seal the deal, the packaging of the scent could not be lovelier. Originally the scent was created for Jeanne Lanvin to represent a mother’s love for her child. Therefore the image on the bottle is that of a mother and child, inspired by a 1907 picture of Jeanne and her daughter Marguerite before a ball. This image later became the hallmark image for all Lanvin fragrances. And it has me coveting a bottle of Arpège Eau de Parfum.
 Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl explores the differences between the two sisters in great depth. I highly recommend this fabulous book that has recently been made into a motion picture.
Lanvin Arpège is widely available on many perfume websites. For example, a 3.4 oz. EDP spray retails for $76 on parfumsraffy.com.
Image of ad courtesy of adclassix.com, bottle courtesy of perfumemonkey.com