Monday, March 17, 2008

Forget Me Not: Lanvin Arpège

Unbeknownst to me, a fragrance friend of mine had been assembling for me over the last few weeks a package chock full of samples and goodies. It arrived at the end of last week - a week where I nearly forgot about my love of perfume due to too much work and not enough play. (Incidentally, the first moment of down time I had, I started testing and sniffing. My perfume hobby and my indulgence in it is a good indication that I have "come back home" to my center or slowed down enough to enjoy life. My husband said, as he saw me wistfully pressing my nose to my wrist, "You're back!") With "Forget Me Not" fast approaching and no time to hunt for a new subject, I felt as if the angels smiled upon me when I saw in the package an atomizer sample of Lanvin Arpège.

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.[1] 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.

[1] 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

Image of ad courtesy of, bottle courtesy of


rosarita said...

As always, a lovely post! Arpege was my first *real* perfume, a gift my parents brought back from a European vacation when I was a child. I wore it for years, and rediscovered it lately through swapping on MUA. First I got the edp, and you're right, I find the reformulation to be excellent; another MUAer sent me the vintage talc, which as a powder fan, I'm thrilled with. I've been really enjoying Arpege as a transition into spring. The aldehydes don't last long, but the sparkle they provide gives a lift to the rose and orange flower. I could go on & on; I really love Arpege. Thanks so much for the review!

Unknown said...

I've been meaning to try this one for ages. It really does have a beautiful bottle.

ForTheLoveOfPerfume said...

Hello Anita,

What wonderful history you have with this fragrance! I agree that this fragrance makes a great transition into Spring and I'm so glad I provided a review that holds meaning for you. Have a wonderful day!


ForTheLoveOfPerfume said...


If you like aldehydic florals like Chanel No. 5 you really should try this one! Have a great day. :-)

Anonymous said...

It sounds divine!

The bottle looks almost like the Lalique bottle designed for Tom Ford's Black Orchid, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

Arpege has long been one of my very favorites; I like it much better than No 5. Beautiful review!

A minor point: A Russian perfumer named Mme Zed is the nose behind My Sin. She worked for Jeanne Lanvin before Fraysse was hired; she had made quite a few fragrances for Lanvin, My Sin being the most well known. Zed was very mysterious, and, in fact, I have never been able to discern what the "Z" stood for. Fraysse seems to get credit for My Sin, but he came to Lanvin a few years after it was made.

Also, Paul Vacher worked on the formula for Arpege before Fraysse took over. Vacher is often omitted when the credits for Arpege are given. Smell the back note in Miss Dior which is reminiscent of Arpege's back note, and you'll find Vacher's touch. Vacher went on to make quite a few beauties, most of which are now sadly obsolete.

ForTheLoveOfPerfume said...

The FF,

Divine is a fantastic word for this one! It does resemble the Lalique bottle for TF Black Orchid, but it is the trademark Lanvin image of mother and daughter that I love. Thanks for commenting!

ForTheLoveOfPerfume said...


Thank you so much for the correction and for your insight. What mysterious history surrounds the house of Lanvin! I appreciate giving credit where it is due!