Powdery, floral perfumes have been making a comeback over the last decade. Consider popular women’s perfumes in recent years and chances are you’ll think of Narcisso Rodriguez’s Poudre, Serge Luten’s Iris Poudre, Prada’s Infusion d’Iris or Chanel’s No 19 Poudre. Those are just a few, but the trend is apparent among most well-known perfume houses.
Each decade sees a perfume revolution – young women don’t want to wear what their grandmothers wore, perfume houses seek the new and unexpected, but eventually trends come full circle. ‘Powdery floral’ for example (a term previously synonymous with ‘old-fashioned’) becomes desirable. I for one am glad of this since I love powdery florals – think silky, caressing, light, comforting and feminine – like being wrapped in soft chiffon.
Perhaps the doyenne of this classic floral style is perfume house Bienaimé, with an illustrious perfume pedigree as long as your beautifully scented arm. The house was resurrected recently under the direction of its current owner, Cécilia Mergui, who bought the brand in 2019 and decided to recreate Bienaimé perfume classics to suit contemporary tastes.
Robert Bienaimé (a name very familiar to perfume aficionados) was a perfumer for the perfume house Houbigant before launching his own house in 1935. He was probably best known for creating Quelques Fleurs, an exquisite powdery green floral highly influential on subsequent perfume styles.
It’s this beautifully blended, soft, abstract French style that inspired Mergui to research and recreate perfumes to honour the style of the house. Drawing on the talent of two of the perfume industry’s most experienced ‘noses’ – Patrice Revillard and Marie Schnirer – a trio of perfumes was created and launched to celebrate the rebirth of Bienaimé; La Vie en Fleurs, Vermeil and Jours Heureux.
Each play on classic floral styles, with a modern feel (lighter, slightly more linear and fresher). Jours Heureux seems the freshest to my nose. With a bouquet of light florals and a hint of green stems it’s a beautiful perfume for spring and summer, with a bittersweet quality thanks to almond, geranium and violet leaf. The dry-down has warmth and the rounded feel of vanilla and tonka combined. It gives an aura of effortless elegance – and although its dewy florals suggest daylight, I think it’s an excellent summer evening perfume too.
Vermeil plays on the familiar and moreish scent of powdery violets and iris, notes reminiscent of lipstick and make-up compacts. The powder is light – icing sugar rather than Max Factor, which gives this a light gourmand feel for those who like a subtly sweet touch. Heliotrope adds a fluffy caress here too, making this the most feminine in style of the three perfumes.
I think my personal favourite though, is La Vie en Fleurs. There’s a touch of genius here in creating a perfume reminiscent of those peachy smooth florals of the past while retaining a sherbet-like citric freshness with the entirely contemporary note of mandarin. These perfume notes are quite unusual in combination, and although I’m reminded of classics, I do find La Vie en Fleurs utterly unique – a timeless perfume that both moves and uplifts the emotions.
And at the risk of sounding a little exuberant – summer’s here, flowers are out, parties are an actual thing again – I can’t think of a better accessory for summer dresses than this trio of pretty perfumes.
Explore Bienaimé perfumes online at bienaime1935.com.