Perfume Review: The Softer Side Of A Diva

August 14th, 2007

By Donna Hathaway

When Inès Marie Laetitia Eglantine Isabelle de Seignard de la Fressange, known to us mere mortals as simply Inès de la Fressange, burst onto the European fashion scene in the mid-to-late 1970s, she was noticed right away, and within a few short years she was famous just about everywhere as the face of Chanel and the style muse of Karl Lagerfeld. Her face was on every high fashion magazine, and she was quite the runway diva as well. Lanky yet elegant, she seemed more like a “real” woman to me than most of the supermodels of the day – for one thing she was not a blonde and never became one, and I admired her for that – we brunettes have to stick together, because we know we are stunning just the way we are in a world that worships blondes, whether they are real, manufactured or imagined. I say “we” with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, as she was just about everything I am not; chic, fashionable, tall, gorgeous, graceful, and the list goes on. I had quite the girl-crush on her for years, as we were close in age and she had a sparkling intelligence about her that shone through all the glamour and glitter of her profession. I just wanted to be her more than any famous person since Sophia Loren. (You can’t say I don’t aim high!) I was somewhat disappointed that she also became the face for Chanel’s Coco fragrance, as I never did care for it all that much – it’s nice but nothing very special to my nose, and just not my style at all. However, I always enjoyed seeing her in the ads for it.

In 1989 Inès and Karl Lagerfeld had a falling-out and she left Chanel. This was at least in part because she was chosen to pose as the next “Marianne,” the iconic female symbol of France; it is reported that Karl did not want her to do it. This symbolic title has been accorded to a number of beautiful French women including Catherine Deneuve, so it was quite an honor. She did not model much more after that, and soon started her own company, designing luxury goods and home items such as bedding, and was considered to be a very astute businesswoman. She also designed her own clothing line, and I bemoaned the fact that I would never be able to afford or even wear her designs. They reflected her unerring sense of style, sleek and elegant. In 1990 she married Italian businessman Luigi d’Ursi, who also happened to make regular appearances on the International Best-Dressed List, and they later had two daughters. (He tragically died, suddenly and unexpectedly, in 2006.) I have followed her career as much as I can, considering that she is no longer a recognizable celebrity in America for the younger generations, though she still gets plenty of press in France.

A couple of years ago I discovered that I could fit into one of her creations after all – she had released a fragrance! More than one, as it turned out; the eponymous one available today is from 1999; there was another one in 2004 called simply “Inès” that seems to have disappeared, and I have been unable to learn much of anything about it. Online perfume merchants sometimes show both bottle styles, but the description of the fragrance is virtually always for the 1999 perfume’s notes. The latter one sounds even better from the description on OsMoz.com (it has peony in it, which is her favorite flower, and was created by Alberto Morillas), so I hope I find it someday. As a matter of fact, the site I got mine from had a picture of the wrong bottle, so obviously there is confusion all around. Anyway, I stumbled over it on an online discount site, and after seeing the description I thought it sounded very promising. I do not like to buy perfume unsniffed, but I figured hey, we’re talking about Inès here, she would never put her name on something cheap and trashy, right? So after some deliberation I ordered the smaller 50 ml bottle of the Eau de Parfum of Inès de la Fressange.

When it arrived I was immediately struck by the quality of the simple packaging and the spare elegance of the heavy frosted bottle. Eagerly I opened it, and took a sniff – wonderful! It was fresh and lovely, with notes of bergamot, aldehydes, and peach to start with, followed by rosewood, ylang-ylang, carnation, and lily of the valley, and eventually drying down to a light sandalwood, accompanied by tonka bean, civet, and benzoin. There is quote a lot of rose in it, as a matter of fact, but it’s a cool, understated rose, ethereal, soft and pastoral, like the wild Eglantine rose in Inès’ long list of middle names. The resulting juice cannot be said to be a “rose perfume” by any means. There is a bit of sparkling sharpness from the carnation that keeps it lively. There is not a whole lot of complexity going on, which is fine in this case, and once the heart notes make their appearance it stays much the same. I am a benzoin fan, and the civet is also welcome, making for a relatively long-lasting composition for its type. I am a peach fan as well, when it’s done right. Those who fear fruity-floral perfumes will not find the usual sugary mess that quickly turns into a wan, watery clone that smells like everything else – this is a quality fragrance. It cannot be called great or masterful, but it is very pleasing indeed.

It is only made in an eau de parfum, which is fine, since an eau de toilette of this formulation would probably be quite fleeting, but I like it enough to wish there were a parfum or even a perfumed body cream in the line. I am unable to determine for sure if it still in production, as I only see it at discount outlets, but some perfumes hang around for years once they leave the department store displays, so that does not necessarily mean it’s gone for good. Just in case, I bought the 100 ml bottle the last time. It has become one of my default hot weather fragrances, jostling for position with my other standby, Mariella Burani’s Amuleti, as it is always fresh and never intrusive, standing up to heat and humidity like a diva under the lights, which is only fitting. Her namesake should be very proud.
As a matter of curiosity, I would like to know if anyone out there has tried the other one, from 2004, just called Inès, and recalls where they it was obtained – it comes in a gold and crystal bottle overlaid with an oak leaf pattern on the glass, and has notes of bergamot, neroli, mandarin, rose, peony, iris, patchouli and musk, among other things. I have seen pictures of the bottle in a few places, but not nearly so many as for the one I have. Basenotes.net has it listed, but not the earlier one, which I found odd since they have some very obscure stuff in their database. Also, there is another discrepancy; Basenotes says that black currant is the fruit note in the opening, while OsMoz.com says it’s blackberry. I have no idea which one is correct, but since I love them both it matters not to me. I am starting to wonder if it another phantom perfume, but I would like to try it someday if it still exists. Perhaps there is a story behind its elusiveness. I just have the funny feeling that if I take the plunge and order it, I may just receive another bottle of the one I have and I will have to start over. But if it’s anywhere near as good as its predecessor, I will need a bottle of it in my life someday.

Image source: imaginationperfumery.com, divasthesite.com

Entry Filed under: Uncategorized

19 Comments

  • 1. Cathy  |  August 14th, 2007 at 11:46 pm

    Rest assured that this is not a phantom perfume – I have a sample that I received with a Sephora order a couple of years ago. I just checked and I actually have 2 samples. I’d love to send you one.

  • 2. Flora  |  August 15th, 2007 at 1:10 am

    Cathy, thank you, that would be great! If you would like to send Ina a private e-mail & tell her she can give you my mailing address when she gets back from her vacation. I can’t wait to try it! If there is anything you would like to try that I might have, we could do a trade. :-)

  • 3. March  |  August 15th, 2007 at 7:13 am

    Hi, Donna! Well, I went upstairs and looked. The plot thickens… I have the oak-leaf overlay bottle you described, which BTW is gorgeous, one of the prettiest I own, and it is clearly labeled “Ines de la Fressange” on the label. (I always thought the two — mine and the one you show — were in fact the same fragrance. I guess not.)

    I would guess that the notes for “my” bottle are the ones you listed for Ines. There’s a strong, tart berry note in the opening, quite a bit of rose with a bit of the soapiness of neroli (doesn’t bother me in this case), and a musky drydown. It’s a little sweeter than I’d usually wear, but lovely. I bought it blind on a recommendation and because I thought the bottle was so pretty (and the price was quite reasonable.)

    I tend to layer it with Passage d’Enfer; the incense makes it a tad less sweet, and they are lovely together.

  • 4. SuzanneK  |  August 15th, 2007 at 8:53 am

    Donna, another lovely post. I, too, bought this scent unsniffed but can’t say I enjoy it. That blackberry (or black current?) note, along with what smells like white musk (am I imagining that?) makes it smell a bit too sweet and jammy on me, if that makes any sense. I think maybe I’ll try what March does (layering it with something more dry and incensey).

  • 5. SuzanneK  |  August 15th, 2007 at 8:57 am

    Oh, I meant “black currant” (not “current”).

  • 6. Marina  |  August 15th, 2007 at 11:28 am

    What a beautiful tribute to Ines and her scent!

  • 7. Flora  |  August 16th, 2007 at 12:50 am

    March & Suzanne, I am very happy to know that it is still around! I checked Sephora online and they do not have it, at least not right now. I wonder who does. It sounds right up my alley, frankly – I have a blackcurrant-heavy fragrance I love (Nirmala by Molinard) and I also love L’Artisan’s Mure et Musc with its wonderful blackberries, not to menton my fondness for roses and peonies. “Jammy” sounds great to me! Also tart berry & soapy neroli – it’s all good. I wonder what it would be like layered with incensey Jo Malone Vintage Gardenia – or should I be really daring and try it with Tauer Perfumes’ Lonestar Memories? :-)

    Marina, thank you, I guess it is a tribute! BTW, the photo of her near the bottom is from 2007, and was in L’Express Online, a French magazine. She is 50 this year. Would that we all could look so good! Here is the bigger version:

    http://www.lexpress.fr/UserFiles/Image/inesfressange.JPG

  • 8. Jennifer  |  August 16th, 2007 at 9:19 am

    Another confirmation that the newest one really did exist and I also have a sample from sephora.

  • 9. tmp00  |  August 16th, 2007 at 11:58 am

    I always thought Inès was so very lovely, and your tribute to her is lovely as well.

  • 10. March  |  August 17th, 2007 at 9:32 am

    I got mine on clearance at Sephora, so I think they’re probably not going to carry it anymore. I don’t see it anywhere else after a quick search, except for Douglas in Russia. You can probably get one on eBay if you watched for it (and assuming it wasn’t a stock photo you’d know you were getting the right bottle.)

    There’s a mini of the oakleaf bottle on there now. I’m not going to try and post the link because I’m pretty sure it’ll be deleted as spam.

    Alternately, you could get my email address from Ina, or email me over at Perfume Posse’s contact us, and I’ll send you a decant. I think it would smell great with Lonestar or any other strong leather, incense or musk scent. It needs some bottom. :-)

  • 11. SuzanneK  |  August 17th, 2007 at 10:44 am

    Donna, a search came up with an online discount site called Valentine Perfume where they appear to have the newer Ines scent in the gorgeous gold leaf bottle, both 50 ml and 100 ml. I have never ordered from this site before, but they list their address as King of Prussia, PA — and King of Prussia is famous in Pennsylvania for its high-end shopping outlets. If you think of buying from this site, you should probably email first to verify that it actually is the gold/leaf bottle that they carry.

    You can plug the address into your tool bar — just run Valentine Perfume together as one word after the “www” and before the “dot com” (I’m trying to avoid the spam filter).

  • 12. Flora  |  August 18th, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    Wow, such great little detectives you all are! I looked and looked and cold not find this one, or if I did think I found it, to verify that it was the right one.

    March, I just might do that, thank you!

    (And tmp00, thank you as well, that is very kind.)

    SuzanneK, I think Valentine Perfume must be the ONLY online purfume discount site that I do not have bookmarked already, I did not know it existed! What a great find, and they have lots of other great stuff too!

    Thanks everybody for your kind comments and helpful advice. I learn something from all of you every time. :-D

  • 13. Mercedes S  |  April 17th, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    I lucked into this post after reading an article in NYT this am about perfume critics (the story provided a link to this site) and am so glad I did – loved the hommage to Inèz. I was very disappointed in the new book “Perfumes The Guide” by Luca Turin and his wife Tania Sanchez… has anyone else read it?

  • 14. Mercedes S  |  April 17th, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    PS Just checked out Valentine Perfume…looks great!
    Does anyone out there know where one might be able to get “Fiamma”? The Ferragamo sister it was named for died, and the scent was removed from the market. Years ago, but I still remember the fragrance and would love to find it again..

  • 15. Flora  |  April 18th, 2008 at 12:37 am

    Mercedes, it’s great that you found Aromascope – I am the guest writer who wrote the article about Ines. The blog owner has moved to Euope and the blog is pretty much closed down – I am surprised that NYT linked to it, as it has been awhile, but I know that a lot of people miss the owner’s writing, I know I do.

    Thanks for your inquiry about Fiamma -I don’t think I ever saw it for sale, it must have only been on the market for a short time. Now I am curious about it too.

    I have not read the new book yet, but I hope to do so soon. There are several recent books on fragrance that I need to find time for!

  • 16. Elsie-Marie  |  April 22nd, 2008 at 4:23 am

    Hello!
    I just wanted to say that I absolutly loved Inés perfume fron 2004. I bought it in Paris on a trip and got so many nice compliments from my friends. I usually buy more wellknown perfumes but this one suited me so well. However it just vanished and I can´t understand why she or whoever own the rights for the perfume don´t sell in to another brand and relaunched it!? Or if she did it herself. I know several of my friends who would buy it!

    It´s nice to see such a beautiful, classy, funny and smart lady like Inés to be somewhat a rolemodel fur us brunettes.
    You know it seems like it is easier to be considered pretty or beautiful with blonde hair, by that I mean a beautiful brunette does often has a beautiful face while a blonde can come along way with just their beautiful hair and not alway have a beautiful face. I hope you know what I mean.
    Anyway to all beautiful, intelligent, funny blondes, brunettes and redheads have a nice day and wish for a relaunch of Inés 2004 perfume.

    Take care! Lots of love!!!!!!!!!!

  • 17. liz  |  May 30th, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    Donna, thank you for your exhaustive and fabulous review of this fragrance and this diva. You inspired me to get it from Fragranceshop.com. It is beautiful, I’m reluctant to wear it in Texas hot weather though. I may wait until Fall (November/December in Texas), when the heat subsides a bit. To my nose it is a rich complex and elegant floral, but I am picking up an odd note on the drydown — a very faint baby diaper note. I’m guessing that’s the civet. I think that’s what is making me hesitate to wear it until cooler weather. Please comment.

  • 18. Flora  |  June 1st, 2008 at 1:27 am

    Liz, thank you for your comment! I have never smelled the civet all that much, perhaps because it never gets that hot and humid where I am? To me this always smells fresh with a hint of spice from the carnation. I would imagine that it is indeed the civet that is doing it. I wear it on the hottest days we have here in the Northwest, but I am sure that does not compare to Texas heat.

  • 19. Garden Party in a Bottle:&hellip  |  August 31st, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    [...] of the other reviews I’ve been able to find – March at Perfume Posse, The Non-Blonde, Aromascope (no longer updated), Scent Signals (also no longer updated) – seem familiar to me as the post [...]


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