As part of our ongoing commitment to fragrance writing, we have been inviting people to tell to us about their favourite perfumes. We have really enjoyed reading about the first scents people ever wore, the ones that take them back to a very special period in their lives, the way that fragrance makes them feel…The writing was so evocative and we are delighted to present our first contribution which was sent to us by fragrance fanatic Helen from Sussex. The first fragrance that Helen fell in love with was Yves Saint Laurent’s iconic Rive Gauche and here’s what she had to say about it:
Rive Gauche by Yves Saint Laurent (YSL)…my post-punk, new-wave perfume!
As a wide-eyed art student in 1986, how I loved this fragrance – it was my first grown up perfume! I loved the contemporary bottle – an aluminium can with black, silver and cobalt blue stripes, very edgy but equally handbag friendly! I was a naïve teenager, all I knew was that I liked the fragrance and the design of the packing – I didn’t realise at the time that it was critically acclaimed. I was unaware how ground-breaking the fragrance was; one of the first which tapped into the profound shift taking place between the sexes…..this was a perfume you bought for yourself and I did; it was ambition, possibility and freedom and it was delivered in tin!
This fragrance transports me to an era of new experiences and reminds me of the ‘new-wave’ culture of that time…Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer, David Bowie’s title track of the film Absolute Beginners and Suzanne Vega’s Left of Centre; which was part of the soundtrack from the film Pretty in Pink, to name but a few. The music and films were inspiring and intoxicating, drawing me to an exciting new world. For me, this perfume was quintessential to this new world, it was high spirited, it was daring, it was attitude in a can…if ever there was a post punk, new-wave perfume Rive Gauche was it!
Rive Gauche was originally created by Jacques Polge – who became the in-house perfumer for Chanel and one of the greatest ‘noses’ of our time. Launched in 1971, reformulated under the creative direction of Tom Ford in 2003, it has a distinctive character and is now a classic.
The French meaning of Rive Gauche is ‘left bank’ which stands for the left bank of the river Seine – capturing the spirit of Parisian life on the fashionable south bank of the river. This was a thriving hot spot for artists of a bygone era. Again, my teenage self had no idea that this was where the YSL boutique was situated – did I make the ‘art’ connection subconsciously? Who knows? Back in the 80’s I didn’t know or care how the fragrance was constructed but I knew it was individual and stood out from the crowd and that’s all that mattered.
Now, the original Rive Gauge is just a whiff of a memory:
- Top Notes: Aldehydes, bergamot, leafy green, peach
- Heart Notes: Rose, jasmine, geranium, lily of the valley, orris, ylang-ylang
- Base Notes: Vetiver, tonka, sandalwood, moss, musk, amber
As I reflect on Rive Gauche and what it means to me, I believe this perfume was an intrinsic part of my growing up and represents my transition into adulthood. Rive Gauche was the essence of my youth and, despite its reformulation, will always have a special place on my dressing table – albeit left of centre!
Rive Gauche is available now from Debenhams.
If there is a fragrance that has special associations for you we’d love to hear about it. Please send your contributions to firstname.lastname@example.org