I don't even think I really ever gave La Perla much more than a cursory glance. The name sounded cheap and negligible. The black and white box looked even cheaper. Sandwiched between Il Bacio and Elizabeth Arden's Blue Grass, La Perla seemed determined to defy my attention span, hell bent on boring me. I don't know what struck me yesterday but I decided to give it a chance.
Turns out it's better than a good third of the fragrances I own. A rose chypre in the style of the old Coriandre (R.I.P.) and Halston Couture (So Long, We Hardly Knew Ye), closely related to Aromatics Elixir, Miss Balmain, and even, more recently, Etat Libre D'Orange's Rossi de Palma and Agent Provocateur, it has persistence and diffusion like very little on the market today. It has a discernible amount of oakmoss in it and enough patchouli to satisfy the die-hard, as well as Coriander, cardamom, ylang ylang, honey, orris, vetiver, sandal and benzoin. It costs all of 35 to forty bucks.
You would think La Perla dates back to at least the mid seventies. It smells old school, rich and warm and happy to reach out and greet the casual passerby. It's bold but textured and complex. Like Aromatics Elixir, it's forceful without being a bully. It smells classy and a bit déclassé, playing out these contradictions as it dries down on the skin. It's like a fragrance your mother wore yet it feels modern, as if determined to step into the near future.
In fact, it was created in 1987. La Perla, basically a panty firm, has something like a dozen fragrances under its belt--no pun intended. Who knew? I didn't. I'm not a big fan of panties, as you can imagine. "La Perla" was the first fragrance, after which followed IO, Eclix, Creation, Charme, and others. I suppose La Perla could be considered a glorified Victoria's Secret, but "La Perla" is better than anything that fixture of the local mall ever produced, as far as I know. It was created by Pierre Wargnye, the nose behind Drakkar Noir, Tenere, and a bunch of masculines I find dreary and uninspiring (Antidote, anyone?).
Now that they've absolutely destroyed Coriandre, which remains on the market as a frail ghost of its former self, it's reassuring to know you can still find something like it, an alternative or a compliment to Aromatics Elixir. La Perla achieves the depth of focus found in those classic rose/floral/leather chypres with a level of sensory detail that approaches photo-realism.