Friday, June 17, 2011

Balenciaga Paris

Last night, I had a dream I was visiting my step mom, and we got in the camper and drove I don't know where.  Somewhere with an indoor pool and a little coffee house and various dream situational things that made me nervous for no particular reason.  All my dreams are hotbeds of anxiety.  It's never anything particular.  They're just suffused with this unnamed, lurking dread.  I envy people whose dreams are full of well being and happy reunions.  Mine always seem to be about missing flights, unduly upsetting people, looking desperately for an address I can't find, or visiting the dead a minute too late.

My stepmom informed me that the investment thingy my father bullied me into getting was three months past due.  She seemed rather gleeful about it, and of course I couldn't figure out why a.) the statements were coming to her, not me, and b.) why she wouldn't have let me known earlier, so I wouldn't be remiss.  For whatever reason, a friend of mine was sleeping in the bedroom.  Actually, I'd put him in there with another friend, and I was really worried they were going to start having sex, and that it would be noisy, because they were both good looking guys, and they were nude, and they were in a bed together.  So I kept checking on them, hoping for the best.  Later, my step mom was cleaning the place, and she seemed really tall, and after studying her for a while, trying to figure out why suddenly she towered over me when usually she was so short, I looked where her feet should be and I said, "Are you wearing...?"

Yes, Brian, she said, annoyed, I'm wearing stilts.

I woke from the dream relieved not to owe money, though a little sad I haven't in fact been bullied into investing into any such savings schemes.

And I did what I always do when I first wake up.  I went straight to the perfume.  I sprayed on some Balenciaga Paris.  Has anyone smelled that?

The thing about Balenciaga is that it's one of those full-of-well-being fragrances.  I only really got that this morning.  It resolved all the lingering tension from the dream almost instantly.  For weeks I've tried to put my finger on what I like about the fragrance, because, for the most part, the reviews have been, at most, lukewarm.  The biggest surprise, according to the makeupalley customer reviews, seems to be that for something so...faint?...it lasts forever.  Others aren't so friendly, calling it grandmotherly, old fashioned, altogether foul, or just plain unexceptional.  I thought it must just be the bottle, which is incredible - one of the nicest I've seen in a long time.  Maybe because I liked the bottle so much, I carried that enthusiasm over into the fragrance itself, I thought, because, really, it's true what they say, Balenciaga isn't exactly groundbreaking.  So why did I keep coming back to it?

Now I know.  It's essentially a comfort thing.  Balenciaga, with its overloaded creams and slightly sugared violets, is something close to a cashmere blanket.  As others have mentioned, there are a thousand other fragrances like it in circulation.  And a big problem with the thing, for me at least, was the schizoid discrepancy between what it smelled like and how it was advertised.  Charlotte Gainsbourg isn't exactly the soft, candied, creamy sort, and she sticks out like a sore thumb in the ads, like Jennifer Anniston posing as Sophia Loren.  You expect a little more something - a little more edge, a little more oomph - not just because of who Gainsbourg seems to be but because of what Balenciaga fragrances themselves have been in the past.  You want Balenciaga Paris to be something spectacular, and it really isn't.  Neither is a cashmere blanket, most of the time, until it's cold and you wrap yourself up in it.

Later, while shopping at a counter full of things I'd already smelled or bought, I saw Balenciaga again, and in that context it seemed a lot more interesting to me.  I felt like I was better prepared to appreciate it properly.  The thing is, I'm not sure I like this fragrance any less than Balenciaga Le Dix, Prelude, or Quadrille.  And I'm not sure I would like any of those were they to be released right now.  The safety of the past protects them from a certain kind of scrutiny I apply to something when it hits the shelves.  Truthfully, Balenciaga Paris holds its own amongst them, and while in the field of contemporary releases it seems uninspired, held up against the line's classic fragrances it seems perfectly at home.

Balenciaga Paris was created by Olivier Polge, the nose behind Dior Homme, a similar fragrance in many ways.  Like Homme, Paris has a fresh powdery aspect I like.  Both share that distinct creaminess.  Polge also did Kenzo Power, which feels a lot like Balenciaga Paris as well.  Balenciaga's projection is moderate, the longevity decent enough, though with a fragrance this subtle (it's subtle to me) longevity is sort of beside the point.  The violets are somewhat green and peppery, and though people mention carnation, I can't say I detect any.

I woudn't say Balenciaga is a dream, but it certainly seems like a good way to wake from one.

20 comments:

Josephine said...

I freaking love this post! Haven't paid much attention to 'Paris,' but I will now.

Balenciaga Rumba is one that I own and keep trying and hoping to someday love. Jean Claude Ellena is perhaps my favorite perfumer (if I really had to choose), so the fact that he put something together so Latin, sexual and bold intrigues me. Rumba is the anti-Ellena.

Thanks for a great read!

Bloody Frida said...

"... Charlotte Gainsbourg isn't exactly the soft, candied, creamy sort, and she sticks out like a sore thumb in the ads,..." Esp after watching her in "Antichrist". Yikes!

Thanks for the review - I'll re-sample my sample (which I first sniffed as 'same new thing') I'll sample with your review in mind!

Brian said...

Polge:
http://www.alabonfire.com/lojalof/#/lanonyme_op1475a

It's good. "KInda reminiscent of the structure of Dior Homme..." ;)

JAntoinette said...

I am always on the fence with Balenciaga Paris, every other time I sample it I love it, the rest of the time I just shrug my shoulders. Oh, but the bottle! I could just bite the bullet and buy it just to have that beautiful little sculpture on my shelf!

-By the way, have you ever considered trying lucid dreaming sessions for your anxiety-laden dreams? I have been able to manipulate -somewhat- my nightmares to be less scary using lucid dreaming techniques, and some nights I can go full control in my dream world and I run around the globe fighting baddies with James Bond:)

brian said...

Hey Josephine. Yeah, Rumba is one of those earlier, pre minimalist fragrances by Ellena, like First. Have you smelled First? These two are the exact opposite of everything he seems to have done in the last ten years or so, so it makes total sense that you could love him but be bewildered by those. Great description of Rumba. Actually, along with Talisman, Rumba is sort of an anomaly for a Balenciaga fragrance, too. I love Talisman, though. I keep meaning to review it. Released in 1994, it feels more like a big boned eighties thing.

brian said...

Frida, I haven't seen Antichrist! I'm sort of reluctant to. But funny, no, that Paris came out right around the time that movie did. It was like the darker side of Charlotte Gainsbourg, and I wish a little more of that darkness had snuck into B. Paris. That said, I like the perfume a lot.

brian said...

JAntoinette, what are lucid dreaming sessions? I'm intrigued. Is that sort of a guided meditation? I tried that once, walking myself through my grandmother's house, room by room, visualizing everything I could remember there. It helped a little at the time because in many of my dreams I kept going back to that house, and it was always fraught with risk. I was always sneaking through the house, afraid of being caught there. Obviously, some unresolved feelings surrounding the place.

I feel the same way about Paris. And it took that day, waking from a dream, to "get it" I guess, though I'm not in that mood every day.

Elisa said...

I think violets are definitely a calming, peaceful, "well being" smell, though it's hard to find a violet fragrance that doesn't cancel out that aspect somehow, e.g. with leather (see Jolie Madame, which is great but not a well-being fragrance) or rose (see Broadway Nite, again, great but definitely not a well-being fragrance). The only violet frag I currently own that works this way is Voile de Violette. I think Paris is very nice, but probably not nice enough to kick VdV off the pedestal.

FruitDiet said...

The bottle is great but I don't agree that it's soft- I thought it unbelievably strong. When it came out I sprayed some on my wrist and the coat I was wearing smelled like it for two months. I liked the ads and didn't think that Gainsbourg was out of place- I used to hate her and think she was the complete opposite of edgy until Antichrist made me like her- before that I got so angry because everyone tried to convince me that she was soooo beautiful but I thought she was hideous, and then in Antichrist she was hideous on purpose so that was cool. It stands out in current new releases since it's a straight floral, and it's gotten to the point where florals without a gourmand aspect equal "old lady" to normal people. The thing is that, like most new perfumes, it just sits there on top of your skin like a thick coat of plastic. There's nothing diffusive or interesting or layered about it, it's just a big plastic coating of one smell that doesn't evolve at all. I like it as much as Le Dix, which I don't think is very good, but the only good Balenciaga perfume I've tried is Rumba. The only reason I've pondered buying BP is because I love Nicolas Ghesquiere and it's the only thing he's done that I would ever be able to afford/wear, sadly.

brian said...

Wow, wish it was that strong on me. It's definitely soft on me, and when I read various reviews that called it strong I thought, wow, really? My skin eats stuff up. Infamously potent Poison and Rumba aren't "strong" on me but subtle. About the only thing that really is strong on me is Norma Kamali Incense. A few others. I haven't seen Antichrist. I have no real feelings I guess about Gainsbourg either way. I'm going by what the reactions seemed to be. What I have seen her in she's always somewhat...waifish?

Olfacta said...

I must have tried "Paris" in a store. I'm not a big violet/cream fan but if you say it's good...haven't seen "Antichrist" either. But I did have a repeating dream, for years, of being back in my apartment in LA, only as a squatter. Very strange.

Angela Cox said...

I think it is lovely .I too have terrible anxiety dreams and sometimes dread going to sleep . I can't imagine where they they come from as a lot are about being persued by Nazis . I just hope my M.I.L never gets into them or I am going to need a tanker size bottle of Paris in the morning.

museinwoodenshoes said...

Still haven't tried B Paris. I'm not sure why, exactly, except that as always I have to order samples, or wangle them from people, and I wasn't intrigued enough by the notes to go buy one.

Interesting that the dreams you remember are anxious. The dreams I wake up and remember are usually fairly lucid, but with little twists that make the overall "story" go surreal. This delights me no end - who knows what my brain will come up with next??

FruitDiet said...

Things aren't strong on you because you don't wear enough! If Poison and Rumba are subtle then you're doing it wrong!

brian said...

Oh I don't know, fruity. I guess you're right. Everyone else says I smell but I don't put much on really at all. Unless you count cumulatively putting on four different things.

brian said...

Angela, pursued by Nazis! Those are some hard core dreams. Last night I dreamed an enormous tree had fallen into the road. The road was against a cliff and on the other side was straight down to nothingness. There were like four feet of free road space and my friend insisted on trying to dive through. One side of the car drove off the road onto the branches of the fallen tree, then crashed through and plummeted toward the bottom underneath. My friend was dangling by a weak branch, clinging to it, and just as I was thinking, "I sure hope he doesn't expect me to try to pull him to safety; I'm half his size," I woke up.

brian said...

Muse, I read a great book on what the brain does when you're asleep, or what they think it does anyway, and it made total sense to me.

The book said that basically when you sleep the part of your brain which makes narrative associations goes dormant, while the part that imagines freely goes into overdrive. That seems to explain a lot of those surreal dream twists, where unlikely things happen or are tossed into the mix, because that other part of your brain, if it were awake, would discard the parts that don't really fit sensibly into the narrative.

JAntoinette said...

Brian, about the lucid dreaming: it sounds a little new age-y, but it's really a way of training your brain to recognize when your dreaming, giving yourself the ability to "rewrite" the plot of the dream. It really helps for nightmares and other anxiety dreams when you feel out of control. (I just googled lucid dreaming and there are a ton of resources online.)

Now I have to try to dream about Balenciaga and then I'll wake up and buy it:)

Bloody Frida said...

I ditto JAntoinette's suggestion about lucid dreaming exercises. I love lucid dreaming - you know that dream that many of us have about having to go to a test and realising that you never went to class and/or studied for it? I lucid dreamed myself out of never having that darned dream again (by stating to myself in the dream "this is just a dream - I never signed up for this class so I don't have to worry about it anymore"

I have another funny lucid dreaming story but I won't bore you with it!

And about Antichrist - it was REALLY disturbing - I'm a big horror/freaky movie fan but I couldn't finish watching it.

Anonymous said...

I had my first sniff of Balenciaga Paris before it was available everywhere. I fell in love with it. It was on a mirrored tray at the shop in Vail, Colorado & it stayed lit and shiny in my mind until I could buy it. I really love it. I guess too much & possibly my ability to smell is decreasing over time. Basically, I was told that I may not wear perfume or perfumed lotion to work any longer. You know, I don't even care. Why waste Paris on these people? Too good for them anyway. It leaves me more to enjoy away from all those fools! (BTW, I live in backward Kentucky, ahhh the hicks! ha!).