Mario Valentino Ocean Rain (1990) or, On Diorissimo: Edmond Roudnitska’s Manifesto

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Ocean Rain is a floral chypre made for the Italian luxury leather shoe and accessories firm Mario Valentino. Released in 1990, it was Roudnitska’s last perfume and it braids together ideas present in his earlier work. It plays with the clean/dirty dichotomy as Rochas Femme and Dior Diorella did, but leans toward the antiseptic. It’s a hybrid style of chypre like Rochas Moustache’s fougère and Dior Eau Fraiche’s eau de cologne but it has none of their ease and warmth. The real predecessor to Ocean Rain is Dior Diorissimo, Roudnitska’s tribute to the lily of the valley.

Roudnitska’s devil-may-care chypres focus on pleasure, but Ocean Rain has a cool, motionless tone that distances it from its siblings. Femme and Diorella tuck a wide range of colors behind their olfactory notes. They suggest warm bodies and closeness. Ocean Rain’s cold breeze leaves behind a clinical wake and a mood of suspicion. As soon as it puts forward an idea, it pulls it back. It isn’t tentative, it is exceedingly careful. Ocean Rain’s world is a blanched sepia, and when seen as a chypre, it’s a bit dour. A better lens through which to see it would be Diorissimo.

The muguet at the heart of Diorissimo is the height of synthesis and a brilliant example of the success of abstraction as the tool of a trained mind. The lily-of-the-valley produces no fragrant materials and there is no other scent in the environment that closely mimics it. Diorissimo created what botany wouldn’t surrender. Roudnitska chose this target to show that the perfumery of the time (mid-20th century) was burdened and overstuffed. It was a lesson in the conceptualization and execution of perfumery.

Diorissimo presents a statement of intent. Unlike other art forms, perfumery doesn’t have artistic movements or schools that explore a credo or theory. Instead, perfume has genres. Genres simply classify and describe the composition. They don’t expound on the ideas behind the perfumes. In this respect, Diorissimo stands apart.

Ocean Rain wasn’t the artistic assertion that Diorissimo was, but understanding the palette that created a crisp, lily-of-the-valley in Diorissimo makes sense of Ocean Rain. Ocean Rain isn’t frigid, it’s a cold beauty. The soapy muguet in Diorissimo suggested cool Spring day that is just starting to warm up. Ocean Rain travels in the other direction, not halfway to summer warmth, but halfway to frozen. It’s the scent of an imaginary winter-blooming fruit tree, of soil and wood and chilled flowers.

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2 Comments

  1. MaggieToo says:

    FYI, ‘Roudnitska’ is misspelled ‘Routnitska’ in the tag line at the very top, which could create problems for anyone using the Search function here.

    1. jtd says:

      Thanks for pointing this out–I hadn’t even noticed.

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