Fruity-floral flankers: Robert Piguet Petit Fracas, 2012

Image source unknown.

The range of opinions on the reformulation of classic perfumes usually alternates between a sighing, “It ain’t what it used to be, kid.” and a howling, “They’ve RUINED it!” By all accounts, Guichard is credited with saving the Piguet perfumes by reformulation and maintaining the outstanding quality of the Germaine Cellier icons.  Quite a coup.  So, who better to design the flanker to the original than the man who keeps Fracas in its current shape?

In the mid 2000s, Guichard reformulated and relaunched the icons of the Piguet line: Visa, Baghari, Futur and Calypso.  Fracas and Bandit had been reformulated in 1998 or so and already defined the Piguet line. The butch-femme pair reflected the lesbian aesthetic of Cellier’s time, barely coded for mainstream consumption. Guichard’s reformulations are the best in the business and his original work for Gucci, Davidoff, Issey Miyake, Kenzo, Mugler, Hilfigger, Versace and many others places him at the top of his profession.

After his initial work at Piguet, in the period from 2011-2013 he added 15 new perfumes to the brand. Exceedingly prolific, especially  when you consider that in that same period he produced 26 additional perfumes for other brands. (per Now Smell This.) Of these perfumes he made for Piguet only one is a flanker: Petit Fracas. The others are all-new perfumes. I was very intrigued to see what Guichard, a technical expert at reformulating Cellier’s work, would make of a flanker.

Guichard kept the theatrical uber-femme spirit of the original but sets it in a more contemporary vernacular. It keeps the hyper-femininity of Fracas but makes a baby-doll version of it. From the sweet slap of the topnotes through the cocoa dusted drydown, there is always a recognizeable shape of Fracas. Rather than riff on the original’s themes (pretty much just killer hothouse flowers) he embeds a hologram of the original in the heart of L’il baby Fracas. The buttery tuberose, the doughy iris, the grape-like orange blossom still form the center of the perfume, but Petit Fracas substitutes the faint peach of the original for a potent pear note and an almost plastic musk. Pear and cocoa? The notes update the composition, but the perfume doesn’t aim for trendy. Rather than simply updating Fracas with newer materials and accords, Guichard fits the odd assembly of pieces together into something novel.

Guichard smartly avoids simply plucking a perfume out of its era and modernizing it. Petit Fracas is a great tribute to the original perfume and perfumer. In a way, Guichard makes the mirror image of Fracas, a notoriously feral flower. He substitutes the erotic role role of the vamp from the original with a baby-doll’s exaggerated sense of spectacle (think Coutney Love, who incidentally wears Fracas) Despite the olfactory differences of the two perfumes, they both engage in lipsticky feminine role playing.

Now give me Petit Bandit, please.