Guerlain My Insolence, 2007

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(image from poster for The Three Faces of Eve)

Perfumers Sylvaine Delacourte and Christophe Raynaud.

Do you remember how much people kvetched about Insolence Eau de Toilette when it was released in 2006? It was The Death of Guerlain. The complaint was nothing new, though. There had been similar raining-cats-and-dogs wailing about a few other post-LVMH Guerlains: Champs Elysées, l’Instant, the entire Aqua Allegoria line. * Guerlain responded by creating two flankers in the two years that followed Insolence EDT. The two took completely different tacks.

My Insolence (2007) came first. It acquiesced. It tacitly confessed to Insolence’s sin of garishness and asked forgiveness. Edges were smoothed. The fruit got sweeter. The nail polish note was restrained. The tonka/vanillic base was warmer and more comfortable. It was a course correction straight toward the middle of the road.

Next came Insolence Eau de Parfum (2008), the in-your-face, defiant flanker. It kept the hairspray, dropped its voice half an octave, exaggerated the candied violet and grew large. It called the critics out for being dainty. Post-LVMH, Guerlain have have developed a few conservative flanker strategies but Insolence EDP was unexpected and refreshingly subversive.

My heart is with Insolence EdP for its fuck-you tone and its dark violet, but My Insolence isn’t bad. Guerlain clearly aimed for greater accessibility. There’s less violet and more berry and the whole package is two lumps sweeter. A lemon-chiffon note levels out the pitchiness of the EDT and dialing down the Aquanet by an order of magnitude makes My Insolence less startling and angular. It’s a programatic de-escalation and the result is a much fluffier fragrance. It might have been designed for the buyer who thought Insolence EDT required too much effort, but it was also a great alternative for the Britney Spears Fantasy wearer who was looking for classier brand affiliation.

The story of these three versions of Insolence is kooky and makes me curious about the decision-making process at Guerlain at the time. A critical part of Thierry Wasser’s new plan for Guerlain when he took the helm in 2008 was a substantial increase in flankers. Insolence is the perfume that he ‘took over’ from Maurice Roucel and Sylvaine Delacourte. After My Insolence came a series of poofy-named flankers (Blooming, Crazy Touch, Shimmering Edition) that were just the sort of stylistic change from the typical brand reserve that worried many Guerlain devotees. These flankers were not attributed to any perfumer, though at some point an extrait attributed to Wasser was released.

I have to suspect that the incongruity of the flankers, from the deliberate and risky style EDT and EDP, to mainstream-aspriational tone of all the ensuing flankers, can be attributed to differences between Roucel and Wasser. Each had a successful track record of large mainstream releases, but Wasser was more orthodox in his approach to mainstream work and his perfumes were generally more conventional. Roucel was quite influential in the escalating gourmand trend and his designer work ranged from tongue-in-cheek to freaky. No wonder the Insolence franchise seems pulled in two directions.

* After Insolence, the sky continued to fall. With each new release Guerlain got similar complaints. (See Idylle, Shalimar Parfum Initial and La Petite Robe Noire.)

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