Perfumer Dominique Ropion
Ropion knows how to make monster florals. Ysatis, Amarige, Alien. Jarring and disturbing to some, ravishing to others. (Count me in the disturbed category.) The key is in the synth-natural play of Ropion’s aesthetic. Take Amarige and Alien (co-authored with Laurent Bruyère). They are considered versions of the soliflor yet to my nose they are so unequivocally chemical in tone as to be science-fiction. Ropion’s mainstream florals are so exaggerated, so counterbalanced with potent synthetics that they can seem brittle. They might pay lip service to flowers, but their magnitude and mathematical sense of proportion mark them as artificial. The hyperbole of the accords will read as graceful to some and as frightening to others. If a flower is like a folk song, Ropion’s florals are Farinelli singing to Louis XV at Versailles.
Ropion puts his ability to leverage floral tones to excellent use in Une Fleur de Cassie. It lacks the stiffness of Ysatis and the shrillness of Amarige but is equally, and proudly, as synthetic as either of the two. The name name might lead you to believe it’s an attempt at a soliflor, but the mix of an odd botanical note like cassie/mimosa with heavy synthetics makes Une Fleur de Cassie a cyborg of a perfume. It pairs scents of mud and metal, cinnamon and slate, almond and glue. The the bold use of seemingly disparate tones gives Une Fleur de Cassie a deep saturation. The balance of large strokes and detail allows it to be as large as Ysatis’s bouquet but far less overdressed.
Une Fleur de Cassie showcases Ropion’s strength at calculating olfactory effects to the umpteenth decimal point. It is a remarkably intricate and precise perfume but the complexity doesn’t lead to obscurity. You don’t need a vocabulary of notes to read Une Fleur de Cassie. The legibility is in the clarity and accuracy of the olfactory aesthetics, not in the list of notes. To lean further into the opera analogy, Une Fleur de Cassie offers a satisfying experience whether you’ve read the libretto or not.
For some perfumers working with a prestigious niche house is the opportunity to branch out from the obligatory mainstream sensibilities of their day jobs. For Ropion its a chance to hunker down and dig more deeply into a genre he’s known for. Frédéric Malle’s approach to art direction is to give the perfumer the resources to pursue his own direction and then to engage in a discussion during the perfume’s creation. It is a measured approach, one that favors a thoughtful composition over an outrageous one. Une Fleur de Cassie’s success is likely due to both Malle’s and Ropion’s input and was one of the perfumes that put the Malle brand at the center of attention when the line launched in 2000.
Perfume purchased from Editions Frédéric Malle.
(image, Ex Machina)