Robert Piguet Fracas, 1948

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(image of Omahrya Mota and models not cited by Danielle Levitt)

Perfumer Germain Cellier.

I don’t believe in soliflors.

Soliflor perfumes don’t convincingly imitate flowers. Plants use scents to connect plant and animal in complex symbiotic relationships. The art of perfumery relies on chemistry to deliver an olfactory product. In terms of implicit purpose and function, perfumery and botany have nothing in common. And not to be too dogmatic, but chasing representation is generally less effective in perfumery than in many other arts. Photorealism has a solid place in the visual arts, yet even there representation is elusive.

That said, Fracas succeeds in three ways. 1) The ‘tuberose’ note’s distance from actual likeness makes it seem like any other aromachemical, making Fracas seem less like a specific flower and more like all other perfume. 2) Fracas successfully suggests the scent of tuberose. It finds the flower’s defining features, modulates them and creates a notion of a flower, not an image of a flower. 3) Fracas doesn’t pursue a flower from top notes to drydown. It starts with the sharper attributes of a flower, but winds up with a scent that makes me feel as if I’ve been slapped with a fresh loaf of sourdough bread.

Fracas is distinct from other tuberose perfumes and is appealing on a number of levels. It is strikingly beautiful yet not pretty in the least. It smells ‘chemical’ in the way that many botanical essences do. And the whole femme gender thing, especially from Germaine Cellier, is brilliant, and as a homo, I approve.

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