Perfumer Maurice Blanchet.
I wore Je Reviens on and off in the early ’80s. I’m sure it read as dowdy and anachronistic, especially on a twenty year old, but I’d never smelled anything quite like it and was taken by its plastic, synthetic beauty. I knew a few floral aldehydes and loved Arpège, Joy and No 5 but I knew nothing about the history of perfume. It would never have occurred to me to consider perfume as the product of an era, though I was aware that my other perfumes, Chanel Antaeus and YSL Kouros, were newer.
What struck me about Je Reviens was that I could break it down and identify some of its qualities. Not notes, but descriptors. The other perfumes I knew existed as complete entities. I could no more easily dissect Joy than I could take apart a marble bust and show you its constituent parts. But I could read Je Reviens. I didn’t have a vocabulary for it, but I could tell that it juxtaposed its elements differently. It was powdery and buttery at the same time. I’m sure the cobalt bottle influenced me, but Je Reviens smelled both blue and yellow without ever mixing to become green. The different qualities fit together but didn’t blend like the bouquets in Arpège and Joy. I found abstraction in perfumery at the same time that I was discovering my proclivity for abstraction in other art forms. I started to think of perfume as a composition.
I still smell Je Reviens the same way, but I have more context for it. The contrasting qualities still sit next to each other without blending, but now I chalk it up to a particular use of aromachemicals, most likely vintage musks and a famously heavy dose of benzyl salicylate. It still reads as floral, but now I see it as densely woody with a stemmy, watery crispness and a background hint of smoke.
Je Reviens was released in 1932 and was a precursor to the the green florals and chypres of the ’50s as well as the the metallic ’60s-‘ 70s green florals. Although it comes from the ’30s it has a 1950s sensibility. The delineation of the notes the suits the rigid artifice and cocktail party mentality of the mid ’50s. It is a floral speedball seen through a blur of martinis and amphetamines. The plasticky aromachemicals amp the florals and give a gloss that slurs the speech just a touch.
(Image, The Party by Marisol Escobar. 1965-1966)