digging (into) vintage: Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, 1971

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(Image Yves Saint Laurent: The Scandal Collection, 1971)

Perfumer Michael Hy

I came to Rive Gauche a bit late in the game in the early 1990s, smelling it on a friend who had a perfect balance of chic and practicality. She had a discerning, unpretentious knack for picking from high and low style. She wore Rive Gauche and it fit her perfectly.

Recently I wrote that I preferred Paco Rabanne’s Calandre to RG. Call me sometimey, but today I prefer Rive Gauche. Their similarities allow their differences to come into view clearly. Calandre is an aldehydic rose floral that winds up with a vaguely bitter green chypre drydown that I wouldn’t have expected at the outset. It’s a beautiful trajectory over time. RG’s aldehydes last longer and move the rose into a sweet, resinous shadow. Despite Calandre’s reference to metal (chrome grill), RG has more of a metallic feel. It’s cool with a bit of that flinty smell shared by metal and stone.

Like all the rose chypres, Rive Gauche has been reformulated. I have a EdT version from the 1970s and one from the early 2000s. The early version is very much of its time: slightly more powdery, a bit less resinous. At the time it might have been seen as a more ‘youthful’ floral aldehydic chypre, but today it has the same loaded vernacular (soapy and powdery = ladylike and prim) as ArpègeJe Reviens and Calèche. (Heresy alert.) I prefer the more recent version.


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