Carine Roitfeld George & Sebastian ~ fragrance reviews :: Now Smell This

I “know” fashion stylist/editor/consultant Carine Roitfeld from hundreds of interviews and media profiles, her book Carine Roitfeld: irreverent and the self-mythologizing documentary film Mademoiselle C (could have been called Carine Roitfeld: interminable). Though I didn’t know much about Roitfeld personally (outside her 10-year editorship at Vogue Paris where her tastes and style made American Vogue look like Family Circle magazine in comparison) I did my research. All those here at Now Smell This who have commented on Tom Ford’s “soft-core” editorials and advertisements (for Gucci and his own brand) — blow Carine a kiss…or give her the finger. Roitfeld’s vision as a stylist influenced those ‘porno-chic’ photo shoots.

Admissions: When it comes to editors-in-chief at Vogue Paris/French Vogue, I’m more of a Joan Juliet Buck and Emmanuelle Alt kinda guy AND I’m two years late to the Carine Roitfeld perfume party.

Roitfeld can be amusing. If I had to work for a high-powered fashion diva/divo (with all the pathological insecurities, egotism, elitism, snobbery, screams and flying ashtrays that entails) she’d be on my Top 5 Almost-Bearable Fashion Bosses list. I appreciate that Roitfeld does not shy away from revealing her age (66), her grandmother status or her vulnerabilities (she has eye and back problems). In a funny article in The Guardian (Carine Roitfeld: Drink espresso, sleep in your makeup, don’t take selfies) she talked about her relationship to the mirror: 

I’m lucky because I’m rather blind now so I don’t see myself very well, it’s much better. Although I have to do my makeup in one of those amplified mirrors. Horrifying.

Roitfeld did not rush into perfume-making. Her collection, 7 Lovers, took eight years from idea to fruition. She imagined seven lovers in seven favorite cities and used names that appeal to her or are associated with specific people (Orson is Orson Welles, Kar-wai is Wong Kar-wai). She named one scent after her son, Vladimir.

7 Lovers perfumes smell as if they were created/curated by someone who loves and understands fragrance. Roitfeld: 

I remember someone by his perfume, by the smell. I remember the perfume of my grandma. My mother was always wearing Elnett [hairspray], and the smell of Elnett is very strong. You cannot forget it. When you go to the South of France and you land at the airport in Nice, you smell the pine trees. It is unforgettable.1

For 20 years Roitfeld wore Yves Saint Laurent Opium layered with Serge Lutens Fleurs d’Oranger.2  The first scent she created for 7 Lovers was Aurélien/Paris (with another Aurélien — Guichard) and it does smell like those two iconic perfumes blended together. 

7 Lovers verdict: I adore one, enjoy five and dislike one (Vladimir, a mainstream, department-store amber perfume). Today, I’m reviewing my favorite “lover,” George, and Sebastian. And I should say although the names of the perfumes are masculine, the fragrances are unisex.

George (London) 

Perfumer Yann Vasnier: Iranian galbanum, violet leaves, jasmine, rose, cannabis, iris, leather, oakmoss.

Judging by perfume bloggers, George seems the clear favorite of the 7 Lovers line. I find it addictive (its green/vegetal notes are sensational). Almost all reviewers who wrote about George have compared it to Chanel Cristalle and/or No. 19. I’ve never worn either of those perfumes and haven’t smelled them in ages so must remain mute on that topic.

George starts with a blast of great-smelling galbanum; it’s soon joined by vibrant, natural-smelling violet leaf. These notes meld to create a juicy, green aroma with a kick. George’s heart notes become floral, with fruity jasmine. The green-tinged juice, florals and hint of fruitiness produce a pleasing “cocktail” scent. As the fragrance develops further, lots of “retro” moss arrives with a hints of smoke and powdery iris. 

Sebastian (Buenos Aires) 

Perfumer Pascal Gaurin: immortelle, tuberose, sandalwood, vanilla, aqua flora captive molecule

When I smelled Sebastian I thought: this would be a great perfume for a wedding. Two grooms, two brides or a bride and groom could wear the same happy fragrance to remember the day. Sebastian has “sunshine,” flowers and a bite of wedding cake…it’s a joyful scent. Sebastian begins with a ‘coconut’-scented tuberose bouquet, interspersed with white immortelle flowers. All flowers are rich/liquor-y and enveloping and are joined by sheer sandalwood and a (super)natural vanilla note (imagine handfuls of glossy-black vanilla pods, each slit from end to end to release intense vanilla scent). A “nutty” (as in cashew, not Jerry Lewis) musk (decidedly white) rounds out this vivid perfume. Sebastian has amazing sillage and lasting power; it’s the most “outgoing” of the collection. 

A bottle of Carine Roitfeld perfume is almost $300.

“Perfume has to be expensive, or it is not perfume,” Roitfeld argues. “It’s like couture — it’s really something special. And as a French person, it has to be high quality.” That’s not to say that she isn’t scheming more accessible price points. A year ago, she was strolling the aisles of a Walmart in Calabasas, Calif., when a customer rushed over to tell Roitfeld — who was wearing a test fragrance from her line — how beautiful she smelled. The moment left her dreaming up a lower-priced line now that she knew her high-fashion scents would appeal to the masses.”1 

Oh, Carine, celebrity-filled Calabasas isn’t the best testing ground to gauge the tastes of common folk!3 

Carine Roitfeld Parfums George and Sebastian are available in 10 ($77) or 90 ($285) ml Eau de Parfum, and can be found at Net-A-Porter or Carine Roitfeld. A coffret with 10 ml bottles of all seven perfumes is $275.

1. New York Post, Editor Carine Roitfeld posed nude for her perfume ad campaign

2. VogueCarine Roitfeld, in Her Own Words

3. Calabasas 2018 demographics. Calabasas is overwhelmingly white, the average household income is almost $120,000 and the median price of a home is $1.04 million.

Note: images via Carine Roitfeld or Carine Roitfeld’s Instagram accounts: carineroitfeldparis and carineroitfeld.

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