If it hadn’t been for the marvellous Silver Fox, scentual wordsmith and fragrance expert, I might never have had the joy of discovering Jovoy perfumes. After several discussions about my search for ‘the one’, he suggested I find out more about what this marvellous Parisian boutique was all about. Since then I have read a lot about the company and it’s ethos, how it has evolved from a luxury perfume house into a destination for fragrance connoisseurs to explore the world of haute perfumerie.
Owner and visionary Francois Henin set out with the purpose of acquiring Jovoy, once a successful brand catering for the wealthy men and women of 1920’s Paris. He relaunched it as a kind of gallery space where niche perfume houses are given due credit for their craftsmanship and dedication to creating olfactory masterpieces. The customer’s experience within the store is about the discovery and appreciation of these wonderful fragrances, being given the time and space to enjoy them without being pushed into a purchase.
I love this. Proper fragrance will reveal it’s true nature only when you give it the time to do so. It is a secret courtship, a complex dance where the steps must be improvised to the rhythm of the scent. I think that is why I continually feel cheated by fragrance that is mass produced and pushed out into the world wearing it’s heart on it’s sleeve. What pleasure is there if your chosen scent is known by a million others? What can it possibly have for you that it hasn’t already given to half the planet?
Alongside the other exclusive brands, Jovoy has released it’s own fragrances. When the house was first established in the roaring twenties, it produced vibrant, modern scents for those within the upper classes who wanted to celebrate the freedom of the era and set themselves apart by wearing the most stylish scents. Today, it is much the same, these are perfumes for modern people, the statement is about ‘the now’. There is a definite nod to it’s past glory days, but the new fragrances are thoroughly contemporary.
Enter ‘Gardez-Moi’. Of this perfume, Henin says that
You need to be familiar with society’s morals at that time in order to better understand this scent. After World War I and until the Great Depression, it was absolutely normal if a man came to the restaurant or to the theater with two women: one lady, his spouse; the second, a beautiful kept mistress.
‘Keep Me’ is the English translation of ‘Gardez-Moi’. It is a tribute to a perfume of the same name that was released in 1926. Jovoy was the destination for Parisian cocottes, fine ladies who became the mistresses of upper class, married men. These dangerously decadent and often beautiful women led an extravagant, opulent lifestyle paid for mostly by their rich lovers. Ranked somewhere between courtesans and prostitutes, they were an excepted part of society at that time. As perfect muses for artists, writers and musicians, cocettes wreathed themselves in glamour and allure, always exquisitely dressed, always desirable.
I was wondering if ‘Gardez-Moi’ would be nothing more than a modern interpretation of the cocotte, All allure and jewels and sex. Although it has many of those elements within it, the fragrance as a whole is so much more than a sum of it’s parts. I usually can’t help but personify perfumes. Characters step fully formed into my mind to bear their scented mantels through a story. But ‘Gardez-Moi’ is more of a sensation than a person. I will try to explain it, but I already know that it has to be worn to be truly experienced.
‘Gardez-Moi’ opens in the traditional way of most perfumes, with a flourish of top notes. I immediately detect aldehydes and cyclamen. It is so evocative of hot house flowers that I can feel the fleshy, waxy petals between my fingers, how they would bruise if I pushed my fingernail into them. Next come the lilies and gardenia in a breath of sweet pollen, which is momentarily spiced with black pepper. To my relief the pepper recedes to a pleasant hum almost immediately and the flowers sing out with lushness once again.
Then the most delicious sensation appears in the fragrance. The tropical humidity of the petals is quenched in mouthwatering dew, the whole thing turns liquid and flows off the skin in a torrent of fruit juices. I actually taste ripe plums and raspberries crushed into sparkling spring water. I have come across ‘wet’ fragrances before but there is none of the usual coolness, no green cucumber or melon that usually feature so strongly. ‘Gardez-Moi’ is a watercolour of fruits and flowers, painted without brushes. it is a perfect sphere filled to bursting with exquisitely sweet pleasures.
It continues as a slow wash of sweetness, each note incapsulated into beads of jewel bright liquid, to be dropped into a still lake. It is quite stunning. I am bewitched by how this fragrance manages to be wet, sugary, warm and refreshing all at once. It sits fairly close to the skin, a scrumptious sensation, I am tempted to sink my teeth into my own arm.
‘Gardez-Moi’ can only be described as gourmand because it evokes such a mouthwatering reaction. There is an abundance of beautiful things in this fragrance that I haven’t mentioned so far, jasmine, ylang-ylang and mimosa, coriander and tomato leaves, musk, vanilla and oak moss. I didn’t notice the development of these notes individually, ‘Gardez Moi’ does not shift and change in a way that I have ever experienced in a perfume before. As it mellows further it becomes a luscious wash, the elements beginning to flow into each other, creating a slick honey scented with petals and succulent juices. It is devine nectar, a thirst quenching ambrosia of the gods.
Yet it is also so warm and comforting. The vanilla unites with the berries into a sweet soufflé that emerges out of the water to be served on a floating raft, draped with fine silks and cashmere blankets. From here you could stargaze though out the warm, ylang scented night, listening to the ripples as they spread in your wake.
I am head over heels in love with ‘Gardez-Moi’. It’s as simple as that. On skin it is intimate and fluid, on fabric it is more clinging, full of red juices and white blossoms. It never looses that amazing wetness that is at once refreshing and sensual. To wear it is to take the finest watercolour paints in vibrant pinks, purples and reds, and drip them into a pool of deepest blue water. It doesn’t become a pastel impression of itself as it fades, it simply starts to flow away as gently as it flooded your senses in the beginning. It leaves behind a blushing glow of raspberries and jasmine and musk.
‘Gardez Moi’ is a forbidden fruit, to be lusted after and craved. It bows it’s bejewelled head to the beautiful kept women of it’s past, then is carried on the flow of the river into the garden of Eden. It is the apple and I am Eve. You have to try it.