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Dawn Spencer Hurwitz – When Yves Saint Laurent went to Denver by Lisa Jones

by Lisa Jones

I heard of this line years ago, when we perfumistas could post little parcels of decants and samples back and forth across international boundaries without a care. Stickers? Declaring dangerous contents? Pfft! Such ideas hadn’t been invented, and IFRA hadn’t spoiled our fun with their nasty old regulations about potential allergens.

The world is a safer and sadder place nowadays. Safer, because no postperson has to go to have stitches put in their hands while reeking of Shalimar after a flimsily-packaged bottle smashed in transit. Sadder, because I can’t just ask my buddies to send me ‘a little drop or two’ of something, drop a little parcel into the post in return, and find myself able to try things I can’t ever remember seeing in an actual shop in the UK.

I had tried a few of the DSH fragrances before and was impressed by their style. I like woods and spices, and she handles both well. And of course I had heard about her recreations of classic vintage fragrances such as Guerlain’s Jicky (DSH’s version is Passport a Paris and it’s very good! It has the ‘lemon and lavender floor polish in a posh house’ vibe to it that I love so much).

Photo from The Perfume Magazine

I knew Dawn had created a set of fragrances to complement a showing at the Denver Art Museum of the Yves Saint Laurent retrospective exhibition,  So when my American friend Joe pointed out that there was the annual 20% off sale on the whole DSH collection, I rather splurged. There were so many of her fragrances that I wanted to try – two from the YSL collection for starters. I was able to order from the US and have these sent to the UK because DSH offers what she calls a ‘Voile de Parfum’ format, which doesn’t contain alcohol and consequently isn’t considered dangerous to ship by air.

Le Smoking

“The Tuxedo for a woman was revolutionary and avant-garde at the time that YSL began introducing the style into his collection… Le Smoking is a gender-bending classic that’s great on both men and women.”

Described as “a sophisticated green chypre tabac fragrance” Le Smoking has a deep emerald green opening that has a little rasp to it but no bite as so many vivid green top notes do. This brightens as it opens up, becoming slightly soapy, in a good way. The heart has a spicy aspect to it, with some flowers, but there’s a green woodiness that is pure chypre and that sings like a crystal bell. I adore this heart, it’s gorgeous and wonderfully retro but modern.

It is unisex, and it certainly speaks of classic chypre fragrances to me. The base is lovely and this is one fragrance from DSH I need in a larger size. I’d like to try the eau de parfum spray to see if it’s any different from this formulation, and perhaps has more throw, as the voile de parfum stays close to the skin.

John William Waterhouse

Fou d’Opium

Not to be confused with DSH’s Euphorism d’Opium, from the Denver art exhibit mentioned above, which is a recreation of the eau de toilette strength of the famous fragrance, this is a recreation of the original Yves Saint Laurent Opium parfum extrait from the 1970s. I am a huge fan of the pre-reformulation Opium and have a significant stash, and I have to tell you – this isn’t it. This isn’t even slightly like it. I was deeply disappointed the first time I tried it so I have come back and will give you my impressions of it as a fragrance, pure and simple.

Well for starters, this one isn’t unisex, it’s definitely a feminine fragrance; in fact it’s a vavavoom sort of feminine fragrance. It has round and creamy topnotes, with something a little lush and ripe in there, possibly a rich gardenia note? It is certainly oriental, definitely retro, and possibly a little dark for mainstream tastes (this is a very

Fanpop

good thing to many readers, I know). There’s a funk to it that is indolic and slightly rude – I suspect Sam will have one of her eyebrow-raising responses to this, which always make me laugh. I shouldn’t wear it to work, unless you are Dita von Teese.

I couldn’t restrict myself to just two samples of course, so I shall return shortly with more delights from Dawn Spencer Hurwitz.

Stockists

You can buy DSH perfumes from here. 

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