YSL’s Fragrant Stroll Down Memory Lane

To review La Collection—eight iconic Yves Saint Laurent fragrances repackaged in cubical bottles—is to realize what is missing from the house’s latest olfactive endeavor: the irresistible smell of scandal.

Indeed, the fragrant stroll down memory lane is a timely reminder of all the headlines, gossip and legal drama that the brand’s perfume division has produced since its creation 40 years ago. That notorious Jean Loup Sieff image of Monsieur himself, naked except for his black spectacles, to promote Pour Homme, his first men’s fragrance, is etched in our collective memory. Those guys over at Dolce & Gabbana would certainly agree. 

In 1993, Saint Laurent hinted at his hedonistic 1970s with an exquisite mixture of nectarine, litchi and patchouli, fabulously christened Champagne. But then peeved bubbly producers sued, and the fragrance was renamed. But the second moniker expressed anything but repentance. After all, Yvresse sounds like “ivresse,” the French word for drunkenness and euphoria.

It wasn’t until the arrival of Tom Ford that this tradition of provocation was revived, notably with the oriental Nu, launched in 2002 with an orgiastic party where naked and entwined bodies writhed in giant, see-through urns. And, as for M7, the ad campaign featuring a neo-classical nude of Samuel de Cubber was rejected by several publications on grounds of indecency.

The other fragrances in La Collection—Jazz, In Love Again, Rive Gauche Pour Homme, Y—didn’t cause controversy, but they were all part of a golden era.

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