Major Changes at Serge Lutens

As many of you are undoubtedly aware by now, major changes are sweeping over Serge Lutens. They extend beyond changes to the mere look of bottles or their pricing and entail a whole reshuffling and revamping of the many lines or collections within the brand, thereby signifying a new marketing and business approach by Shiseido which took over the full management of the Serge Lutens brand a year ago. Many of you have already read the news of the specific changes elsewhere, but not everyone follows the same perfume sites or groups, so I thought it was worth a post here on Kafkaesque so that everyone had the chance to buy any old favourites whilst they could before the higher prices kick in.

At the end of this article, I’ll share some thoughts about the possible larger meaning of all this, why I think Shiseido differs from other companies (like L’Oreal or LVHM) that have taken control of perfume houses, why the nature of Shiseido’s relationship with Lutens might be cause for cautious optimism, and, finally, which Lutens fragrances have, in my opinion, have already undergone reformulation prior to the new bottling.

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Serge Lutens & Shiseido’s Nombre Noir: The Legendary Unicorn

Serge Lutens in an ad for Nombre Noir. Source: Fragrantica.

Serge Lutens in an ad for Nombre Noir. Source: Fragrantica.

There are unicorns that hide amongst the shadows of our world, fragrance unicorns that are spoken about in hushed, reverential tones, fragrances of such great rarity that they rise from the eBay mists only a bit more frequently than King Arthur’s Avalon. These myths of legend belong to an elite club in the vintage world, and one of them is Nombre Noir.

Nombre Noir is so famous for so many reasons that it’s hard to know where to begin. It was the very first fragrance ever made by the visionary Serge Lutens, his introductory footsteps into the perfume world, albeit under the umbrella of Shiseido rather than his own name. That would come later, but so many of the famous Lutens olfactory signatures make their debut in Nombre Noir that it’s like following a map into the future. But the reasons why the fragrance is so mythical have little to do with Lutens himself and everything to do with an aggregation of olfactory, technical, and market-oriented factors. The fact that there is a whiff of Greek tragedy to the tale just adds to the mystique.

Nombre Noir via Fragrantica.

Nombre Noir pure parfum via Fragrantica.

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Serge Lutens Veilleur de Nuit

Source: upi.com

Source: upi.com

So, I guess luxury “Choco-Florals” have now become a thing. This year alone, there have been three luxury-priced Roja Dove chocolate floral orientals ($500+) and a luxury-priced Amouage ($300+) one. And, at first glance, Serge Lutens‘ new Veilleur de Nuit (“The Night Watchman” or “Watcher of the Night”) would appear to be joining their ranks.

The reality feels different, though. To me, Veilleur de Nuit is quietly and only tangentially floral, and the fragrance is primarily an animalic chocolate with leathery, musky, and smoky facets. When wearing it, I never thought of something like a chocolate version of Tubereuse Criminelle. Not even once. I thought of a chocolate twist on Boxeuses instead, albeit only briefly.

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Serge Lutens Bapteme du Feu

Bapteme du Feu, the latest release from Serge Lutens, is not a scent that lends itself to easy characterisation. What I can say is that it’s different, puts a sometimes bizarre twist on traditional fragrance categories or genres, and that the old Lutens eccentricity and creative twists are back. Wearing it left me flummoxed at times, highly ambivalent at other times, but at least it feels like a Lutens, for better or for worse.

Source: shutterstock.com

Source: shutterstock.com

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