There was a time when the seeing the name Yves Saint Laurent on a perfume bottle was a reason to smile. Over the last five or six years it has become a reason to frown in confusion as to how this groundbreaking brand could be turned into something so banal. The nadir of this was last year’s release of Black Opium. That was so flawed that I thought there was no hope. Then of course hope reared its head.
I received a press release at the end of last year announcing the release of a five fragrance collection called La Vestiaire des Parfums. This seemed like an attempt by Yves Saint Laurent to release an exclusive collection like many of their contemporaries. The inspiration was five trendsetting fashion styles associated with M. Saint Laurent. I think I was equal parts anticipation and dread when trying the samples. The majority of the collection felt like it was less inspired by the fashion of the past and more likely driven by the need to check boxes. One citrus, one white floral, one oriental, one woody, and one floriental. The same desire to play it safe permeates the collection. With all that, there was one which was pleasant enough to warrant wearing it for a couple of days.
Satin Trapeze dress from the 1958 Dior collection
Caftan is inspired by M. Saint Laurent’s 1958 haute couture Trapeze Collection. Working as the successor to Christian Dior, M. Saint Laurent was inspired by the oriental caftan and adapted it into what would become the forerunner of the A-Line silhouette. The Trapeze dresses were constructed like caftans close to the shoulders that flared dramatically outward in an unstructured silhouette. As this evolved over time into the A-Line the volume of the flare reduced dramatically and narrowed considerably.
Caftan the fragrance mimics the idea of adapting oriental designs into western aesthetic. Perfumer Calice Becker produces a soft voluminous oriental to pay homage.
Caftan opens with a tart citrus and baie rose accord. This heads into a resinous heart of benzoin, styrax, and incense. Mme Becker has become expert at using these particular notes to a particular effect. In Caftan she is going for something more expansive and soft. She achieves this as this feels like the wide flaring fabric heading down from the fitted shoulders. It ends on a combination of labdanum and musks to give a skin scent accord to let you know there is a woman underneath all that fabric.
Caftan has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
Caftan is a nicely crafted oriental that doesn’t smell a lot different than many others out there. I feel like Mme Becker faithfully adhered to the brief but wonder if there were some other more interestingly constructed mods which were rejected. For a line of fragrance which celebrates all of the risk taking of M. Saint Laurent it feels contrary to that mindset. If you want a serviceable plush oriental fragrance Caftan would check that box.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Yves Saint Laurent.