That Unattainable Object of Desire: Avon Deneuve by Catherine Deneuve – The Anti-Avon Lady Perfume


While it would be logical to find a perfume inspired by actress, and perfumista, Catherine Deneuve to be one of the most sought after rarities; I would bet many would be shocked to find out it was an Avon product. What is arguably one of the greatest floral chypres ever made, Deneuve by Catherine Deneuve, did come from Avon.


It came from an Avon desperate to change its image in the late 1980’s. Avon was seen as products that your mother owned and the younger generation at that time wanted nothing to do with it. Who did they want to be like? A certain group of them wanted to be like Catherine Deneuve. Mme Deneuve had just starred in the art house horror movie The Hunger as the vampire Miriam Blaylock. Someone in the Avon corporate offices thought pairing Mme Deneuve and Avon in an attempt to make the first Avon branded perfume to be sold in department stores was a fantastic idea. It wasn’t. The door-to-door sales force of “Avon Ladies” complained that their customers would ask them for an Avon perfume they couldn’t sell. The price was above $150/oz. which was beyond aspirational at that time especially compared to the typical Avon perfume selling for less than $10. Avon had no contacts within the department store world and they were seen as arrogant interlopers and thus were blocked from getting the perfume onto fragrance counters around the country. Unable to find it and overpriced compared to other perfumes was a perfect combination for failure. Deneuve by Catherine Deneuve should have disappeared without a trace.


Catherine Deneuve in "The Hunger"

Except a few people got to smell it and it slowly, via word of mouth, became highly sought after. I tried it for the first time in the mid 1990’s when we were at a party discussing the most beautiful actresses and I called Mme Deneuve, “Brigitte Bardot with brains”. My hostess leaned into me and told me the perfume she was wearing was Catherine Deneuve’s perfume. I breathed in a sensual floral chypre hazed over with shots of green. It was heavenly. I would find my bottle of it in one of those mall kiosks with boxes of fragrance stacked upon each other a couple of years later. It is one of my most treasured bottles.

The development of the perfume, as put together from bits and pieces of interviews given by Mme Deneuve was as fraught with incompetence as the ill-conceived distribution plan. The business people couldn’t come to an agreement on what market they were shooting for and it left the perfume sort of stranded in olfactory development hell. Mme Deneuve and perfumer Jacques Veromel continued to work at it diligently. While all the arguing about marketing was going on; Mme Deneuve decided on a final mod. Once they stopped squabbling they found there was a finished perfume waiting for them.

Deneuve opens with a fizz of aldehydes grabbing your attention. Underneath is a green pairing of geranium and galbanum. M. Veromel uses the galbanum at first as a hazy veil of green. It intensifies but so too do the florals as jasmine, marigold, and orange blossom form the floral heart. M. Veromel hit the balance perfectly as the three florals along with the galbanum form an intensely green floral accord that is one of the great middle developments in perfumery. It all transitions into a traditional chypre base full of oakmoss and civet. This ending is everything that a perfume that says sexy to me should be.

Deneuve has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Bottles of Deneuve rarely show up on the online auction sites and it is most often found as a mini. Please be careful when buying one of those. As I’ve mentioned in the past aldehydes are notorious for their volatility and in an unboxed mini you will get a Deneuve probably missing those top notes. With that caveat I would still tell you that the rest of the perfume is worth experiencing. I said it earlier and I will say it again Deneuve by Catherine Deneuve is one of the greatest floral chypres ever.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

3 thoughts on “That Unattainable Object of Desire: Avon Deneuve by Catherine Deneuve – The Anti-Avon Lady Perfume

  1. I love hearing more about Deneuve – you see it mentioned among perfumistas so often, but this was all new to me.

    I wonder if you have any thoughts you want to share about its relationship to the Le Labo/Anthropologie scent Belle du Soir? I've heard them compared.

  2. I have loved this fragrance since 1988. I do spent $200 every few years for an unopened bottle. I've even bought directly from France. It's rare but worth every cent. It is THE fragrance everyone loved and mentioned when they were close. It is subtle, sexy and unique. I'm happy to read the entire backstory about why the AVON collaboration failed. Thank you for sharing this passion over a lengendary perfume. 

  3. Thank you for such an intimate account of something my soul has yearned for now over 30 years. My husband was in the military when I first discovered and fell in love with Deneuve. I recall being at the Dillard’s counter purchasing every single item that accompanied the fragrance. It made me feel graceful, sensual, mysterious…feminine.
    My husband passed away two years ago. Prior to his passing, he lost his sense of smell as a result of his treatment. While in the hospital, he said that he believed he would be able to smell that scent if I still had it. We both could smell it just thinking about it. I’ve seen it for sale online, however, never knew if the seller was trustworthy and the product authentic. I would love to have the experience of Deneuve once again…

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