Yves Saint Laurent : Paris

Created by : Sophia Grojsman

Date : 1983

Genre : Neurotic floral

Concentration : eau de toilette

When a drunken man chased Sophia Grojsman on her way home from work, she knew she had a hit on her hands.  You see… Ms. Grojsman was wearing her latest working version of Paris and as she tells the story, when she started to run… the drunk ran right after her.  Finally, he yelled out, “Please don’t run.  I like this perfume!”  And so we can thank (or blame)  an unknown drunk for this bombastic interpretation of a BIG violet and rose bouquet.

On a side note, the word “viola” or violet comes from the priestess Io who was seduced by Jupiter and was turned into a heifer by Jupiter’s jealous wife, Juno.  There Io remained and fed on a field of violets until she was driven to Egypt by an annoying gadfly… ouch!

The brief for Paris was nothing more than a swatch of pink fabric that Yves Saint Laurent gave to his marketing director, Chantal Roos, and the name… Paris.  The project eventually landed on Ms. Grojsman’s desk at  International Flavours and Fragrances in New York City.  The young perfumer had been playing around with rose scents and she was certain that she could make a financial and artistic success of a rose perfume, which had rarely been done, if she could re-interpret Guerlain’s melancholic Après l’Ondée as a “lighter, airier, younger” rose.  She succeeded but, to be honest, Paris is not rose… it’s violet.

If you don’t know what violet smells like that’s because violet perfumes today are rare, the last really big one being Balenciaga’s Le Dix in 1947.  As for the flower… of all the violets only the Viola Odorata (aka the Sweet Violet or the English Violet) is fragrant.  Most violets, including African violets, have no scent at all.  So… what does a violet note smell like?  Well… it’s powdery, a little sweet and decidedly sad.  Musically, a violet note in perfume would be a minor chord. 

Is there any rose in Paris?  Oh yes.  But it only makes Paris feel bipolar… melancholic violet mixed in with optimistic rose… interesting, vibrant and loud, no doubt due to the strong dose of aldehydes.  Even sprayed on sparingly, this one makes its presence known.

In Europe, Paris was marketed on the imagery of the city of Paris but in the United States they pushed the rose facet, which proved to be a mistake.  Most American women pre-judged the perfume and it wasn’t the financial success that it might have been.


Top image : Jupiter and Io (detail, c. 1531) by Antonio Allegri da Correggio

Leave a comment


  1. Paris is something I don’t think I’ve smelled yet, I obviously should. Your description of “bi-polar” is great, I know exactly what you mean. (And I love that painting.)

    • With the friction between violet and rose and a considerable does of aldehydes (I gather), Paris is not exactly what I would call soothing. But I know of at least 2 women who wore it at the time. Some women seem to like it.

  2. Dane

     /  October 25, 2010

    Now that you mention it, I’ve never actually smelled a violet flower that was fragrant. Huh.

    Paris is…well…unique. It’s lovely, it’s *strong*, but lacks the peachy edge that makes so many of Grojsman’s other compositions so striking. Now Tresor (and Jaipur, Yvresse, et. al) is more my style.

    • I haven’t tried Tresor… but now that you’ve mentioned it, I’ll head over to the perfume counter and give it a shot. As you say, Paris is unique… and not my style either.

  3. Dane

     /  October 25, 2010

    ps – you might like this photograph that Hedi Slimane took in YSL’s apartment after his death.

  4. brian

     /  November 29, 2010

    I LOVE that photo. I saw a factice of Champagne last night online. I would love to have it sitting out. Paris and Yvresse are two of my favorites. I wear Paris EDP. The edp version is a bit boozier, a friendlier, more violet tinged Une Rose to me. Great post.

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