x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Paco Rabanne's golden greats: a sensory journey

We goes on a sensory trip with Paco Rabanne's master perfumers, Christophe Raynaud and Anne Flipo.

Anne Flipo and Christophe Raynaud say the new Paco Rabanne perfumes 1 Million Absolutely Gold and Lady Million are in keeping with the designer's preferences. Antonie Robertson / The National
Anne Flipo and Christophe Raynaud say the new Paco Rabanne perfumes 1 Million Absolutely Gold and Lady Million are in keeping with the designer's preferences. Antonie Robertson / The National

The very mention of Paco Rabanne's name conjures up images of the daring, nonconformist couturier making sketches of his futuristic, metal-plated cocktail dresses in the late 1960s. Fortunately, the spirit that saw him create a gown more than 40 years ago for the French singer Françoise Hardy - it's made of nine kilograms of gold and 300 carats of diamonds - lives on in his autumn/winter 2012 collection. The precious metal is omnipresent in the range, as is his sense of humour, best captured in a modern take on his 1969 "toilet chain" handbag.

Gold was also the inspiration behind the brand's newest fragrances, concentrated editions of the worldwide bestsellers 1 Million and Lady Million, originally launched in 2008. Although he retired more than a decade ago, the bottle designs - a "gold bar" for him and a "diamond" for her - still bear the hallmark of Rabanne's style, while the freshness of the top notes remains loyal to his clearly expressed preferences.

For him: 1 Million Absolutely Gold

Perfumer: Christophe Raynaud

We said "wow" when we first saw the ingot-like perfume bottle four years ago. We understood immediately that the perfume had to have an equally strong identity.

We created the accord of "leather" for the original 1 Million fragrance, playing around with the masculine code and the use of traditional raw materials. We used natural rose absolute for 1 Million - as in a feminine perfume - as opposed to a lot of geranium, which is normally used in masculine perfumery.

We also used an overdose of cinnamon bark instead of spices generally used for male perfumes, such as clove buds and nutmeg.

It was boring to use bergamot or lemon for the top notes, so we added new freshness with a lot of mint and mandarin.

The idea was to make the leather "darker" with Absolutely Gold to reinterpret it and make it more mysterious. And because a man is "charismatic and irresistible", we needed something deeper and stronger. What we now have is something very powerful and masculine that leaves a bigger trail.

Using blood mandarin with our top notes was brighter and more flamboyant than before. And for the heart, or middle notes, we chose something else this time: rose with a saffron facet, which smells leathery.

Another raw material we used was oud. Along with blond suede, we reworked the famous leather, contrasting it with the noble ingredient of oud, which really pushed out the amber notes.

For her: Lady Million Absolutely Gold

Perfumer: Anne Flipo

I started my adventure with Lady Million in 2008. It was very challenging and I knew I had to begin with a very strong idea. Some of the main starting points were femininity and seduction.

Orange flower is an important raw material because it is fresh and ultra-feminine - men can't resist it. So it was like a fatal weapon.

As the bottle was a diamond and faceted, we tried to make the fragrance equally multidimensional, with unexpected raspberry in the top note, as well as bitter orange, gardenia and Arabian jasmine. For the base we picked woods and sensuous honey. All this, combined with patchouli, make up the main aspects.

It took about two years to develop, and it was quite a wonderful adventure. When I began making Lady Million Absolutely Gold as a perfume, I focused on making the signature stronger. This meant more orange flower, jasmine and honey, plus neroli and the new woods of cashmere and Labdanum.

The "heart combination" is creamy and addictive, while the base has something of a Middle Eastern effect. All these ingredients make a great trail - this is an elixir of a fragrance. I think it's a particularly good perfume for the Middle East, the tastes of which I've come to know well as a perfumer. I think it's great for women of all ages - and, personally, I love wearing it because it's addictive and sensual.

Paco Rabanne's new fragrances are available at leading perfumers and department stores across the UAE. An 80ml bottle of Lady Million Absolutely Gold costs Dh460; 1 Million Absolutely Gold costs Dh390. Visit www.pacorabanne.com


- Francisco "Paco" Rabaneda y Cuervo was born in Spain's Basque region in 1934.

- His mother was a head seamstress at Balenciaga.

- The pair fled the Spanish Civil War for France in 1939.

- Rabanne went on to study architecture at École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

- He started creating costume jewellery for houses such as Givenchy, Balenciaga and Nina Ricci in the early 1960s.

- Rabanne founded his eponymous fashion label in 1966.

- His first collection was a provocative manifesto titled "12 Unwearable Dresses in Contemporary Materials".

- He has ever since been known for his eccentric designs and experimentation.

- Iconic designs from his "golden era" feature hammered metal, knitted fur, paper and fibreglass.

- In 1971, he became a member of the storied Chambre Syndicale de la Couture.

- He retired in 1999, after more than 30 years in the spotlight.

- In 2010, he was decorated with the Legion d'Honneur.Biog

Scent of success????

Paco Rabanne set out to revolutionise the perfume industry more than 43 years ago. He rewrote established codes and developed his own line.

Calandre was his first fragrance for women in 1969. Other international successes have included Paco Rabanne Pour Homme and Black XS.

The Absolutely Gold perfumes have pushed the boundaries of modern perfumery because of their very high concentration - 16 per cent for 1 Million and 20 per cent for Lady Million.

"A perfume should be as imbued with meaning as it is light to wear," Rabanne said. "I like my fragrances to be fresh first, then structured, full of vibrations and contrasts."