Roses are red, violets are blue...and this "valentine" to Lipstick Rose is long overdue. Seriously, I've intended to write a review of this fragrance for quite a while, but I kept getting distracted by new releases and so on. Sometimes we tend to take our loved ones for granted, in perfume as in relationships, but I've decided not to delay any longer in sharing my thoughts on Lipstick Rose.
Lipstick Rose was launched in 2000 as part of the original product line from Editions de Parfums. It was created for Frédéric Malle by perfumer Ralf Schwieger, and it is described by Editions de Parfums as "a vision of glamorized femininity" that evokes the "bonbon" scent of lipstick; its notes are listed as rose, violet, musk, vanilla, vetiver, and amber. Lipstick Rose has a fizzy, aldehydic opening with a sweet-but-tart raspberry note. The fragrance's heart is a blend of talc-dusted tea rose petals and violet liqueur that does, yes, remind me of certain highly-scented lipstick brands. After Lipstick Rose's flirtatious early development, its base of vetiver and soft musk makes a sophisticated appearance. The lasting dry down is a haze of candied violets and plush, ambery vanilla, with that sly musk lingering beneath. This fragrance has excellent staying power and noticeable sillage (particularly during the first hour or so).
Lipstick Rose is something of a paradox: it's a nostalgic fragrance that feels modern, as Robin once wrote about Guerlain Après l'Ondée (another violet-based beauty). Years ago, I read a short article about Editions de Parfums in some now-lost magazine (Vogue? circa 2003?) that discussed Lipstick Rose as a descendant of Yves Saint Laurent Paris, that over-the-top 1980s bouquet of violet and rose, with a more subtle, costly blend of ingredients and a more selective appeal. That sounds right to me. Lipstick Rose refers to earlier perfumes, and to an old-fashioned idea about what a woman's perfume should be, but it does so with a wit and a style of its own.
Sometimes I feel that Lipstick Rose is typecast as a purely frivolous scent, all fluff and giggles, when in fact it does have something more serious at its core. Even Mr. Malle himself recently said of Lipstick Rose, "You get a powdery, comfortable effect, but the fragrance is still playful and young."1 I see what he means by the playful aspect, but on the other hand, Lipstick Rose shouldn't be dismissed as "girly" (a term I despise, but that's another story). Other reviewers and wearers have occasionally compared it to stereotypical "pin-up" attire such a marabou-trimmed satin robe, but to me, it's more like a cropped jacket crafted from pale-colored fur, perhaps ornamented with a fur rosette or some sparkly buttons: pretty to look at, but also warm and substantial.
There are other rose-violet perfumes on the market, of course, and many of them are delightful in their own ways. (For something that really does feel purely winsome and light-hearted, you might try L'Artisan Parfumeur Drôle de Rose). Still, Lipstick Rose remains my ultimate choice. I'll continue to wear it as long as it exists; it feels like a part of me, to the point where I've even adopted its name as my Twitter identity. (I revealed this fact to Frédéric Malle when I met him during a recent store appearance; he seemed amused.) And I've just realized something: one of the reasons I've waited so long to write about Lipstick Rose may be that I don't want anyone else to wear it and love it as much as I do.
Frédéric Malle Editions de Parfums Lipstick Rose is available in 50 ml ($130) and 100 ml ($200) Eau de Parfum, or a set of three 10 ml travel sprays ($80); a 200 ml Lait Parfumé ($85) is also available. For purchasing information, see Frédéric Malle Editions de Parfums under Perfume Houses.
1. Allure, February 2011, p. 64.
Note: image is Norma Talmadge (circa 1919), via Wikimedia Commons.