Givenchy Hot Couture ~ fragrance review

Givenchy Hot Couture advert

Hot Couture has hovered at the edge of my fragrance consciousness for years, but I never actually tried it until this week, when I was feeling particularly jaded at Sephora and I wanted to smell something, anything that wasn't a summer limited edition. And now that I think about it, I'm intrigued by this fragrance: Hot Couture has been holding its place in the Givenchy section of perfume counters since it was released in 2000, yet it's such a "neither/nor" fragrance for the venerable brand. It's neither Audrey Hepburn nor Liv Tyler, neither the classic L'Interdit nor the blandly trendy Very Irresistible and all its flankers. Nor is it one of Givenchy's coming-on-strong fragrances of the 1990s, like Amarige or Organza. What is it?

In Givenchy's official (and generally meaningless) description, "Hot Couture is a creation that aims to complement the woman's body, combining sensuality and glamour with refinement and elegance. Very fashionable, the Hot Couture woman is both refined and original, slightly provocative and so uniquely charismatic." Hot Couture is "a voluptuous fragrance with spicy and woody notes (raspberry nectar, magnolia, amber-vetiver)," and it was developed by perfumers Alberto Morillas and Jacques Cavallier. Its title is a silly pun on "haute couture," and the bottle's logo looks like a dressmaker's label with pinked edges. (The older bottle design bore an image resembling a vintage fashion sketch.)

Hot Couture starts off with a flashy burst of raspberry and vanilla that feels more like the late 1980s than a nostalgic take on the 1950s or 1960s. Just when you might think it's all too fruity-sweet, the top notes do settle down a little bit and turn slightly creamy. The berry theme never completely disappears, but the rest of the fragrance develops into a woodsy amber with a sort of honeyed tobacco note around the edges. A little later, there does seem to be a sweet white-floral note mixed into the amber. It's not a very nuanced or layered scent — it's fairly linear after that sugary-pulpy assault of its opening — but it's appealing in a slightly tacky, going-out-with-the-girls kind of way.

When I did a little internet sleuthing on Hot Couture over the past few days, I was surprised to see how many reviews it has received on Makeup Alley and the Sephora website. I suppose I really am one of the last to try it. I can see why it's popular with many of its users, though; I'm guessing that it appeals to women who are looking for something in the vein of Flowerbomb and Pink Sugar, although it predates both of those and it's less sweet than either one.  It also feels like a high-rent cousin to  Bath & Body Works Blackberry Amber or a bolder step-sister to Bond no. 9 Bryant Park, a more recent fashion-inspired fragrance based on a similar pairing of raspberry and amber.

Givenchy Hot Couture perfume bottles

Have you ever heard the old advice that you should look in the mirror and remove one accessory from your outfit before you leave the house? Hot Couture definitely starts off feeling over-accessorized, but she does slip off her dangly chandelier earrings and blot her hot-pink lipstick after a little while. She's still not exactly an ingenue or the epitome of classic elegance, but she has a sense of fun. Sometimes, it's good to keep up an acquaintance with a person (or a perfume) like that.

Givenchy Hot Couture Eau de Toilette retails for $68 (50 ml) or $88 (100 ml), but you can usually find a few online fragrance discounters selling it for under $50. (There's also an Eau de Parfum, which I haven't tried.)

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26 Comments

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  1. AmyT says:

    There was a time when I smelled this on a lot of women who passed me by (averaging, I’d say, ages 25-40). It’s one of those scents that’s really easy to overdo.

    I still have one of the old black Art Deco-ish bottles (purchased circa 2001). I don’t wear it much but it is one of my favourite bottles.

    • Jessica says:

      Hi, Amy! I wish I’d bought it a few years ago, just for that older bottle design. This would certainly be an easy fragrance to “overdo,” not to mention that it lasts a long time on skin!

      • pyramus says:

        The older bottle didn’t just have that retro-couture design as a label: it actually snapped into a plastic frame that held the image (printed on glossy paper like a photograph) against the back of the bottle, and it had a little built-in easel stand so that when the bottle was standing up, it was tilted backwards like a picture frame. It was absolutely brilliant, nonesuch packaging design.

        • Jessica says:

          Really?! Then it was even better than I remember it being. I’ll have to keep an eye out for a used one somewhere…!

  2. eaudemale says:

    Casually today I’m wearing CH Men by Carolina Herrera and I remember like more than a decade ago, my mom used to wear Hot Couture, the first version in eau de parfum concentration and I don’t know why I can really smell a lot of similarities between this two, probably the sugar, vanilla, nutmeng on CH play similar to the raspberry – vanilla on HC.

    :/

    • Jessica says:

      Eaudemale, that’s an interesting coincidence. Hot Couture does have a spicy aspect to its woody amber, plus the sweet notes, so that makes sense!

  3. Absolute Scentualist says:

    Great review, Jessica. I fell in love with HC when I got a sample from Sephora a couple years ago. The combination of fruit and root was so unusual to my nose, like sipping raspberry tea while transplanting flowers in a garden.

    And unusually enough, I prefer the edt over the edp because the former has more vetiver and earthiness, is a little more “flirty” and seems to last better than the edp. The edp feels smoother, but in an almost muted, blurred sense, and the staying power wasn’t as good, at least in the mini I had for a while. The edt rollerball of this at Sephora is reasonably priced and just enough for me to decide that yes, I’d like a bottle someday. It is good to know it is apparently doing well since I discovered it way past the launch and am always worried quirky scents I like will be discontinued as they so often are. :)

    Thanks for reviewing this little gem. I love it and hope it sticks around for a long time.

    • Jessica says:

      AS, I’m glad to know that there are some Hot Couture fans amongst the NST crowd! I’m not sure how or why I ignored this one for so long. I have a friend who used to wear Amarige, and I’ve always sampled the Very Irresistibles (and I own one of the Harvest versions, the Rosa Centifolia one)… I’ve even tried that boring Ange ou Demon (great bottle, at least!), and refused to try Play (on principle, because the packaging is so gimmicky and cynical)… poor Hot Couture, waiting for my attention all these years! ;)

  4. RuthW says:

    Thanks for the review, I had heard about this on and off for years – I think the last time was a Taylor Swift interview in InStyle Magazine were she said it was her favorite. I remember only because it was interesting to me how much more celebrities were talking about what perfume they wore as opposed to a few years ago (those celebrities not actively hawking a fragrance, I mean).
    Will give this a try next time I am in Sephora though I usually reserve my “fun” fragrance funds for cheap body splashes and drugstore wonders like Sand & Sable (please review sometime!).

    • Jessica says:

      See, that’s what I get for ignoring Taylor Swift… I had no idea! Iol. It’s a bit expensive for a “cheap thrill,” but it’s an enjoyable fragrance nonetheless. You’d never mistake it for a classic Guerlain or an Ormonde Jayne or what have you… but it’s fun.

  5. malijo789 says:

    That model sure can push her hips out there! Why does everyone make their models pose in such odd positions?

    • Jessica says:

      It seems to a common trick in fashion photography, doesn’t it? I actually like the overall advertisement — it’s a little bit Surrealist.

  6. jonr951 says:

    How’s the staying power on this one? Any good for an edt? It sounds rather nice and I have no clue why I have yet to really try it. : )

    • Jessica says:

      Jonr951, the staying power is very, very good for an EDT! I’ve been using a sample (begged from Sephora!), and I’m noticing that one spritz goes a long way.

  7. Jill says:

    Nice review, thanks, Jessica! I’ve never tried this one but have occasionally wondered about it. I think I’ll try it now since you compare it to Bryant Park, which I like quite a bit.

    • Jessica says:

      Jill, I’m very fond of Bryant Park, and I’m curious about this coincidence! Hot Couture has a stronger ambery base, but the sweet/tart raspberry idea is similar.

      • Jill says:

        I get quite a bit of patchouli from Bryant Park too. I’ll be interested to compare it with Hot Couture’s stronger amber!

  8. Subhuman says:

    Hah, I got my mom a bottle of this shortly after it was launched, in my pre-perfumista teen years, knowing only that she loved Givenchy perfumes and that it was the latest one. Now I smell it and realize how ill-fitting it was given her usual perfume taste (Organza and Amarige are her favorites) although she has a funky fashion sense and a love of good times, so perhaps HC wasn’t all that far off the mark. It’s deathly sweet but rather disarmingly cute and charming, like an old Debbie Gibson or Holiday-era Madonna song. Neon fruits, bubblegum, and hairspray. There’s a little room for that in everyone’s wardrobe, no?

    IIRC, Luca Turin’s review in The Guide mentioned that Givenchy more or less “aimed high and hit low” with Hot Couture, and then just ran with it, focusing its subsequent marketing of the scent on the younger demographic rather than reformulating or discontinuing it after it failed to hit its intended target. I respect that, and wish perfume houses would do it more often.

    • Jessica says:

      There *is* room for pop songs and a little too much hairspray in everyone’s lives (and scent wardrobes)! I liked that review from TS/LT, and I respect that re-marketing idea, too. Sometimes a product just needs to find its audience!

  9. Sara A. says:

    This was my gateway in to perfumista-ville. During Summer 2006 I was working as a maid in Yellowstone’s Lake Hotel, one day I was cleaning out a room when I discovered that the lady that had stayed there the night before had left this behind. It looked to me like something my grandmother had on her dresser (I was a 20 year old neophyte, please don’t flame me!), but I’ve always been of a curious bend, so I lifted the cap and smelled it. It smelled beautiful and different to me than all of the fruit punch things my friends and I were wearing at the time. So I sprayed some on and put the bottle in my cart and headed on. That afternoon I got could not stop smelling myself. So I kept it and wore it out that night. I felt so sexy and mischievous. It’s been my going out dancing scent ever since. Hot Couture led me to start checking out perfumes and seeking out things with unusual notes. Before I tried it, I thought perfume had to smell like flowers and I didn’t know that it could smell creamy and voluptuous. I now use perfume differently than I did then. Because someone left a half filled bottle of perfume in her hotel room, I ended up here.

    • Jessica says:

      I love this story! (And I can see why the bottle looked old-fashioned to you: it’s deliberately 1950s-style, I think!) More than once, I deliberately left behind a partially-used fragrance in a dorm room or an apartment when I moved out, just because I’d tired of it but didn’t want to throw it out. I was hoping that someone (like you!) might come across it, keep it for herself, and maybe even end up loving it.

  10. nanah says:

    It will be my first post here, but I’m a devoted reader of this blog:)

    There is still a lot of difference between the eau de toilette and eau de parfum version of Hot Couture. I strongly recommend to all perfume lovers to try the edp concentration, as it is a more complex and intriguing scent.

    Whereas edt can indeed give you a “next Flowerbomb”, easy-rasperry-sweet scent impression, edp is more refined. There is more woody-tobacco and magnolia notes, it is more smoky and ellegant. Personally I couldn’t care less for edt.

    Edp, on the other hand, was a love at first sniff for me (I was 15 back then) and one of the few perfumes that I repeated. It is no longer my signature scent (I settled for Chanel Coco), but definitely a beautiful perfume worth some attention and recognition.

    According to Tania Sanchez it is a “trashy raspberry (***)”, but I bet she has sampled the edt only:)

    • Jessica says:

      Welcome to the comments section, Nanah!! ;)
      How interesting to know that there’s such a difference between the two formulations… I’ll have to seek out the EDP and give it a try.

  11. pici_ea says:

    Is the best fragrance for my skin!!I love it!I am using Hot from 8 years!!!

    • fifi3482 says:

      for me too!!..but having a hard time finding it for quite some time where i live i asked and i was told its being discontinued …again…. :could be a false alarm? …have you hear anything?

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