Lancome La Vie Est Belle ~ perfume review

Julia Roberts for Lancôme La Vie Est Belle

Day to day, week to week, there are fragrance launches, and then there are fragrance launches. Lancôme's La Vie Est Belle is one of the major launches of pre-fall 2012, complete with big-name perfumers, Julia Roberts as its "ambassadress," a gala celebration in the south of France, a soon-to-be-unveiled commercial directed by Tarsem Singh, and more. Lancôme is promoting La Vie Est Belle as its next "iconic" fragrance, hoping it will match Trésor in popularity and longevity as a pillar of the brand's fragrance collection, and no expense or effort has been spared in this campaign.

The fragrance, whose name translates as "life is beautiful," was developed by perfumers Olivier PolgeDominique Ropion and Anne Flipo. Its composition includes notes of Florentine Iris pallida, iris aldehyde, jasmine sambac, Tunisian orange blossom, Indonesian patchouli, and a "gourmand accord" of vanilla, tonka bean, praline, black currant and pear. According to Lancôme, La Vie Est Belle represents "a new era" and "the choice to live one's life and fill it with beauty." (You can find more information on the fragrance's philosophy at the Lancôme website.)

I was immediately skeptical about Lancôme's assertion that La Vie Est Belle is "the first ever iris gourmand" — what about Guerlain's Iris Ganache, for example? However, it turns out not be be much of an iris-centered composition at all, as far as I can tell. The gourmand accord appears much earlier in the fragrance's development than I would have expected, with a spun-sugar note and a praline effect of chocolate and nuts. Fortunately, it's a high-end dessert accord, Vosges rather than Hershey's. It's a bit sweeter and more feminine than the gourmand element of Les Parfums de Rosine Rose Praliné, for example, but more grown-up than the plasticky chocolate note that shows up in so many celebrity scents. In my favorite phase of the fragrance, these gourmand notes are brightened by an edge of bergamot and given texture by a prickle of patchouli that softens as the fragrance settles down.

I still can't detect iris in the heart of La Vie Est Belle: there's none of the green-tinged woodiness or the chilly silvery feeling that characterize many iris-inspired fragrances. I'm guessing that the inclusion of patchouli is meant to evoke the earthy quality of iris root, but instead it's essentially a gentle, warm patchouli married to some creamy jasmine and a hint of vanilla. The dry down of La Vie Est Belle is something that I'd be tempted to call "Angel with Botox and a blow-out" if I were in a snarkier mood, but instead I'll just say that it's a polished and long-lasting harmony of cocoa and soft patchouli and white floral notes. When I wore La Vie Est Belle on a recent warm evening, it had enough sillage to attract the notice of someone sitting next to me, but not enough to fill the room.

Over the years, I've had mixed reactions to Lancôme's perfumes: I enjoy Trésor and Ô de Lancôme, but I was disappointed in Hypnôse and Miracle. I'd categorize La Vie Est Belle as one of my positive Lancôme experiences, and at the same time I'm guessing that it will be popular with a wider audience. I'd still quibble that it doesn't really "break through traditional codes to invent a new kind of olfactory language," as the promotional materials claim, but it's gracefully composed and it's very wearable, and it's been given an appropriately polished presentation. The bottle designed for La Vie Est Belle (see below) feels heavy and sleek, with convex sides and bevelled edges and the finishing touch of a gray organza ribbon. It has a high quality spray mechanism (yes, these things do matter!) and, in a surprising touch, no logo except for a tiny Lancôme rose etched into the top of the atomizer button.

Lancôme La Vie Est Belle fragrance bottle

To make a long story short, if you're hunting for your ideal iris fragrance, you might want to re-read some of the many, many previous Now Smell This posts tagged "iris," but if you're in the mood for an accessible new "fleurmand" for fall, La Vie Est Belle is well worth a try.

Lancôme La Vie Est Belle is available as 30 ml ($55), 50 ml ($75), and 75 ml ($95) Eau de Parfum.

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  1. APassionateJourney says:

    This is the twin sister to FLOWERBOMB! I do want a 1.0 of this cause that bottle is beautiful but FLOWERBOMB is my little sisters Sig scent and they smell 100% identical

    • Jessica says:

      Journey, I found it much less sweet than Flowerbomb, which I just can’t wear… but I do agree that they are ‘related’!

  2. AnnS says:

    My fav sweet, wearable patchouli is Jessica Simpson Fancy Nights. No florals, but I don’t normally like my florals sugary. I’ll test this, but I don’t expect my nose to be engaged. As far as Lancome goes, I am anxiously wondering whether or not they will release the special LE of Mille et Une Roses that’s already in release at Selfridges in the USA at holiday time? Any word on that? Now that’s big news from Lancome as far as I’m concerned…..

    • ooh i 2nd that notion – that would be great news!

    • Jessica says:

      Ann, I did like Mille et Une Roses, but I don’t have the latest word on this. Will keep my ears open!

  3. katiebisme says:

    I’ve never found a Lancome scent that I adore. Then again, I’m very fickle, I will try a sample of something, love it, buy a bottle and then the 3rd time I wear it HATE it. Sigh. Now I only buy decants that will last 2 or 3 wearings, and if I love it, I’ll buy another decant. Just in case.

    • Jessica says:

      Katie, I admire your restraint. Nothing wrong with that!

  4. antonpan says:

    Strange that author didn’t mention that La Vie is almost a full copy of Flowerbomb…

    • Jessica says:

      That’s because the author would have had to mention Calvin Klein Euphoria and Bond no. 9 Nuits de NoHo and La Prairie Silver Rain and EL Pleasures Delight and all the other children of Angel…!

      Seriously, though, I found it less cloyingly sweet then Flowerbomb.

  5. lydiadrama says:

    Spitting image of Angel

    • Lindaloo says:

      Indeed. Sampled this yesterday and am glad I only sprayed it on a card. First hour or two, Angel, Angel, Angel, then a flat powdery stage and later back to Angel, or as Jessica brilliantly suggests “Angel with Botox and a blowout.”
      I’m willing to believe there are differences, but I was too overwhelmed to perceive them.

      • Jessica says:

        I still think Angel has more wonderful-weird personality… La Vie en Belle includes many of the same notes, but it feels more polite and more “groomed.” I’d never wear Angel in an office situation or in hot weather, but La Vie could work for the office — spritzed lightly — and I’ve tested it on a hot day or two without feeling overwhelmed — again, just a spritz or two.

      • candeeKis says:

        This fragrance in NO WAY resembles Angel. They are not even remotely close. Angel is my signature fragrance and that’s what I wear 90% of the time. After I ordered la Vie Et Belle I was a little worried they would be too similar (after reading these reviews) but luckily they aren’t even close. If I could compare it to any fragrance, I would say it reminds me of Tresor. I’m perplexed that anyone would think they smell anything alike. It’s a lovely fragrance all in its own category.

  6. annemarie says:

    This is probably much too sweet for me, especially if it resembles Flowerbomb, but I’ll give it a go. It may be pitched at a slightly more mature customer than Flowerbomb? It sounds like Lancome hopes it will become a signature scent for a lot of people, but of course the younger consumer tends to be fickle.

    L’Artisan’s Traversee au Bosphore is supposed to have an iris note, but I lose it in all the Turkish delight sweetness. For me, sweet gourmand notes tend to smother everything else that may be in there. I get a teeny bit of iris in Iris Ganache, but not much.

    • Jessica says:

      I do think it will appeal to a slightly more “mature” shopper than Flowerbomb, and the promotional copy seems headed in that direction, with lots of prose about knowing your true self and simplifying your life and wanting only what is simplest/best, etc.

      I do love Traversee du Bosphore! I get a leathery iris note in the heart, but mostly powdery-musky Turkish Delight in the drydown. Yum.

  7. bluegardenia says:

    i hate angel, i strongly dislike flowerbomb, and i can’t think of a single lancome i’ve ever liked.
    patchouli is like death to me, and chocolate and vanilla and caramel and gourmand scream ‘trashy’ and ‘lowbrow.’
    i’m excited to ignore this completely.
    (sorry for being cranky!)

    • Jessica says:

      Bluegardenia, I have a feeling that this one won’t appeal to you. ;)

  8. thenoseknows says:

    This does not smell like a copy of Flowerbomb… Flowerbomb IS WONDERFUL, but this is…. MAGICAL! It’s really Very Pretty and Intensely Feminine! :-) Just IN LOVE WITH THIS! Must Buy!

    • Jessica says:

      A fan!! I actually enjoyed it much more than I expected to. I think it’s very smooth and feminine and warm, without being spicy (since not everyone loves spicy scents, after all).

  9. Jennifer1977 says:

    I would try this, but although I appreciate Angel, it’s not something I especially enjoy wearing. Haven’t tried Flowerbomb, but it doesn’t sound like it would appeal to me.

    Are people truly moved to buy a fragrance if a celebrity lends his or her face to it?* One thing that I love about mainstream fragrances is that they are a lot more financially realistic for me than niche fragrances. It may be gauche to mention price, but it does matter. I cannot spend $300 on a single perfume. That being said, more money could be put into juices that do NOT have to buy someone famous to appear in its ads.

    *The answer must be yes, or we wouldn’t have the glut of celebrity smells that we have. But it still boggles my mind. I mean…why? “Oh, look, Jessica Simpson’s new fragrance. I want to smell just like her.”

    I will never understand.

    • Jessica says:

      Jennifer, I have a feeling that many people *are* drawn in by a celebrity face/name when it’s someone they wish they could emulate. There aren’t many celebrities that fascinate me in that “aspirational” way, but I’m probably in the minority.

      I’ve never been a big Julia Roberts fan, but I’ve come to admire her longevity, her consistency, and her privacy — a rare quality these days! She has ended up seeming like an old-time movie star, interestingly enough…

      • annemarie says:

        Where you can discern some personal qualities about a celebrity that you like, such as those you identify with Julia Roberts, you might be drawn to try their perfume or a perfume they promote. But other than that, as Jennifer says, why bother? Most celebrities seem the same to me, as do their perfumes. I have a soft spot for SJP’s Lovely tho’.

        • Jennifer1977 says:

          “Lovely” is different for a couple of reasons. It’s truly a good fragrance, most importantly. Secondly, reading “The Perfect Scent,” made it much more interesting. I was not left with the impression that it was some random bottle of trash to which a celebrity thoughtlessly lent his or her face. There are only two celebrity fragrances that have interested me, “Lovely,” and “Dita Von Teese.” Dita has me curious because I have the impression that she cared about what she was doing.

          While rare, there are celebrity fragrances that I like, but I don’t try them BECAUSE of someone’s mug on the packaging.

    • annemarie says:

      I agree on the $300 thing. Half that is a huge spend for me. I’m always on the look out for good mainstream fragrances, but thank goodness also for the decant services! I have tried stuff that way that I never could otherwise. And it’s amazing how long 8 or even 5 mls will last.

  10. Warum says:

    Thanks for letting me know! I am excited to try this out. I like several Lancome fragrances (starting with Climat) and always try their new releases.

    • Jessica says:

      Sometimes it’s nice to be able to find and try a fragrance at a nearby department store, without any fuss and bother and long-distance sample-ordering! I do wish Lancome would bring back some of those classics, and *keep* them in rotation… well, we can always dream!

  11. Lys says:

    Firstly, these people need to stop saying things like “the first ever iris gourmand” and “it breaks through traditional codes to invent a new kind of olfactory language.” It was stupid when Lady Gaga was saying it and it’s even stupider when Lancome is saying it.

    An SA told me the bottle was designed to look like a smile. I literally LOL’ed at that b/c it’s actually a pretty damn cute factoid.

    I really don’t get Angel, although I understand why people are citing it. I kind of get Flowerbomb and I also get Miss Dior Cherie. And I get a headache.

    Even tho I hate this new Lancome, I think your review is very thoughtful and well done, Jessica.

    • Jessica says:

      Lys, there was lot of information about the bottle’s “crystal smile” in the press materials… but I just… couldn’t. ;)

    • Abyss says:

      Smelled this today and I completely agree with Miss Dior Cherie (I refuse to call it anything else) comparison and, maybe, a drop of Coco Mademoiselle. Done to death and utterly puzzling to see this kind of thing still being released in 2012.

      • Jessica says:

        The funny thing is, Lancome hasn’t really released anything like this before… so it’s new to *them*… but they can’t possibly be unaware that it’s not really a new genre of fragrance, lol. I guess it’s a conservative move for financially risky times.

  12. Sapphire says:

    Have tried this at Dillard’s and was lucky enough they had a sample. Am liking it pretty well so far. I agree with Jessica that it is far less sweet than Flowerbomb, though I can see some similarity. I can’t stand Angel and have enjoyed La Vie pretty well so far, so the Angel-phobes shouldn’t worry too much. I do smell just a little iris in the top notes amidst fruit. I need to test them side by side, but what this is really reminding me of is Jimmy Choo (I have the parfum and samples of the EDP). Will compare them later.

    • Jessica says:

      Wow, you got a sample?! I never have much luck getting samples of mainstream fragrances at department stores. I need to try the Jimmy Choo… I’m not really interested in high-end designer shoes, so I’ve managed to ignore that one. ;)

    • Lys says:

      “I never have much luck getting samples of mainstream fragrances at department stores,” IKR? Jessica I asked for and received a sample of this from a Macys counter. I almost fell over!

      • Jessica says:

        Lys, maybe *that* is the “new era” they’re talking about! ;)

  13. nozknoz says:

    Perhaps the aspect of this that is designed to “break through traditional codes to invent a new kind of olfactory language” is the olfactory equivalent of hypersonic – it’s there but only dogs can smell it. ;-)

    Sorry, but since you aren’t in a particularly snarky mood today, I just had to lend a hand. :-)

    I also, I want to mention how much I enjoyed your Tinsel Creations blog post on the Lady Gaga perfume ad and its antecedents – there is nothing I like better than the intersection of art and perfume! (I’d comment at TC, but I can’t seem to come up with the right password/e-mail/name combination to get the comment posted.) Love that blog!

    • Jessica says:

      Noz, I’m glad you’ve been visiting TC, and so sorry you can’t seem to leave a message when you want. Are you trying to remember the password for an existing WordPress account? You shouldn’t need a WP account to comment… you can just fill in a name/nickname/username and your e-mail, I think.

  14. maggiecat says:

    I have had almost no luck with Lancome fragrances (Mille et Une Roses being the notable exception). This one was, alas, typical for me – a near scrubber with what to me seems a very harsh, chemical-ly note. It’s in a pretty bottle, and I love Lancome’s mascara, so I hope it finds some love – but that I never have to smell it again (at least on myself)!

    • Jessica says:

      I love Lancome’s Teint Idole Ultra foundation, and I have a Rouge in Love lipstick that I really like. Lancome can be hit-or-miss for me, which makes sense, since it’s a huge line.

  15. amarie121 says:

    I am surprised that no one has mentioned that the ribbon on the bottle looks just like…fairy wings. Which brings to mind Julia as Tinkerbell in the movie Hook (I believe it was Hook!)… Every time I look at that ad I think it is a Tinkerbell perfume! I wonder if that was intentional or if it’s just my overly analytical mind, but it was my immediate thought when I first saw the ad. (As I grew up with “Tinkerbell makeup” in the 70s, trying a Tinkerbell perfume would not be too far-fetched!):-)

    • Sapphire says:

      Pretty sure if you go to a Disney store, you can sample that Tinkerbell perfume (and one or two other Disney princesses while you’re at it).

      • amarie121 says:

        Thanks, but you are about 30 years too late!:-)

    • Jessica says:

      AMarie121, I’ve just checked the press materials… the ends of the ribbon are meant to suggest “the twin wings of freedom.” So there you have it. ;)

      • amarie121 says:

        Advertisers are always trying to tap into our collective subconscious mind to make something appealing. I’m sure that “wings of freedom” and an actress who played a fairy didn’t escape their notice! Thanks for the additional insight!

  16. olenska says:

    Hm. Maybe the nervousness I feel when I learn that it took not one but THREE perfumers to compose this perfume is justified after all. PS your “snarky mood” assessment does just fine for me. One Angel in this world would have been enough.

    • Jessica says:

      Olenska, it was “an undertaking so complex that it called for no fewer than 5521 versions and three years’ work.” I don’t belong to the industry, so I have no idea how much time and planning the average mainstream fragrance requires, but… that does sound like a lot, especially for something that draws so heavily on the trends of the past decade.

      • olenska says:

        That is mind-boggling. Like you, I confess I don’t know how much time or how many versions the average fragrance requires to reach a state of perfection, so I don’t know whether to offer La Vie Est Belle (with its “5521 versions”) my congratulations or my condolences. It sounds nice but not earth-shattering…. and I still can’t help but puzzle over the need for so many cooks, in a manner of speaking.

  17. Celestia says:

    Too bad Julia isn’t using her “Mona Lisa Smile” in the photo. As we say in Hungarian: “her smile is as big as the Vienna gate.” She is a really good actress but is she current? The bottle is nice but the juice is not my category. I like Oui! de Lancome.

  18. Nile Goddess says:

    Hmm … reading your review brought Prada Candy to mind, not sure why as they’re not related. Probably I was thinking of vetiver, as of vetiver and iris. I love vetiver. Iris is an aquired taste and must be softly done otherwise it makes me cringe (Voleur de Roses is brutal).

    There is not one fragrance of Dominique Ropion that I like, or of Olivier Polge, although I love his father’s work. Anne Flipo flipped me over with Ananas Fizz but other than that I was not impressed. Will try La Vie Est Belle for sure as I try all new releases. But it is mind-boggling to mix so many notes only to produce something that reminds consumers of something else. At first I thought of the famous movie with the same title.

    Mainstream perfumery is going down the drain.

  19. pigoletto says:

    Bottle looks lovely and hefty. Shame it just sounds like an Angel/Pleasures Delight scent.

    • pigoletto says:

      And surely Prada is technically an iris gourmand, what with the caramel, even though it’s very sheer (gorgeous too – nice alternative to the usual toothaches in a bottle).

      • pigoletto says:

        Candy, that is.

  20. Sapphire says:

    STill liking pretty well. Managed to cadge a second sample (from Dillard’s again, but this time they made me leave my name and phone number for it–OK since I buy their makeup). The top notes seem to be very strong on the pear and blackcurrant, and I like the softer drydown on the whole. I kept thinking that Lancome had actually done something similar awhile back, and they did have a fragrance called Attraction, released in 2003 and there are a lot of similarities, except Attraction lacks the fruit. Estee Lauder Intuitioni is also similar, but lacking fruit. Kind of preferring my Jimmy Choo parfum overall, so may or may not buy a small bottle when they have a GWP.

  21. RavynG says:

    I get red apples, apple blossoms and bug spray. The dry-down to me is masculine like Grey Flannel–rather common.

  22. lowonder says:

    yummmm!! ditto to all the comments of this being akin to Flower Bomb…but depending on your body chemistry…it does something completely dif after first whif! I own flower bomb, so when i sprayed it (just to test it) I was immediatley telling myself that I’d be leaving it on the counter (why pay double for the same sent?). Went around the bend to keep on shopping, and ….good golly…had to turn right back around and buy the muthasucka!! This is like Flower Bomb’s long lost twin that she was separated from birth from. Appearing the same at first site, but spend enough time and you realize she’s got her own thing going. That being said, I will reserve Lancome for the sexy nights…and Flowerbomb for my corporate days. Love it!!

  23. gaileileen says:

    Ok, the idea is just ok…but Julia walks sooo stiffly like a linebacker, not a graceful woman…and the pasted on “I am so perfect” smile on her face when she turns around is laughable! How bout more of an “I am happy to be be myself”..but it looks like she looked at her smile in a mirror and then held the pose and went back to shooting the turn around scene…… word? AWKWARD! two words: and stupid.

  24. Gold.Wolf says:

    This is certainly a wearable and not too dessert like to be too sweet fall perfume; I bought a decent sized amount. The bottle itself is lovely, and decidedly sturdy for something so feminine, it’s not breaking any barriers or creating new ground in perfume but it IS nice. Nice is all I’d describe it as however, it’s too mainstream to be stunning.

  25. Andreea says:

    I would say I got quite good in perfume notes guessing. Still – I did not detect any hint of iris, none.
    This scent has no identity, this makes it even interesting.
    I smelled it on several people (it is very loud, so I tend to make an compliment and ask what it is) and I would not recognize it, though I tried it myself and alos on paper. It smelled different every time – nice, loud, someimes clean-gourmet, sometimes fruity-gourmet…

    I expected less to be honest – I mean they promised really a lot, and this is Lancome, they are mainstream amrket, they cannot make something that crazy.

  26. nathaliez says:

    I find it more complex than Flowerbomb, not so linear, beautiful projection, great longevity, a pretty darn good creation by Lancôme.

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