On my desk, in thick bond paper of the slightly elongated size standard in France, lays a press release from Jean Patou. Below the image of a perfume bottle are the words “Joy Hier, Joy Aujourd’hui, Joy Forever.”
However, the press release isn’t for Joy, but for a new fragrance, Joy Forever, intended to update the classic. Creating a contemporary companion to Joy is a tall order. Audacious, even. For one thing, it assumes that Joy is out of fashion. For another — well, Joy is an icon.
Jean Patou’s house perfumer, Thomas Fontaine, explained it this way: “Women today have difficulty ‘reading’ Joy.” He said that classic Joy is a wall of scent with just a hint of a bright prelude before settling into its signature interplay of rose and indolic jasmine. He said when someone on the street is wearing Joy, her wrapping (Fontaine, in English, repeatedly used “wrapping” instead of “sillage,” and it was so charming and evocative that I want to adopt it myself) is “lush and thick.” But as he points out, it’s not a style people are used to smelling anymore.
With Forever Joy, he wanted to give Joy a “prologue” and an “afterword” — clever descriptors when you intend a fragrance to tell a story. For Joy Forever’s prologue, he added orange blossom, which he said symbolizes the American woman. Iris and galbanum represent French women. (This is meat for a spirited discussion.) He kept Joy’s rose de Mai and Grasse jasmine heart, then grounded the fragrance in wood and white musk. Besides sandalwood, he created an accord to mimic a dark, tight-grained exotic wood popular in the Art Deco furniture that would have been made in Joy’s heyday. Other notes include bergamot, mandarin, marigold, peach, cedar and amber.
Fontaine really did give Joy Forever a story. It starts with a burst of steamy clean, like what you might smell when entering a bathroom where someone is showering, and is soon joined by a vigorous dusting of pink pepper. The clean smell sweetens a touch and smooths, and the pepper fades. After about a quarter of an hour, we hit my favorite part of Joy Forever’s development: a whiff of juicy iris. The iris doesn’t last long, though, before getting sucked back into the composition.
Joy Forever’s rose-jasmine combo is much tamer than Joy’s lurid aria, and its jasmine shimmers more. (I should note that I’ve been testing Joy Forever against Joy Eau de Toilette and Extrait of uncertain age. Maybe the jasmine used to do all kinds of things it doesn’t now.) Although the notes include peach, I don’t smell any kind of in-your-face fruit.
A chiffon veil of white musk cloaks Joy Forever’s rose-jasmine heart, and it endures all the way to Joy Forever’s end, six or so hours later. Joy Forever’s wood remains quiet and is never pushy. The fragrance simply vanishes bit by bit, leaving behind the scent of skin freshly scrubbed in soap and hot water.
Joy Forever is sophisticated and pretty, but the perfume lacks the classic’s force of character. To me, Joy is a bold gesture, a sort of extended middle finger to the Great Depression. Joy Forever would never be so rude. Joy says, “I’m almost too much, and you’ll need to get to know me to appreciate me — but you’ll want to.” Joy Forever says, “I’m lovely and reliable and won’t do you wrong, but you won’t see my name on the marquee next to Garbo’s.”
It may simply be a question of personal style, but I prefer the fusty velvet of the old Joy. Then again, I would rather live in a 1930s house — Joy’s vintage — than a newly built home even with a microwave, dishwasher, and cable TV, and I’d gladly forgo every frock at Bergdorf’s for a Jean Patou bias-cut day dress.
That said, if you appreciate a clean, classic perfume and don’t want the overripe, slightly abstruse feel of Joy, Joy Forever is definitely worth sampling.
Jean Patou Joy Forever Eau de Parfum comes in 30 ml (85 €), 50 ml (120 €), and 75 ml (150 €) sizes and will be available in October 2013.