“Look what I found for you,” my coworker said and handed me a Coty L’Aimant perfume ad shrink-wrapped on cardboard. It was all in gold and red, featuring a woman in a 1950s coiffure gazing into a tiny stage peppered with various L’Aimant products, from perfume to compacts to body powder. Each product was adorned with a horseshoe magnet encompassing a heart. “To be a magnet — wear a magnet — always!” the copy said.
Well, I could use some magnetizing. Who couldn’t? I remembered the bottle of vintage L’Aimant Eau de Toilette stashed in my perfume cupboard. It was time to put it to the test.
François Coty and Vincent Roubert created L’Aimant over five years, and the fragrance launched in 1927 — for context, the same year that saw the birth of Lanvin Arpège, Caron Bellodgia, and Jean Patou Chaldée. In his book Perfume, Nigel Groom lists L’Aimant’s notes as bergamot, neroli, peach, strawberry, jasmine, rose, ylang ylang, vanilla, vetiver and sandalwood. The fragrance fell out of production, then relaunched in 1995, when Groom claims it became the most popular perfume in Great Britain.
To me, L’Aimant smells like a warm aldehydic floral thicker and less spicy than vintage Arpège, but warmer than Chanel No. 5. It seems to aim for the sweet spot No. 5 staked out seven years earlier: an elegant, feminine skin scent with a (then) modern rush of fizzy aldehydes. By giving L’Aimant a fluffy, vaguely powdery bed of sweet vanilla and sandalwood and a pinch of fruit, Coty makes L’Aimant approachable and easier than No. 5 for some people to wear.
That’s not to say that L’Aimant is entirely easygoing. Twice when I’ve been wearing it, I’ve caught a whiff of fecal civet. Only a flash, though — it reared its head, then disappeared into the fragrance again. All in all, it’s a beautifully blended, well-behaved fragrance. For this type of fragrance, though, I’m still crazy about vintage Arpège. However, L’Aimant is a lot easier to come by.
Like so many old fragrances, L’Aimant has probably seen enough reformulations to rival the pages in the New York City telephone book. My bottle of L’Aimant Eau de Toilette is shaped like a heart with a faux sharkskin label and Art Nouveau lettering. My guess is that it’s from the 1950s, and like many fragrances that old, its citrus top notes are shot. I don’t have a sample of new L’Aimant on hand to compare it to, but I have smelled new L’Aimant, and I remember a brash, ambery floral that didn’t tempt me to pick up a bottle.
I bet lots of you have memories of L’Aimant, either because you wore it yourself, or because it calls to mind beloved grandmothers and aunts. I hope you’ll share some of those stories.
Coty L’Aimant is still in production and available at drugstores. A 50 ml bottle of L’Aimant cologne spray is $24 at the Vermont Country Store and even less expensive at online discounters. Vintage bottles are easy to find online and at yard sales for a pittance.