Monday, July 15, 2013

Review - "Pour l'Homme" by Jacques Fath

Aka "The Little Fragrance That Could".

The problem with reviewing anything (clothes, wine, whatever) is that it's easy to find yourself drifting towards the top end of the market. In the search for newness, creativity, rarity and something with a clear point of view, it's easy to forget there are gems to be found outside of the more niche brands. It's also true that most people either simply can't afford to splash over $200 on a bottle of fragrance, or just would never dream of it.

Soooo, I thought it was time to review something I really like and which is much more affordable, "Pour l'Homme" by Jacques Fath. It may not be a pinnacle of the fragrance art, but it's a very appealing fragrance at a great price point. As of writing it sells for $44.95 for a 75ml EDT spray on internet retailer Cosmetics Now (which is where I bought my bottle).

Jacques Fath on the beach at Cannes, 1948. Photo: Walter Carone/Paris Match.
Jacques Fath was a self taught French couturier, who although he was well known for daywear and accessories, was most famous for his extravagant ballgowns. Often inspired by nature or 18th century art, his gowns were stunning confections which nevertheless were also known for their purity of line and femininity. He also fostered and developed the talents of younger designers who worked in his atelier, such as Guy Laroche, Valentino and Givenchy. At the height of the house he employed more than 500 staff and was reportedly much loved by his staff, allowing the seamstresses to take home fabric offcuts large enough to make clothes for their children, and making the wedding dresses for staff who married.

Fath at work with a model, 1951.
The story doesn't have a happy ending unfortunately, as Fath was only 42 and at the peak of his career when he died of leukemia in 1954. The house remained open until 1957, directed by Fath's widow with the assistance of some of his previous design team.

The vast majority of the Fath fragrances were released in the years after Fath's death, with only one female fragrance "Fath de Fath" released in 1953 while he was still alive. The Fath fragrance arm has had numerous owners over the years, with several attempts to relaunch the brand and bring it back to the prestige of the original brand. Under the current owner Panouge the fragrances have been once again edited, this time by industrial perfumers Parfex. Sadly this has become fairly common practice, with modern versions of older fragrances sometimes bearing little or no relation to their original versions, as companies 'edit' them to reduce the cost of the juice (and remove costly or now banned materials).

Pour l'Homme, by Jacques Fath (1955, 1998).
Eau de Toilette
Notes: cedar leaf, bergamot, grapefruit, rose, raspberry, violet, amber, patchouli, tonka bean & incense.
Nose: 1955 original, unknown. 1998 reformulation by Oliver Gillotin. Re-edited by Parfex (year unknown)

[Notes via Panouge]

5 Minutes
Pour l'Homme opens with a fresh floral/citrus/fruit accord over the warmth of amber. Like other notes such as 'leather' in fragrance, amber is actually an accord (or blend) of materials, which in this case combine to give a golden, slightly powdery, resinous and caramel note to fragrances. I find that to my nose no single note amongst the fruit and flowers particularly stands clear of the rest, instead the effect is of a juicy floral with some freshness from the citrus and cedar leaf. Even from the opening though the warmth of the amber/patchouli/tonka bean is evident.

30 Minutes
Some of the floral notes have started to flee even at the 30 minute mark, and the main impression is a slightly floral incense and warm amber, overlaid with a fresh note that is probably the 'cedar leaf' and some of the bergamot and grapefruit.

2 Hours
At the 2 hour mark Pour l'Homme is an oriental amber fragrance, with a slightly sweet edge. Once the floral and fresher notes start to depart, it becomes more apparent that the sweeter fruit note is quite tenacious and manages to hang in there well into the drydown. The main body of the fragrance though is solidly a warm amber and tonka bean accord, given loft and an oriental feel from the patchouli, incense and cedar.

The Verdict
Pour l'Homme is very gentlemanly and masculine, perhaps a little old school in feel, and quite elegant. I keep using the word warm in my descriptions, but that is essentially the essence of it for me. This autumn and winter I have worn this quite a bit as a daytime fragrance for work and really enjoy its comforting warmth. It's not especially groundbreaking or challenging I have to say, but it's very wearable and elegant, and all that at a very affordable price.

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