I was always a fan of the original Lanvin Arpege. The 1993 reformulation even felt very much like a perfume designed for men. It was with a great deal of interest when I found out that there was a Lanvin Arpege Pour Homme. I was wondering what Lanvin would consider a manly Arpege to smell like.
In 2005 perfumer Olivier Pescheux was chosen to compose this perfume. At this time in the brand history Lanvin was deep in the midst of a deep identity crisis. Arpege was one of the great perfume classics but they weren’t sure how to leverage that affection from the consumer into a brand-wide version. I could probably make the case that this is the current state of affairs at Lanvin, as well. I speculate that there was vigorous discussion taking place behind the scenes on how best to position Lanvin as a fragrance brand. One thing is for sure there was never any consensus reached even though the team of Creative Directors; Philippe Benacin and Anne Duboscq have been in place for the entire time. For Arpege Pour Homme it would be M. Benacin collaborating with M. Pescheux.
For almost forty years there were attempts to make the “masculine floral”. What this generally meant was a floral perfume wrapped up in enough hairy chested notes it wouldn’t be the perfumed equivalent of wearing a dress. The ones which had a little bit of traction were the rose versions because you could load them up with spice and drop it into a sandalwood base. For this time period there was no breakout successful “masculine floral”. This was the tack Messrs. Benacin and Pescheux wanted to take for Arpege Pour Homme. They wanted to use the iris of the original and sandwich it in between citrus and woods. Iris has always been a tricky ingredient to sell to men because it can be so reminiscent of the women in their lives iris scented cosmetic products. It made M. Pescheux’s task that much more difficult.
Arpege Pour Homme opens with a distinct citrus character from bitter orange sweetened just a little with mandarin and pink pepper. M. Pescheux sets the stage for the iris by using a bit of neroli to provide the transition. The iris comes next and it is reminiscent of those powders. M. Pescheux does his best to keep that quality under control with nutmeg and mate providing a sharper edge. It isn’t very successful. The powderiness doesn’t really become modulated until the sandalwood and patchouli of the base get a chance to add some presence.
Arpege Pour Homme has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
In 2005 Arpege Pour Homme had a bit too much of the cosmetic counter in it to find any real market share among men. The real death knell for this perfume was the release of Dior Homme in the same year. Dior Homme was the breakout “masculine floral” the market had been waiting for. To add insult to injury it was also focused on iris. The Dior Homme iris was paired with lavender and wrapped in chocolate and leather; with not a hint of powder to be found.
I think Arpege Pour Homme is underrated and an interesting counterpoint to Dior Homme. I’ll admit I wear the latter more than the former but there are days I can stand a little powdery iris to be part of it. Arpege Pour Homme is easily found online for pretty reasonable prices.
Sometimes the marketplace given two differing visions postmarks one for the Dead Letter Office which is what happened with Arpege Pour Homme.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.