Sunday, August 14, 2011

Leave Your Mark This Summer

One of my favourite scents to wear during summer is a long forgotten treasure that was once categorised as one of the top 5 classic scents of all time. Also it had the distinction of being composed by one of the great perfumers of the twentieth century, Jean Carles, who was tragically anosmic (unable to smell anything). Sort of like Beethoven composing symphonies while being deaf.

The scent “Ma Griffe” by Carven, which is a sparkling green concoction full of such wonderful things as gardenia, greens, galbanum, citrus, clary sage, jasmine, rose, sandalwood, vetiver, orris, ylang ylang, styrax, oakmoss, cinnamon, musk, and labdanum. For me it smells likes like freshly mown grass with a hint of fruitiness, which is why I love it!

Mademoiselle Carven defined her fragrant prototype as "an outdoor perfume that needs to give up its heady character", resembling her, hence the name and the packaging: "white for innocence, youth, and freshness; green because to me it's the most beautiful colour in the world". The green and white striped box was a brilliant graphic concept, that went on to do double duty as the packaging for a myriad of Carven perfumes.

On its launch in 1946 a startlingly different advertising campaign was devised: parachuting the Trocadero in Paris with thousands of sample bottles! What a fabulous sight of thousands of little tiny green and white boxes on little parachutes this must have been! Just on the heels of the end of World War II this was a sign that Paris was getting back to its frivolous best.

Ma Griffe has two translations, one being “my signature” and the other being “my claw”. For me the translations are perfect, as it is a signature, an indelible mark, which carries more meaning when worn by a man.

Alas over time and changes of fortunes the scent on the shelves today, pales to insignificance when compared to the original however it is still a gem amongst all the hideously smelling perfumes being launched today.

Originally Ma Griffe was marketed as a young scent at a time when the youth segment had not been catered for. Ironically one of the most common complaints now, is it smells old. Myself, I ascribe that only to changed perceptions and vogues.


  1. I enjoyed this post very much. I have a bottle of Ma Griffe and splash some on from time to time. My nose isn't very trained, and perhaps on the "anosmic" side (what an interesting new word to learn). For me, the fragrance is very crisp, clean, and it reminds me of a classic eau de cologne, such as 4711 or Jean-Marie Farina. I don't find it smells "old" at all; anything but. Unfortunately, as with all my favourite "clean" fragrances, it is light and doesn't last. The bottle with the glass stopper is terrific too--modern yet elegant.

  2. I most definitely remember Ma Griffe! I recognized the packaging immediately.For the last 20 years or so I have worn the same scent - the classic Eau de Givenchy. It is not always easy to find (I used to have to ask friends to bring it back from Paris) but a bottle lasts me quite a while since I don't wear scent every day. But agree that many of today's perfumes are cloying!

  3. Unliberating the liberated woman sounds like an intriguing task at the very least :-)

  4. i'm sure my mother had this, but can't recall it's scent for the life of me. but then again, everything old soon becomes new again, no doubt it will make a come back. I like the sound of it!

  5. Great packaging. The green and white box hints refreshing, light and crisp scent in store. The bottle is a classic too. Well it's been around since 1946 right?

  6. I agree with Javaom — the packaging is very good and still contemporary, and I imagine was quite a departure for 1946. The image of perfume bottles parachuting is delightful - could be a Magritte painting!

  7. Positively dying to smell this now!

  8. Many thanks all for your comments! The packaging is very striking and a classic.

    Zhush, you can buy quite reasonably on line.

    MR SWF, we have very similar tastes in fragrance.


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