Jean Paul Gaultier Classique is one of the very few fragrances that I’ve owned in all its available formulations: first the Eau de Toilette, then the Eau de Parfum, Parfum, and Summer flanker. When it was launched in 1993, it was simply called “Jean Paul Gaultier.” At that time, I had recently lost interest in the fresh, light florals I’d been wearing for the previous few years. I was developing a new interest in sweeter, richer florals and gourmands, including Guerlain Shalimar for evening wear, and Gaultier's creation soon gained a lasting place in my affections and on my bureau.
I’ve always liked Classique for being just a little bit vulgar, a little too made-up and over-dressed for the occasion. It’s a big hug of powdery flowers and liquored-up vanilla, and it still makes me smile when I wear it or catch a whiff of it on a passing woman. It’s like a colorful faux-fur scarf that you might buy on impulse and then end up wearing more than almost anything else in your wardrobe, because it’s warm and whimsical at the same time.
All this retro-love for the original Classique is basically a prologue to my disappointment in Classique X, a new flanker that launched this past winter. The list of notes seemed promising enough — mandarin, bergamot, orange blossom, peony, vanilla, iris, cedarwood — mostly because it's similar to the basic Classique recipe. I was intrigued by the news that this fragrance was inspired by Gaultier’s Fall 2009 ready-to-wear collection, which included plenty of leather gloves, fishnet details, masks, and black garments with X-shaped cut-outs (see sketch above right). I relished the neo-noir description on the Gaultier website: “She is not really traditional. She is even X-rated. The new Jean Paul Gaultier Classique Woman plays a double game and wreaks havoc.”
However, the only “double game” that Classique X seems to be playing is a bait-and-switch, since this fragrance turns out to be oddly tame and conventional for a Gaultier creation. It starts with a very synthetic mandarin note that softens into something like an upscale creamsicle accord (or would it be an orange-vanilla sorbet, at this price point?). The sharp plywood-peony note of the fragrance’s heart should be familiar to anyone who has sampled Gucci Flora or Chloé, but Classique X turns out to have less personality than either of those recent successes (which is saying something). Its dry down is a dusty-but-clean rose-iris accord, nice enough, but somehow apologetically subdued and very short-lived.
Classique X, unlike its parent fragrance, is suitable for daytime wear and office wear, and it may very well appeal to fans of the above-mentioned Flora or any number of other sheer, orange-blossom-and-peony florals. (Then again, Flora admirers may not gravitate towards an X-marked bottle designed by the man best known to the American public for costuming Madonna in a cone-bra.) The Gaultier website suggests, “X like a secret identity. X like forbidden desires.” Unfortunately, Classique X’s “secret identity” seems to be a close kinship to various other mass-market fragrances, and the only “desire” it evoked in me was a craving for my tried-and-true, love-it-or-leave-it Classique Eau de Parfum.
Jean Paul Gaultier Classique X Eau de Toilette is $65 for 50 ml or $89 for 100 ml.