The new Douglas Hannant perfume is the first scent Robert Piguet has done for an outside designer, and their first new (as opposed to relaunched) fragrance since the 1960s. It seems a logical extension for the Piguet house, given that by now, they've probably done all they can do with the brand's back catalog — since 2006, they've relaunched Baghari, Visa, Cravache, Futur and Calypso, and while they've generally done a great job (no small thanks to perfumer Aurelien Guichard), to my mind, not one of those can touch what they already had on the market, namely Fracas and Bandit.
Douglas Hannant, for those of you who had never heard of him — I hadn't — is known as a socialite's designer; he's been described as a "go-to-guy for trust-fund babies, fashionable philanthropists and other Palm Beach/Park Avenue regulars".1 When I read that, I imagined something heavy and expensive-smelling, like David Yurman Eau de Parfum, but what they've come up with instead is a modern version of Fracas:
This is a fresher, younger Fracas. We stayed with the same floral base and added pear to cut the sweetness at the top. —Frederic Anderson, Douglas Hannant's partner2
The only surprise there, I suppose, is that Piguet hadn't done such a thing already. Fracas, as those of you who adore it already know, is a glorious thing, but it isn't exactly the first perfume that pops to mind when you think of the word "wearable", much less "modern" or "fresh".
If you wanted to explain to someone how perfumery had changed between the late 1940s and today, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better illustration than a drop of vintage Fracas on one hand, a drop of Douglas Hannant on the other. Fracas is full bodied and lush. It smells like an armload of flowers — the sort of armload of flowers that might eventually start to give you a headache if you didn't set it down and move away. The base is creamy and rich, and oh-la-la sexy. It's a good fit with its name.
Douglas Hannant is likewise floral, but it's quiet about it. It doesn't smell like an armload of flowers, and I shouldn't think it will be giving anyone a headache. As advertised, there's lots of pear in the opening (and to my mind, it's plenty sweet, it's just not heavy), then there are all the tropical flowers borrowed from Fracas: orange blossom, gardenia, tuberose, jasmine. They're sheer and thin (and a little sharp) instead of creamy and rich, and there are no indoles anywhere. The overall effect is clean: think "pretty" and "office-friendly" instead of "oh-la-la", and you'll get the idea.
It's quite nicely done (and yes, it's another Aurelien Guichard), and it's quite high on the modern and wearable scale. Whether you will love it, I suppose, depends on where you place yourself in the white floral timeline. I'm an old fogey: I don't think Fracas has been bested yet, and I don't expect that it ever will. If I need something along the lines of a diet Fracas, I'll get my orange blossom, jasmine and tuberose fix from L'Artisan La Chasse aux Papillons, a fragrance I called "fresh and girly" when I reviewed it in 2005, but which seems positively womanly next to Douglas Hannant. If I need something even fresher still, there's always the watery tuberose of Diptyque Do Son. Douglas Hannant? I enjoyed wearing it, but it isn't something I'm likely to buy. Pear, to my mind, is not something you add to perfume to make it less sweet, it's something you add to perfume to make it smell like it might be shampoo or room spray. Douglas Hannant, in the end, is too fresh and young for my blood.
But please, ignore my deranged anti-pear, don't-mess-with-Fracas ravings and give it a shot, and then do report back and tell me what you think. Meanwhile, I'll give the last word to one of Hannant's actual customers:
I think he nailed it. It's the most delicate, tasteful, feminine smell. It's sublime; I will definitely wear it. —Alex Lind3
Douglas Hannant de Robert Piguet is available in 50 ($85) or 100 ($120) ml Eau de Parfum or in 30 ml ($210) Parfum. There is also a limited edition 60 ml Parfum ($350). For buying information, see the listing for Robert Piguet under Perfume Houses.
1. Via Douglas Hannant debuts his first fragrance in Palm Beach at the Sun Sentinel.
2. Via Bettina’s Take: Douglas Hannant Fragrance Launch at FashionEtc.