Composed by Bernard Ellena and released in 1998, Haute Couture is a follow-up to the eponymous Hanae Mori fragrance – the one that smells like berries and marshmallowy vanilla. I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again: I like Hanae Mori, the “Butterfly” scent that smells like every modern perfume cliché – berry-fruity, sweet, vanilla-y, gourmand. I don’t care that it’s cliché, I think it’s genius. (Although I admit that I don’t wear it often, and certainly not out of the house, as it’s really meant for people a lot younger than I am. Wearing it is just a little like carrying a paper cone’s worth of cotton candy around the fair all afternoon.)
Haute Couture, however, isn’t vanilla at all. Fragrantica.com classifies it as a green floral. Brian’s review at I Smell Therefore I Am calls it a “fizzy green jasmine,” and the P:TG review likens it to a terrific, sparkly white wine. All of these descriptions made me want to test it, even though I can hardly find another blog review of it anywhere and samples are practically nonexistent. In fact, I think at this point it may even be discontinued, because it is going begging at the online discounters. I can’t get on to the Hanae Mori website to confirm that. I bought a 50ml bottle of edt, unsniffed, for something like $13. Whatta bargain, whatta bargain for me. (Dang, another one of those Discontinued Saints! I have to quit doing that.)
My bottle arrived very quickly, and I wrested it out of the box and sprayed it on immediately, without checking the official notes. What I said to myself was this: “Are there aldehydes in this? Light, fizzy ones? I’d swear there are. And that’s definitely bergamot. Something fruity… orange? Peach? And maybe… is that green apple? Definitely some jasmine, but something else floral too. Freesia? Hmm. And down in the bottom there, it reminds me of the base of No. 5 Eau Premiere, that citrusy musk that smells clean and cheerful without making you think of laundry, and that lasts a long time. Maybe some woods, definitely a small amount of amber. Okay, I say: aldehydes, bergamot, peach, orange, maybe apple, green jasmine, maybe freesia, possibly some light woodsy notes, amber, and musk.”
I checked the notes at Fragrantica, and I didn’t do too badly, guessing. They say: bergamot, coriander, jasmine, floral notes, and fruity notes. That’s it. Those are all of the official notes. I am fairly certain that there are indeed some light aldehydes in the mix, since it’s so sparkly. When I went back to check Perfumes: The Guide, I found Tania Sanchez’ take on it to be, “A bright, citrusy, aldehydic, sweet jasmine floral.” (Fear not, aldehydophobics – these are not the soap and candle wax aldehydes of No. 5, they’re nice little Don Ho Tiny Bubbles aldehydes that fizz up and evanesce.)
What Haute Couture reminds me most of is the first Ines de la Fressange, the Calice Becker-composed fruity floral that is exactly the way fruity florals should be done — light-hearted, insouciant, a jolly good time. Neither the fruit nor the florals smack you upside the head, they just float around, sprinkling you with happy sparkles. Haute Couture is a fruity floral too, not the green floral that Fragrantica calls it. It’s surprisingly nice for such an inexpensive choice, and seems to call for warm weather and sundresses. It would be perfect for a picnic, a baseball game, or a garden party. Sunshine and blooms and lemonade go wonderfully with fruity florals, especially when they don’t come garnished with sugary syrup.
I know, I know, perfumistas are all sick of modern fruity florals, with their vague artificially-sweetened fruit-flavors and their vague nondescript floral mishmashes. The genre is much maligned, and I don’t disagree: there’s a vast sea of Cheap and Ditzy fruity florals available, and most of them are just plain awful. But Haute Couture is natural-smelling, tangy, and cheerful, which is just what a fruity floral ought to be. I recommend it.
Other reviews: Brian at I Smell Therefore I Am. P:TG says, in part: “… reminds me in feeling of those terrific, fun, fruity, un-oaked New World sauvignon blancs – clear, acid, vivacious, good company.”