Bas de Soie is one of the perfumes from Serge Lutens that flies under the radar. It’s a bit of an anomaly and perhaps lacks the strong personality of others within his oeuvre. It’s not a Moroccan inspired oriental, nor a floral powerhouse of the same standing as Iris Silver Mist or Tubereuse Criminelle. Nor is it one of his watery, slightly sharp modernist L’Eaus. Bas de Soie has a resplendently French sensibility, with its cool iris and hyacinth blooms. There is something about Bas de Soie that sets it apart from its stable mates with its elegantly aloof air. It feels like it could be a Chanel. Well that may be a stretch, as it seems a little rough verging on synthetic at times, and Chanel‘s aesthetic is always smooth. It shares iris and galbanum with Chanel’s No 19 but Bas de Soie has more warmth and less chill.
This is one of those perfumes that takes a little time to learn to appreciate. I was gifted this perfume, so it wasn’t something that I had been previously drawn to, but over time I have come to cherish its retro modern appeal. Of the Lutens that I own, it’s actually the one that I’ve sprayed most often and the juice is getting precariously close to that slightly panicky half way mark.
In true Lutens style the perfume has an interesting name. Bas de Soie refers to silk stockings. The story he weaves around the perfume hints at its nature.
“A black mass where the voices are low, and soft as silk. A ritual, an image: slim fingers carefully slip the stocking up the leg, from ankle to thigh… The woman alone, scented with a blend of powdery iris and hyacinth, keeps our attention. The iridescence of a dragonfly’s wing.”
Nose: Christopher Sheldrake : Year: 2010 : Notes : Hyacinth, Iris, Musk, Galbanum, Spices (from Fragrantica)
The soft floral iris does wear like silk and has a slight powdery texture. If you’re familiar with the iris in Luten’s more celebrated Iris Silver Mist, let’s be clear that the iris in Bas de Soie is miles away from this. Iris Silver Mist conjures up all of the facets of the iris; from roots to flower that delivers an earthy, rooty, carrot like hit up front with a more glacial feel than Bas de Soie.
There is also a metallic facet in Bas de Soie that doesn’t last for too long but adds interest, giving it a quirky edge. The hyacinth is quite noticeable in the mix, although it has a sort of murky quality, while the galbanum makes its presence known delivering that sprightly green touch. It is a great spring floral that seems a little aloof in its chill, as if it is just getting to terms with the fading days of winter. As it wears on skin, a slight soapiness warms the scent and dims the florals. It’s not a loud perfume, however it performs quite well with good longevity.
The painting of Amy Winehouse by Marlene Dumas that hangs in London’s National Portrait Gallery captures the nature of this fragrance. Even though it’s a rather small painting in terms of size, it hints at darkness, focusing on her heavily made up, signature black lined eyes and mouth. Yet the pale palette reveals an introspective nature with a certain lightness of being. Seeing this painting up close really hit a nerve with me, and of course I loved her music, but a long life just wasn’t on the cards for her. I can imagine Amy pulling on some silk stockings, as part of her vintage look, although I can’t imagine they’d be in pristine condition after one of her nights out.
Bas de Soie has vintage connotations with its retro iris and hyacinth mix. Yet at the same time there exists a tension with that slightly metallic aspect that lends a more modern sensibility. There’s a wistful aspect, a sort of downbeat feel to the vintage elements and a pale, silvery contemporary sheen that shimmers like icy blue sea in the winter’s chill.
Bas de Soie definitely sings to be worn in spring yet it’s also a nice touch in the colder winter months. It’s a floral with a silky elegance, yet all is not what it seems. There is a detachment, an aloofness here that makes Bas de Soie interesting. There is an intrigue there that keeps me spraying that rectangular bottle.
The Lowdown : A silky iris and hyacinth perfume with a cool French vibe. Great in the cooler months and in spring. In fact it’s one of those perfumes that will make you feel elegant all year round.
Ratings Guide : 5 étoiles: Masterpiece and a must buy : 4 étoiles: Seriously fabulous and a must try : 3 étoiles: Solid work but lacking that something extra : 2 étoiles: Just not my cup of tea : 1 étoile: Back to the drawing board