Perfumed Letters

Reading the scent trail of fragrance and words

Perfume Prequels: No. 5 Eau première and Shalimar Parum initial



Georges Meliès, Voyage dans la lune (1902)

According to Michael Edwards (author of Fragrances of the World, now in its 29th edition), an average of three perfumes per day were released in 2011.*  This  preponderance of perfume is due in part to a burgeoning niche and indie perfume industry. Though let’s face it, there are a lot of sequels (a.k.a., flankers) out there. Consider the exponential proliferation of Poisons and Addicts alone.

Flankers have been around for a long time, but what caught my interest in recent years was the trend toward what I call Perfume Prequels–the ones with starter adjectives in their names. Their monikers seem to imply: first, that there is a market for the fragrance equivalent of a training bra; and alternatively, that the new perfumes predate their iconic sisters. Think Chanel No. 5 Eau Première and Shalimar Parfum Initial.

Like movie prequels, perfume prequels allow expansion of a beloved story even when some of the main characters have already been killed off.  With restrictions on the very ingredients that made classic perfumes classic, the notion of building on the old base to make a bigger, better, blockbuster version of what they were is but a dream–or maybe a nightmare. Instead the prequels seem to build backwards, paring down, while retaining recognizable features of their precursors: the silky texture of No.5; Shalimar’s fleshy iris blush.

I was at first suspicious of the Prequels. But it turns out their hushed tones are just the ticket for me. They deliver all the retro gravitas of a silent movie still, but with a lighthearted charm reminiscent of Georges Meliès’s most whimsical frames.


from Meliès, The Mermaid (1904)


* The Edwards statistic came directly from communication with his publicist.


6 thoughts on “Perfume Prequels: No. 5 Eau première and Shalimar Parum initial

  1. I did try the Chanel (I think!) and like it; now to find it again, and see what I think in light of this lovely post. Oh, and we just saw “Hugo” – which I cannot figure out why it is a kid’s movie.

  2. I didn’t know much at all about “Hugo” before I saw it, and was almost stunned (in a good way) when those early moments in French cinema were recreated. I’ve always found Lumière and Meliès films–and silent film sin general–moving and magical. It has something to do with my deep nostalgia. The films and what they represent are so close and yet so far. I feel as if everything about them is just out of reach. There is some psychological connection here I”m sure to my fascination with perfume. Ephemera, the desire to capture or make contact with something fleeting….something that is always fleeing to the past…

  3. This is a great phrase to describe this category of perfumes! You should copyright it. 🙂

  4. Natalie,
    Thanks for you! I’m glad the term makes sense to you.
    What the heck, I consider all my posts to be under copyright: ©Perfume Prequel.
    Now, will there be more Prequels, or were those two a flash in the pan?

  5. I agree with you,i have the same thought about some perfumes.Nice post

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