Two years ago, I visited the niche perfumery Nose in Paris with a client of mine. The team in 20 rue Bachaumont had spared no effort: it took more than an hour of computer-aided diagnosis and suggestions by Nicolas Cloutier and his team (whose extraordinary patience must be emphasized) before I let myself be seduced by a new fragrance. It was the singular “Cuir Velours” (velvety leather) by Naomi Goodsir who won the fight. That was the beginning of a love affair which hasn’t stopped ever since.
First, who is Naomi Goodsir? She is a hat and fashion accessories designer with a dark and eccentric style, Australian-born but living and working in France. She has embarked on the adventure of niche perfumery in 2012. Cuir Velours is part of a collection of three fragrances composed by perfumers whose mission is to work around a specific raw material each time. This one was created by Julien Rasquinet, an independent perfumer trained by the great Pierre Bourdon.
At first glance, one cannot help but notice an affiliation with the world of Serge Lutens: the matte black and beige colours as well as the rectangular bottle filled with an amber liquid are reminiscent of this prestigious precursor. And so does the name – very “Lutensian”, too.
The originality of the packaging lies in its outer sleeve, which seems to come straight out of the food industry: it must be torn at the first opening and then it closes like a bag of shredded cheese! However, the sleeve comes in a satin black finish which does look great. Inside, one finds a black rectangular box, and resting on a bed of black silk paper are the bottle, a screw pump and a card with an ancient-style drawing of a nose on it. The whole packaging is original with an unquestionable good taste, showing a sense of detail and refinement that could be expected from a designer.
Now, the fragrance.
Cuir Velours opens with an accord which is both fruity, floral and leathery: in my book, it has all it takes to be sickening. Yet the result is delicate, seductive and intriguing enough to have me sniffing the blotter as I would do with a glass of Armagnac or smoked whiskey. The blond leather accord feels fluffy and soft, and is beautifully executed.
The fruity facet is rather intriguing. Fruits are generally another word for bad taste in perfumery: they make any composition “heavy” and it takes true mastery from the Perfumer not to fall into the tacky and the vulgar. But here, not a single trace of that: it is a sweet and mild flavour that unfolds in the nose.
Once the fragrance lingers on the skin, we perceive the intriguing Fleur d’Immortelle, used here with a discretion which I think is the only way to go, since its scent is so powerful. The leathery note becomes drier, more bitter, a little bit like the ancient leather note obtained from birch bark as in Cuir de Russie by Chanel (1927). This bitterness is softened by an incense and amber coating, and enhanced with a touch of blond tobacco.
This final smooth leather impression will persist in the wake of Cuir Velours, and will persist again thanks to another quality of this fragrance: it remains on the skin and clothing for hours while never weakening or fading.
Since I began this review by talking about the similarities with Serge Lutens’ perfumes, it is difficult not to compare Cuir Velours with Daim Blond, its ancestor by almost ten years. Naomi Goodsir’s perfume is apparently less nuanced, more “raw” than Daim Blond, but it is precisely the massive use of its main raw material that makes it captivating. After the first impression, this fragrance reveals itself as delicate but not shy, rich and sensual and, above all, incredibly seductive!
Cuir Velours is a beautiful paradox: it is fine and elegant, yet it never goes unnoticed, not for a second! One of those olfactory miracles that niche perfumery is so good at doing.
Hervé Mathieu – Fragrance Forward
Cuir Velours by Naomi Goodsir – eau de parfum 50 ml – 110 euros