The perfect harmony of an enchanting elixir, the symbol of femininity and eternal youth, L’Air du Temps by Nina Ricci is undoubtedly among the most emblematic fragrances of all time – compared to fragrances such as Chanel Nº5 or Shalimar. Despite its sixty-nine years, L’Air du Temps still embodies the primal values of peace, purity, freedom and love. Discover now the remarkable story behind the creation of this vintage icon.
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After World War II, the world was in need of optimism, joy and reassuring promises, especially women who had worked in munitions and related wartime factories. They wanted their former femininity and were seeking to bring back romance into their lives. At that time, perfumes had heady, dense, heavy scents, becoming too strict and formal, reflecting the war atmosphere.
The need for lightness, happiness and hope was felt on air because just like the war, all oppression and fear was over. People were allowed to smile and walk freely.
Sharing these feelings was Robert Ricci, Nina Ricci’s son. And so, taking the opportunity to expand his business, he decided to develop a new fragrance to express the new era. Together with Francis Fabron, L’Air du Temps was born.
“When I create a fragrance, I begin by ‘sensing’ it in my mind. I have a very clear sense of the fragrance I want to smell on the shoulders of the woman I love. I created L’Air du Temps for a very feminine woman, perhaps for somebody just seen or met, but certainly dreamed of and idealised. For me, a fragrance is an act of love, whether experienced or imaginary. I am a romantic, and I cannot conceive of life without dreams.” , stated Ricci about L’Air du Temps’ inspiration.
When L’Air du Temps was created, the use of synthetic elements in perfumery was no longer considered a revolution. Even though, it was an open field for innovation. As so, Francis Fabron added a generous portion of benzyl salicylate to the composition. In massive doses, this synthetic molecule enhances the sumptuous bouquet of flowers – jasmine, rose, gardenia and spiced pinks – while giving the final mixing purity and fluidity.
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Paired with spicy eugenol and isoeugenol, the effect becomes almost carnation-like with its clove tint – the essence of L’Air du Temps. In Portugal – a country where dictatorship also took place – carnations are an important symbol of freedom, as they replaced bullets on the day of the revolution. There is a photography of a child placing a carnation in a soldier’s rifle which became emblematic. Carnations mean hope, peace, the end of the war and suffering, and the victory of democracy. So its smell could also be the olfactory translation for optimism.
Originally, the 1948 flacon designed by Jean Rebull and produced by Marc Lalique included a rising sun with a single dove sculpted on the stopper. However, in 1951, Lalique introduced the interwinding dove’s stopper which marked the peaceful atmosphere after World War II.
The spiral glass of this new design represents the sun, and the doves placed on the top are metaphoric symbols of purity, peace and love. Over the years, there have been special edition flacons based on the dove’s bottles, too. In 1999 the L’Air du Temps flacon was named Perfume Bottle of the Century.
We hope you enjoyed reading about the story behind this emblematic vintage fragrance! In times where our freedom is constantly being put at risk, it is always good to remember what gave us hope before.
Content source: Miguel Matos for www.fragrantica.com and www.perfumeshrine.blogspot.pt
Photography sources: www.ninaricci.com, www.fragrantica.com, www.flickr.com, Daniela Maggi and www.hprints.net
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