I have been wanting to write about Serge Lutens’ Fille en Aiguilles since I was first introduced to it at the Perfume Lovers London Perfume and Well-being event. I’ve thought very much about its name, Fille en Aiguilles, which translates to “girl in needles” and “girl in stilettos”. I’ve thought about this duality and what it represents to me. Two wholly different representations of our public and private selves.
The public side of the persona represented by the girl in stilettos, perfectly pulled together, polished, seemingly balancing all of the varying aspects of life with panache and elan all while exhibiting a perfect, airbrushed image to the rest of the world. In contrast to this image is the image of the girl in needles, in private repose on a bed of pine needles on the forest earth, oblivious to her surroundings. Releasing all pretension and letting go of the need to feel an adherence to any predetermined standards or stereotype.
I often think of these dualities in everyone I meet. I wonder what is real in people, and what are they just trying to sell me about themselves. Thinking about Fille en Aiguilles, I wonder where is that point where the two contrasting sides collide. When does it become okay to shed the external armor and open yourself up and share the forest floor with another.
While naturally, and I think this is probably true for everyone, we would like to believe that we want the real, true and honest, versions of everyone we come to know, but I often wonder if that is really accurate. Perhaps we are content with the photo-shopped parade of smug, hey-look-at-me style selfies, that are masqueraded endlessly before us on our social network feeds. To be honest I am in two minds about it. On one hand, I crave a deeper, meaningful connection with those I grow to be fond of; however, on the other hand, it can also be fun to play the game as well. I’m a sucker for great advertising, a willing victim to a clever marketing scheme, and playing along also has its own entertainment value however brief and shallow it may be.
I do it as well though. Play the parts, project an image that I want someone to believe is who I am. I like to keep my cards close to my chest, but when I do cast all of that side, I do it in a big way. And usually with this a feeling of liberation is ushered into the relationship ensconced in feelings of love and acceptance that are usually only obtained by taking a bit of risk. Sometimes it pays off. Sometimes it does not.
I guess I geek out a bit when I spend time getting to know a perfume. I don’t care. It’s something I really love doing. Sometimes the experience borders on the therapeutic. I go into a room all on my own, it’s totally silent, just me, my notebook, and the perfume. I’m writing my impressions of what I am smelling and also what I am feeling. Obviously my life ties into this experience. What I might be feeling at the time, what goals I might be working towards, what good fights I am currently fighting on to achieve. I have to admit Fille en Aiguilles hit me quite emotionally after a while. I don’t know it was maybe after an hour or so. While I was taking notes on Fille en Aiguilles, I was also reading Mandy Aftel’s Fragrant, which arrived today from Amazon. There is a whole section on Frankincense, a major component of Fille en Aiguilles, that I read during this time.
Ms Aftel writes: “Beautiful smells minister to the human need for transformation and transcendence. Yet transcendence does not mean ignoring the mundane world; indeed it is rooted there, in our conscious attention to the details that surround us. Mindful of the texture of the very air we breathe in, we break through the glass walls of predictability, repetition, and pragmatism: we are inspired.”
At that one moment as I was sitting there, absolutely enveloped in this fragrance, to be sure, it felt as if it were visceral around me, these words struck me on a real emotional level. I felt this moment of definite clarity and I had a sense of infinite appreciation for myself. I think it is fair to say that we all experience hardships in our lives. I have, and I am sure anyone that might one day read this probably has as well. While, yes, they are often terrible things to go through, but in contrast to that, I find that I have often grown from these experiences in ways that I never thought I could. I’ve discovered qualities I never dreamt that I possessed. I feel that evolution is important. It’s really important to me to always grow and to strive to evolve into a better version of myself.
Ms Aftel goes on to quote the painter Agnes Martin’s “Moments of Perfection”:
“I would like to consider further those moments in which we feel joy in living. To some, these moments are very clear and to others a vagueness that can only be described as below the level of consciousness. Whether conscious or unconscious, they do their work, and they are the incentive to life. A stockpile of these moments gives us an awareness of perfection in our minds and this awareness of perfection in our minds makes all the difference in what we do.
“Moments of perfection are indescribable but a few things can be said about them. At such times we are suddenly very happy and we wonder why life ever seemed troublesome. In an instant we can see the road ahead free from all the difficulties and we think that we will never lose it again. All this and a great deal more in barely a moment, and then it is gone.”
And now FINALLY on to the actual review of Fille en Aiguilles! Apologies for all of the babbling!
When I first sprayed Fille en Aiguilles, I experienced a cool blast that gave me a tingling sensation inside of my nose. This however quickly dissipated as tendrils of frankincense wafted up throughout the fragrance, intermingling with a syrupy, burnt sugar aspect all playing out amongst an earthy, resinous background.
The sensation was incredibly soothing, and I felt as if I could tangibly detect the physical trail of the fragrance entering my nose and making its route up to the forefront of my brain.
I then felt as if Fille en Aiguilles took on a rich texture, it felt viscous, a bit sticky and slow moving, permeated through by wafts of frankincense, which I was quite aware of throughout its development. The fragrance had an uplifting sense to it that also felt deeply nurturing.
As the frankincense continued to rise from the perfume, I could occasionally detect cool shots of pine peaking through the vapors. It reminded me of awakening, eyes starting open and gazing up through the branches of the pine forest. I experienced dashes of balsamic punctuated with spices that at times felt a pinch sharp and tickled my nose.
Half an hour into its development, the pine aspect rests atop the composition of Fille en Aiguilles; however, the frankincense is still present, wrapping itself round the trees, undulating through the forest before the fragrance descends into a quiet, deep, contemplative place, private and soulful.
It was after the one hour that I experienced the transcendent quality Ms Aftel so rightly ascribes to frankincense. A cathartic sensation washed over me, which felt as if negative feelings I had been feeling were dislodging themselves from me. I achieved a moment of clarity, an appreciation of myself, and all of the reassuring calmness such a discovery can bring along with it. Personal understanding and evolution is, in my eyes, meant to be a lifelong lesson. Growth, onward, upwards always.
Fille en Aiguilles has an excellent longevity. I am still aware of it on my skin after five hours of first applying.
Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles is available from Ecsentual in a 50ml Eau de Parfum for £88.00.