Recently I had an email exchange with another perfume blogger in which we briefly touched on a shared interest—70s music—and to my surprise, this gal said she liked disco. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised; it makes sense for her to be a fan of disco, as I know she spent at least part of her growing-up years in Europe, where disco was born and continues to flourish. Still, I’m always impressed and a little astonished when someone admits to liking this style of music, as its popularity here in the States covered only a brief span of years before the “Disco Sucks”-backlash started. Or at least that’s the way it seemed to me. When I was in junior high in the mid-70s, disco was huge, platform shoes were all the rage, and kids actually showed up at the school dances to dance (as well as to huff whippets in the bathroom). By the time I entered high school three years later, no one was interested in putting on their boogie shoes—in any sense of the phrase—and the cool kids proclaimed the utter suckitude of disco on t-shirts, notebooks and downtown graffiti. Of course, I was not one of the cool kids, but neither was I a free-to-be-me type of person at that age, so I observed the laws they set down. And then in college, when I actually did feel quite free, disco had more or less been forgotten, unless one counts Madonna’s dance-club music, which I did enjoy at the end of my college years and into my twenties.
Disco might have sucked in my part of the world, but the Internet proves it didn’t die, and now that the World Wide Web has placed a literal discothèque at my fingertips (discothèque being the French word for “a library of phonograph records”), I find myself listening to disco in the same way I listen to everything else: at frequent intervals, if not frequently. In other words, I might not listen to disco for months on end, and then a mood will hit and I’ll play it for two days straight. And when I’m in that kind of mood, usually all is right with my world—I’m feeling happy and turned on to the nth degree—and I’m likely to respond to anything my husband suggests with an Earth Wind and Fire-inspired Yow. (Suzanne, you want to go backpacking? Yow. Out in the middle of nowhere, where you can’t wash your hair? Yoww…what?) OK, maybe not anything, but I’m pretty amenable.
And for a long time, there’s a certain perfume I’ve wanted to write about by connecting it to disco, largely because that’s what I think about when I’m wearing it, and also because there really is nothing else I can attach to this difficult-to-describe perfume. It’s a perfume that represents itself as a swirl of colors in my head, married to something that is animalic in a slick and sleek way: it verges on being animalic, while at the same time it seems intent on staying cool and focused. Gucci Eau de Parfum (the original version, not to be confused with Gucci Eau de Parfum II) was launched in 2002, and because it’s now discontinued, that fact, coupled with its description-defying nature, has largely accounted for why I’ve resisted the attempt. And then this week, after the aforementioned email exchange, I went looking for my decant of Gucci Eau de Parfum and decided I had better write about it now while I had the chance, as I’m down to my very last drops of it.
So! Pressing forward with my analogy, have you ever noticed, when browsing YouTube, that the dancers in the old disco videos always look shiny and clean and rather impressively groomed, no matter how “out there” their clothing attire is? Granted, it’s easy to look well-groomed in a video, and by the end of a disco evening, everyone probably looks as hot and bothered and sweaty as the patrons of Studio 54. Even so, when I think of disco, I think of that very urbane and immaculately groomed look that was epitomized by John Travolta in his white suit in Saturday Night Fever—or the groovy lady who dances with Jesse Green to his 1976 hit “Nice and Slow” in her white hot-pants outfit. In a similar fashion, when Gucci Eau de Parfum first hits the skin, it has an orange blossom note that dominates the scent for a good fifteen minutes, smelling quite soapy, floral and sophisticated as it combines with the smell of heliotrope, caraway, iris and something herbal that I can’t identify, but which I’m guessing might be the perfume’s thyme note.
(The official notes list includes: orange blossom, heliotrope, caraway, iris, thyme, incense, leather, sandalwood, musk, vanilla and cedar essence.)
For the first half hour of wear, the perfume presents an intriguing combination of an anise-like scent that is gently spicy yet more cool than warm, thanks to the soapy orange blossom and a flinty iris note that leans in a leather direction. (I might be alone in this regard, but iris often strikes me as smelling like stiff, new leather before it softens and transforms, as it quite often does, into a powdery note.) It’s a very charismatic smell, one that pulsates in colors of white, green and lavender in my head, its vibration making me think of dancing performed in a very contained manner. If Gucci Eau de Parfum could actually dance, it would have a natural sense of choreography with smooth moves, hip to a disco beat, rather than with flailing limbs or any sense of wild gyration.
This sense of controlled groove is maintained even as the perfume becomes more animalic and its base notes emerge. In addition to the iris, there is a leather-and-musk accord that builds within the scent and smells like flushed skin—skin that has a light sheen of oil and perspiration about it—along with supple leather. Though the leathery aspect of Gucci Eau de Parfum increases as the perfume unfolds, it develops in tandem with the perfume’s vanilla and sandalwood notes, making for a leather scent that is buttery and suede-like. Leather that is pliable—that knows how to move—is how it comes across to me. And while that leather-and-skin smell has a prominent profile in Gucci Eau de Parfum, it exists under the cosmetic cover of heliotrope, with its cherry-almond lipstick smell, and the hint of anise that never entirely goes away. These facets swirl around each other in a paisley-pattern formation, with no particular one grabbing attention; they strike me as having a beautiful sense of integration.
In the same way that in disco music, lyrics are irrelevant, (this music is all about movement, and whatever singing there is within a disco song functions largely as a form of adornment to its percussive beat), Gucci Eau de Parfum is a perfume that isn’t interested in delivering up a narrative or recalling memories. That is what I love about both: they offer me a break from thinking—from my all too usual habit of getting caught up in sentiment—because there is nothing sentimental about them. Who cares if the lyrics to “Nice and Slow” are lame? That song offers tranquility in the form of rhythm and groove, and sensuality in the way it invites the body to move and the mind to take a ride in the backseat.
The only way in which Gucci Eau de Parfum doesn’t measure up to my disco analogy is in its volume. It’s a perfume that stays very close to the skin—and while it has longevity, it has a surprisingly quiet sillage.
Nevertheless, when it urges me to Keep On Dancing in it soft, Marvin Gaye-falsetto voice, all I can say is Yowww.
The Olfactory Groove of Gucci Eau de Parfum by Gucci
Gucci Eau de Parfum by Gucci has been discontinued for awhile, but bottles can be found at some online discounting sites, as well as at Amazon.com. It’s important to note what the bottle looks like (pictured above), if you’re shopping for this one, as the Gucci fashion house has put out a number of perfumes over the years that are similarly (and confusingly) named.
My review is based on a decant I received from a generous reader (thank you Karen!).
Image of musician Jesse Green and an unknown (but very talented) dancer is from a video still for his 1976 disco hit, Nice and Slow.
Bottle image is from Valentineperfume.com.
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