Fracas – Robert Piguet

Fracas… the name of this perfume, it’s time of release and associations with noir cinema makes me want to grab my sketchbook and draw something straight out of the 20th century, sophisticated and unrelated to todays illustrations.

Fracas is an interesting word. In a french accent, it sounds particularly provocative, sharp like a razor’s edge. Crash. Dishes breaking. That is that English meaning of the word. Makes sense, huh?

I had read about tuberose being a major ingredient in perfume since a long time. White florals usually have it, either sophisticated and classy or sweetened to a tune of a migraine. Then sometime, in a perfume store all the way back at home in Lahore, I saw Truth & Dare, the perfume with Madonna’s name on it. I had read that this was a good example of a tuberose white floral. I took a whiff and, whoaaaaa! I had not smelled the actual ‘Fracas’ yet but that feeling of dishes breaking… So I did some further reading on Madonna’s perfume and turned out she was inspired by ‘Fracas’ by Robert Piguet, a perfume legend from the late 1940s.

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My hunt for it became fruitful when I ended up nabbing an absolutely beautiful and quite vintage bottle of Fracas Parfum. A crystal octagonal stopper in a boxy bottle with simple elegant text – ah, so good! Small but smart. I didn’t need to remove the stopper to smell the creation – the box it came in with nine other perfumes smelled only of it. Indeed the ‘crash’ had occured inside the package when it travelled over the seven seas from one continent to another. This smell was vanillac, sweet, sticky but in a smooth way, the kind of sticky that rubs off easily of your skin, doesn’t remain like resinous glue. This was indeed the poisonous, venomous tuberose working its magic. This was the fracas that was intended to happen once the wearer smelled this perfume. It’s intoxicating, really and how it makes perfect sense that at the time of writing, I am aware of how another ‘poisonous’ perfume from the 1980s smells like and the binding factor of the two is none other than tuberose.

I grew up smelling tuberose, young boys always selling it on the streets in Lahore. But the memory which is stronger in my mind is not of the smell of the flower itself but of the gunky water which had to be thrown out after the petals has wilted and fallen around in a pattern at the vases’ bottom. Equal parts ewh, equal parts tragic. Thankfully, Fracas crashed into my senses and I barely remember what the water smelled like.

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Reformulated Fracas has been back in business for a while and smells wonderfully similar to its original intended smell. Expensive, regal stuff.

The all black bottle is the new packaging, while the typeface is the same, clear and crisp.

Fracas indeed reminds me of black and white cinema. The Mildred Pierce Joan, the Anna Karenina Vivien… Perhaps it is the image that B&W, grainy film leaves on one’s brain, that lost feeling of no background music, just dialogue, the sound of heavy fabric moving and the mystery of what emotion our heroine might display next. Lust. Deceit. Tragedy. The stuff of good cinema…

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