Fracas… the name of this perfume, it’s time of release and associations with noir cinema makes me want to grab my sketchbook, play a black and white drama and sketch away.
Fracas is a gorgeous word. In a french accent, it sounds particularly provocative, sharp like a razor’s edge. Crash. Dishes breaking. That is that meaning of the word.
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 whoa! I had not smelled the actual ‘Fracas’ yet but that feeling of dishes breaking and a distant headache was so strong. So I did some further reading on Madonna’s perfume and turned out she was indeed inspired by ‘Fracas’ by Robert Piguet, a perfume legend from the late 1940s. Some even say she straight out copied it. Well.
My hunt for it became fruitful when I ended up nabbing an absolutely beautiful and quite vintage bottle of Fracas in parfum form. A crystal octagonal stopper in a boxy bottle with simple elegant text – 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 FRACAS. This one had worked it’s magic inside the package when it travelled over the seven seas from one continent to another. It was also suck in customs for a month in 40 degree weather.
Onwards we go.
The smell was vanillac, sweet, sticky syrupy 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. 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 and Jasmine.
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 gross, equal parts tragic. Thankfully, Fracas flooded my senses and now I barely remember what the water smelled like.
Reformulated Fracas has been back in business for a while and smells wonderfully similar to its original intended smell. Expensive, regal stuff.
I proudly own a huge eau de toilette from the late 1980s. Although no where as strong as parfum, its wonderful.
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 Humoresque 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 fabric moving and the mystery of what emotion our heroine might display next. Lust. Deceit. Tragedy. The stuff of good cinema…