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Ten Years of La Vie Est Belle: A Milestone

Ten Years of La Vie Est Belle: A Milestone

This Article was published on Fragrantica on 19 October 2022 and may be accessed here.

How time flies! It's already been ten years since the introduction of the feminine fragrance which defined the decade: La Vie Est Belle. Evoking something of the feel-good aura of Roberto Benigni's master opus, La vita è bella ("Life is Beautiful"), a film that exalts what it means to savor the very best ouf of life, even in the most averse conditions, the frenchified name is sonorous and optimistic. Lancôme, the company behind the success of the scent, understood that 2012 was a time when optimism and joie de vivre were very much needed in the maelstorm of the international economic crisis which about that time reached its apex. Enter La Vie Est Belle! Like a bright red lipstick bought during recession, a small bottle of this fragrant jus put a smile on many women's faces. It boosts morale.

The concept of La Vie Est Belle is centered on the idea of natural and simple beauty, freedom from conventions and the choice of one's own vision of happiness. The fragrance is a kind of an intended outlook on life, inspired by joy and taking pleasure in small things. With 2245 reviews in our database at the moment of writing, it's a huge success: taking into account people are very vocal about it. This is also why there are 31 flankers and editions of the original scent!

From La Vie Est Belle Soleil Cristal to La Vie est Belle Absolu, with many specialized editions of a special design, there is something for everyone — with slight variations in the scent, to be honest. It's hard to go far when twisting a gourmand; it's not a category that offers too much subtlety, as the sugary quota often surpasses nuances. The latest offering, from 2022, is Oui La Vie est Belle, a more emphatic, if you like, name on the concept, as if it needed renewed affirmation after the pandemic of Covid-19. Then again, Oui is a registered Lancôme name, for O oui, a fruity scent of the 1990s that's now discontinued, so it's important to re-use registered names in a job where it's very difficult to come up with newer ones all the time.

The original gourmand-yet-novel-at-the-time composition was developed by perfumers Olivier Polge, Dominique Ropion and Anne Flipo. The final formula of the Eau de Parfum, the initial launch, is the result achieved after three years of working and 5000 versions. Iris is the key ingredient of the perfume, surrounded by orange blossoms and jasmine in the heart. The composition’s opening provides fruity flavors of black currant and pear, while the base is warm, gourmand and powdery due to almond-like accords of tonka bean, praline (provided by maltol), patchouli and vanilla.

The flacon is a redesigned version of the classic Lancome bottle from 1949. The small silver ribbon on the neck is almost taunting, the promise of a gourmandise, the unpacking of a delectable surprise, more playful than its competitor's Miss Dior modern incarnation. The most recent incarnation of the design, La Vie est Belle L'Eveil has wings made of reusable organza, placed around the cork as protection — and as a reminder that we must protect nature. The bottle is also refillable from the 100ml refills of the regular La Vie Est Belle refills. (They're the same formula, same smell.) Not a design I'm particularly crazy about, but that's just me.

The famous actress Julia Roberts has faithfully been the face of the campaign, shot by director Tarsem Singh. In various night dresses, with a plunging back, in white with silver embellishments, or in a little black dress afloat on the Seine, she is the epitome of joy, grinning with her big smile, evoking good energy vibes.

Part of the success of the concept lies in harnessing a very Parisian energy. The city of love, where enjoying life is de rigeur, where taking a boat down the Seine is not just a tourist expression of seeing the sights, but of savouring all the city has to offer.

I smell La Vie Est Belle everywhere: on young and old and in-between; in the morning, a professional lady with Vento in hand running errands with purse tucked underneath her arm, and in the evening going out for a drink clutching a minaudiere; on middle class as well as on wannabes. Just what is it about this perfume anyway? I set out to ponder a bit. And thus evolved a Case Study article I wrote on La Vie Est Belle and why it clicked so much with its audience.

One of the reasons for the scent's staggering success is performance. Despite its detractors, it's not that La Vie Est Belle is a badly made perfume. On the contrary, it's an extremely well-made perfume from a technical viewpoint. It's got radioactive projection and a lasting power equivalent to the half life of plutonium. You get your money's worth and then some. It lasts and does not break down on the blotter in the interim; it radiates its sweet happy song all the while.

 The really stunning innovation behind La Vie Est Belle is the interconnection of the comfy sweet aspect of the cotton candy/caramel molecule of ethylmaltol at a staggering 4% in the compound with floral (orange blossom) and fruity (peach) flanking notes.

This is a really huge percentage compared to the measly 0.1% of Angel which brought the note into the mainstream (it existed before) and butressed it with vanillin (a grown up Pink Sugar, if you like).

The saving grace in all the overwhelming sweetness is the touch of iris, which gives a slightly sourbread note into an otherwise super-sweet composition. And the wisdom in including it lies in incorporating another huge trend: the feeling of starchy smooth powder notes in recent feminine perfumes.

However, even after ten years, or rather because of it, there is something that our reader Tovah expressed perfectly, you can have too much of a good thing: "There’s something about smelling the same thing on so many people that changes my overall interpretation of the fragrance. When I first wore La Vie Est Belle, soon after it launched, literally, people went out of their way to ask me what I was wearing. One time it happened in a swimming pool supply store and I was shocked that anyone could smell me over the chlorine. But then, like Angel, La Vie Est Belle became the bane of public transportation, the evil in the air at Friday night services, that worker who got complaints from HR…It’s Lancôme’s fault!"

This is probably what accounts for the scent being featured as the #2 Most Hated Perfume on our Readers' Choice Awards in 2021. But if you notice, the category (apart from one with a gimmick name) is chock-full of best-sellers. La Vie Est Belle sales won't suffer any time soon. It's just that we, as dedicated perfume enthusiasts, doth protest too much!


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