Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin EDP Perfume Review

Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin

While reading through the copy and watching the video for Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin, I felt an uneasiness. I couldn’t describe it but it made me feel uneasy, the video in particular. It seemed like some sort of rapist-y fantasy directed by Jean-Luc Godard. The copy, the esoteric video, the interviews with Lutens left me feeling uneasy in a way that a perfume has never done before. Regardless of interpretation, I think that most of us will agree that the backstory is dark, filled with despair*. The color of the perfume, the actual juice, is an aggressive shade of crimson.

Before I had tried the fragrance, I already had a strange emotional relationship with it. Half curiosity, half horror and of course, the usual anxiety that a self identifying killjoy harbors. When I first tried this perfume, I was shocked but not due to horror. It was a dainty, gorgeous violet-rose. Watery, flaccid in my mind, gentle and juvenile. It actually reminded me of a rose perfume oil from Jordan that I had as a child. I pushed it aside and decided to revisit it almost six months later. Keep in mind one of my favorites, Bas de Soie was one that grew on me with time.

This is a rose. La FIlle de Berlin opens with a rosy rose. It’s slightly fruity reminding me of raspberries and blackberries ripening in the little paper fruit cartons at the farmer’s market. And it’s garnished with cool, spring violets. It’s metallic yet luscious, ripe. Green cardamom and tea roses. Violet simple syrup and rose jam. It’s rather simple but delicious in the way that ripe berries are. The more perfumes I try, I realize that many of us have a tendency to equate complexity to quality. And this shouldn’t be the case. Simplicity takes talent. With time, this becomes a drier yet still tart rose with white pepper. The violet remains and reminds me of “satin violets”. It dries to a blend of rose and musk, more rose than musk.

After revisiting this one, I realized that a part of the shock that I felt with La Fille de Berlin was that it was such a “me” fragrance. A deja vu accord. Honestly, it creeps me out. I don’t expect for anyone else to feel this way but it has struck a chord with my memory, my experiences. I no longer view it as an aggressive shade of crimson but the shade of Rooh Afza. I hate that I want a bottle as I’m one that tries to outwit nostalgia. But, I realize that this fragrance, for me, isn’t  what was but it’s where I’m at now. And I can’t deny that my past experiences were my escorts to the journey that I’m on today.

Greta Garbo

Notes listed include rose and pepper. Launched 2013. PERFUMER – Christopher Sheldrake

Give La Fille de Berlin a try if you like rose, or better yet, love rose. Try it if you like perfumes like Penhaligon’s Peoneve, Ramon Monegal L’eau de Rose, Diptyque Eau Rose, Juliette Has a Gun Miss Charming, Perfumer’s Workshop Tea Rose and/or Sonoma Scent Studio Rose Musc. Rose is unisex.

Projection and longevity is average. It’s a great rose for warm weather.

The 1.7 oz bottle retails for $125 at Beautyhabit and Saks. 

Victoria’s Final EauPINIONROSE. An excellent rose. It’s not bright nor is it dark. It’s a stable, steady rose and for some reason this one has struck a chord with me. Do give it a try if you love rose.

Want more reviews? Try…

Perfume Posse 

The Non-Blonde

Now Smell This*

Bois de Jasmin

Kafkaesque – In-depth review. Strangely comforting that I wasn’t the only one that got the rape-y vibe from the backstory.

That Smell

Perfume Shrine


*Sample obtained by me. Product pic from Fragrantica. Greta Garbo pic from Post contains affiliate links. Thanks!

26 thoughts on “Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin EDP Perfume Review

  1. Thank you for the link referral. 🙂

    I too am strangely comforted that you perceived the rape undertone to the backstory and the video. Everyone else talks about 1930s Berlin, but they just need to watch that video and hear Serge Lutens’ commentary to see that the real tale is something extremely violent, dark, and grim. Post-war Soviet occupation, rape, and possibly murder, not the gaiety of Weimar Germany. I normally don’t pay much heed to backstories, but Fille de Berlin will forever more be linked with that unpleasant mental association in my mind. It was an odd thing to release for Valentine’s Day, especially given that his pre-interview to the New York Times didn’t hide the grimness he himself associated with it…. You’re the only other person who’s gotten it, and I feel a lot less crazy as a result. Thank you for that. 🙂
    Kafkaesque recently posted..Vero Profumo Mito Eau de Parfum: Effortless Italian Style

    1. The first time I heard the video, I had it playing while unloading the dishwasher. I thought that my rusty French got in the way and there had to be a breakdown. I watched again with the English subtitles and it was more violent, dark than what I had heard. It left me with goosebumps. I thought of it as the rapist’s tale, a tale of rape and then murdering of the victim during Post-war Soviet occupation. I sent the link to a friend who cares less about perfume than probably anything else. Her interpretation based on the SL interviews and the film made her think of a woman attacking and possibly fighting off the rapist but it’s open to interpretation. But, I think many of us agree that the story is grim. And it’s a weird one for a “look! pink and rose for Valentine’s day!” – And look at the color of the juice, it’s a violent choice when paired with the story…and even the SL logo looks menacing, like some sort of propaganda-ish symbol, on the label. – I feel you covered it all very well in your post. And I don’t think we’re crazy. They threw the backstory out there, what did they expect for us to do with it?

      I had to separate my initial feelings and the story from the fragrance. And when I did, I got something familiar, something that reminded me of my experiences (and not just the pleasant ones). So, it’s one of those scents that resonates with me even though I don’t want it to.

  2. Dearest Victoria and Kafka
    I hadn’t seen this ‘promotional’ clip before.
    It seems odd that no one should have picked up on the theme of violation that is so obviously present here.
    I find the specific rape and Soviet occupation narratives that you put forward quite fascinating and completely plausible.
    However, listening again, I felt that perhaps they are part of a wider metaphor that has the ‘girl’ of the perfume’s title as the city itself and the city as a cypher for broader German and European culture.
    Visiting the once-again-capital quite recently, I was struck by how often the 20th century is referred to as a period of the violation or ‘rape’ of Berlin, Germany and, by extension, Europe.
    This was a violent era of disruption, destroying the gradual progress and romanticism of the previous 100 years.
    The Great War, the humiliation and destitution that followed the flawed settlement of Versailes, the ferment and torment of the Weimar years – that may seem gay (in more than one way) through the prism of history, but were actually a time of violent unrest and struggle between ideologies and classes that gave birth to the rise of National Socialism – followed by the by the massive wounds inflicted by the Third Reich: The Shoah, the defeat, the dismemberment and occupation of the German nation, nowhere illustrated more clearly than in a Berlin cleaved in two.
    Post 1989, like a victim recovering from trauma, Germany has been engaged in a difficult process of managing its own history and memory, consciously and unconsciously deciding what to remember and what it must forget in order to survive.
    A process widely observed on a personal level in survivors of sexual violence.
    A process that seems to be being described here.
    All of this may seem like fanciful extrapolation, and indeed, I have to say I found little or nothing of it in the scent itself when I tried it in a freezing cold and snow-crusted Paris in February:an aside snow was often used as a visual signifier of ‘The East’ in ‘The West’ during the Cold War.
    But this film is so thought through and deliberate that it is impossible to view fragrance other than in conjunction with it, or at least to perceive the perfume ‘as intended’ in isolation.
    So La Fille de Berlin goes back to the top of my ‘to try list’ though I still expect a experience that may be somewhat incongruous with both this film and everything I’ve said above.
    Of course, the other possibility that occurs to one is that of the casual sexual abuse of the ‘casting couch’, which should not be discounted, but I find the general use of plural pronouns (though rather commonplace in French literature) to suggest a more symbolic meaning here.
    Thank you both, and, indeed, M. Lutens, the making me think this morning.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    1. I included the video because I wanted more interpretations and I’m unsure of my own initial interpretation. I agree that there is something to the use of the pronouns, an intentional ambiguity. I suppose the entire video is about ambiguity and it’s all open to interpretation. And even though all of the interpretations so far have been rather morose, I have to give the brand credit for making us think and discuss such serious issues, because they’re just a perfume brand. Other perfumes are trying to sell us foreplay or some sort of aspirational glamour.

      And I do agree that there is something to the snow image as it was symbolic during the Cold World. East Berlin was always represented as some sad, snowy place to the West. (I’ve spent time in the area less than 10 years after the fall of the Wall, I could go on about that, but that’s for another day…)

      Thank you for leaving your thoughts here. It gives me much to think about…and it’s just perfume 😉

    1. I’m of the school of thought that “Blurred Lines” is rapey but I don’t know. I mean, we never hear her side of the story.

  3. Okay, that video was a little too vague for me. But has anyone here seen A Woman In Berlin? It’s an autobiographical account of what happens to a young woman during the Soviet invasion of Berlin during WWII. If this is the kind of past that La Fille de Berlin is ascribing to its personification, then that makes it even more powerful.

    I see the heaviness of La Fille de Berlin’s past somewhat, but it mostly seems cheerful to me. Formaggio commented that it’s sullen though, so maybe I just wasn’t looking hard enough for the dark vibes.

    1. In an interview, Lutens reference that book (which I have not read). I’m assuming that you have read it so you can comment more about it but from what I understand that book inspired much of this perfume.

      I actually like that if the backstory is true and it’s based on trauma, that it is optimistic. I feel that that aspect of recovery is often overlooked.

  4. Thanks for posting this link, and for a review that is informative and personal in a good way (not just “I liked it” but a really nuanced explanation of your reaction, which I found interesting and thoughtful). I hadn’t seen the clip yet, and still am not sure I will watch. It sounds like something I might wish I hadn’t watched, if I did.

    I did, however, try the perfume. I liked it, but didn’t find it particularly dark or strange. I do quite like the color. I guess that’s where I will sit for now. Might revisit eventually. 🙂

    1. I want more interpretations, I’m open to them all. It’s just so vague (which I’m sure is intentional).

      I’ve decided that I like the color as well. It’s actually very pretty in person.

  5. I need to read your review fully and comment- but I had to comment the minute I saw ‘Rooh Afza’ because this perfume reminded me soo much of Rooh Afza (which is why my husband who loved the drink as a child liked this perfume more than I did). I expected something stranger so I was struck (and not too happy) by its prettiness. It reminded me a bit of Potrait of a Lady as well. I do have a decant so I have the chance to figure out whether and how much I like it. And I will probably spray some on while reading your review.
    Lavanya recently posted..Ormonde Jayne Ramblings; first and second thoughts on Ormonde Woman

    1. I think people that enjoy Rooh Afza will like this one. It’s the color and the tart rose with fruits and “cool” spice. I find that like with hot apple cider, people have pleasant associations and memories with this beverage.

      We see perfume brands do this over and over. Hype up something as different, maybe even broody and then we get something we didn’t expect. It makes it more difficult for us to appreciate it because we already expected something else, we created a perfume in our head. I think it should have been branded as a “summer sharbat” inspired perfume, then we’d expect a cooler, fruity rose.

  6. It’s a really powerful review. I’ve been struggling with this perfume’s story for a while now and I think I might write about it eventually (or not – I don’t know yet) and I must say that you’ve got the backstory right and I share your feelings about it.
    This perfume grows on me: I like it more with every next try.
    Undina recently posted..Imaginary Signature Scent

    1. I would love to read your thoughts and feelings on this perfume’s story. I understand if you don’t but I appreciate your perspective. I’m still struggling with how I interpret the story and the brand’s intent. I understand that everything in the world isn’t happy-happy rainbows and unicorns.We can’t ignore the wrong in the world. I understand that some of the best perfumes include “not pretty” notes; however, this is a pretty rose. What is the intent? Or is there any?

      Either way, I like the perfume (which I admit frustrated me). The more I wear it, especially on warmer days, the more I like it. But, I love rose.

  7. […] I wrote a review of this rather pretty violet-rose where I said that it creeps me out. The perfume is an aggressive shade of hot pink and the back story is questionably rape-y. I like the perfume but I don’t know how to (or if I should) interpret it. Serge gets the award for the perfume of 2013 that I find unsettling and confusing. Yeah, he beat out a pee-pee perfume. My full review. […]

  8. Four and a half minutes? Gawd, but marketing nearly kills a perfume as far as I’m concerned, and French perfume houses are the worst. What a bunch of wannabe Baudelairian bullshit. I wish I hadn’t watched it. I love my Sarrasins and will assiduously avoid any video. The purpose of scent is for the wearer to make up his or her own goddam story.

    1. I’m with you. If a perfume can’t tell story without a 4.5 minute video or some OTT ad campaign, then there is something wrong with it. It should be able to tell a story without any backstory. We should be able to smell it and have a connection. This connection may vary from person to person but it’s still a story, a feeling.

      I admit that I’ve become more jaded with time and I’m now very weary of perfumes or perfume houses that feel the need to spoon feed us stories/inspirations.

      But, hey, I do like many Serge Lutens perfumes but I like them because of “my” story, not his.

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