Nina Ricci’s L’Air du Temps (1948)

Nina Ricci's L'Air du Temps Vintage Flacon © Victor Wong
Nina Ricci’s L’Air du Temps Vintage Flacon © Victor Wong

For people who study or collect vintage perfumes, it’s almost impossible to miss the famous two-dove flacon bottle that houses Nina Ricci’s L’air du Temps (The Air of Spring). Released in 1948 after World War II, it was a huge hit and became Nina Ricci’s most famous perfume. Nina Ricci has never ceased the production of L’Air du Temps (although continuously being reformulated) and this perfume can be found everywhere perfumes are sold.

Now I cut to the chase: L’Air du Temps sucks. Well, I am just referring to the modern version. Actually, when I first smelled it in a department store, I thought it smelled good. I was very tempted to buy a bottle, but I didn’t. Many months later I bought a mini 30ml version in a local drugstore at a discounted price. (Man, that bottle was so flimsy and cheap looking.) I have spent some good time smelling the perfume and come to this conclusion: I can tell this perfume used to smell wonderful but now it isn’t because of the cheap and synthetic ingredients that they used. The feeling is similar to eating cakes made with synthetic vanilla and fake jam (I eat that all the time when coworkers leave the company); you know how they could be better if you have eaten cakes made with real buttah and good ingredients.

So I started hunting for a vintage version of L’Air de Temps on eBay. Actually, it was no challenge at all because they were so popular. I found one that was sealed and never seen the light. As expected, the difference between vintage and reformulation is huge. But what I didn’t expect was that they smelled like two different perfumes, not one with better ingredients. The modern version does fit the title “The Air of Spring”; it’s floral and light and full of aldehyde, but it’s so pale and bleached like a poster that has been tormented by the sun for years, most of the colors are gone, all you see are images of pale yellow and cyan. The vintage version on the other hand is a full-color classic chypre with focus on carnation and spice (particularly cloves), so much so that it almost smells metallic. The perfume should be named “The Air of Fall” or “The Grandmother of Opium”. Sadly, I am not a big fan of both versions. If the modern version uses higher quality ingredients, I will choose to wear it.

I recently talked to a local perfume shop owner and she complained that the evergreen perfumes no longer sell as well as the previous years. Her conclusion, “People who are loyal to those classics are mostly seniors, maybe they are now dead.” It’s sad that perfume companies choose to serve water downed version of their waning products instead of keeping the quality that brought them riches. Or May be they are doing a service to the retirees that don’t have much to spend but still want to wear their favorites? I don’t know.