As fragrance houses go, Maison Nina Ricci -- the venture launched by the great couturière and her son Robert in 1946 -- is somewhat of a cipher. Some houses churn out works so recognizably of a piece, you can identify them at a hundred paces. Not Nina Ricci. So many wildly different scents -- L'Air du Temps (a classic fresh green floral), Fille d'Eve (a slyly suggestive parfum de peau), Deci Delà (an upscale fruit salad), Signoricci (Incontestably Male! as the advertisement states), Fleur de Fleurs (a bizarre blend of nectar and bilge), and Les Belles de Ricci (the Breakfast Club of teen perfume collections) -- under one roof is remarkable. It shows a willingness to adapt, explore, renew, reinvent, and always keep pace with the times.
Capricci is an aldehydic chypre from 1961, a year in which the future seemed bigger, brighter, closer, and somehow scarier than ever before. Youthful, stylish, and idealistic, the Kennedys had just been inaugurated America's First Family-- and would soon usher us into a terrifying new age of ICBMs and Cuban crises. Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepard cut the ribbon on the frontier of space, while the Civil Rights movement shook the foundations back home on Planet Earth. At Liverpool's Cavern Club, the Beatles fired their first shot across the bow of popular music; on bookstands, Joseph Heller's Catch-22 did likewise for literature. Like a prairie tumbleweed, a twenty-year-old skinnamarink name of Bob Dylan blew into Greenwich Village-- enough said. And while even he may not have known it yet, the times they were a-changin'-- growing more hopeful, more cynical, more polarized (and polarizing) by the day.
Apropos of such turbulent times, Capricci is both sparkling and bitter, verdant and metallic, memorable and fleeting. On one hand, its jasmine and narcissus have a dewy quality that puts me in mind of tender April. On the other hand, Vincent Millay called April an "idiot, babbling and strewing flowers"-- and brother, she knew the score.
Like other ambassadors of her small-yet-formidable genre, Capricci projects a severe sort of handsomeness, at once attractive and intimidating-- like someone you admire so much that the thought of their slightest displeasure makes you break out in a cold sweat. From the first hiss of her aldehydes to her glowering oakmoss drydown, she makes it clear that she prefers plain truth to bouquets of silly flowers. Were she a person rather than a fragrance, Capricci would be Galatea Dunkel from Kerouac's On The Road... or Mad Men's Peggy Olson, forever given the short shrift... or Inside Llewyn Davis' Jean, perpetually radiating incandescent rage at odds with the sweetness of her singing voice. In other words, one beautiful, whip-smart, angry chick.
I hear the sound of zeitgeist... and if I were you, I wouldn't give her any lip.
Scent Elements: Aldehydes, bergamot, rosemary, galbanum, rose, hyacinth, jasmine, gardenia, geranium, lily-of-the-valley, narcissus, iris, tuberose, ylang-ylang, benzoin, oakmoss, sandalwood, vetiver, musk