A Rose of a Manifold Stripe


– a review of Serge Lutens‘La Fille de Berlin’

So rich in facets and form, so varied in color and so infinitely complex the perfumes that lingers within its velvety folds, it’s no wonder the rose has so many names, and so many smell so sweet. Some roses imbue the ambience of a summer day when they sing on the skin and other roses emote in alto, moonlit voices of alto, starlit dreams.

By any other name it might well smell as sweet (as not all roses do), and yet somehow, I feel that simple syllable ‘rose’ is much too simple and much too short to encompass all the many stories a rose can tell on the skin. Or is it that such a short, euphonious name for such a beloved flower contains at least as many stories, dreams and associations as the petals we can count?

Now, we have another rose, another tale, another song a rose can sing in all its dulcet hues, a rose with a new, untold story all its own … La Fille de Berlin, the Girl from Berlin.

Supposedly, La Fille de Berlin was inspired by that golden cultural renaissance of Berlin during the Weimar Republic, when everything bloomed – the arts, literature, the architecture and even the people to such an extent that 1920s Berlin today is a byword for a certain exuberance of mind and spirit that danced on the edge of decadence, and only too often fell all the way in with a defiant, Berlinerisch laugh.

But let M. Lutens tell the story:

She’s a rose with thorns, don’t mess with her. She’s a girl who goes to extremes. When she can, she soothes, and when she wants …!

Such a girl isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when I consider all things ‘rose’, yet I’ve dived into enough roses – and a few Lutens perfumes – to know I should expect the unexpected and brace myself for this story of a girl from Berlin.

Having never tried those other, famous roses, Sa Majesté La Rose or Rose de Nuit, I’ll take La Fille de Berlin on her own terms, thorns and all, such being the price you gladly pay a rose…

She is no ordinary rose, no common cliché of ruby red, sunlit yellow or moonlight white, she is a rose of variegated hue, striped in folds of crimson and cream, reality …and dream.

The dream is all a rose, and the reality is a luscious, luminous rose in a photogenic pose. It breathes a husky, sweet, innocently raspberry-tinged song which tells me a violet is laughing in the mix somewhere. A violet without a hint of powder or lipstick, a violet that coaxes on this lovely rose to other places, places that crave the fire and heat of peppers pink and black and determination, places that demand instead of asking nicely, places unexpected.

Surely, I never did expect what happened next, for inside this glowing daydream of a rose lie her thorns and her backbone, with an icy-metallic twist. Not iron, not any obvious kiss of steel or stone, but altogether lighter, tighter and thoroughly new, titanium thorns you never thought to see through those rose-tinted glasses, a faraway taste of blood and kisses, the price you willingly pay for knowing this girl and this rose.

Ah, but she has so many stories, so many tales, and even this one is still evolving, still opening up its petals to bloom as you watch and you breathe, still reeling with the surprise of those thorns and that determination.

Now you know her secrets and you know to keep them well, for now she shows her softer, muskier self, now this rose will all her pleasures prove with her animal, feline purr, she’ll kiss and laugh the pain away to make you forget those fatal thorns, make you forget all you thought you knew in one blinding bright surprise, make you forget there ever was any other rose or any other girl than one unforgettable, indelible girl from Berlin.

When she wants…watch out!

With such a story and such an inspiration, the obvious association would be that most fatale of femmes, Marlene Dietrich as Lola-Lola in ‘The Blue Angel’, as she entices her ardent admirers ever onward to despair and ruin.

camilla horn2

Camilla Horn in 1927, hot off her breakthrough success as Gretchen in F.W. Murnau’s ‘Faust’

My impression is another one, another – regrettably forgotten – girl who came to Berlin and claimed it for her own, a girl who went on to fame and fortune, but a girl who somehow embodied not just all the allure of all ‘les filles de Berlin’, but also her many charms and her underlying innocence as Gretchen in F.W. Murnau’s ‘Faust’ (one of my own favorite movies), and that is Camilla Horn.

She is all of a piece as Gretchen, with all the hope and innocence of her kind – but with all that titanium will and determination.  All the many beauties of a rose of manifold stripe, all the seductive secrets of this…Girl From Berlin.

So long as you remember – she rocks …and she shocks! 


Longevity is outstanding, and although this slants toward the feminine, this would be devastating on the right kind of man.

Notes: Rose, pink pepper, violet, black pepper, musk.

La Fille de Berlin is available from the Serge Lutens website for EU customers, and from Luckyscent and Barneys NY in the US.

14 thoughts on “A Rose of a Manifold Stripe

  1. I love getting up to your reviews! I read them once before my shower and caffeine,
    and then again afterwards! Lovely review. My 18 year old daughter tried this last week, and started to cry. She said it reminded her of England, and her grandmother, and of feeling safe. Interesting huh? She has been driven crazy by me for years, with my scent addiction, but this one really got to her. She said it’s a Serge for young women. Caffeine time. And then my cookie kitchen awaits.
    With love. CQ, xxx

    1. Thank you so much for your beautiful comment, CQ! I can understand your daughter – there’s nothing – all inspirations notwithstanding – in the slightest old-fashioned about this rose! 🙂

  2. Absolutely beautiful review – I wish I felt the same about this but, more for you to love! 😛 Great read thanks

  3. How is it that I want to date all these perfumed characters you write about? First it’s the Devil, now it’s La Fille de Berlin!

    I realize this might be a hard question to answer, but if you could compare this to another rose-dominant perfume … is there anything that it comes close to? Just wondering in what direction it leans.

    In any case, loved your review. And your new blog banner is really lovely, btw!

    1. As for the first question, well, I could say it was your Virgo need to categorize…;) Dear Suzanne, your question put me in a bit of a headspin, but I’d say if you could imagine shades of the original (vintage) YSL Paris without the linden blossom, and then add the metallic rose at the heart of YSL’s (vintage) Rive Gauche sans vetiver, you’d have something that approximates La Fille de Berlin. Add a musky, feline drydown, and that’s as close as I can get. It was a hard question, since there really isn’t anything much like it, and I say this with a l-o-t of roses in my perfume cabinet. Did I mention I like hard questions? 🙂 And thank YOU for noticing my new header! I’m so starved for spring, I had to put it somewhere! xo

      1. 🙂 That grin is for your answer to my first question. And you did a wonderful job of answering my second question, too. I have been getting really particular about what samples I’m going to order lately (due to cost and the unwieldy amount of samples I already have), so that’s more or less why I wanted to know. Thanks, Sheila.

  4. Dear Tarleisio
    What a description!
    The age old paradox of the rose and it’s thorns made a-new with titanium…
    I tried this in Paris just when it had come out on the coldest day I have ever experienced in that city – it didn’t fair well in the snow, but you have most definitely persuaded me to give the girl another go – if she’ll have me.
    Something strange must be going on, for I have had Berlin on my mind today and Marlene Dietrich – but in connection with Jolie Madame and violets in the review I just posted about that classic.
    Isn’t it strange how these things happen?
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    1. Dear Dandy, thank you! I have a predilection for those perfumes that make me, shall we say, step up the game and rise to the challenge of conveying them “on paper”, as it were. As for that strangeness – I doubt it’s very strange at all…I happen to be a firm believer – call it experience if you will – of the Jungian concept of synchronicity. I’ve seen it happen more than enough! 😉 You with Jolie Madame (and I’ll be off to enjoy it in a few), me with La Fille. Give her another try when it gets a little warmer. I think she might surprise you! xo

  5. Wonderful review, Sheila! La Fille de Berlin is on my wish-list. It reminds me of a reverse Tubereuse criminelle, but instead of it being chilly at first and then warming, La Fille de Berlin starts warm and then grows more metallic and strange.

    1. That’s exactly right! At the moment you think you have this luminous rose all figured out…she turns into something most wondrously strange. Those are the ones that tend to stick in our memories – and in not a few cases, in our cabinets and hearts, too!

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