From Pristine Paris to Practically Pornographic Parisienne

This is a story of a little perfume ad that grew – a perfume parable, so to speak.

YSL’s Paris perfume was a classic in the ’80s. It was synonymous with the city of love and all ads for the fragrance echoed the infamous city, along with roses, the primary note upon which it was based.

Paris Perfume ad, 1980s
Paris Perfume ad, 1980s
Paris Perfume ad circa 1985, featuring Lucie de la Falaise
Paris Perfume ad circa 1985, featuring Lucie de la Falaise

The spot for the perfume had a similar sweetness.


Tom Ford made things a bit racier (as he is known to do) during his tenure at YSL, but the image was meant for European eyes only. Those in the Midwest aren’t as accepting of sexuality as those in Madrid or Monaco, presumably.

There was sex in perfume ads long before Tom Ford had his way with them. He just pushed the limits that Calvin Klein before him (and others before them) had set.

Well, you’d think Tom was in the Art Director’s seat again for the re-launch of YSL’s Parisienne, the newer, racier, younger sister of the original.

The ads are shot by Craig McDean and star Londoner, Kate Moss.

Kate Moss at the YSL photoshoot in Paris by Craig McDean, 2009.
Kate Moss at the YSL photoshoot in Paris, captured by Craig McDean.
Kate Moss for YSL's Parisienne by Craig McDean, 2009.

The spot for Parisienne moves well beyond the flirt of earlier ads and the raciness of the Ford era. It borders on soft porn – or as the French call it – cinema.


It’s a long way from the sweet, fold-out bouquet of roses I received in my 1985-ish Vogue, which at one time, was lightly perfumed.

I guess there is strength in advertising…I am tempted to smell the new fragrance now…

The lovely fold-out bouquet from YSL. It used to be scented with the perfume.

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