Vintages The Fresh Scents of the 70s Part 2: Eau de Rochas

The Fresh Scents of the 70s Part 2: Eau de Rochas

08/21/15 23:33:44 (11 comments)

by: Elena Vosnaki

 
In more than one respect the 1970s have been pivotal in the acceptance and sanctioning of shared fragrances. In part 1 of this series about the fresh scents of the seventies I reviewed the little-known Eau Libre by YSL, which was advertised indeed as a unisex offering. The flares on the pants worn by guys were directly competing with the wing-shaped tunics worn by women. Growing hair longer, smoothing hard edges and donning lots of jewelry meant that guys could feel totally at ease having a cologne that was really meant to enhance a human dimension rather than a sexualized one which was based on staid sex segregation and manly stereotypes. The chest thumping aromatic fougeres hadn't caught on in the first half of the 1970s; they were waiting to get their vengeance later on, but the "fresh" or cologne type scents that ruled in the first years of the decade showed the promise of revolutionary potential. 
 
What began in the 1960s really culminated in the 1970s; the sexual revolution  accompanied by societal and political changes that rocked the world. 
 
 
Eau de Rochas really stands at the cusp of this change, alongside its sister scent O de Lancome, launched just one year prior and tied to the student movement that had already given us May '68. They were both marketed to women, sure, but they were (and continue to be) very much shared by men. Their unobtrusive, no frou frou packaging also played a big part in that, of course. 
 
One can feel in Eau de Rochas the progression of the refreshing citrus luminescence, that was omnipresent in Lancome's cologne, into a living space accessorized with Tse posters on the wall, patchouli incense sticks burning all around and the fresh sweat of nubile bodies of the rowing team, as if living out the movie"The Strawberry Statement". 
 
 
The introduction of a darker shade via the patchouli and oakmoss, as well as the more aromatic profile (mainly due to peppery basil, as in Eau Sauvage by Dior previously, and a green whiff of narcissus), give to Eau de Rochas a sense of foreboding. Patchouli is an interesting material for this, as perfumer Nicolas Mamounas no doubt saw. Obviously, it's a direct reference to the hippie oils that young people of those times heaped on. According to testimonies, these single oils were indeed mostly patchouli (natural), sandalwood (also mostly natural) and musk (definitely synthetic), sold at head shops. 
 
The intricacy of patchouli leaf as a fragrance material is that it encompasses not one, but two succulently bittersweet facets; on one edge that of licorice (most modern consumers know this effect very well from Lolita Lempicka eau de parfum) and on the other one chocolate (this is the effect in Thierry Mugler's Angel, which is of course a patchoulifest). That chocolate edge is darker (no milk) and less dusty than the cocoa powder note found in iris. It all contributes to a louche effect that can be very becoming on the right skin and in the right dose. Too much patchouli on an unwashed body can quickly recall Haight Ashbury Fairs rather than Sea Cliff. 
 
 
Rochas curiously enough didn't quite focus on these associations (which seem rather obvious given the fact that Eau de Rochas was the emblem of the Flower Power generation) and instead offers a sort of "thalasso" (French short for thalassotherapy, very popular in France), spa image.
 
Expanses of water (to account for the "eau" in the name, as there's no aqueous note in the fragrance itself), white stark buildings like the Versailles palace meet Volvic spring water, pebbles that levitate, even Carla Bruni in her pre-Sarkozy modeling days: poised glamorously in her sparkling white bathrobe in some posh hotel's chaise longue by the pool or clutching a bottle pensively while wearing tailored clothes (such a BCBG image).

Perhaps not so surprisingly, Eau de Rochas is HUGE in South Mediterranean countries (and big in Latin America, I suppose), where the name gets a pronounced sibilant timbre. Citrusy colognes with a mossy background are a god-sent in heat.
 
 
The really interesting tidbit, however, is that the fragrance launched in 1970 as "Eau de Roche", i.e. rock water, as if erupting fresh from the mountain rock, which ironically justifies the modern "water spa" images. At the time, however, it meant a reference to nature, and an uninhibited connection with the primary state of the human being, that out of the watery womb.

The fact that Rochas was an established couture house, with Helene elected "most elegant woman in the world" and the very popular Madame Rochas perfume a mainstay of the 1960s, meant that the transition to the more straight-forward Eau de Rochas was not without merit. The concept itself on the other hand was first conceived in 1948! One year  before another citrus cologne by the house, this time tinged with the delectable manly whiff of leather, came out; Moustache, composed by Therese Roudnitska, wife of the formidable Edmond. Mamounas worked on this idea and produced something that corresponded perfectly to the zeitgeist.

The contrast of sunbeams and shade, of optimism and capitalist realities are at the very heart of the student movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s, which probably meant to do away with what Rochas used as its advertising calling card in recent "fat cow" years. And although Eau de Rochas is to modern sensibilities a quite "classic", therefore classy, rather sophisticated fragrance, its youthfulness and radiance cannot be hidden if it tried. It's still fighting the good fight, as witnessed by the 2014 limited edition (same scent) in cobalt-blue packaging, beautifully illustrated by Aurore de la Molinerie.  
 
 
 
If you missed them, the previous part of this series can be found on these links. 
 
The Fresh Scents of the 1970s Part 1: Eau Libre by YSL
 
 

Elena Vosnaki

Elena Vosnaki is a historian and perfume writer from Greece and a Writer for Fragrantica. She is the founder and editor of Perfume Shrine, one of the most respected independent online publications on perfume containing fragrance reviews, industry interviews, essays on raw materials and perfume history, a winner in Fragrantica Blog Awards and a finalist in numerous blog awards contests.

Her writing was recognized at the Fifi Awards for Editorial Excellence in 2009 and she contributes to publications around the world.

 



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diego.lesgart
diego.lesgart

I really love this kind of fragances, speacially this one ... I have the women Eau de Rochas ... I really like more than men´s ... sparkling, citrical, misty,sweet, sunny, tonic ... amazing fragance ...

Mar
26
2016
SuzanneS
SuzanneS

perfect timing! i was thinking about ordering this for summer

Mar
26
2016
[email protected]
nellyrlight@aol.com

Absolutely fantastic perfume!!!!

Mar
26
2016
[email protected]
nellyrlight@aol.com

love the woman version like crazy..i believe it is the most refreshing and sexy scent ever!

Nov
11
2015
funnyboy
funnyboy

I have worn Eau de Rochas since the 1970's and can't be without a bottle.
I try and get hold of older bottles as find the smell a little different these days.Perhaps not as earthy on the final drydown.
Have tried the pour Homme version but find a vast difference.
Its not so distinctive or fresh.
The only other Rochas That I really like is Reflets d,eau pour Homme and that is getting quite hard to find.

Aug
24
2015
Loca del Tó
Loca del Tó

If you want a cheap, drugstore smell alike of this for less than 12€ and much more long-lasting, try Zinnia by Puig. That´s been around for many years and is still a must for Eau de Rochas lovers. By the way the groovy guy with the moustache makes me ROFL :)

Aug
24
2015
matty64
matty64

That first picture is classic 70's, Geraldo Rivera look alike with tight jeans, polo shirt and a pinky ring. Oh boy, I'm rolling! Funny stuff.

Aug
23
2015
girasole638
girasole638

I just happened upon a 10ml mini of Eau de Rochas in a thrift shop and picked it up for less than a dollar. It's turned out to be a great find and I was glad to learn a little more about the history of this fragrance - thank you!

Aug
23
2015
Elena Vosnaki
Elena Vosnaki

@ChrisinBrooklyn,

thanks!
To the best of my knowledge Eau de Rochas (marketed to women but perfectly unisex in practice) is a different formula than Eau de Rochas Homme (which is of course marketed to men and launched in the early-to-nid 1990s). In that regard they are not a similar case to Eau d'Hadrien (and the whole Goutal line in fact which repeats the practice throughout the line).
Hope this helps!

Aug
23
2015
Pine Rocks
Pine Rocks

Eau de Rochas Homme is one of my all time favourte scents, I have a 200ml bottle, I would love to try the ladies version too.

Aug
22
2015
ChrisInBrooklyn
ChrisInBrooklyn

This is a great series of articles! Thanks. Is anyone aware of the differences btw Eau de Rochas and Eau de Rochas Homme in current formulations? Are they essentially the same juice in different packaging much as Eau de Hadrien by Annick Goutal came in the the square bottle for men and round for women? Merci!

Aug
21
2015

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