Who is Lolita Lempicka…? In reality, this poetic name – best known, perhaps, for fragrance – is the pseudonym of a French designer, Josiane Maryse Pividal: an homage to the female protagonist of Vladimir Nabokov‘s novel ‘Lolita’, and a tribute to the Polish Art Deco artist Tamara de Lempicka.
Born in Bordeaux in 1954, the daughter of a seamstress, Lolita Lempicka‘s passion for fashion showed itself early on – when she began dressing her Barbie dolls in outfits she’d made. Inspired by fairy tales, she admits to being fascinated by princesses and sumptuous ball gowns. By the time she reached her teens, Maryse had started sewing her own clothes – and so it was a natural progression to study fashion design, at Studio Bercot, a private college in Paris.
Her style inspirations are many and various: Jean Cocteau, Picasso and Matisse – and Coco Chanel. The 1930s and 40s – with their lace and silk negligées – were a rich source of influence, too – along with 18th Century baroque… And the signature ivy leaf, which is the symbol of her Lolita Lempicka fashion house? An echo of her interest in fairytales and nature: her emblem and her ‘lucky charm’.
Lolita Lempicka presented her first fashion collection in 1983, with the help of her husband Joseph-Marie Pividal, a graphic designer. (Even today it’s very much a family business: her daughters Elisa Melody, and twins Paulina Léonor and Lauren Leslie, are all actively involved.)
We well remember visiting her first Lolita Lempicka boutique, which opened in in the Marais district of Paris in 1984 – marking the start of a renaissance for that area, which was soon to see an influx of influential fashion and accessory designers.
Soon after, she staged her first fashion show, and became known for exquisitely tailored suits, adding a fresh, feminine touch to classic Parisian styles. A favourite of French actresses on the red carpet at Cannes, Lolita Lempicka has dressed Isabelle Huppert, Laetitia Casta, Béatrice Dalle, Emmanuelle Béart and Chiara Mastroianni, among many glamorous others.
But truly, what put Lolita Lempicka firmly on most women’s radar is fragrance, not fashion. From the moment that the whimsical apple-shaped bottle for her signature fragrance – Lolita Lempicka for Women (known today as Lolita Lempicka First Fragrance) – was unveiled, that perfume began to seduce countless women.
Thierry Mugler had just opened the world’s eyes – or perhaps more accurately, our noses – to the glories of gourmand scents: those good-enough-to-eat creations which swirl with sweet notes. With its utterly delicious elements of praline and liquorice, alongisde touches of ivy leaves, iris, amarena cherry, violets, iris, tonka bean, vetiver and musk, the complex floral-fruity-gourmand Lolita Lempicka First Fragrance became an instant bestseller and remains at the top of the perfume charts around the world today. As Lolita Lempicka explained in an interview with savoirflair.com, ‘I drew inspiration from my deepest childhood memories and tastes to give this creation its personal and bewitching charm.’
The scent – created by maverick perfumer Annick Menardo – is loved by fragrance bloggers worldwide – and the perfume house has scooped accolades with Best Women’s Fragrance in both the American and French FIFI Awards (from the Fragrance Foundation), in 1998.
Since then, successive special limited editions have become sought-after by ‘collectors’ of this pioneering gourmand, with that apple ‘dressed’ up with different looks – or with variations on the much-loved ‘juice’. As Lempicka comments: ‘Its impact on so many women touches me a lot. It gives sense to my work and convinces me to give everything to my creations.’ (For a delightful video tour of her design studio, and a look at how she creates her fragrances, view here…)
Other fragrances have followed – each with a story behind them, as with Lolita Lempicka First Fragrance. With Lolita Lempicka‘s Elle L’Aime (meaning ‘she loves’, in French), it is that of ‘a passionate woman, heroine of her own personal fairytale – confident, passionate, and radiant with the glow of being in love.’ As Lolita Lempicka herself explains, ‘For Elle L’Aime, I wanted to reinvent an imaginary flower in an incandescent white floral bouquet. Two talented perfumers, Christine Nagel and Serge Majoullier, imagined a carnal flower with a specific texture and a lot of naturality: a “coconut flower” infused with sensuous jasmine and precious myrrh…’
And as Lolita Lempicka‘s fragrances invariably show us: isn’t it good to enjoy fairytales, in this world…?