You’re likely aware of Dior’s iconic Poison (a scent which made its debut in 1985) and its instantly recognizable, plump little bottle reminiscent of the juicy spiked apple given to Snow White by the Evil Queen, or the irresistible forbidden fruit in the story of Adam and Eve. What you may not realize are the inextricable ties between perfume and poison, which stem all the way back to Catherine de’ Medici, an Italian banking heiress who went on to become the Queen of France (a country considered by many to be center of fine fragrance). “She was actually the one who imported perfume to the French court,” said François Demachy, Dior’s house nose. “It was thanks to her that we have perfume in France.”
As Julia Davis writes in her piece for AtlasObscura.com, de’ Medici was also “considered something of a sorceress…adroitly trained in the mixing of potions and capable of murder without a hint of remorse.” In short, she was Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction-level nuts and was not to be fucked with. As legend has it, de’ Medici (a devout Catholic) is said to have poisoned her enemy, Jeanne d’Albret, a Protestant and Queen of Navarre, via “sweet gloves” (i.e., perfumed leather gloves). Though historians and scientists have disproved the theory, we like the idea of a woman who knocks off anyone who gets in her way with such style and finesse. And as Demachy explained, perfume has long been linked to poison because fragrance was often used to cover the potent aroma of such murderous materials. Not to mention, “with poison you only need to use a little bit [to do the job], and in perfume you just use a tiny little bit and it works for you,” he added.
The reason Dior’s Poison got its name was not just to cut through the clutter in the vastly oversaturated fragrance market (though the controversial title did help make some noise), but because this heady and sultry concoction was considered, as Sephora notes, “the ultimate weapon of seduction.” Hypnotic Poison (a follow-up to the original) was an actual ode to cyanide, a concept evoked via a bewitching bitter almond note.
Today’s iteration of Poison, however, is decidedly sweeter, less sinister, and most important, millennial-friendly. Dior Poison Girl, a fragrance that was feted last night by New York’s coolest kids at Up&Down, hovers somewhere between a gourmand and a traditional floral. With hints of sweet and bitter orange, rose, vanilla, and tonka bean, this blend is designed to satisfy the younger generation’s “taste for sweetness,” said Demachy. Inspired by rose petals crystallized in sugar, a fragrant candy Demachy fondly remembers from his childhood in Grasse, Poison Girl is saccharine yet sensual and “shows what it’s about” instantly after it's spritzed onto skin. “Young people of today want immediacy,” said the perfumer. (No kidding—nearly everyone at last night’s party spent the majority of their time capturing the staged dance battles and neon signs flickering above the bar for social media.) Fronted by model Camille Rowe, the new Poison Girl campaign shot at the Boom Boom Room in the Meatpacking, a parking garage, and NYC rooftops expresses a more “joyful” rather than “dark” seduction, added a member of Dior’s marketing team.
So what does “joyful seduction” look like in 2017? “It’s not something that’s calculated,” said Demachy. “Women are now comfortable in their own skin and they’re born free so there’s not the same kind of struggle there once was. Nothing is perfect yet, but they are comfortable being seductive when they feel like it and the moment is right.” Whether it’s a cheeky message on Bumble, a Dior-choreographed booty pop on the dance floor, a nipple-baring bodice on a couture gown, or a spritz of a new signature scent, today’s woman (much like Catherine de' Medici, who, for all intensive purposes, could be considered the original Poison Girl), is a clever minx—she knows how to lure a lover and go in for the kill. Let this new fragrance launch serve as a warning: Today’s pussy grabs back.