Sunday, 15 January 2017

Gucci Eau de Parfum Review

A white floriental from the Tom Ford era, Gucci’s eponymous EdP segues imperceptibly from orange blossom to almost tuberose with wintergreen salicylate and tart green apple inflections before settling into a long-lasting powdery, sweet oriental base.
The opening is marked by a cuminic contrast that I find myself wishing would hold out longer against a certain aldehydic soapiness. The dirty/clean dialogue however, is engaging and Daniela Andrier’s composition is a standout in both Gucci’s and her back catalogue.

Nose: Daniela Andrier
House: Gucci
Release date: 2002  (discontinued)
Notes (per Fragrantica): orange blossom, heliotrope, caraway, iris, thyme, incense, leather, sandalwood, musk, vanilla, cedar.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Semiotic Spritz Part 8: Kenzo World: Just Another Man(t)ic Monday

One of the most talked about fragrance campaigns of 2016 was by the Framework agency for Kenzo’s World. Directed by Spike Jonze and featuring an all acting, all dancing Margaret Qualley, the highly engaging spot drew praise and quizzical looks in seemingly equal measures.
As noted by Richard Vine in his piece for The Guardian (21/08/2016 link), Jonze’s film is but the latest example of a collaboration between an indie director and a fine fragrance house: David Lynch and Sofia Coppola having previously shot for Dior; Wes Anderson for Prada. At just shy of four minutes in length, the advert moves apace thanks to the frenetic, dancehall-inspired track by Ape Drums and Sam Spiegel (who just so happens to be Jonze’s brother) which accompanies it.
For all its vaunted rejection of the clichés associated with perfume adverts, Kenzo World’s narrative draws on one of the most enduring and widespread messages targeted at women: liberation. From junk food to high fashion, females are over and again sold a fantasy of freedom and escape which assumes the form of a moral imperative. 
The short film opens with a scene from a black tie gala event. Seated at a table adorned with bright pink flowers representing a stereotyped image of femininity is Qualley, her youth and emerald green dress conspicuous in the stiff, formal surrounds. From the unseen stage drones, Peanuts-style, a man’s incomprehensible speech.
With a feigned smile, Qualley excuses herself and walks dejected and pensive from the hall through the wide, empty spaces of the Los Angeles Music Centre’s Dorothy Chandler pavilion. Rubbing her neck in a classic self-touch gesture that’s long been a staple of perfume advertising, Qualley’s eyes suddenly focus and come alive. Then, like someone possessed of an outside force, her pupils begin to dart rhythmically, her face contorts and her limbs flail uncontrollably.

(Qualley vs. Walken)

Reprising the role of Christopher Walken in Fatboy Slim’s Weapon of Choice video (also directed by Jonze), Qualley proceeds to dance her way energetically up the mirrored staircases, through the mezzanine levels and onto the stage in an empty auditorium. Her movements, choreographed by Ryan Heffington, reference everything from pre-war Vaudeville steps through Star Wars, Fifth Element and Black Swan. With each lunge and arcing high kick, Qualley’s power increases till it assumes a supernatural dimension. A lone, unsuspecting man on his telephone is thus felled Matrix-style while the walls are pock-marked by laser shots fired from her fingers.

 (like a boy ft. Qualley, Ciara)

Bursting forth from the building, Qualley grand jetés across a deserted courtyard, clearing invisible hurdles till at last she arrives before a giant, floating eye composed of flowers. With arms raised in reverence, she experiences a final throw of ecstasy before launching herself head-first through the ocular icon, landing in a starter’s block position amid a shower of blossoms that are most definitely not pink. Spent, Qualley yet rises again, beating her chest to the thump of a snare.
The all-seeing eye motif, captured too by the perfume’s flacon, was a major imprint of Kenzo’s 2013 fall-winter collection and, according to the brand’s art directors Humberto Leon and Carol Lim “alludes to the force of the third eye and to spiritual protection from above”. Before this supernatural symbol, Qualley figures as a modern day πύϑια – those high priestesses in the temple of Apollo at Delphi consulted as oracles. Like her, the Pythia too 'raved' in apparent trance (at least according to some accounts), the exertion leaving them ‘like a runner after a race or a dancer after an ecstatic dance’. And like the priests who were charged with translating the Oracles’ enigmatic prophesies, we the audience must struggle to decode Qualley’s message.  

As arguably the most powerful female figures in the classical Greek world, the Pythia provide a compelling model of strength and sagacity. This image of femininity targeted at a culturally literate group is far removed from the typical presentations found in perfume advertising (cf. Paco Rabanne’s Olympéa) while also avoiding the #GirlBoss banality to which populist feminism has been reduced.
On the face of it then, Kenzo World launched with a successful campaign. 2016 Q4 sales reports however, will ultimately tell if the big advertising budget was worth it for a so-so smelling fragrance (Francis Kurkdjian) that has comparably limited distribution.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Cierge de Lune Review

The name Cierge de Lune, lit. ‘moon’s candle’ is a calque on Latin Selenicereus, a genus of night-blooming cactus whose species include the spectacular grandiflorus. A vine-like climber native to Mexico, central America and the Antilles, this ‘Queen of the Night’ is famed as much for its brilliant white flowers that are rayed with golden petals as the warm, rich, moth-attracting scent it emits. 
An analysis of the plant’s perfume was undertaken by Headspace guru Roman Kaiser, together with Lars Tollsten and the results published in an article entitled ‘An Introduction to the Scent of Cacti’ (Fragrance and Flavour Journal, 1995, vol.10 pp.153-164). According to the authors, the smell of Selenicereus grandiflorus is dominated by vanilla and cocoa notes, arising predominantly from vanillin (0.2%) and a series of isovalerates, in particular benzyl isovalerate (55%). Ionones (alpha=0.3%; beta=0.1%; dihydro-beta =0.4%), together with high amounts of farnesal (23%) and farnesol meanwhile, contribute important floral and fruity notes. 
Needless to say, Fabrice Pellegrin’s composition is not intended to be a reconstruction of the Headspace, but a free interpretation. For this, he has integrated the vanillic theme into something approaching Grojsman’s accord of Hedione, Iso E Super, ionones and clean musks to produce a monolithic, powdery-sweet ‘hug me’ effect. The fruitiness detected in the plant’s odour is here perhaps interpreted through a cherry/heliotrope note while the woody notes are elaborated with Ambrox(an) etc. 
It’s something different for Aedes’ line, but not as interesting as the others. 

Nose: Fabrice Pellegrin
House: Aedes de Venustas
Release date: 2016
Notes (per Fragrantica): musk, powdery notes, madagascar vanilla, ylang-ylang, black and pink pepper, hedione, suede, incense, amber, ambroxan.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Tom of Finland Review

An homage to the Finnish artist Touko Laaksonen famed for his homoerotic depictions of butch men clad in fetishwear, Tom of Finland is billed as ‘the true erotic power of flesh and a leather jacket’. 
Given the description, the scent is surprisingly tame, a classic citrus+vetiver pairing doing well to cover some of the less-attractive, hot pleather characteristics of Safraleine. With additional woodsy and green notes, the composition is more apt to suggest a northern European forest than anything especially human, unless the muscular, monster-cock jerking subjects of ‘Tom’s’ drawings are to be imagined as having a sweet, tonka-vanilla-oriental odour captured by the perfume’s drydown. 

Nose: Antoine Lie
House: Etat Libre d’Orange
Release date: 2007
Notes (per Fragrantica): aldehyde, lemon, birch leaves, pine, pepper, cyprus, galbanum, geranium, vanilla, tonka bean, iris, vetiver, pyrogenated styrax, suede, musk, grey amber. 

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Archives 69 Review

Named after ELd’O’s Paris address, Archives 69 is a very imaginative take on the ‘fruitchouli’ genre and was composed by Christine Nagel while she still worked at Mane. 
The basic theme has a sweet, over-ripe fruit character and a cool, medicinal vibe of camphorous, salicylatey and slightly phenolic notes together with incense. Spices meanwhile, bring a warming contrast and since this is a Nagel perfume, it is no surprise to find the accent firmly on pink pepper (cf. e.g. Lalique White where she used a massive 4%) with clove/eugenol just about perceptible. 
As odd as it sounds, but still wearable (just). 

Nose: Christine Nagel
House: Etat Libre d’Orange
Release date: 2011
Notes (per Fragrantica): mandarine, baie rose CO2, orchid and prune Jungle Essences, incense, camphor, benzoin, patchouli, musk. 

Monday, 28 November 2016

Divin' Enfant Review

Given that the shops have now started to pipe Christmas music over their tinny systems, a review of Divin’ Enfant (named after the French carol) seems timely. 
An orange-blossom fragrance, the musty-powdery, concord-grape smell of methyl anthranilate (which ester is one of the key odiferous components of the oil) is here integrated into a massive, sweet musky base that wouldn’t be out of place in a Jean-Paul Gaultier perfume.  A subtle dark, moka coffee note (so described in the official pyramid) meanwhile, adds contrast in the opening. 

Nose: Antoine Lie
House: Etat Libre d’Orange
Release date: 2006
Notes (per Fragrantica): orange-blossom, marshmallow, rose, moka, leather, amber, musk, tobacco. 

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

The Afternoon of a Faun Review

Back in 2000, Ralf Schwieger - who was at that time only just starting out in his perfume career, won critical acclaim for his Lipstick Rose creation with another former Roure employee, Frédéric Malle. A perfumed paean to cosmetics, Schwieger offered up a deliciously jammy rose smothered in powdery orris and violet ionones. 
In The Afternoon of a Faun, a little bit of that is carried forward, the fragrance having at its heart a raspberry rose accord sweetened up with iris and a judicious amount of immortelle. A streak of incense glimmers from behind but the real co-star of the production is oakmoss - dark, earthy, musty oakmoss. And not just an Evernyl-type replacer either as was stuffed into his Vanille Insensée (Atelier Cologne, 2011), but the real stuff. Schwieger has spoken of his childhood growing up near the forest in Westfalen and from the top to the base of The Afternoon of a Faun, his love for woody, mossy green notes is loudly declared.
If Afternoon of a Faun is IFRA compliant, then what Schwieger has achieved is doubly impressive. Or if, like Creed and some others, ELd’O have simply decided to quietly ignore their recommendations and just follow EU regulations, then they are to be congratulated for taking such a stance. 

Nose: Ralf Schwieger
House: Etat Libre d’Orange
Release date: 2012
Notes (per Fragrantica): bergamot, pepper, cinnamon, incense, immortelle, orris, myrrh, leather, benzoin, jasmine, rose, oakmoss.