Fragrance Republic, 2014

  Desert House Party, Slim Aarons. Fragrance Republic was a perfume line that attempted to create a new model for producing and purchasing perfume. In 2014 nine perfumes by nine perfumers were released simultaneously. Fragrance Republic was a subscription service with different packages and pricepoints as well as the option to buy any perfume individually. The subscription/purchase plan was complicated and statements of art direction that fostered artistic expression didn’t seem to match the perfumes themselves. If perfumers were given the liberty to decide the…

continue reading

Thierry Mugler Miroir Miroir Collection, 2008

Image, Hot Pants by John Currin from the Broad Museum. The Miroir Collection was a new blueprint for Mugler in 2008. At the time, the rest of the line was based on a seemingly exponential quantity of flankers of Angel, Cologne, Alien. (Womanity was released in 2010.) The five-piece collection was sold as a fairytale fantasy mirror. Three are woody florals (A Travers le Miroir, Miroir des Secrets, Miroir des Vanités) and two are gourmand-florals (Dis Moi Miroir, Miroir des Envies). A Travers le Miroir…

continue reading

Slumberhouse Sova, 2012

(Photo from pandawhale.com) Slumberhouse perfumer Josh Lobb has said that he doesn’t work with topnotes. Most of his perfumes smell layered, as if materials with similar consistencies or densities were creating a ‘wall of scent.’ Materials meet each other head to head on a level playing field. The democracy of materials urges you to find your own understanding of the perfumes without being steered along a particular course. By contrast, a traditional top/heart/base has a momentum that guides your attention more explicitly. If you favor…

continue reading

Worth Je Reviens, 1932

(Image, The Party by Marisol Escobar. 1965-1966) Perfumer Maurice Blanchet. I wore Je Reviens on and off in the early ’80s. I’m sure it read as dowdy and anachronistic, especially on a twenty year old, but I’d never smelled anything quite like it and was taken by its plastic, synthetic beauty. I knew a few floral aldehydes and loved Arpège, Joy and No 5 but I knew nothing about the history of perfume. It would never have occurred to me to consider perfume as the…

continue reading

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud, 2012

(Photo Shevaun Williams for OKC Ballet) Oud perfumes are the new “orientals”.  Like their early 20th century predecessors, their fantasy/reality ratio is sky-high. They are less overtly culturally offensive, but in terms of authenticity, they are just as much a bill of goods. Francis Kurkdjian avoided the pitfall of attempting to mimic Arabic style. Instead, he treated oud like any other centerpiece note in western traditional perfumery. His Oud has some of the characteristic scent of oud materials, particularly the band-aid note, but the setting…

continue reading

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat 540, 2014

(Photo by Melody Melamed) Kurkdjian excels at creating well turned-out perfumes. Smooth, seamless perfumes with lovely olfactory shapes and pleasant profiles. Of course, he also makes Cologne and Absolue pour le Soir, two of the dirtiest roses available, so he’s not limited to olfactory pleasantry. Still, most of the Maison Francis Kurkdjian perfumes have a mannered quality. Where various perfume lines promise Arabian fantasy or minimalism or narrative, MFK offers the comfort of normalcy. Only better. MFK gives us the mainstream, but with a perfection that…

continue reading

Imaginary Authors The Soft Lawn, 2012

(Photo of Althea Gibson, source unknown.) Perfumer Josh Meyer. I am suspicious—make that incredulous— of storytelling in perfumery. The minute the exposition or the plot commences, I tune out. Perfume evokes ideas and states, and reflects trains of thought that no other art-form can. Trying to make a perfume tell a story reminds me of those tiny dogs dressed in human clothes who are made to jump up and down on their hind legs like some amateur circus act. Disturbing, and I don’t think it…

continue reading

Jean Patou Sublime, 1992

  (Image of Lee Liberace, source unknown.) Perfumer Jean Kerléo. Somewhere in the ’90s the chypre fell off the radar. Blame the IFRA, blame Angel (also 1992), blame whoever you like. It went quietly from the pinnacle of chic to over-the-hill faster than you can say ‘mousse de chêne.’ Why and how to restrict perfume materials is a popular if confusing debate today, but in the 70s-90s the discussion of the hazards of aromachemicals and botanicals took place behind closed-doors. The general public didn’t know what…

continue reading

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Lumière Noire, 2009

Image Loretta Lux. Maison Francis Kurkdjian provides a number of entry points to the brand. It offers traditional products (perfume, papier d’Armenie, candles, body creams) and less expected ones (fabric softener, soap bubbles.) There is a deliberateness to much of the line that challenges the trend-chasing and slot-filling approach of many brands. His vision of a contemporary sensibility derives from an understanding of traditional methods and principles. The design of the brand is like Kurkdjian’s perfumes themselves: modern and classical, composed yet stylish, lavish but…

continue reading

Helmut Lang Cuiron, 2014

  Image, Helmut Lang boot. Perfumer Françoise Caron. I don’t know the original Cuiron, but the consensus is that the new version is very close to the original. Not 100%, but the shape and the intent are the same. Cuiron’s reissue was hotly awaited but following the curse-of-threes in perfume releases it was somewhat overshadowed by its siblings Helmut Lang EDP and EDC. The timing of the reissue was awkward. As a 2014 version of a 2002 perfume, it’s neither new nor vintage, so it…

continue reading

Masque Milano Romanza, 2015

(image source unknown) Perfumer Christiano Canali. Romanza creates an olfactory image of Spring with stems, stalks, leaves and flowers all crushed together to release their green, watery, bittersweetness. Narcissus perfumes are a rarity. It’s surprising then how similar Romanza is in structure to Parfums de Nicolai le Temps d’une Fete. Both perfumes set narcissus’s green reediness in a woody, resinous setting, albeit with different emphases. Romanza’s absinthe topnote takes a more bitter turn than le Temps’s chalky galbanum, but both add a grassy, herbal quality to…

continue reading

Anatole Lebreton Incarnata, 2015

(image source unknown) Perfumer Anatole Lebreton. Perfumes that smell like lipstick have a special appeal. For some they are nostalgic, for others they are a femme fetish. When combined, violet, iris root and rose replicate the swirl of freshly applied lipstick. Musks, vanilla, sweet woods and resins bridge the florals to the cold, powdery waxiness that defines lipstick’s olfactory ‘feel.’ A lipstick ‘note’ has been common to many perfumes since the early 2000s when new, less expensive iris materials came online, even sneaking its way…

continue reading