Sunday, June 12, 2011

Untitled by Maison Martin Margiela

Martin Margiela is a conceptual fashion artist (links to Contemporary Fashion Archive). Martin Margiela and the Antwerp Six are said to carry on the work of 1980s avantgardist Rei Kawakubo, creator of the label Comme des Garçons. Untitled by Maison Martin Margiela was composed by Daniela Andrier, the nose behind Calvin Klein Contradiction (1997, with Antoine Lie), Giorgio Armani Emporio Armani She (1998), Kenzo Le Monde est Beau (1997), Prada Infusion d’Iris (2007), Lancome Attraction and the 2003 reformulation of YSL Rive Gauche. With the exception of Kenzo Le Monde est Beau, a sunny, lemony floral, many of the above could be described as skin scents, or comfort scents; many of the modern musk bases are transparent enough to make heavy scents seem lighter and airier. Using the right kind of musk can make even heavy Oriental-Woody compositions seem less clingy and more functional in today's world.

First, after reading a bit about the launching of Maison Martin Margiela's debut fragrance, I came to expect a Green 1970s style scent centered around patchouli, a favorite base note of the disco era. I envisioned a pungent, unsweet patchouli-based Chypre Floral like Halston (which I'd heard was a favorite among the Studio 54 crowd) mixed with a touch of classic Aldehydic Floral: Oh! de London, a whiff of Lancôme Climat here, Paco Rabanne Calandre there, maybe a dash of Cie! and definitely a good dose of Liquid Chic by Pauline Trigère (1973). Although I enjoy fastidious Greens like the powdery-cool Chanel N°19 (1970) and the pristine Estée Lauder Private Collection (1973), I hoped Untitled wouldn't be too stridently soapy, like Bond No.9 Madison Avenue or Joseph Parfum de Jour. I expected similarities to Prada Infusion d'Iris (2007), an herbaceous, pale green-tinted, transparent but heavy woodsy-incense Oriental musk that seemed to have taken creative cues from a niche cult heavyweight called Stoned by Solange Azagury-Partridge (2006). Infusion d'Iris will always be, to me, a snapshot of Solange Stoned infused with Mediterranean flavor. Untitled, the FiFi-winning Perfume Extraordinaire 'jus', is a logical continuation of this "Infusion" trend, riding on suggestive words as powerful as Creed's "Millesime".

Untitled smells like what I'd expected - a contemporary '70s style Woody-Green with the all-important "juicy" (Untitled is leafy and sappy, as in tree sap) character. The celebrated notes in Untitled are reportedly natural boxwood and Lentiscus resinoid. Another hailed note is Givaudan's Serenolide musk, and I wish I could isolate the note in my head, but it is described as a linear musk odorant; that could be what gives scents like Infusion d'Iris that never-changing, florid effect. What pleased me the most was the gorgeous leafy galbanum right at the top, referencing in an instant the great Pierre Balmain Vent Vert by Germaine Cellier, before quickly segueing into YOSH White Flowers and these once-sought after Aveda fragrance oils (the Roman-numbered series - does anyone remember them?). Untitled went through a generic sweetish floral phase, like the modernized, reformulated version of Vent Vert, until the more Halston-inspired, perfumey and carmelized patchouli-leather base reminiscent of another '70s-inspired scent called Estée Lauder Knowing, became most apparent in the end.

Untitled is, for me, a pleasant grassy scent, more wearable than L'Artisan Parfumeur D'Humeur Jalouse, a stemmy, sappy vegetal number, but the added challenge of the patchouli-based Chypre pushes the boundaries of my aversion to scents like Knowing and Grès Cabochard (1959). While I may have a strange aversion to this earthier side of green, I see Untitled as a respectable homage to perfumes like Guy Laroche Fidji (1966) and all of the earthy, nature-inspired 1970s scents we love. For all its traditional perfuminess, Untitled does not have the projection of Perfume Extraordinaire Finalist Eva Longoria; it fades rather quickly, as many new (even high end) perfumes tend to do, which is not economical for the consumer but might be good for the frequent spritzer, only in that perfumes that don't cling would minimize olfactive cacophany.

Finally, what surprised me most was how conservative the scent chosen for this avant garde house turned out to be.

"While Nº19 was considered to defy classification in the traditional ranges, it is generally considered to fall within the class of floral-green fragrances. During the '70s, the most popular perfumes typically came from two categories of fragrances - florals and chypres." The History of Perfume

Related links:

Eva Longoria - June 06, 2011

Voyage d'Hermes - June 16, 2011

Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums Portrait of a Lady - June 27, 2011

Odin 04 Petrana - July 17, 2011