Sunday, July 17, 2011

Odin 04 Petrana

The description of Odin 04 Petrana from the Odin website reads: "Transported to a Jordanian desert landscape covered in blooming black Iris comes a floral scent that reveals its dark complexion from earth to air." I admit I can at times be gauche, but I'm pretty sure it is not OK to group "Jordanian" with the descriptive words "dark complexion" any more than it is considered good manners to depict the epicanthic fold as "slanted" to say someone "looks Asian". It reminds me of the dumb salesperson who tried to convince me to call Narcisse Noir my own because it, too, is Oriental. I detest that the industry is injecting or alluding to skin color in these perfume blurbs (all of it, from celebrity "blonde woods" to you name it). Even the best intentioned ones that seek to break, not perpetuate, racial stereotypes (like Tom Ford White Patchouli featuring Erykah Badu as the model), end up zooming in on irrelevant details that manage to make certain people (wink, wink - get the drift?) feel self-conscious and uncomfortable. It boggles the mind that some people still defend the right to be "a little racist like everybody", propaganda if I ever heard it. Racism is never silly or benign, nor merely plebian but hurtful, dehumanizing, insidious and dangerous. Racism aims to control those they fear by making the other feel, well, "other", not meant for the mainstream.

No matter how many times I bump heads with bloggers over this, it needs to be said that the fragrance and beauty industry marketing products through racism with deft use of language is wrong. That said, it is likely the first time most of us are hearing about the petrana flower, a literally black-hued iris that grows by the Jordanian sea, showcased as the star flower within this one-of-a-kind perfume composition. Such an exotic (to us) flower would certainly inspire imagination, although some metaphors are more literal than others, and I don't need to get a tourist's picture of "the locals" to get the feel of the desert flower. I want perfume ad copies to be dream sequences presented to me in less detailed, more merciful light. Perhaps I'll just note the fact that this is a Floral type of composition being paired with the "dark complexion" narrative - a rarity because there are entirely too many advertising tropes and narratives revolving around old racist notions of the "exotic" scents of dark beauties being strictly limited to the realm of Oriental spices, tropical fruits and vanilla (or orchid, aka vanilla flower) - and that includes celebrity fragrances.

Indie perfume newcomer Odin 04 Petrana is the fifth Finalist in the 2011 US FIFI Perfume Extraordinaire division, the last of the series following my reviews of Untitled by Maison Martin Margiela (FiFi winner), Hermès Voyage d'Hermès, Eva by Eva Longoria and Frédéric Malle Editions de Parfums Portrait of a Lady. The blurb according to Odin New York reveals, "The heart of Petrana emerges from a foundation of wild orris root and green violet leaf absolute. Herbaceous coriander, spicy pink pepper and deep purple cassis float above the blooms infusing luminous freshness." The notes are - Top: Deep Purple Cassis, Pink Pepper, Herbaceous Coriander / Middle: Black Iris, Violet Leaf Absolute, Garden Heliotrope / Base: Wild Orris Root, Earthy Vetiver, White Musk. 04 Petrana smells to me like a vegetal but candied, sunny mimosa or cassie floral, a morph between Frederic Malle Une Fleur de Cassie (Aldehydic Woody Floral), Lancôme Trésor (rich, peachy, powdery rose-violet), a men's Fougère cologne (like Fabergé Brut) with bracing herbal greens, and Loris Azzaro Azzura, the sunny, juicy and sporty "desert sand" beauty, to form a modernized classical scent that is hard-edged and soft. It is perfumey (can be thick and cloying in an elevator-filling, powdery Tresor way), aftershavey and a classic maquillage-powdery Floral (sharp like a woody Green Oriental, like Givenchy Organza, Burberry Brit) - to summarize, it's a sweet and spicy floral: plush, bold, sharp as a lime, coarse, dry and beautiful.

Black Iris, 1926 Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887–1986) Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The short of it is that it smells niche but still more trendy than avant garde. If someone very fabulous had walked by wearing it, I might think I was smelling a traditionally powdery Women's Floral perfume: Lancôme Trésor or Magnifique, even Boucheron Jaipur Saphir, Liz Claiborne Realities or Adrienne Vittadini, but I would hope to also pick up on the unusually vegetal, "juicy" quality of it, the clear (a bit glue-like) aspect leaning towards Heeley Iris de Nuit or Eau de Cartier. Peach skin-fuzzy, sweet yet sharp violet-based musky florals have been around since Guerlain Après L'Ondée, the classic powdery soliflore (single note) style since Caron Pois de Senteur, but we're now seeing a new era of unisex Florals, an exciting alternative to the usual woods, musk and incense marketed as shared gender, crossover scents. With Odin 04 Petrana reaching the spotlight among the industry, the traditionally feminine powdered violets, either coupled with austere iris or alone, could spawn more mainstream fragrance choices for Men. I love Odin 04 Petrana for wearability combined with the artistic value, the unique take on the ordinary from a fresh indie perspective.