Saturday, July 30, 2011
If you like Spicy Oriental fragrances along the lines of Givenchy Organza Indécence, you must try this exquisite offering by biehl parfumkunstwerke, a Hamburg-based niche perfume house established in 2006. Six perfumers have contributed to the project, each one naming their creations after their own initials. The name of the perfume, EO01, is taken from perfumer Egon Oelkers' initials (EO) plus number 01 indicating one of three creations credited to the perfumer. I get mostly cinnamon, vanilla and woods, although the wood note I keep thinking I'm smelling is sandalwood, not a listed note. It's a bit sweet and heavy but also incensey, down-to-earth and serene. I think it smells every bit as savory as Organza Indécence, with a more modern character like Xerjoff Verona 010 and Laurence Dumont Tendre Madeleine. I also notice a creamy, buttery note, as you may have smelled in Liaisons Dangereuses by Kilian. Imagine the buttery note sans plum, and you're there. I'd be surprised if EO01 didn't contain cashmeran musk. This is one of my favorite woody Gourmand discoveries this year, and I look forward to trying more from this high quality, highly conceptual line.
Monday, July 25, 2011
Living Colour - "Open Letter (To a Landlord)" from Vivid (1988).
"Vivid is Living Colour's debut album, which was released on May 3, 1988. The band was discovered by Mick Jagger while playing a show at punk club CBGB's in 1987." (Wikipedia)
Beyoncé Heat: Yes, I see there is no coconut note listed, and that's fine, even if "macaroon" sounds suspect. Fragrance industry, you think you're slick! I dearly wish the fragrance industry would stop assigning coconuts to black celebrities. From Naomi Campbell to Kimona to Rihanna, sure, I love coconut, and it seems a perfect note to include in a perfume for a Barbadian beauty, like magnolias for a Southern belle, but enough is enough. Historically, we've seen the semiotically racist language behind marketing black people with jungle images, but it's also done through flavor and fragrance, specifically through creating a systematic hierarchy of taste and through target advertising. Black people are often associated with a preference for vanilla (orchids are vanilla flowers, too), as Latinas likewise are associated with vanilla, spices and tropical fruits - and when it's done constantly, the stereotype sticks, making it easier to objectify people as a group, a mere demographic. It's as ignorant of social impact as depicting Asians as a stoic, or frantic (either way, clumsy and geeky, physically unattractive) stereotype, or writing off whole nationalities as drunken cultures. Please, just once, launch a classic Floral for any black celeb, not necessarily African American although it would be nice (something like Chloé or Narciso Rodriguez Essence would be amazing, no? And I don't mean a "dark" "evening" "night" "extreme" "exotic" "spicy" "hot" flanker (follower / sidekick scent)).
The 2011 Duftstars (FiFi Awards Germany) winner in the Lifestyle category was made by Coty Inc. (not Coty Prestige). It's an OK scent, not my fave but wearable, a somewhat spicy, oily-musky coconut reminiscent of hair product, Candie's (zingy Orange Julius patchouli!) and Benefit So Hooked on Carmella. For comparison to another celeb coconut scent, it is fresher, more transparent, and less sweet than Rihanna Reb'l Fleur. A response from a hip 10-year-old: "I like that it smells like cinnamon vanilla." That's accurate, but for me, what also stands out are green, Fougere-like piney notes with the watery coconut musk - I wonder if what I smell is fig, which often has coconut in it (and so Halle Berry's perfume may have coconut, too). It's not too far off from Naomi Campbell in that they both lean towards green: figgy, coconutty, vanillic and aromatic, but Beyonce Heat adds a touch of Jolly Rancher that I guess clashes with the barbershop atmosphere. Musk adds, well, heat, the sweaty animalic base note in any perfume, but the musk is light in this - it wears mostly as a watery, aromatic skin scent.
Beyoncé is an example of a star who was able to crossover the racially segregating flavor & fragrance line when Tommy Hilfiger launched True Star with her lovely face (granted it was a sporty image, which would bring us to another stereotype, but this was a nice, clean skin scent, like rice milk, although the listed note was wheat), and again with Emporio Armani Diamonds by Giorgio Armani, a powdery violet makeup-scented Floral, a demure, soapy and traditional feminine offering (that fit the star's love of the scent of baby powder). Look - if Jean Patou, the legendary French perfume house that gave us JOY (1930), "the costliest perfume in the world", could honor Josephine Baker with a lilting spring garden floral called Amour Amour (1925), today's fragrance industry can launch a new Cinderella perfume for someone, maybe in time for 2012. Makeup guru Kevyn Aucoin was able, in his lifetime, to eradicate the notion of "exotic beauty" for his generation and beyond, saying beauty doesn't have one standard. Hallelujah and Amen!
Miller Harris Noix de Tubéreuse: I did not like this when I first sampled it. Heavily floral and syrupy, it was way too cloyingly sweet, wooded and spicy to be my choice for a tuberose blend. I have since changed my mind and decided, at least for the time being, that this smells rather smoky and delicious on skin, like black coconut incense from an oil vendor in the city. It's like a dark, dark bourbon vanilla with a bright, pop violet tuberose opening, ending with ambery, boozy, sweet buttered rum. It's at least as obnoxious as Robert Piguet Fracas, and like Fracas, its violet-sharp, yet creamy and intoxicating white floral semi-dual, it'll blend with all the other beachy suntan lotion smells in the summer wind.
Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille: Here is another heavy, sweet coconut scent that reminds me of dark vanilla, but it's also very much a woody coconut. This one is much sweeter than the others in a cakey way (think Demeter Angel Food), and it may be better suited to people who don't like flowery scents. If you like Woody Oriental Gourmands in the vein of Aquolina Pink Sugar or Hanae Mori Butterfly, and fruitchoulis like Guerlain My Insolence or Xerjoff XJ Elle (intensely floral berry patchouli), you might like this, the sweetest (and a bit spicy in a gingerbread way), most (OK, the only) fun and Gourmand offering by Serge Lutens.
Urban Decay Sweet Cream Moisture Mist: Let's mix it up with a bath and body product; if what you want to smell is pure, sweet, unadulterated coconut milk, Sweet Cream hits the spot. The texture of this sprayable mist is light, and sinks right into skin, making it feel smooth and dewy as well as smelling subtly fragranced with a veil of sweet, milky coconut vanilla. I don't regularly use body products, and this is one I bought a few years ago from Sephora, so I'm not sure if it's still available, but it's a smart little seasonal pick-me-up. Can't find it in stores? God bless the USA where there's always eBay, home of discontinued treasures.
Would you like more coconut recs? Link to here, here and one for cool weather here.
Rihanna Reb'l Fleur Pink Manhattan July 23, 2011
Odin 04 Petrana - Pink Manhattan July 17, 2011
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Wow, this smells really great, actually; it smells like silky, honeyed coconut water with light, juicy fruits and barely-there-flowers in the mix. Yes, I am going to go ballistic the next time a black celebrity scent features coconut (I first addressed race and fragrances in my article, Featured Review: Naomi Campbell (plus commentary on perfume and semiotics of race), and I will follow up with a review of Beyonce Heat featuring a "macaroon" note shortly (here it is! Added on July 25, 2011: Coconuts!)), but perhaps coconut fits perfectly well here, a perfume with a specifically tropical (Barbadian) motif created for Rihanna alone, rather than to stereotype everyone, like Color Me Beautiful did in the '70s, lumping all "ethnics" together. I love this new coconut water note, and here in Reb'l Fleur, it's the most delicious I can ever remember it smelling, but please assign the note to someone other than an African American celeb next time! Coconut was a supporting note in Kate Middleton's wedding day perfume, Illuminum White Gardenia Petals, and it didn't hurt anyone to have a bit of sunshine in her sillage. A TV show doesn't have to place black music behind every black person on the screen. That would in fact be the definition of racist, wouldn't it?
And yes, I'm going to have to have Reb'l Fleur, an excellent, beachy summertime scent and maybe the best celeb perfume, ever. But if this is a Chypre as I'd read it was supposed to be, I say no way. Reb'l Fleur smells like a Floral Oriental to me, like the milky Kenzo Amour sans powder, with the sweet fleur d'oranger heart of Kenzo Flower and the transparent dewiness of Naomi Campbell and Cacharel Noa without any hint of enamel, glue or synthetic musk. It's a refined fragrance to me, every bit as well-rounded as Balenciaga Michelle (1979) and quite reminiscent of it. If coconut water is the answer to the question of how to tame the nouveau Chypre patchouli, I'm all for the marriage between coconut and Chypre - maybe they were always meant to be as one.
Related link: Madonna, Rihanna Team Up for Coconut Water Campaign - wn.com
Sunday, July 17, 2011
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.
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.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Monday, July 11, 2011
Back in February, I had nerve snubbing this gorgeous perfume as a "big, sweet floral like Gianfranco Ferre", as if that wasn't a sign I was already in love. I have since started wearing it in the warm temps we've been having, thinking I could get very used to this slightly ostentatious but still enviously ultraglamorous vibe (not too different from Bouquet Ideale, just patchier, fruitier, less spicy). I thoroughly loved my hand-decanted sample, but ours is a relationship that will never be. At Clive Christian (and oftentimes Creed) prices, Xerjoff XJ Elle will remain a fantasy for me, but at least I was able to get a taste, even if I will pine away forever for what I could never have again. Actually, it's not that dramatic. I'd say XJ Elle is my favorite among the fruitchouli bunch - more specifically, the frou frou Fruity Floralchouli featuring girly powdery accords a la Guerlain My Insolence - a powdery (musky) soft patchouli gourmand with fruits, which, in essence, is a nouveau Fruity Chypre, decadent in the vein of Cartier So Pretty, only with dirty chocolate patch notes and a zingy taste explosion of Red No.40 berries instead of the broodingly darker-toned mossy-pineapply apricot. XJ Elle is still closer in style to Betsey Johnson than Cartier, and as for quality, this perfume is richly fragrant and devoid of obvious musks and ozonics, aces in my book.
I do love this dramatic, sexy scent which I could group with Kylie Minogue Darling just as well as My Insolence (I compared it to Versace Versus before - it's not rose-violet based like that, but it has that "womanly" characteristic of fruits and flowers on a wooded base). The raspberry syrup note is dazzling, like the bejeweled Van Cleef & Arpels Van Cleef yet more modern with a mainstream sensibility like Bond No.9 Bryant Park. I couldn't wear the more gourmand, musky berry-based Woody Orientals of the recent past like Trish McEvoy No.9, Givenchy Hot Couture or Anna Sui, but here's one I could wear more effortlessly than the complicated and challenging perfume extraordinaire, my best strawberry incense, Parfums de Nicolai Sacrebleu! However, the dry down of XJ Elle is surprisingly reminiscent to me of one of my past signatures, an iconic patchouli-based Aldehydic-Fruity-Floral-Chypre-Oriental named Giorgio Beverly Hills Red. The dry down is a pleasant aromatic accord - flowery, a little spicy, a little cool and a little warm, not too floral, not too woody, boozy-fruity, vanillic, leathery...just perfectly well-rounded and balanced as an Aromatic should be. Maybe the perfect Elle is a Fougere at heart - the center of the fragrance wheel that is a fusion of all that is fragrant in the world - the most all-encompassing, open, worldly and wholesome - beginning, middle and the end.
Images: XJ 17/17 Elle - Stone Label, Xerjoff Elle 1.7 oz. (50 ml) Parfum in Gold Murano bottle, Parfumsraffy, xerjoff.com