Dead Letter Office: Comme des Garcons Play- Not Around Long Enough

I have written often how lack of longevity on skin has become inextricably entwined with quality in the consensus of the fragrance consumer. I can write until my fingers tire that the very notes which impart longevity are some of the cheapest and most synthetic; it falls as if a tree in a forest with no one around to hear. One of the reasons this has become a truism in perfume marketing is because in the mid-2000’s a number of brands put this to the test by releasing truly interesting short-lived perfumes. Almost all of them now occupy a shelf in the Dead Letter Office. One of the best examples is Comme des Garcons Play.

Christian Astuguevieille

By 2007 Comme des Garcons had emerged as one of the early pillars of the niche perfume sector. Overseen by Creative Director Christian Astuguevieille they would define many of the core principles of what it meant to be an artistic fragrance. Especially in these first years they were also the most willing to experiment. To their credit they still are. What that meant in 2007 was M. Astuguevieille wanted to see if the idea of longevity could be overcome with something truly avant-garde but fleeting.

The place within the Comme des Garcons brand where something like this might do well was the Play collection. On the clothing side Play was debuted in 2002 as a source of “casual luxury”. Which meant t-shirts and other casual wear done in the Comme des Garcons way. This brand generated one of the most iconic Comme des Garcons images. Shown above artist Filip Pagowski’s heart with eyes is as emblematic of the overall brand as it is for the sub-collection it was designed for. The Play collection were sold in these new outlets called Dover Street Market. To fill up the shelf space accessories were going to be hard on the heels of the clothing.

Aurelien Guichard

Five years on M. Astuguevieille collaborated with perfumer Aurelien Guichard for Play. It isn’t explicitly stated in any of the press materials that they were trying to make a short-lived fragrance. What is sure is Play is the Comme des Garcons aesthetic in short form.

It opens on a mixture of peppery citrus as black pepper and bitter orange provide a lively opening. It transitions quickly to an herbal heart of sage and thyme lifted on a cloud of aquatic notes like Calone. It sets up the truly odd accord that forms the base. If you ever spent time wiring stereo speakers in the old days before wireless made it irrelevant there is a smell of electronics in a wood cabinet. That is exactly what M. Guichard assembles out of patchouli, oakmoss. and musks for the final moments of Play. I’ve always thought of this as an electronic chypre.

Play has 4-6 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

The final accord is a classic odd Comme des Garcons example. It is unlikely that was the reason Play didn’t survive. The longevity was pointed out time and again whenever it was written about. It became a kind of baseline to compare other new releases to, “it lasts longer than Play”. Very quickly the decision came to pull the plug. It would be replaced by set of three perfumes Play Red, Play Green, and Play Black which would not make the same mistakes. What it comes down to is Play was not around long enough because it was not around long enough on a perfume lover.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Comme des Garcons Andy Warhol’s You’re In- Getting Past the Velvet Rope

When I first got to New York City in the mid 1980’s it was the heyday of the exclusive clubs. Clubs like The Palladium or Area were where you went to be seen. If you were a known NYC scenester you were on the guest list. If you weren’t you lined up behind a velvet rope hoping for the doorman to look at you and say the magic words, “You’re In.” As you approached the door the expectation of magic present behind it would give way to the fact that it was another club with some more famous people in attendance then the one closest to you. It still was a lot of fun to share the dance floor with a celebrity.

"You're In" by Andy Warhol (1967)

If you were to look for the beginning of this velvet rope segregation you might look back fifteen years or so to the world Andy Warhol created in NYC. That was another scene where your entry was predicated on adding something to the overall milieu. As with so many things from Mr. Warhol he was eerily prescient on where these nascent trends would end up. One piece of art he did, in 1967, was called “You’re In” where he painted a case of iconic glass Coca-Cola bottles silver and supposedly filled each bottle with toilet water. That’s water from the toilet not eau de toilette. The idea to poke fun with the homophone of the name of the piece. The soda maker was not amused and hit Mr. Warhol with a cease and desist. It also was revealed that it wasn’t toilet water but a cheap drugstore cologne the color of urine inside. Exactly what made Mr. Warhol interesting.

Christian Astuguevieille

Fifty years later Comme des Garcons wanted to re-visit this in their own homage to it. Lead by Creative Director Christian Astuguevieille they created a set of six silver cylinders each with its own Warhol quote on it encased in a carboard facsimile of the yellow wooden crate of the original piece of art. One thing I was sure of was M. Astuguevieille was not going to be putting toile water inside. What is inside Andy Warhol’s You’re In is a clever twist on the ubiquitous cheap citrus eau de toilette of the 1960’s. This is a citrus eau de toilette given a Comme des Garcons twist.

The top accord is bitter orange within a cloud of aldehydes. I laughed a bit because where aldehydes often remind people of hairspray these aldehydes reminded me of the smell of the fog machines at those velvet rope clubs of the 80’s. It is an odd set of aldehydes also containing a metallic edge as well. Pittosporum with its hybrid scent of orange blossom and jasmine bridges the citrus to a fuller jasmine. It is a classic floral citrus accord adequately achieved. Coriander bridges this into a synthetic woody base. Later on, the metallic effect from the top accord returns along with a bit of white musk.

Andy Warhol’s You’re In has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is a project where the Comme des Garcons style was a perfect match for looking back at Mr. Warhol to synthesize a 2017 interpretation. I felt like I was allowed past the velvet rope of creativity both brands stand for with Andy Warhol’s You’re In.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Comme des Garcons.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Comme des Garcons Concrete- Sandalwood Skyscraper

With the re-release of the Comme des Garcons Olfactory Library plus last year’s Blackpepper, which felt like a Series style fragrance, I was excited for all the wrong reasons when I saw the new release was named Concrete. I was expecting an exploration of the smells of fresh concrete. Especially since it was inspired by “urban cityscapes”. Then I read further to find out this was the opposite of what I thought. It was meant to be a “deconstructed sandalwood” fragrance.

Nicolas Beaulieu

I was still interested because I have had some access to the incredible number of different sandalwood isolates for a perfumer to use. If the perfumer, Nicolas Beaulieu, chose well he could use those different sandalwood sources leaving spaces for other ingredients to fill in. This is what I thought of as I experienced Concrete. The sandalwood used is like the steel infrastructure of a skyscraper. Not in the way it smells but in the way it provides the framework from which other ingredients can fill out the rest of the structure. Under the ever-present creative direction of Christian Astuguevieille he and M. Beaulieu form a sandalwood edifice.

Christian Astuguevieille

From the first moments, the sandalwood presents itself. I would dearly love to know which sandalwood ingredients he is using for sure. What I experience is one where the austere elements are removed while the sweeter woodiness is enhanced. The creaminess is also attenuated but not as much as the desiccated qualities. Then a spice trio of cardamom, clove, and cumin begin to add to the sandalwood structure. The cardamom is the greener version contrasting the amplified sweetness. Clove complements the same quality while cumin provides a bit of the sweat of the construction crew, but just a tiny bit of that. Besides the sandalwood the other keynote in Concrete is rose oxide. I always think of rose oxide as sci-fi rose because it feels like the rose a robot would produce. It has a geranium-like rose effect shot through with metallic threads. This turns it into a perfect partner for the sandalwood here. It inserts an industrially pretty floral right in the heart. A little jasmine provides some lift to the upper stories of our skyscraper. The base uses cedar to provide a cleaner woody partner to the sandalwood while some musk, as the cumin did before, adds some humanity to the final moments.

Concrete has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is an excellent addition to the Comme des Garcons collection. It might not have been a riff on the smell of poured concrete; but after wearing it for a few days I have come to prefer Concrete as produced by Messrs. Astuguevieille and Beaulieu. I am extremely happy to ride the elevators in my sandalwood skyscraper all-day long.

Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample provided by Comme des Garcons/ Dover Street Market.

Mark Behnke

Commes des Garcons Olfactory Library- The Return of the Trendsetters

When the discussion turns to what the first niche perfume was it has some different answers depending on who you ask. While the early pioneers started in the late 1970’s-early 1980’s I would say that niche perfume became defined in the 1990’s. I would further aver that one of the brands which did that was Comme des Garcons.

That started in 1994 when Comme des Garcons founder Rei Kawakubo had Christian Astuguevieille oversee the foundation of the fragrance section of the brand. From that moment M. Astuguevieille has developed what has become one of the most influential niche brands in the industry which continues to be influential today. One of the things that twenty-three years of perfume making offers is a chance for perspective. It is easier to know which perfumes within the collection have been those signposts.

Christian Astuguevieille

Why I am writing about this is Comme des Garcons is bringing back those early releases back to the market under the name of the Comme des Garcons Olfactory Library. As of June 19, 2017, you will be able to find ten releases of these seminal perfumes in the niche sector.

First and foremost, in the ten re-releases is the very first Comme des Garcons Eau de Cologne from 1994. Perfumer Mark Buxton would be one of the first to take a traditional fragrance architecture and turn it inside-out. What really blows me away is it still smells relevant today. This is no anachronism.

Three of the truly ground-breaking Series 6: Synthetic scents are part of this as Garage, Soda, and Tar make their return. When this was released, in 2004, it was marketed as “anti-perfume to the extreme”. What it asked was is there room in this new branch of artistic-minded perfumery for exploring real smells. All three of these are answers to that question.

The remaining six are two choices each from Series 1: Leaves, Series 2: Red, and Series 7: Sweet. Calamus from the Series 1: Leaves is one of perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour’s best green perfumes. He would return for Series 2: Red Sequoia with a booze-infused redwood forest; also included in this retrospective. Perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer did both Tar and Soda but if you want to see one of the forerunners of the gourmand style of fragrance Series 7: Sweet Sticky Cake provides that.

I’m leaving out expanding on Series 2: Red Palisander and Series 1: Leaves Lily and Series 7: Sweet Nomad Tea each of which also defined Comme des Garcons in the years of 1994-2005. Throughout there is the sure hand of M. Astuguevieille guiding Comme des Garcons to remain one of the leaders in a sector it helped broaden..

The overall concept of the Olfactory Library is for Comme des Garcons to continue to bring back the past in consistent sets of releases going forward. There are some amazing perfumes in that history to be given the opportunity to be discovered by this generation of perfume lovers.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Gosha Rubchinskiy- cdgone?

As an observer of fragrance 2016 is going to go down as one of the more interesting years. A big part of that is the generational shift to the Millennials as the desired consumer demographic. So far this year many brands have decided to take on the task of appealing to them by using their previous successful marketing skills and perfumers who are decidedly not in the age group. As we enter the last part of the year there was room for a different tack. That it came from Comme des Garcons makes it even more interesting.

gosha-rubchinskiy

Gosha Rubchinskiy

This time they are going right for the heart of this generation by using one of their fashion icons, Gosha Rubchinskiy. Mr. Rubchinskiy is a skateboarding designer of street wear. After showing his designs at 2014 Paris Fashion Week he produced a debut collection for the Comme des Garcons Dover Street Market stores. It was so successful they entered a partnership with Mr. Rubchinskiy where they do all the production of his designs. Mr. Rubchinskiy has a unique way of looking at the things he designs. In an interview with the Business of Fashion website he had the following quote, “Brands like Supreme and Gosha replaced musicians,” said Rubchinskiy. “Before, teenagers had a favourite band and they waited to be the first to get new singles. Now, you do not need to go to stores to buy records. But I think people still want to have objects. They buy t-shirts not as clothes, but as a fan piece or something collectable.” If you think that is overblown the other brand he mentioned, Supreme, released a brick with their logo on it. It sold out immediately getting huge prices on the online auction sites. The latest “single” to drop from Mr. Rubichinskiy is a perfume with his name on it; Gosha Rubchinskiy.

Christian-Astuguevieille 

Christian Astuguevieille

Creative director at Comme des Garcons fragrance Christian Astuguevieille collaborated with Mr. Rubchinskiy on the brief they would give perfumer Alexis Dadier; “young people hanging together, skating together — concrete and skateboards.” Together they have come up with a perfume which has something different than any of the other Millennial focused attempts I’ve smelled this year.

alexis-dadier

Alexis Dadier

Gosha Rubchinskiy starts with an herbal citrus effect. M. Dadier uses mandarin in conjunction with angelica root and buchu. The latter two raw materials provide an opaque version of herbal facets. They provide a light peppery, minty chord. By using the two stand-ins the presence is dialed way back. Even the mandarin is not as juicy and bright. Where this perfume takes off is in the base as that promised “concrete and skateboards” comes together. There is a definite presence of the rubber wheels from styrax and birch. There is the wood of the skateboard deck with vetiver while patchouli provides the grounding.

Gosha Rubchinskiy has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Gosha Rubchinskiy is by far the boldest attempt to capture this younger market. It reminds me of a previous perfume meant to capture the generation before this one. It makes me wonder if this is “cdgone”. It is much more interesting than that might indicate as there is a lot of old school CdG spliced into Gosha Rubchinskiy. I will be watching to see how this “single” is received by the consumers it is aimed at.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Comme des Garcons.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Grace by Grace Coddington- CdG Rose?

There is an adage which says you should never meet your idols; you’re bound to be disappointed. I’ve had that opportunity a few times and I can say I have had more live up to my expectations rather than live down to them. On the perfume front I have been sorely disappointed by many of the perfumes of the people I consider most inspirational in fashion. The latest perfume to try and break this streak is Grace by Grace Coddington.

Most people became aware of Ms. Coddington through the 2009 documentary “The September Issue” which chronicled the production of the September 2007 issue of Vogue. Ms. Coddington had been creative director at Vogue during that time. In the movie Ms. Coddington has her work removed from the issue by Anna Wintour. In the clip from the movie above she mentions how hard it is to see your work removed and to move on. As of January of this year Ms. Coddington has moved on to doing her own thing while still retaining the title of Editor-at-Large at Vogue. For Grace by Grace Coddington she turned to Comme des Garcons as her collaborator to bring her vision to life.

Christian-Astuguevieille 

Christian Astuguevieille

Ms. Coddington worked with Christian Astuguevieille who was co-creative director for the fragrance. Ms. Coddington wanted a light rose. M. Astuguevieille wanted to give that rose the Comme des Garcons twist. Emilie Coppermann was the perfumer they chose to see things through. Together they succeeded in their aims.

Emilie_Coppermann

Emilie Coppermann

Despite Ms. Coddington’s affection for the English Tea Rose the rose source chosen for Grace by Grace Coddington is the Moroccan version. The reason for this is I think the Comme des Garcons aesthetic was going to arrive in the form of herbal notes of mint and basil. A more delicate rose would have been steamrolled by the herbs. In the early moments it is rose and peach in a perfectly respectable fruity floral opening. Then the mint and basil come in. The basil is a great choice to partner the mint as it provides some ability to temper the more common aspects of mint. Mme Coppermann strikes the right balance and the green pushing back against the peachy rose is very nice. I ended up being a bit disappointed in the generic nature of the base accord which is a combo of cashmeran, a few white musks, and a pinch of amber. It keeps things soft but it is so pedestrian.

Grace by Grace Coddington has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Grace by Grace Coddington is definitely a Grace Coddington inspired creation with a Comme des Garcons flair. I liked it but on the days I wore it I kept wondering if it couldn’t have been something more. I also wondered if my admiration of Ms. Coddington was tinting that perception. I also wonder if the virtual avalanche of light rose releases in the last few months also added to that. Of all of that light rose noise which has ended up on my desk Grace by Grace Coddington has enough signal to rise above. I think this is much more a perfume to recommend to those who can’t get enough rose than it is to Comme des Garcons fans.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Comme des Garcons 101-Five to Get You Started

1

When you ask the question about where niche perfume started there are historical time-based answers. If you ask me when niche started I would answer it began in 1994 with the release of Comme des Garcons. For the last twenty-one years Comme des Garcons has continued to be the trendsetter within the niche perfume sector. A very large reason for this is the same Creative Director, Christian Astuguevieille, has over seen every fragrance with Comme des Garcons as part of its name. Part of what makes his approach so successful is he also seeks out interesting co-collaborators to add fresh new vision leading to unique perfumes. If you think about many of the long-standing trends in the independent/niche perfume area Comme des Garcons and M. Astuguevieille were there first. It is why every new release is anticipated for the possibility that the beginning of what is next has arrived. It is a huge line of nearly 100 releases. Here are five which will give you an idea of what this brand is all about.

Perfumer Mark Buxton did the original Comme des Garcons in 1994. Five years later he would compose Comme des Garcons 2, which I believe to be one of the greatest perfumes of the last 50 years. Mr. Buxton took the set of aldehydes deemed unpleasant. By placing those in a matrix of equally quirky notes he created a perfume equivalent of “Revenge of the Nerds”. The ear wax smelling aldehydes, cumin, coriander, mate, and angelica. These unloved notes came together in an accord of intense beauty. A swirl of spices as cinnamon, nutmeg, and bay leaf transition to a base of dark notes meant to convey a feeling of inkiness. In 2015 this seems like a normal set of notes. In 1999 it was an act of bravado by Messrs. Astuguevieille and Buxton. If I am right about niche starting in 1994 with Comme des Garcons it was Comme des Garcons 2 which displayed its potential to be something amazing.

Throughout the Naughts Comme des Garcons released series exploring themes and by 2007 they wanted to do an exploration of “luxe”. Luxe: Patchouli by perfumer Antoine Maisondieu is the best of this. M. Maisondieu chooses to explore every facet of patchouli. Early on a collection of vegetal notes, fenugreek and parsley, enhance the herbal nature. Oak and opoponax the slightly resinous facet. Finally a base of sandalwood and vetiver take it into the deep woods of high quality patchouli. I dare anyone to say this reminds them of Woodstock ’69.

Christian-Astuguevieille 

Christian Astuguevieille

Over the last few years M. Astuguevieille has reached out to all manner of collaborators to create perfume co-productions. Early in 2008 he collaborated with Monocle publisher Tyler Brule to oversee Commes des Garcons X Monocle Scent One: Hinoki. Perfumer Antoine Maisondieu created the perfect Japanese aesthetic of a meditative perfume. Hinoki is really a study of woods of all kinds. From freshly cut pines releasing a camphor-like scent into the air. Clean hinoki wood provides a lilting heart before a sturdy base of vetiver and incense. All of this is kept transparent and incredibly engaging for being so light. I liked it fine when I first tried it but it has risen greatly in my estimation over the years and is another huge artistic success for the brand.

As much as I like Hinoki later in the same year Commes des Garcons X Stephen Jones by Antoine Maisondieu, yet again, would be even better. The press materials described it as “a violet hit by a meteorite”. That kind of description is made for eye rolling and derision. Instead M. Maisondieu not only realizes it but he makes one of the best modern violet perfumes ever. This is a perfume of accords. A hot mineral accord to evoke the meteorite. The smell of burning plastic and wood to evoke the house it has crashed into; and a ridiculous abstract violet accord at the heart for all of this to cling to.

M. Astuguevieille wanted to make a perfume which captured the British fashion icon Daphne Guinness. Ms. Guinness was a friend of the late Alexander McQueen. M. Astuguevieille would ask perfumer Antoine Lie to capture this bigger-than-life personality as a perfume called Daphne. This was the beginning of the Retro Nouveau trend and Daphne is right there at the leading edge of it. M. Lie mixes bitter orange and incense into a heart of rich orris and tuberose. The base uses oud, patchouli and vanilla. When I first tried Daphne it felt like a perfume from 70 years ago but it also smelled like a perfume from today too. This is what Retro Nouveau means.

An exploration of the Comme des Garcons perfumes is almost a perfume education all by itself. I think it is almost required reading if you love perfume. The five above are a great place to start.

Disclosure: I purchased bottles of all the perfumes mentioned.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Comme des Garcons Pharrell Williams Girl- Celebuscent the CdG Way

There is probably nobody hotter than Pharrell Williams right now. His song “Happy” was the song of the last year. He is one of the new coaches on “The Voice”. It only seems natural that he would want to make a fragrance, too. Except he hasn’t gone to the usual suspects to collaborate with. He has chosen Comme des Garcons to be the brand which he will share his name with. From the moment this was announced I was actually looking forward to see how Comme des Garcons and their Creative Director Christian Astuguevieille would approach their first celebuscent.

First choice was to bring in perfumer Antoine Lie. M. Lie is as close as there is to an “in-house” perfumer at Comme des Garcons. He has an intimate understanding of the Comme des Garcons aesthetic and this would allow Mr. Williams to give his input to lead to the best kind of collaboration. Now that I have Comme des Garcons Pharrell Williams Girl my faith was confirmed. This is a celebuscent done the CdG way.

antoine lie

Antoine Lie

Girl opens on a fantastic duet of lavender and white pepper. Lavender is about as safe a note to use in perfume as there is. The white pepper makes it a bit less safe. What is also nice about the white pepper is it enhances the herbal quality of lavender and keeps it from being boring. This leads to a heart of iris and violet together with styrax. This is a good example of what you would not find in a typical celebuscent. The iris and violet, sure. The styrax, not likely. Just like the white pepper with the lavender on top the styrax adds a contrasting foundation to the more common notes. This is what you find in other Comme des Garcons fragrances regularly. The base of Girl is almost becoming a Comme des Garcons trademark as a woody cocktail of vetiver, cedar, and sandalwood provide the finishing touches.

Girl has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

There is nothing as pleasing as having one’s faith in creativity confirmed. M. Astuguevieille is one of only a few creative directors who could have seen this through. M. Lie was able to create something which feels modern and kinetic. Mr. Williams has something with his name on it of which he can be proud. I also need to mention the bottle by artist KAWS. When you take the whole package together this is as good as it gets for a celebuscent. It makes me clap along because I know what makes me happy and can’t nothing bring me down.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Comme des Garcons.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Comme des Garcons Wonderoud- The New Oud

The history of perfume raw materials has been a trail of tears when a unique natural ingredient is identified. The story of overharvesting Mysore sandalwood so that it now lives in protective custody of the Indian government is a cautionary tale. With the advent of oud-based fragrances, particularly over the last ten years, the old trees throughout its indigenous areas were being harvested at an alarming rate. Because oud requires time for the biological rot which forms the aromatic heartwood it looked like we were well on our way to another bad situation. Then scientists learned how to artificially induce and speed up the process. This lead to the growing of oud plantations and just this year the first harvests of this sustainable oud has found its way into perfumes.

Christian-Astuguevieille 

Christian Astuguevieille

It should be no surprise that a leader in using this new oud is Comme des Garcons as it is the centerpiece of their latest release Wonderoud. Creative Director Christian Astuguevieille worked with perfumer Antoine Maisondieu on creating a perfume which would display the new oud with the typical Comme des Garcons style. You might remember 2010’s Wonderwood and the intent here is similar. Antoine Lie was the perfumer for Wonderwood and it was an exploration of sandalwood which was layered with other woods. Over time I have come to think Wonderwood is an underrated sandalwood perfume. M. Maisondieu wants to take a different tack as he explores this new oud and uses herbal and spicy notes to capture the unguent nature of real oud in the early going before letting the woods come out to play in the end.

Antoine-Maisondieu

Antoine Maisondieu

M. Maisondieu lays down a pepper and thyme runway to start the journey in Wonderoud. The thyme adds rough green facets and the pepper grabs ahold of the decaying heart of the oud and brings out the beauty within the rot. M. Maisondieu also makes a stylistic decision to keep Wonderoud very dry. To accentuate this point he uses a fraction of Cedarwood from the Givaudan exclusive Orpur raw material collection. This cedarwood is as good as it gets and by choosing a fraction which picks up the greener woody aspects of cedar he makes an inspired choice. In my very limited experience with this new oud it shows its youth by being a bit greener and almost seems like it has a cedar component. It doesn’t but by using the cedarwood fraction it is made very apparent how this oud is different than others. Vetiver is the other keynote in the heart and it also works on both the green and woody parts of the composition in a supporting role. Australian sandalwood and synthetic sandalwood molecule Pashminol provide the remaining wood. Patchouli recalls the herbal beginning as it shows up at the end.

Wonderoud has 8-10 hours longevity and above average sillage.

sustainable oud harvest

The Harvested Sustainable Oud

Wonderoud is everything that is great about Comme des Garcons as they take the most ubiquitous perfume raw material of the past few years and find a way to make it new. It has been twenty years since the original Comme des Garcons fragrance was released. What Wonderoud displays is that Comme des Garcons still has the ability to be cutting edge without sacrificing approachability. Wonderoud is simply wonderful.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Comme des Garcons.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Serpentine by Comme des Garcons

The newest fragrance from Comme des Garcons is another artistic collaboration following directly after Comme des Garcons + Stephen Jones Wisteria Hysteria. This one is in conjunction with the Serpentine Galleries which are located in the Royal Park of Kensington Gardens in central London. British artist Tracey Emin was commissioned to design the bottle for, Serpentine by Comme des Garcons, and the graphics on the box. Creative director Christian Astuguevieille tapped perfumer Emilie Coppermann in her first fragrance for Comme des Garcons.

tracey_emin

Tracey Emin

Ms. Emin has on the side of the bottle the phrase “The Grass. The Trees. The Lake. And You.” The first two parts of that phrase describe Serpentine pretty succinctly as there is a pronounced greenness to it before the trees turn things woody. M. Astuguevieille wanted Serpentine to capture “Nature in a City”. The smell of green and growing things surrounded by the smell of the asphalt of the roads encircling the park. Mme Coppermann does a tremendous job of getting this brief and executing it admirably.

emilie coppermann

Emilie Coppermann

Mme Coppermann takes some green notes and adds a pollen accord consisting of galbanum and iris leaf to make the open park feel come alive. This is the nature part of “Nature in a City”. For the city part an asphalt accord of black musk and nutmeg is amped up with an ozonic group of notes which add that slightly frenetic city vibe to the natural green of the opening notes. The final dollop of city comes from a pollution accord of benzoin, juniper wood, and gaiac wood. Some labdanum and smoky cedar add a bit more context to the city smells.

Serpentine has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Serpentine is going to be a divisive bit of perfumery I think with as many detractors as supporters. You can count me in the supporter’s camp as I appreciate the skill of Mme Coppermann in adding a lot of notes meant to disrupt one’s enjoyment of the beautiful sward of the city park. The belch of a taxi, the heat of the motorway, the slightly dirty smell of the air itself. What is so very well accomplished is the ability to call up all of the smells of the city without ever overwhelming the smell of the park. All the way through Serpentine the green opening is there and the city odors layer themselves on top but they never end up victorious as nature manages to keep the city at bay. As a first effort for Comme des Garcons Mme Coppermann shows she definitely understands the brand aesthetic and continues the current winning streak, for me, of excellent releases from Comme des Garcons.

Disclosure: This review based on a sample provided by Dover Street Market New York.

Mark Behnke