The perfume business is a strange beast. Here’s the latest exhibit. Paco Rabanne’s fragrance releases have been solid mainstream offerings over the past few years. For my tastes I keep finding myself drawn to one of the flankers over the original pillars. One of those flankers was Invictus Aqua which was released at the beginning of 2016. Composed by perfumer Anne Flipo this was a nice take on the masculine aquatic which stood out among the other choices at the mall. Then inexplicably it was removed off the perfume counter in 18 months. I was fascinated to find out why because I wanted to use the story as a Dead Letter Office column subject. As I shot off emails and made phone calls trying to ascertain the reason; I was contacted by the PR company representing the brand. I was told Invictus Aqua was going to be re-released early in 2018 followed by the offer of a press sample. I took them up on it and waited for my opportunity to review it; which is here.
Invictus Aqua 2018 Perfume Team
Before we go too far I will say that Invictus Aqua 2018 is overall fresher than Invictus Aqua 2016. I do think they are similar enough that you probably don’t need both in your collection as they both cover enough of the same ground it would likely seem redundant. Besides the scent profile the perfume was composed by a trio of perfumers who joined Mme Flipo; Nicolas Beaulieu, Juliette Karagueuzoglu, and Dominique Ropion. It seems like a lot of firepower for the slight difference on display.
The biggest difference I found shows up in the first few moments. Aqua 2016 opened on a sunny citrus mix before the typical ozonic aquatic accord arrived. Aqua 2018 opens with that set of aquatic notes making the first few seconds slightly sharper. When the grapefruit comes forward in Aqua 2018 it begins to dovetail with the previous version more closely. From here until the finish the two perfumes are on the same track but when wearing them side-by-side the Aqua 2018 always felt a little cleaner and a little lighter than Aqua 2016. So, the green violet leaves, the light woods, and the synthetic amber are close enough.
Invictus Aqua 2018 has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage. The sillage is another difference from the Aqua 2016 version; 2018 has a bit less of it.
I think Invictus Aqua 2018 takes its place on the department store counter in the same place it was when it left as one of the better aquatics in that sector.
Disclosure: This review is based on a press sample provided by Paco Rabanne.
There have been many designers who have entered the niche perfumery category. They all looked to be the next Comme des Garcons. I can safely say that nobody has come close to that record of success. In the early 2000’s there was an interesting contender which had some similarities; Costume National.
Costume National was also a fashion line appealing to a young trendsetting clientele. The founder Ennio Capasa carried that slim silhouette from working in Japan at Yohji Yamamoto fusing it with Milan details. In 1986 it was a sensation which put it on the map. They would become known for a cutting-edge aesthetic which they wanted to spread out into accessories. Starting after the turn of the new century Sig. Capasa added fragrance to the brand portfolio. The very first release in 2002, Scent, was a brilliant encapsulation of the brand. Working with perfumer Laurent Bruyere they would follow that initial triumph with a collection of Scent with five flankers over the next three years. Each was interesting with Scent Intense being the best of the bunch. Just when it seemed Costume National was ready to accelerate they pumped the brakes. Releasing two new perfumes over the next four years. It is that 2009 release Costume National Homme which is my choice for this month’s Under the Radar.
For this release Sig. Capasa changed perfumers from M. Bruyere who had done all the Scents to Dominique Ropion for Homme. I would also venture that Sig. Capasa had tired of being risky because while there are some hints of the aesthetic which runs throughout the Scent Collection it is greatly attenuated. If this column was on creativity it would be one of the Scents which was its topic. Instead it is about one of my favorite cold weather comfort perfumes.
M. Ropion has most of his recognizable signatures on display in Homme. Sandalwood, spices and resins do what you come to expect in one of his perfumes. The twist here is there is an odd synthetic oily accord which oozes through the familiar. That’s what ends up making it Costume National.
A brief flare of citrus via grapefruit and bergamot open things up then cardamom combines with cinnamon to provide a typical spicy top accord. It is here the oily accord appears. The best description I have seen of it was from a Basenotes reviewer “rogalal” who thinks it smells like fake movie theatre butter. I’m not fully in agreement but I don’t have a better shorthand for describing the accord. Once you get underneath that the labdanum, cloves and thyme add a spicy resinous accord which is very comforting. Patchouli and sandalwood are the base accord.
Homme has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Homme is much more comforting than a perfume from Costume National ought to be, except for the oily accord in the middle, it never challenges. Nevertheless, this has been a winter staple ever since I bought a bottle in 2009. If you’re looking for a new brand to explore or need a new cold weather comfort scent, try Costume National Homme.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
In 1964, Yves Saint Laurent began the fragrance part of his business with a women’s perfume called Y. It is a crisp austere green chypre which might have represented the last days of this style of perfume. As a perfume M. St. Laurent was less interested in blazing a new path he just wanted fragrance as part of the overall collection. Over the ensuing years that would change and some of the most influential perfumes of the next forty years would have YSL on the label. Recent times has seen the brand living on their past. If they were going to begin to be part of the modern discussion of designer brands they were going to have to design some perfumes for the emerging millennial market. With a new creative director in Tom Pecheux the first attempt is for the guys given the same name as that first release; Y.
Mr. Pescheux turned to perfumer Dominique Ropion to compose Y. This is another composition of greatest hits. It is the fragrance equivalent of colorblocking as each phase of development is its own well understood accord. It is competently constructed and will remind one of many of the other perfumes sitting next to it on the department store counter. Its reason for existence is to ask the consumer if they would like their fresh floral and woody notes in this specific progression. It is hard not to feel that there were too many focus groups weighing in on the creative process. This is the antithesis of what YSL used to stand for. Can you imagine the reaction of a focus group to Opium? It would never have existed. Y becomes a perfume of lowest common denominator (LCD).
M. Ropion opens with an ozonic accord comprised of the safer aldehydes. Not the ones which conjure hair spray or wax but rather the ones which capture fresh sea air. A very overused ginger is used to provide some verve. It moves to that uber-safe men’s floral note geranium. Not so rose to be worrisome say the focus group. It finishes on a base of balsamic woods and incense. The incense is probably the most confrontational note in the whole thing and it’s not that intense.
Y has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Y is a warning light of the things I worry about when marketing to the millennials. If a brand chooses to play it safe by asking them, “is this okay?” The result becomes something full of crowd-pleasing accords which stands for nothing. I am hoping Mr. Pecheux is more interested in recapturing the boldness of the past instead of calling for more focus groups. From a brand which produced something like Kouros it is sad to see Y represent the YSL LCD.
-Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Nordstrom.
In 2013 Frederic Malle announced he was going to create a sub-collection within the Editions de Parfums. M. Malle was going to work with other creatives with whom he shared inspiration with. The first release Dries van Noten Par Frederic Malle is the last great release from the brand. It absolutely captured the overlap of creative influences of the two minds on the label along with perfumer Bruno Jovanovic. Perhaps naively I was hoping for one every couple of years. Four years on the second has arrived; Alber Elbaz par Frederic Malle Superstitious.
Frederic Malle (l.) and Alber Elbaz
M. Malle returns to the world of fashion to collaborate with Alber Elbaz. M. Elbaz was the head designer at Lanvin from 2001-2015. His collections for Lanvin were influenced by the silhouettes from the 1920’s. As he began to work on the fragrance he was introduced to perfumer Dominique Ropion. M. Ropion and M. Malle have worked together from the beginning of Editions de Parfums. They always have something on the drawing board. One which had been tricky for them was an aldehydic floral which had never quite coalesced into the fragrance they wanted. When M. Elbaz smelled the work in progress he asked if that could be their starting point.
It was an interesting place to start especially since 1927’s Lanvin Arpege is one of the greatest aldehydic florals in all of perfumery. Could M. Elbaz do with perfume what he had done with fashion; modernize the Lanvin of the 1920’s into a child of the 2010’s?
It is difficult to know what was there before M. Elbaz entered the process. What is in the bottle is a clever softening of the aldehydic part by using the apricot and peach versions. They fizz but they don’t overwhelm. There is a softening of the intensity that existed in the past. This carries throughout the development. Turkish rose is there but jasmine is its partner keeping it from turning powdery like the classics generally did. The base is also a deft inversion where M. Ropion lets vetiver take the lead over the patchouli, sandalwood, and labdanum. This adds a blurriness which is appealing. Very late on there is a surprising amount of animalic musk which is the final nod to the classics.
Superstitious has 10-12 hours longevity and average sillage.
Superstitious is like the recollection of something from the distant past. It carries a dreamy hazy kind of memory. Superstitious is that kind of remembrance of a classic aldehydic floral. I think it will appeal to the current consumer of perfume while also pleasing those who love the vintage inspirations behind it. Not an easy balance to strike but Messrs. Malle, Elbaz, et Ropion do it with style.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle.
As I became more interested in all things punk during the mid 1970’s I learned there were two sort of puppet masters behind the scenes. One was Malcolm McLaren who was the impresario behind the formation of The Sex Pistols. The early look of the punk movement came from his partner Vivienne Westwood. Ms. Westwood would create the look of a movement spearheaded by the earliest purveyors of the music.
This would be the beginning of a successful fashion designing career where she would always display that early punk sensibility throughout. Even the uniforms she designed for Virgin Atlantic airlines in 2014 has a bit of that with flight attendants in high collars and bright red.
Ms. Westwood has always been one of those I am intensely interested in. So, when she expanded in to fragrance in 1998 I was ready to be impressed. That first release was called Boudoir and it is a provocative kaleidoscopic floriental. Surprisingly that perfume has continued to be available since its release. The best perfume that has ever been released by the brand, Anglomania, was sent to the Dead Letter Office two short years after its release in 2004. Despite it being a dirty leathery rose which fits her aesthetic way better than Boudoir.
Anglomania was composed by perfumer Dominique Ropion under Ms. Westwood’s creative direction. What is odd about a perfume named Anglomania is there is so little Anglo to be found inside as early on it seems more like a Japanese tea room, then a floral record store, and finally a leather jacket. None of that screams British to me but as a fragrance it sure works well.
Anglomania opens with a snappy coriander and cardamom pairing. To this M. Ropion provides a steaming cup of green tea to which he also adds nutmeg. As I said this reminds me of something Asian inspired which continues in the heart. There instead of the traditional English rose M. Ropion trots out a boisterous Bulgarian rose grabbing ahold of the spices and folding them within its petals. Then comes the vinyl accord which inserts itself into the rose. This is the smell of an old vinyl record as you opened it for the first time. It turns this into a post-modern rose as the needle drops on this fragrant record. The base is a leather jacket accord full of animalic charm and sweaty musks.
Anglomania has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Anglomania was a shooting star in its short time on sale. The reason for the discontinuation is the benign neglect Ms. Westwood showed all the fragrances in her line. There has never been a very active attempt to get these perfumes out in to the public eye. A perfume like Anglomania needed some buzz to give it a jump start but it got none of that. Which is how it ended up in the Dead Letter Office.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
I must admit I am amused when I receive press packets full of fancy imagery and wordsmithing meant to convey something unique. In just ten years of writing about perfume I can honestly say I have not encountered a new perspective on fragrance within the press release. Sometimes the harder the brand works with all the campaign imagery it is often meant to cover-up something less than groundbreaking. Sometimes, thankfully, I get to try a perfume before getting all the overcooked puffery. This was a good thing for the new collection from designer Philippe Starck and his new brand Starck Paris.
I tried the debut three perfumes when I attended Tranoi Parfums in NYC in September. I had read about them in a couple of trade publications and my interest was piqued by the perfumers M. Starck chose to work with; Dominique Ropion on Peau de Soie, Annick Menardo on Peau D’Ailleurs, and Daphne Bugey on Peau de Pierre. Trying them that day I was interested to wear them because they all had very interesting evolutions on the piece of skin I had them on. Sniffing those patches over the train ride home had me ready to wear them over the next few days. As I did I was fascinated on the delicacy of the work each of these perfumers produced under the creative direction of M. Starck.
M. Starck was inspired to create perfume because his mother owned a perfume shop and he spent many childhood hours there. It was where his appreciation for the impact scent could have blossomed; leading to this collection. That is a beautiful story and I wish the press stopped there because it is enough to explain why and how the collection is designed. Instead there is a tedious slog through pseudo-intellectualist claptrap. Lot of talk about being intellectual and anti-marketing. The new perfumes are not as out there as M. Starck presumes. Also, the idea of not releasing a note list is also not so revolutionary as he thinks. It made me think that these perfumes were different because of the fragile interplay but the components; those I’ve smelled before and in these combinations. Which maybe makes this all semi-avant garde.
Peau de Soie translates as “silk skin”. The brief M. Starck gave M. Ropion was to wrap a traditional masculine with a feminine covering. It is a fabulous combination of musk and wood to represent that male component which is where Peau de Soie opens. Then M. Ropion wraps it in a powdery iris while simultaneously piecing it with a greenish vector to allow the musk and wood the chance to peek out. As I mentioned above this all holds together like a house of cards that feels like a puff of wind will knock it down; except it is sturdier than that lasting for hours.
Peau D’Ailleurs is harder to translate sort of “skin even more so”. Mme Menardo’s brief was to make this the most androgynous of the three. It isn’t clear to me how much the three perfumers collaborated but based on the structure of Peau D’Ailleurs I am going to assume that Mme Menardo knew some of what her compatriots were doing. That’s because there is a recapitulation of the woods from Peau de Soie and the mineral elements from Peau de Pierre. Mme Menardo spins them on an axis of amber and musk. This all comes together to form a kind of dirt accord but one done with so much finesse it is delightful.
Peau de Pierre which translates to “stone skin” is my favorite of the three. This is meant to be the flip side of Peau de Soie as the feminine evolves the masculine. Not sure I’m there with that because the entire perfume is stolidly in smoky woody territory. I am not sure what the feminine is supposed to be represented by as Peau de Pierre opens with a cleverly composed wet stone accord, definitely some geosmin here, but there is also something else keeping it more expansive. It is like a hologram of river stones. Mme Bugey then adds smoke and vetiver again in a very opaque way. What I enjoyed so much about Peau de Pierre is despite the name it is not as solid as a rock instead it is as ephemeral as a breeze.
All three Starck Paris perfumes have over 10 hour longevity and almost zero sillage; they are skin scents, as advertised.
If I discard all of M. Starck’s pretentiousness and return to him as a child sitting in his mother’s perfume shop I see the genesis of this collection. Imagining translucent spheres of scent traveling above his head intercalating themselves into his vision as they expanded and popped that would have prepared me for the gorgeous set of perfumes which make up this debut collection.
Disclosure; This review was based on samples provided by Starck Paris.
There is nothing more liberating for an artist than to have the freedom to create where your inspiration takes you. Most perfumers must follow the whims of their clients; exerting influence here and there. A true license to create without bounds usually comes when they form their own brand with their name on it. There are a few brands which also provide the leeway for an artist to do as they will. One of the more successful examples of this is the brand A Lab on Fire.
Over 10 releases since 2012 creative director Carlos Kusubayashi has taken one of the most impressive rosters of perfumers out there and set them free. The collection is one of the most diverse for a niche brand because of this. I would imagine that the process is enjoyable enough that it is no surprise that perfumer Dominique Ropion returned to do his second, and the brand’s eleventh, with the new Mon Musc A Moi.
Dominique Ropion (photo: Hajime Watanabe)
M. Ropion is on my highest tier of perfumers. My favorites by him have come from brands which trust him to carry much of the inspiration and creativity. For Mon Musc A Moi M. Ropion seems to be out to recapture vanilla from the gourmand sector of the olfactory spectrum. In recent years vanilla has become the sweet baker’s confectionary component which radiates sweetness; sometimes overly so. Which has led to many forgetting that vanilla was a vital component to many of the great perfumes from the first half of the 20th century. It was often paired with the deeper animalic musk to form a pulsing sultry base. M. Ropion wants Mon Musc A Moi to remind you that vanilla is not just for those with a sweet tooth it is also for those who want the passion of human connection.
The early moments of Mon Musc A Moi are all floral, M. Ropion floats out a mixture of peach blossom, heliotrope, and rose. This is exactly how a Retro Nouveau perfume should begin. The rose and heliotrope feel retro and the peach blossom feels more contemporary. M. Ropion lays it all out right from the first moments. Then in a very sly wink to the gourmand lovers he takes a little bit of toffee and produces a sweet intermezzo from which the vanilla appears. This is full on Nouveau. The Retro comes as the musks arise to swat away the toffee and to capture the vanilla in an amorous embrace.The vanilla musk accord is fine-tuned with a bit of tonka, amber and light woods. Those notes all serve to enhance and frame the beautiful base accord.
Mon Musc A Moi has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Mon Musc A Moi is a romantic fragrance and is maybe a perfume for romance. In this house it is rare anything I wear gets commented upon unless Mrs. C thinks it smells bad. There are a rare few things I wear which bring Mrs. C closer for a more lingering sniff. The second day I wore Mon Musc A Moi she spent much of the day snuggled close breathing it in with a contented smile. Purely as a Retro Nouveau construct it succeeds at every level. It was high time some of our best perfumers went out and took vanilla back from the perfumed bake shop and reunited it with its passionate partner, musk. M. Ropion has successfully achieved this reunion with style.
Dosclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Luckyscent.
You’ve definitely heard of fruity floral but have you heard of a fruity aquatic? You have but they are not encountered that often. When you do find them it is usually just an infusion of basic fruits onto a Calone foundation. For the new brand Orlov Paris one of their debut releases, Sea of Light, is something slightly different.
Like all of the Orlov Paris perfumes they are named after a real-life diamond. This perfume is inspired by the Daria-i-Noor (Sea of Light in Persian) 182 carat pink diamond that might, or might not, have been one of the Iranian Crown Jewels. The actual stone has a tumultuous history including where it can be found today. Either a vault in Dhaka, Bangladesh or Tehran, Iran. It is a stunning looking diamond with the pale pink color adding in a subtle shading and nuance to the natural brilliance of the diamond. Perfumer Dominique Ropion would be inspired to layer a pale shade of fruitiness over a brilliantly sparkling white musk and sea spray accord.
Sea of Light stands out among the five debut perfumes of Orlov Paris for that lightness. The others have the heft of the huge gems they are named after. Sea of Light has the facets of light captured within the cut of the Daria-i-Noor tinted with the watercolor pink.
Sea of Light opens with petitgrain leavened with mandarin. This is a common citrus opening and it is executed here by M. Ropion as if it is a reflection of the light caught in the stone. It pulses with a pinpoint radiance. M. Ropion brings in two stalwarts from the fruity floral category, peach and blackcurrant, to provide a deeper fruit. The peach has its more fizzy nature brought to the fore again evoking the light effects across the surface of a piece of jewelry. The blackcurrant provides the only point of shadow in the whole composition as it tries to dim the shine, unsuccessfully. This leads to the base which is my favorite part of Sea of Light. Here M. Ropion takes a soft combination of white musks and keeps them from being as high-pitched as they can often be. This soft skin accord is then covered with the spray of the ocean as it dries in the sun. It forms an overall accord of the smell of skin covered in the mist off the ocean.
Sea of Light has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
As I already mentioned Sea of Light stands out for being the lightest fragrance in the debut Orlov Paris collection. It also stands out for M. Ropion’s take on the aquatic genre which is surprisingly made better with a fruit cocktail bobbing on the water. The entire debut collection will be coming to stores this month and if you want one to wear right now in the summer Sea of Light should be where you start.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Orlov Paris at Esxence 2015.
Editor’s Note: If you are going to be attending Cosmoprof in Las Vegas over July 12-14, 2015 Orlov Paris will be one of the perfumes featured in the Discover Scent exhibit curated by Karen Dubin and Karen Adams of Sniffapalooza.
Those who read me regularly know I am one of the happiest perfume lovers at the current renaissance in the number of new Eau de Cologne releases. A Colognoisseur by nature of the name has to be a supporter, and I am. I have said on more than one occasion that the creativity in this sector over the last four years has been imaginative leading to some truly great Nouveau Colognes. It was why when I received the press release for the latest release from Editions de Parfume Frederic Malle called Cologne Indelebile by perfumer Dominique Ropion I was anticipating something grand.
In my recent review of Amouage Opus IX I spoke of the contrast between emotional and technical approaches to perfumery. I believed that Opus IX was an example of the emotional and the raw ragged edges that can bring with it. Cologne Indelebile is the paean to the technical. This is an eau de cologne which has been patiently constructed to produce a singular post-modern riff on the form.
M. Ropion builds Cologne Indelibile in a precise manner with each phase distinctly present and accounted for. Eau de Cologne starts with citrus so does Cologne Indelibile. Bergamot and lemon provide a sharply delineated splash of tart citrus. Eau de Cologne usually combines a floral and an herbal component. Cologne Indelebile eschews this for a solely floral heart. Neroli is the floral chosen and it is pretty much all that I smell when I wear this. The note list says narcissus is also here but I never detected it. Eau de Cologne finishes with a bit of spice. Cologne Indelebile in an attempt to live up to the permanency the Indelebile in the name promises uses a collection of white musks. The note list calls them “technical musks” and that is truth in advertising. This is a detailed mixture of multiple musks to provide the laundry-fresh finish they are known for. It is here where I have my problem with Cologne Indelebile. This feels over-engineered to me and it sucks all of the life out of the fragrance for me. I usually love these kind of musk cocktails; this was like a high pitched whine that wouldn’t abate.
Cologne Indelebile, true to its name, lasts 10-12 hours but the great majority of that is the white musk finish; with average sillage.
If you haven’t tried many of the Nouveau Colognes, and you really like white musk, Cologne Indelebile is going to be something that will be perfect for you. For me I found that Cologne Indelebile didn’t bring anything new to the current cologne portfolio. For the first time an Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle fragrance did not engage me. Which makes in not Indelebile but Peu Memorable (forgettable).
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle.
When I got to Esxence this year there were a couple of new lines which were high on my list to try. I am usually drawn to these new brands because of the perfumer they are working with. In the case of the new Orlov Paris line that was the case. Dominique Ropion is one of my favorite perfumers especially when he is working for a niche brand. Orlov Paris was premiering five new perfumes by M. Ropion at Esxence. I think the collection as a whole is very strong but there is one which I just couldn’t wait to spend some more time with, Star of the Season.
Star of the Season Diamond
Each of the perfumes in the Orlov Paris collection is based on a famous diamond which is also the name of each perfume. The diamond Star of the Season is a 100.10 carat diamond which was bought for a record price of $16,548,750 at auction in 1995. That is still the world-record for the highest amount paid for a single piece of jewelry at auction. When I think of diamonds I think of brilliance and sparkle. When I look at the picture of the Star of the Season above I see something which has mutable shades of blue much the way the ocean changes color in relation to the sky. I think M. Ropion looked at this diamond and also saw the deep violet color captured within and decided to make a crystalline iris perfume. I find Star of the Season to be sort of like gazing into a huge cut diamond and each day I wore it I was drawn by different facets and nuances as I allowed the olfactory brilliance to draw me in.
Star of the Season opens on a bold rose note as a sort of traditional harbinger of luxury. This is a dewy pure rose with the spicy core kept deep in the background. The orris comes next and it is a rich rooty iris. This also has its more common powdery elements dialed way back. It is earthier and M. Ropion adds patchouli to keep it tilted that way. Over time the earthy qualities fade and just the iris remains in all of its glory. It has a shine to it like it is those violet colors diffused through its namesake jewel. There is a quality of being captured in a crystal lattice which is what has made Star of the Season stand out for me. This all eventually settles onto a base of creamy sandalwood and warm vanilla.
Star of the Season has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
As he has done with all of the perfumes in the debut collection for Orlov Paris M. Ropion has discovered shades of brilliance to display. Star of the Season is the deepest of those shades and perhaps that is why it has captured so much of my initial enthusiasm. I can easily say that Star of the Season is the star of the inaugural Orlov Paris collection.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Orlov Paris at Esxence.
Editor’s Note: Orlov Paris will be available starting in July 2015. For those attending the upcoming Sniffapalooza Spring Fling. Orlov Paris is going to exclusively debut the collection at a champagne, caviar, and perfume reception on the evening of Saturday May 16 at the end of day one of Spring Fling.