One of the great parts of writing about perfume is the wide variety of fragrance which is available. One of the things which particularly pleases me is that even on the lower priced end of the spectrum there are some excellent perfumes being produced. Ever since I started Colognoisseur a friend I’ve known since high school has kept me supplied with the latest offerings from Avon. The brand is undergoing a transformation within their fragrance offerings getting better while following the current trends more closely. When I was sent the new Holiday offering for 2017, Prima Noir, I kept going back to the strip it was sprayed on during the first night as I was comparing to the other samples I had received in the mail. I came to the realization that on this night the best thing in front of me was Prima Noir.
This more forward-thinking approach to perfume has come under the stewardship of Isabel Lopes who has been overseeing this part of Avon since 2014. There has been an obvious uptick in the releases over that time. There has also been a more focused PR campaign which matches some of their department store competitors. Prima Noir is the flanker to 2015’s Prima both are represented by American Ballet Theatre dancer Courtney Lavine. Prima was a rose and patchouli representation of flowing pink silk as it ripples in the air during a grand jete. It was meant to be an everyday perfume. Prima Noir also has Ms. Levine as its face but instead of leaping through the air she is pirouetting in place concentrating the colors of her costume. Prima Noir mixes violet, jasmine, and vanilla in a dynamic rotation.
The perfumer behind Prima Noir is David Apel who has worked this style of fragrance for some of his niche clients. I think that shows here because he finds some nice ways of presenting the three ingredients. It starts with the violet as it dances like this perfume’s sugar violet fairy. It dances with the sweeter candied version of the flower inviting you in. The jasmine is one of the expansive synthetic versions scrubbed clean of the obstreperous indoles in place of a contained effect of pure flower power. As the violet inserts itself within the bubble the jasmine provides it is like a petaled snow globe. The depth and the noir part come courtesy of a rich vanilla base note. Mr. Apel tunes this so that it never becomes cloying it instead offers a subtler shading of vanilla. What then happens is the violet, jasmine, and vanilla all combine into a cozy winter accord which lasts for hours.
Prima Noir has 12-14 hours longevity and average sillage.
On the days I wore this I got several compliments from my co-workers. I am used to them asking me, “what are you wearing today?” Most of the time my answer is disappointing due to price or availability. This time the smiles which broke out when I answered, “Avon Prima Noir” told me my local rep was going to get some calls. If you haven’t checked out Avon in years Prima Noir is an excellent example of the changes on the fragrance side of the brand for the better.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Avon.
For those of us who are of the Baby Boomer generation one of your earliest encounters with perfume might have come with the visit of an Avon Lady to your home. I remember the visits of our local Avon Lady as my mother would look through the offerings. When it came to perfume Mom was a Guerlain Girl forever. The representative still tried to entice her with the new perfumes. The living room filled with scent.
I had forgotten about Avon as a perfume brand until reminded about it two years ago. An old friend from high school is now an Avon Representative. She sent me a box of the latest releases from 2014. I was very impressed at what was being achieved on a budget which allowed these perfumes to be sold so modestly. Once I delved further I discovered a creative director in Isabel Lopes who believes great perfume can be designed without a large price tag. First step is to enlist some of the greatest perfumers working currently. Almost every great perfumer you can name has done a perfume or two for Avon. One of those perfumers who impressed me with my first visit to the modern world of Avon fragrance is Rodrigo Flores-Roux.
After I reviewed his 2014 Avon perfume Flor Alegria I had the opportunity to ask him how different it was to create on a budget. What I love about Sr. Flores-Roux came through in his answer, “Not difficult at all.” When I asked how he got such a rich floral bouquet from the rose synthetics he let me in on a perfumer’s technique. He told me there is the equivalent of a drop of high quality rose essential oil there which is used to release the synthetic. I asked him if this is like what a single drop of water does to good scotch, it opens it up. His broad smile was all the answer I needed.
Ever since my friend has been sending me samples of the latest Avon releases my level of respect has grown the more I encounter what can be done. In the beginning of April I received the latest release from Avon by Sr. Flores-Roux called Little Black Dress. I have spent the last three weeks smiling at how good this is.
Little Black Dress is an updating of a prior 2001 release. Sr. Flores-Roux was tasked with modernizing that structure. He decided to go with a classic silhouette comprising a citrus neckline, a floral waistline, and a woody hemline. Onto that basic figure he adds some detailing to give this Little Black Dress some character.
Little Black Dress starts with a neckline of ebullient lemon. The bit of solid braiding Sr. Flores-Roux adds to the lemon is pink peeper and plum. The tiny noticeable bit of plum adds opulence to the brightness of the lemon. It is an excellent way to start. The waistline of jasmine is where I think Sr. Flores-Roux might have added some jasmine essential oil to whichever version of jasmine synthetic he used. Peony and rose also help to create a more natural smelling jasmine accord than would be achievable otherwise. The hemline is sandalwood made a little asymmetrical with the addition of vanilla and a whole bunch of white musks. This creates a plush woody base accord that lasts an extremely long time.
Little Black Dress has 18-24 hour longevity and average sillage.
Sr. Flores-Roux is one of my favorite perfumers. With these Avon releases he reminds me a bit of the construction paper nudes of artist Henri Matisse. A great artist does not need the finest materials to move someone who appreciates art. Their creativity with working in any medium confirms their passion for it all. The amount of very good perfume being produced under the Avon brand, via Ms. Lopes vision, is remarkable. Little Black Dress is better than very good it is superb. If you haven’t considered Avon in a while, or at all, Little Black Dress might open your eyes. At $25 for 50mL it is hard to beat that price for this kind of quality.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle provided by Avon.
I have an old high school friend who lives in Pennsylvania and she is an Avon salesperson. She asked me if I had an opinion on the recent Avon perfumes. I told her I hadn’t given them a thought in years. As we corresponded I realized how shortsighted that view was. Many of my favorite perfumers work on briefs for Avon. Just in 2014 here is the list of perfumers who have composed perfumes for Avon: Laurent Le Guernec, Harry Fremont, Frank Voelkl, Alberto Morillas, Calice Becker, Pierre Negrin, Nathalie Lorson, and Rodrigo Flores-Roux. Pretty impressive lineup for perfume which runs about $20-30 a bottle.
For that price we are not talking about perfumes which are loaded with essential oils these talented perfumers are employing the cost-efficient synthetic ingredients on their perfumer’s organ. You could make the case that these are more difficult to compose with and tease nuance out of. In response to my lack of knowledge my friend sent me a huge box of many of the current Avon perfume offerings. After spending a few weeks with them I was very pleased to find there were more than a few which rose above the others. Tomorrow in Discount Diamonds I will give a bunch of short reviews of my favorites but for today’s column I want to focus on the one which was hands down my favorite in the box Flor Alegria.
Flor Alegria was composed by Rodrigo Flores-Roux under the Creative Direction of Isabel Lopes. Ms. Lopes recently took over the creative direction for the fragrance division and one thing I can state assuredly Ms. Lopes has a consistent aesthetic she is asking for from the perfumers she oversees. For the women’s perfumes pretty and light. For the men’s colognes bracing and woody. Nobody should expect anything different from a mass-market brand like Avon but just as with any niche brand which has an active creative director who keeps true to the brand, Avon is no different. Just a different audience and by this point in time they should have a good idea what sells to that audience. As I tried these perfumes what I kept coming away with was simple does not have to be uninspiring. Sr. Flores-Roux puts a strong exclamation point on that thought with Flor Alegria.
Flor Alegria inhabits one of the styles of perfume I always have difficulty with, fruity floral. What I liked about it was Sr. Flores-Roux was able to balance these synthetics, which can be harsh in excess, and in the case of Flor Alegria turn them into a perfume that was pillow soft.
The top notes are citrus and passionfruit. When it comes to citrus in a perfume Sr. Flores-Roux knows how to use it to precise effect. He wants the passionfruit to be the top but if it was left alone it probably would have become cloying and overwhelming. By using citrus to curtail some of that exuberance he strikes a perfect balance. The heart is rose in all of its powdery sweet floral glory. Here he has to be careful to not let the powder get out of control because his base of iris could’ve doubled down on the powderiness. Instead the iris provides a bit of powder but it is complementary to the rose. The overall effect is a downy fruity floral that was very pleasing to wear.
Flor Alegria has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
The whole Avon collection I tried was much better than one might expect for perfumes costing $20. On the other hand talent is talent and if Sr. Flores-Roux is making a fragrance he can probably make a good one from sealing wax and twine. Flor Alegria is an example of Sr. Flores-Roux working at the top of his game to make a pretty fruity floral and sometimes pretty is all you need.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Avon.