Dead Letter Office: Estee Lauder Metropolis- Liza Explains It All?


After this past year’s buying spree of niche brands Le Labo and Frederic Malle it is hard to imagine a time when Estee Lauder was not a powerhouse company. That time was the mid 1980’s as the brand labored to understand the shifting beauty demographic. They were having so much trouble figuring out what a 1980’s woman wanted they thought they might enter the masculine perfume sector of the market. They were no better prepared for that either.

el metropolis ad

In 1987 creative directors Evelyn Lauder and Karen Khoury hired perfumer Pierre Wargnye to compose Metropolis. The marketing was all geared to the “greed is good” generation. Metropolis wasn’t about getting the girl. It was about getting the money that would get you the girl. Metropolis was all about “the irresistible possibility of success”. M. Wargnye was on a creative roll having created 1982’s Guy Laroche Drakkar Noir and followed that up with 1985’s Boss Number One. He had created two memorable takes on fougeres and Metropolis was going to go in a slightly different direction. The problem with Metropolis was the timing and the promotion. By the time Metropolis reached the department store in 1987 the concept of conspicuous consumption was beginning its eventual death spiral. The tastes of men were turning to fresher aquatics as Davidoff Cool Water would make a splash months after the release of Metropolis. In the most confounding move Estee Lauder hired Liza Minnellli to be the exclusive spokesperson for Metropolis for a year for the then unheard of $1 million. She was in a disastrous television commercial where she was filmed around New York City while singing “City Lights” before delivering the tag line, “Wear it and you own the world”. As Metropolis was rolled out in November of 1987 she made in-store appearances which were less about the fragrance and more about her signing autographs, for exactly one hour at each store. So there it is Metropolis was a casualty of shifting priorities, shifting tastes, and shifting societal priorities. Whew! It would be gone by 1992.

When I bought my bottle during that November of 1987 I fell in love with it right away. I was wearing Calvin Klein Obsession for Men and Metropolis offered something completely different. M Wargnye would take liberties with his successful fougeres and make Metropolis more woody shrouded in greens and leather.

Metropolis opens upon an herbal and lavender pairing. The best lavender has a significant herbal character. I didn’t know this at the time but I do now. The more I’ve learned the more I appreciate the top notes as M. Wargnye adds sage and basil to pull out the herbalness of the lavender. It allowed Metropolis to have a safe floral character that a man would wear. The heart is a fantastic spiced and incense affair. Cinnamon, bay leaves, and clove mix with incense. If there was a “money” accord in Metropolis it was this. The base notes are a leather accord of vetiver, patchouli, and oakmoss combined with sandalwood and amber.

Metropolis has 14-16 hour longevity and powerhouse level sillage.

Metropolis is not one of these highly sought after discontinued perfumes and you can find it for very reasonable prices. I think it is a better perfume than either of M. Wargnye’s more well-known creations. I still wear Metropolis to work a couple times a year. While it may not make me feel like Gordon Gekko, thankfully, it does make me smell pretty damn good.

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

Mark Behnke

5 thoughts on “Dead Letter Office: Estee Lauder Metropolis- Liza Explains It All?

  1. ' Women   LOVE   THIS   S .. T"…!!!    ' They LOVE IT'…!!!

    I was gifted a bottle of Metropolis just before going in the ARMY in 87' from of all people my mom, so I really didn't start using it until after I got out of the military in 91' when returning home from the Gulf War, a bit of a delay but really, who's going to wear a fragrance given to them by their mother and I left it at home anyway. Well other than giving birth and raising me Metropolis was one of the best things she did for me. This stuff drove women nuts! I can’t possibly count all the times women turn to me and I'm not talkin' about some lighthearted enquiry but with bedroom eyes and asked me, "WHAT ARE YOU WARING"…??? I’ve had girls go get there girlfriends and bring them over to see for themselves and they would just start hanging out it was magical. This stuff was like chic electro magnet in a bottle it was irresistible to them and this was in the posh suburbia of Los Angeles California. Around that time a really funny move came out called, 'Love Posion #9' and every time I see that movie I think and laugh out loud about Metropolis and the fuuun I had with that little bottle. I ran out to stock up on it but to my surprise it was DICONTENUED! by 92' so I chose to only use it on formal Saturday nights and I had it for along time 20+ years it was strong stuff so you didnt have to use much. In the later years I restricted the use to bedroom occasions only, around but not on the genitalia and women, without fail; would stop and say, "you smell so good !' you could set an atomic clock by it. Finally it was gone and I miss it,  I've found nothing that is it equal ever again it's not possible.         "METROPOLIS"

    • Thanks Sam for telling me your story. I don’t know if you pay attention to the online auction sites but bottles turn up there sealed in a box for normal prices fairly often. I’d put in a search request and ask it to give you an update when a new listing is added. You sound like someone who should not be without a bottle. 🙂

      • YES…!

        The day I wrote my comment I found a full bottle of it on line for $200.

        I found a full bottle of it on line for $200. I snatched it up immediately. I can’t tell you how it felt to have another full bottle of my favorite fragrance again.  Wow! It was like being in my twenties allover once more. Women still go crazY for it…!!! Truly truly magical stuff bring it back if just for an encore.


        Thanks for the history lesson about this product I don't know how you discovered so many details about it but it is a fantastic article. Regards!

  2. Thanks for this. I always wondered what happened to Metropolis. I'd have to say it's my favorite men's fragrance of all time. I found it magical too. I can't remember a single time I wore it that I didn't have people stop in their tracks to say something along the lines of "Oh my gosh you smell good." (I'm gay so I got it from both women and men.) I was extremely disappointed when all of a sudden I was unable to find it anywhere, and I've never gotten such a consistent response to any fragrance since. I concur, if anything could convince Estee Lauder to return it to market, even for a limited time, I think they might find themselves richly rewarded.

  3. I agree with all the comments about Metropolis. It is the best cologne I have ever owned— And I have owned many high-end colognes!
    I wish Estée Lauder would bring it back. I believe it would sell really well!
    Meanwhile if anybody knows where I can buy it please let me know.
    Thank you,


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