Upon the death of Karl Lagerfeld earlier this week I began considering what was a fitting tribute to him and his impact on perfume. I spent a few days reminding myself of the perfumes he released under his own name. If there was something which surprised me was, outside of a few, there was a lack of a recognizable aesthetic. All the perfume releases under the Karl Lagerfeld brand tended to veer from one trend to the other without necessarily being the one at the leading edge but the fast follower. Which is why many of them are in the Dead Letter Office. In looking back I found one which best sums up the iconoclastic designer; Lagerfeld for H&M Liquid Karl.
In 2004 clothing store H&M wanted to start collaborating with the biggest fashion designers in the world on affordable couture. They thought, if successful, this could become a regular event. For their first collaboration they went right to the top convincing Karl Lagerfeld to kick this concept off. Mr. Lagerfeld wanted a full-service collection, including a fragrance. He had founded his own perfume brand in 1978 making it an easy extension for the H&M collaboration.
The perfume was called Lagerfeld for H&M Liquid Karl. He worked with a team of three perfumers; Pascal Gaurin, Bruno Jovanovic, and Sandrine Malin. What they produced is one of the best of the early gourmand perfumes because it went in such a different direction.
Liquid Karl starts with the smell of baking bread. The perfumers build that doughy sweet scent of every bakery. In the early moments there are hints of some of the other bakery spices. This opening shows where gourmand perfumes will go. Then as cocoa and frangipani add to the bread the entire effect goes from savory to sweet. From bread to bread pudding; sort of. Maybe bread to chocolate pudding is closer to accurate. The base is a set of clean woods given depth from oakmoss.
Liquid Karl has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
When the collection was released in November of 2004 it sold out immediately. This is an occurrence which happens yearly as H&M has partnered with another high-end fashion brand every year since on an anticipated capsule collection. Many of them contain a perfume because of Mr. Lagerfeld’s inclusion of one at the beginning.
Liquid Karl is not well-known because it was produced in limited quantities as part of the H&M collaboration. This is in the Dead Letter Office because it was a limited edition not through business reasons. You can find bottles frequently on the online auction sites.
I chose Liquid Karl as a way of honoring the vision of Mr. Lagerfeld because of any perfume he made it displayed his sense of the coming trend. His fashion set the trends. His perfumes not as much. Looking back on that fragrance portfolio Liquid Karl was another case of Mr. Lagerfeld charting the course which others would eventually follow.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.