One of the best things to come out of 2020 was a new perfume series from the magazine NEZ. At the beginning of the year they began what they call the 1+1 series. The idea is to take an artist from outside of the fragrance business and pair them with a perfumer. Both of last year’s editions made my best of the year list. Watching to see the perfume result of two artists in collaboration is even better than it sounds. The third 1+1 is here in NEZ Ambre a Levres.
In the first two cases I was unfamiliar with the artist asked to be creative director. Not this time. Marjane Satrapi was the artist and writer behind the graphic novel “Persepolis”. It is an autobiographical story of her early life surviving in Iran after the Islamic Revolution. Mme Satrapi pulls the reader in through sharply drawn black-and-white panels to tell her story. It is one of the great graphic novels of all time. The final sentence has always stayed with me “Freedom has a price.” It was with great anticipation I awaited what she and perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui would come up with.
Where it began was the memory of Mme Satrapi’s aunt. She had a wide array of beauty products. The one which drew the attention of the 6-year-old Mme Satrapi were the lipsticks. The concept of perfume inspired by lipstick is nothing new. The question is how you can add an interpretation which gives it new life.
As Mme Bijaoui and Mme Satrapi began to work together they homed in on the nature of the lipstick accord. No rose. Only a specific ionone instead of all of them. And iris. What sealed the collaboration was a combination of Mme Satrapi’s current use of amber perfumes. Mme Bijaoui presented a leathery amber accord for the lipstick to rest upon. Once the pieces were there all that was left to bring them together in Ambre a Levres.
In the early moments this reminds me of the perfume on a stylish lady’s vanity and not the lipstick. It is because iris is out in front carried by a set of aldehydes. There was a mélange of scent from the different cosmetics on my mother’s vanity. The very first moments remind me of that. Then methyl-ionone comes forward. Because it comes from iris it is almost as if the rhizome exudes only the one specific version. The lipstick accord attains a waxiness as the intensity increases. Now the second half comes.
My grandmother kept her lipsticks in a leather cosmetics bag. As much as I associate violet with lipstick, I also think of leather from the bag they were kept in. The inclusion of Suederal has more to do with Mme Satrapi’s enjoyment of its leathery ambery quality. Before it comes into play in Ambre a Levres vanilla connects the lipstick accord to the Suederal. A suite of musks add an animalic diffusiveness to the final stages.
Amber a Levres has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is a fantastic interpretation of the lipstick accord given new life through the vanilla and amber in the base. Both Mme Satrapi and I have the fragrance we need to remember our family members for whom the right lipstick was essential.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by NEZ.