When I receive mainstream releases, I am rarely challenged by what I find in the sample. They are searching for a broad audience, so they are not inclined to be groundbreaking. It is what marks the biggest separation between mainstream and niche. The later being where the envelope gets pushed. There are exceptions, the latest comes from Zadig & Voltaire Girls Can Be Crazy.
Thierry Gillier has been making fashionable threads for cool young girls from Paris for over twenty years. The move into fragrance has been uneven, to be charitable. It veers between being insipidly simple to something enchantingly engaging. A good example is 2018’s Girls Can Do Anything which was a pear and orange blossom fougere. The opposite was last year’s Girls Can Say Anything which was the simpering peony that bores me to tears. Perfumer Quentin Bisch has been the perfumer for this “Girls Can” series. He returns for Girls Can Be Crazy, surprisingly living up to the name.
The first two in the series were safe; the third is just odd. Using a cola accord as a keynote is unusual. You expect a pairing of the traditional flavored colas which exist as a beverage. M. Bisch wants to bottle a new cola flavor entirely, he chooses pear. It is not something which comes off the top of my head when I think of flavored cola.
It opens with that pear cola accord. The pear is the crisp version. The cola accord is more the flat syrup than the carbonated soda. Cola in that form has a caramel aspect that does find traction with the pear. But the brisk fruitiness tends to push against the syrupy cola finding contrast over harmony. M. Bisch adds some synthetic jasmine to add some expansiveness to the accord to keep it from becoming too heavy. As it becomes more expansive there is more space for the pear and cola to find. A twist of vanilla does create a vanilla coke moment before sandalwood picks up the sweetness of the cola in a woody embrace.
Girls Can Be Crazy has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
The pear cola accord is downright weird. Even as I have been smelling it on the strip while writing this, I am thinking I’m not communicating it adequately. It is hard to believe this is what the trendsetting Parisiennes will be wafting on the Seine this year. I would love to believe that could be the case because it might mean there would be more experimental perfumes to come from Zadig & Voltaire. I appreciate this pear cola experiment even if it is only a one season stand.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Zadig & Voltaire.
Whenever Mrs. C and I are out looking at art we have a conversation which goes like this, “Isn’t that piece incredibly done?” I reply, “Yes but I wouldn’t want to live with it every day.” I find myself having this internal conversation about perfume more frequently. One part of the reason for that is there are a lot of fragrances being made for, and marketed to, a demographic decades younger than me. It is a normal thing, but I now get new perfumes which I have to try and figure out whether it is what that consumer wants. I end up paying more attention to the construction because I understand that. This struggle was front and center on Zadig & Voltaire Girls Can Do Anything.
When Thierry Gillier founded Zadig & Voltaire in 1998 he was looking to dress the cool girl of Paris. He believed that style would find acceptance word-wide. Twenty years on it appears he was correct. The clothes are simple designs modernized with modern tailoring and detailing. When M. Gillier made the move to fragrance it was a bit of a bumpy ride. He partnered with the founders of Le Labo to create two perfumes in 2009 and 2012. They were both Orientals of a similar style that seemed to fall somewhere between the Le Labo and Zadig & Voltaire aesthetic. It didn’t work.
Two years ago, M. Gillier was ready to give it a try again. This time he was the creative director providing a clear vision of what the brand stood for. The most obvious change was a streamlined style with fragrances of a few ingredients mostly dominated by a single keynote. Reacquainting myself with them they are typical designer perfumes.
For Girls Can Do Anything there is a similar aesthetic at work. Except this time the supporting ingredients have more of an obvious effect. Perfumer Quentin Bisch took the style of the brand of tailoring and detail and transformed it to a fragrance.
Girls Can Do Anything starts with a crisp pear which is given a soft green shimmer via a fern accord. Tonka bean provides a toasty sweet nuttiness which M. Bisch floats a veil of orange blossom over. Vanilla and ambrox provide a dry sweet woody base accord.
Girls Can Do Anything has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
As I wore Girls Can Do Anything I appreciated the details M. Bisch provided around the keynotes. They are tuned to provide a specific effect which I could admire. This is where the second half of my internal conversation takes place as this perfume is not meant for me. I asked a couple of young women I know what they thought, and they seemed to like it. Maybe it is that group who wants this style. I can admire the tailoring and detail, but I will never be a cool girl on the Seine.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Zadig & Voltaire.