It's been 24 hours since Icon arrived in the mail, and I still don't quite know what to think of it. I bought it hoping it might be something between Karma and Breath of God by Lush's offshoot company B Never Too Busy To Be Beautiful, hoping for something somewhere between the two.It is and it isn't.
The descriptions made it sound dark and gothic. The word Byronesque was bandied about in the ad copy. Crushed purple velvet, brocade, church incense. Perfume is so conceptual and subjective, and I'm sure that to some people it does evoke these things, and at some point it might even conjure those associations in my own head, but for now I'm not feeling it. Still, a funny thing happens with me. Sometimes, the most fantastic perfumes are more than I can handle. It's like wearing a Picasso painting on your arm all day. Very distracting. Rather than permeate my day, these perfumes can sometimes take it over, causing me so much distraction that I might as well be walking in place for all I'm getting accomplished.
Every once in a while I need something a little more manageable, a little less spectacular. Something more interesting, more peculiar, than masterful. Something which keeps me on my toes with a subtle, unobtrusive persistence. One of the fragrances I turn to is Dolce by Michael Marcus. It's almost repulsive at times, with its camphorous thrust and chocolate underbelly. I've written about it before, and my feelings about it change. One out of ten times I pick it up and smell it and wonder why the hell I would ever possibly entertain the idea of wearing something so...what, exactly? I have a feeling Icon is going to be one of these fragrances for me. Why, I'll ask myself, would I want to waste my time with something so crude when there's Chamade and Third Man, both of which smell infinitely refined in comparison to almost anything else but especially, spectacularly, alongside Icon?
The myrrh in Icon gives it an almost sickly resinous sweetness, and I admit, after 24 hours I can see I'll need to wear it on a full stomach. The combination of myrrh and orange blossom is pleasant and dense in a curious way myrrh wouldn't be by itself, though I don't think of orange blossom as heavy or overbearing. Icon is made "with deliciously heavy essential oils," the Lush website boasts. The customer reviews praise its pungency, a word which pops up frequently in reference to the fragrance. It's said to be for "strong personalities". Several fans suggest that it makes a good alternative to head shop patchouli and incense fragrances, with their hippy stench. I always find this a curious thing to say. If you don't like head shop, why would you want an alternative that approximates it in any way? What exactly is it about head shop you don't like?
My main problem with Icon is its dry down. It's that I can't make my mind up about. The initial application for me smells of sassafras and herbs and a barely perceptible orange blossom. As it wears, the sassafras impression moves closer to incense, specifically myrrh, and the herbal qualities shift somehow into something drier, less pungent. The middle stages of Icon are the nicest for me. And they last quite a while; several hours on my skin. When they fade, you're left with a bit of a question mark. The overall combination somehow goes slightly off, with a sour disposition I can't pinpoint but don't find particularly pleasant every other time I smell it.
Still, oddly enough, I can see being attracted to Icon for those last stages on certain days, when I don't feel like being refined, a walking piece of art. Lush brought Icon back after discontinuing it. You can buy it online for about fifty bucks. It's nowhere near as brisk and sunny as Karma, though they're definitely related, made by the same company, and closer to each other than either one of them is to other Lush scents like Honey I Shrunk the Kids. I wonder how the other products in the range smelled--the soap and body powder. I can imagine Icon smelling very nice as a body powder, where the dry, crisp quality would work to its advantage and make more sense. Icon has cult appeal for having been terminated in 2000 and re-introduced more recently, a mystique of exclusivity. I'm still undecided whether this is a deserved reputation or a sales approach.