Saturday, January 17, 2009

Lush Icon: Mixing Metaphors

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.  


Tania said...

Yes, it's an odd one, Icon, isn't it? I don't think their press for it is accurate at all. I have one of their older scents, called 'V', which fits the 'Gothic' part of the description better. It's an incensey violet, which shares some notes with Icon, but it's smoother. It's still rather crude, but I prefer it to Icon.

I have days when I like Icon, days when meh, not so much. Whatever, I have to give it at least half an hour to mature on me before I start to enjoy it at all.

I've never tried the Icon body powder, though I think you are right, it would have worked better in that form.

Lush/BNTBwhatamouthful make such strange scents! Sometimes the strange works, sometimes it's a little too out there. Perhaps they should have reworked Icon a tad, as it's clearly an early effort and they have done much better since.

Brian said...

I was hoping you'd respond, Tania, given you inspired me to buy Icon in the first place. Weirdly, I've really enjoyed it the last several times I put it on. I spent a few days away from it and when I picked up the bottle again it was like an entirely different scent. I wonder if this is because I was led to expect something else by the Lush website and was inevitably disappointed when reality arrived. Now I've had time to adjust my expectations. I haven't lowered them, mind you. I think I was expecting a patchouli bomb. I'm not sure what this is instead. Probably much more myrrh. I put it on before I went to bed last night and woke to it on the sheets this morning, pleased. It's no Mitsouko but it isn't a lemming either.

Tania said...

Yes, that's probably it - I must admit, I was also puzzled by the difference between the word-picture Lush conjured up, and the actual scent. I remembered Icon from the first time around, and their description did not work with my memory of what it used to smell like. I'm glad you now enjoy it, anyway!

I can definitely smell patchouli in there with the myrrh. But nope, it's no p-bomb.

Anonymous said...

Relax Eau de parfum by Michael Marcus.
The website
lists the following notes:
Top: Grapefruit, Mandarin, Lemon, Aldehydic Accord
Middle: Green Tea Leaves, Leafy Green Nuances
Bottom: Green Tea, Sheer Musk.
Michael Marcus runs a make-up company in Dallas Texas. His line of fragrances I discovered at the last days of Takashimaya department store in New York in May 2010.
Looking as always for a dry citrus fragrance I came across Relax and I was very excited about it. Two months later I still consider myself fortunate for my find. Relax regardless of its common place name and notes, works perfectly for me. Of course the sparkling opening is fantastic, much more impressive than its dry down; however, it is at the dry down that the dryness of citrus is more evident after some sweetness. As most citrus fragrances this one too doesn’t last for long, and this is the disappointing element for me. Two hours after application Relax stays close to the skin until it disappears. Nevertheless its citrus stays on my clothes for quite a while at least after some generous spraying. This is an eau de parfum and maybe this is the reason that although it does not last much longer than an eau de toilette, its brief life has a strong impact. The essential oils used make Relax feel like a precious composition. In my opinion Relax is made of high quality ingredients (although one can never be sure) and the combination of hesperides and green tea fulfils my expectations of a high quality body mist rather, which however works great in summer. All fragrances of Michael Marcus are very rare to find as the distribution has been very limited; if you ever come across any of them definitely try it. Relax proved to be a very well made unisex citrus fragrance, not at all linear, and fantastic to put on, and so effervescent that Relax isn’t how I would call it.