Thursday, April 30, 2009

More Surprises: Creed Love in Black Revisited

Months back, Abigail sent me a sample of Creed's Love in Black. I liked it enough but it failed to capture my attention and imagination in any specific or enduring way. In retrospect, I suppose it had to do with the fact that there were other things I was busy anticipating, and it was hot outside, which probably doesn't do many fragrances any favors. What I'm starting to realize is how deeply price influences my initial judgment of a fragrance. I practically dismiss a fragrance I feel is too big for its britches. Two hundred something for 2.5 ounces? I mean, really.

I still think Love in Black is overpriced, but I found a much more affordable bottle, which prompted me to reconsider it. I sprayed some on my arm and walked around the mall with it. How had its remarkable longevity escape unnoticed? This stuff lasts. In some ways, it also seems completely different to me now. What seemed like a weirdly fuzzy violet before now smells lactonic, woodsy, and nutty as well, all good things in this case.

I looked at Abigail's review again on the blog and was amazed how evocative her description is, how close to what I smell now. Like her, I've always been totally impervious to the alleged charms of Creed. Before I heard of any other niche brand, people in shops which "exclusively" carried it were pimping it on me. I saw the price and smiled a withering no-thank-you smile I've practiced on many a sales assistant since. I liked Angelique Encens okay. More recently, I fancied Irisia enough to spend time considering a bottle. The rest, even those I hear talked about the most online, not so much. The row of bottles was like background music to me.

Yes, okay, everyone's doing an iris. It's the pink pepper of the moment, an ubiquitous marker of the perfume zeitgeist. And yes, many of them smell derivative at this point; some of them even when they were the first out the gate. And fine, hardened critics (not naming names) think Love in Black is a trifling thing, capitalizing on the vogue for new aroma-chemicals. But my needs and tastes are sometimes simple things. Love in Black smells wonderful to me.

I place it somewhere around the Stephen Jones fragrance for Comme des Garçons. They share a certain metallic vibe somehow, like violets plucked from the soil and plopped into a tin can. Love in Black's can is, admittedly, a little more rustic. It goes through interesting stages on my skin, as well, without ever feeling thinned out or otherwise diminished. Truth be told, I like it far better than Bois de Violette, though I understand that lightning will now strike me dead. Where Bois de Violette, however lovely, seemed superficially austere to me (a one trick pony), Love in Black uses its woods more interestingly, creating more depth and texture to the smell.

People seem to think that the name and the packaging are entirely off the mark, given this was a scent inspired by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Me, I see the logic. The black bottle makes me think of the black Lincoln Town Car in Dallas, Jackie's dark oversize sunglasses, funeral attire, the black and white images by Ron Galella revealing her masked irritation at the invasion of the public into her private life. The silver and velvet detailing juxtaposes soft and sturdy. In this sense, the contrast between the packaging and the scent, which isn't as dark as some expect, makes very good sense to me. This, to me, is Jackie O, not young Jacqueline, and Creed has intelligently played around with the intrinsic myths and contradictions of her public persona. The tiny, delicate voice. The steely will. The mixture of elegant understatement and over the top detail. That big black helmet of hair, theoretically soft, practically rock hard. I look at pictures of Jackie and wonder what was going on behind those sunglasses, however bright the smile, and Love in Black plays out that enigmatic tension wonderfully.


Anonymous said...

nice article !!!

EileenS said...

You've brought up a (costly!) scent I'd managed to put in the back of my mind for a while -- phooey! now I'll have to decide whether I need to get it or not. :-)

You're hitting all the right buttons for me with your description, and the chance of my getting Bois de Violette is low, so maybe I can justify it that way.. hmm.. let me squint my eyes a bit and turn my head sideways.. yeah, maybe I can fit it into the perfume budget right about there..

Olfacta said...

Speechless with admiration as usual. Decant here I come (uh, next month.) I've never spent much time wondering what Jacqueline was really like behind the helmet-hair and sunglasses, other than hungry all the time, but your prose has made me consider it. I thought that the actress who portrayed her in "Grey Gardens" -- forgive me I can't remember the name right now, the first wife from "Big Love" was pretty good, too, so good that I didn't even recognize her from the HBO series.