I'm pouting this week, I'm in a funk, I'm almost bored with perfume and I don't know what to do about it, a situation which would have seemed inconceivable to me only several months ago. Is perfume a passing phase--or am I just sick of being disappointed lately? So many of the things I've been looking forward to have turned out to be uninspired. Some of them feel like a slap in the face.
The Alien EDT is nice enough, but where's the promised difference, the guaranteed frisson? To me it smells exactly like Alien EDP--no heavier, no lighter, no woodsier, no more or less presided over by jasmine. I wanted special. I wanted something tweaked, not because I dislike Alien EDP (far from it) but because I wanted to see a perfumer pushing himself, responding to input about the first go round, teasing out something about the first Alien which showed its detractors how wrong they were, proving to them that Alien was wonderful all along, they just hadn't been looking the right way.
To some extent, the seasonal flankers have served this purpose, illuminating the original Alien (2005) with bursts of clarifying light. I particularly liked the first flanker, eau Luminescente, which brought a piquancy into the original's headier mix. But the mission of seasonal flankers seems to be to adapt the original fragrance's attributes into some fantasy vignette of Spring and Summer, a limiting mission, depending how you feel about Spring and Summer (I, for one, resent being asked to retire my jeans, as if I'm just not quite carefree enough otherwise, or inhibited because I won't frolic around in shorts). Key words, like "lighter" and "fresher", prevail over the exercise. For me, the Alien EDT release might have reinterpreted the original in many novel ways, but didn't, making it little better than a wasted opportunity.
I can barely talk about YSL's Parisienne without getting a little ticked off. More than anything, I'm irritated with myself, for having gotten my hopes up. Parisienne is a massive letdown on a number of levels, but the biggest disappointment of all is the fact that my little honeymoon with Sophia Grojsman might now be over. I was naive enough to believe that I would love Parisienne no matter how much of a retread it might be. I've loved every Grojsman perfume I can think of, though many resemble each other enough to keep others from owning several at once. Paris is an iconic favorite of mine. Its intensity, the lush stuff it makes of rose, violet and hawthorn, is a narcotic for me. Though I've loved it since 1983, when it first came out, the smell isn't particularly nostalgic to me. It's too timeless for that. But it makes me intensely happy, speaking to my imagination in a way which would normally require hallucinogens.
How big a part did Sophia Grojsman actually play in the creation of Parisienne? Her collaborator, Sophie Labbé, hasn't done much of anything I've admired or even been vaguely interested in, with the exception of Givenchy Organza. Granted, Organza is so good that its creator wouldn't really need to do much more in life. It has amazing persistence, impressive diffusion. It smells like nothing else, filtered through a series of recognizable motifs. It certainly doesn't smell like anything else Labbé has done. I'm not a fan of most of the Joop fragrances, some of which she's authored. Kylie Minogue Sexy Darling, Givenchy Very Irresistible, Cacharel Amour Pour Homme, Jil Sander Sport for Women and Nina Ricci Permier Jour don't exactly tip the scales in her favor.
My guess is that Sophia Grojsman is credited because Parisienne trades on Paris not only thematically but by using enough of its formula to owe her royalties. There is the faintest ghost of Paris in there, but so dulled down, so muted that to credit Grojsman is somehow discrediting her. The notes of this so-called woody floral are said to be damask rose, violet, peony, patchouli, vetiver, and most intriguingly, "a vinyl accord evoking metal gloss and varnish." Interestingly (and this is practically the only interesting thing about the fragrance for me) Parisienne smells best from the bottle. Smelled from the atomizer, you get the vinyl accord, and it's as wonderfully strange as the copy makes it sound. The problem is that once you apply it to the skin or a testing strip, it becomes the failed prototype for Kylie Minogue's next assault on the mainstream fragrance-buying public.
There are things I like about Parisienne. It isn't horrible, just insipidly pleasant. Some floral, some wood, watered-down whiffs of unusual. It hides on the skin like it's scared to come out and play or has been pushed out on stage in only its underwear. It has zero projection, and even you can't smell it after a few minutes, without making a fool of yourself practically humping your wrist with your nose. It's nice. It's pretty. It bores the hell out of me. Some have expressed dismay at the tone of the Kate Moss advertisements. My guess is that the perfume, whatever it actually does in reality, is named to evoke the stylized debauchery of "La Vie Parisienne", the naughty pre-war French magazine and the equally controversial opera of the same name composed by Offenbach, which featured, among other entertainments, "trollops masquerading as society ladies" and the "frenetic, mad pursuit of fun and pleasure", all of which Moss seems to be channeling in the ads. The actual perfume, unfortunately, is a society lady masquerading as a society lady.
And don't even get me started on masculine releases. Givenchy Play is a joke, as everyone on the boards and blogs, from basenotes to Burr, is remarking. Givenchy Play Intense is the good cop in this scenario, but it too makes you work to love, let alone like it long time. A little Rochas Man, a little Lempicka au Masculin, some Bulgari Black. It comes out doing a snake-charmer's dance with anise, coffee and labdanum, each of which in its way is more over-exposed than even Justin Timberlake, the fragrance's spokesmodel. Like him, Play Intense wishes to be all things to all people. It sings, it dances, it has a sense of humor. It acts, doing a good impression of colognes I like better, then it slinks off the skin in search of God knows what. Maybe it goes looking for Parisienne. Good luck with that.
It probably doesn't take a rocket scientist, or even someone who plays one on TV, to know that YSL La Nuit de L'Homme is going to suck, and suck it does. It smells like everything all at once. It's doing everything it can to impress and please you, boring the shit out of you. The smell of it fills you with a profound despair. So this is what it's come to. I might as well end it all right here. If women think pink pepper is getting old, cross the aisle and walk a mile in my shoes. The terrain: cardamom, as far as the eye can see. To think I actually love cardamom. Every time I go back to L'Essence de Declaration I realize anew how wrong they're getting cardamom these days. Someone please throw that cardamom a life-raft of birch tar.
The question is, what are they getting right? Yesterday I took out my bottle of Organza Indecence. I couldn't believe how rich and gorgeous it was. More specifically, I couldn't believe I'd forgotten. But with so many snoozers on the market, more every day, it's a wonder I can remember liking perfume, ever, at all.
I'd love to hear what you've been disappointed in lately. It would help me feel less alone or, God forbid, misanthropic.