Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Overrated: I Smell Hypocrisy

I've been called splenetic before.  I won't lie.

I had to look it up, and when I understood what the word meant, I didn't entirely disagree.  This might lead you to believe that I'm a mean, nasty guy who keeps to myself.  And of course I might be--mean and nasty.  But the truth is, I love reading and talking to other bloggers.  I love reading the various fragrance boards.  I belong to a few of the more popular communities--and even a secret society or two.  I've made many friends there, believe it or not.  Every day I visit these sites and forums and do my share of reading.  Often it feels like I'm at these places all day.  The windows seem always to be open somewhere on my mental screen, and the discourse wafts in and out of my consciousness.  It's a matter of record that we all routinely disagree there.  Mostly, we agree to.  I love knowing that the fragrance I love might be disliked by someone else.  I like reading what gets other people talking, even when I don't have much to say about it myself.

So what gets my goat, exactly--and where's it getting from?  I can't say.  Overrated praise for the subjects below is simply "in the air", wafting in and out of the screens--not just on blogs but in forums, boards, fragrance site customer reviews.  I don't pay tons of attention to the source.  I just smell the general stench of something fishy after a while.  The last time I wrote satire or, um, rather...angular...commentary, it was as though I'd slain a bunny in a field of dandelions.  Surely there's room for creative dissent?  Judging from our site's stats for that post, there is, and people secretly love to hate a strongly phrased, technically unpopular, opinion, believing themselves superior to someone's verbalization of things they'd secretly like to say themselves.  I suppose in this case Duchaufour will be the bunny and again I have a sharp weapon in hand.  So be it.  I like a conversation, and I enjoy saying what it seems I'm not supposed to say.  Like any community, online or off, we have our heroes and villains.  I often want to illuminate the underdog and scrutinize the hero.  Collective heroes tend to baffle me.  What makes these people or things so great?  Who died and made them king?  And to what extent is our appreciation of them socially contagious?

Lately, several heroes and trends have continued to rub me the wrong way.  Don't take it too personally.

1. Bertrand Duchaufour.

Who else but BD could top this list?  Really, the way some bloggers gush about him, I sometimes think they must be sleeping with the guy.  What other perfumer has had this much to say the last several years?  Like Britney in the late nineties, Duchaufour seems to be everywhere all at once lately.  Every time you look up, another perfume is flying at you.  As they say on The Hills, "Random."  The Petite Mort project was embarrassing--something like Britney shaving her head late at night in some squalid tattoo parlor on the strip--some end point of over-saturation resulting in crazy.  I speak of Petite Mort using the past tense, because I wish it to go away.  Like every perfumer, BD has his hits and misses, but for someone as apparently well loved online as he seems to be, the ratio of hit to miss seems pretty skewed.  I've been so unimpressed with so many BD releases that I wonder what the hits might have smelled like had he focused a bit more.  Mind you, I'm no perfumer.  I just smell the stuff.

2. L'Artisan

Look, they've made some lovely scents.  Much of it smells fantastic--for all of ten minutes.  L'Artisan was one of the first niche perfume lines to hit my radar, and I admit, I'd smelled nothing like it.  However, of all the niche lines, L'Artisan is the least represented in my collection.  There are some problems, mainly to do with persistence.  Often, these feel like little sorbet things; it's as if they're meant to cleanse your palate, then poof, away they go.   L'Artisan seems to me to be incredibly chic and slightly contemptuous.  It mocks your need for longevity, as if expecting such a thing from an expensive fragrance were something so terribly declasse that only the truly, deeply stupid and poor would admit it.  I rarely hear a word in print about the line's woefully poor lasting power.

3. Jean Claude Ellena

Where to begin with Ellena?  The vegetal minimalism is fantastic, in doses, but as a few others have mentioned, the perfumer's style begins to feel somewhat provisional.  Celery mist a perfume rarely makes.  Funny, then, that as his compositions become sparer their prices scale new heights of pretension.  I appreciate the fact that Ellena advances minimalism in an art which is typically about excess and over-complication.  At the same time, coupled with the elitist marketing strategies and branding of his parent company, Hermes, what Ellena does ends up feeling like an advertisement for a parched, peckish way of life, dwelling in a rarefied air space where anorexia is exalted and deprivation in general is viewed as valorous.  If this is luxury, I'll have a burger and fries, thanks.

4. Sucky, So-Called Collaborations

The Petite Mort project is really the Saturday Night Live parody of a trend which is all over the niche fragrance industry lately.  Sad that it takes itself so seriously.

Meanwhile, Byredo's collaboration with the fashion entity M/M (M/Mink) was celebrated for its unusual end result--a fragrance which smelled like blood and animal hide.  What kills me about this, if I can go on a tangent, is that, until M/Mink, Byredo was criticized for not being cutting edge enough, as if Byredo wanted you to believe very desperately that it WAS in fact cutting edge.  I never heard anything from Byredo's marketing department which begged me to believe so.  The Byredo perfumes are 200 bucks for 100 ml.  This isn't terribly expensive compared to many other niche fragrances.  Kurkdjian's fragrances are 175 for 75 ml, to use as an example a perfumer and a line many seem willing to forgive anything and everything.  L'Artisan and others can release the most insipid fragrance imaginable, charging arm plus leg for it, and no one bats an eye.  It isn't as though Byredo is charging any more than any other niche scent, nor claiming to be any more fantastic.  In fact, their marketing has been very quiet--admirably understated, I would say.  They aren't making any claims any louder than any other supposedly staid niche line.  Now that they've come out with something relatively unwearable, everyone jumps to say they're finally doing it right, and the price is irrelevant.  It's as if Byredo finally figured out how to play the game--pander to a blogger's insufferable snobbery by creating a brief which means nothing and can be imagined to mean everything.

While I love Etat Libre D'Orange and realize that the Tilda Swinton fragrance, "Like This", is simply the next in a series of celebrity collaborations, the first being a perfume with Rossy de Palma (very good, by the way), I continue to be astonished at how lovingly people discuss the tasteful-to-the-point-of-banal Like This, and annoyed at how often their slobbery encomiums include a dismissal of everything PRE-Swinton at Etat.  Etat has, from the beginning, created playful, wearable fragrances based on imaginative ideas and collaborations, priced pretty affordably to boot. They rarely needed gimmicky briefs or collaborations because their overall enterprise was generously playful and wide open.  How odd that just when they become most boring (A Josephine Baker fragrance!  Sex Pistols in a bottle!  Available at Sephora!) they're seen to have arrived.

Every time I hear a blogger say, "I always disliked Etat, but Like This won me over," or something to that effect, I think of the snotty popular girl in high school who discovers the cool indie band when it appears on Letterman, six records into its career, playing its very worst, most TV-friendly song, and suddenly declares it's now okay to like them, because they're finally getting it "right".  Think of the hypocrisy.  Etat has never been forgiven by many of these same bloggers for releasing Secretions Magnifiques, years ago.  Strange that Byredo should be praised for a fragrance which hits many of the same notes--with just as much gusto.  And rather than admit that Etat was ahead of its time and that they might have been wrong about Byredo too, the popular girls simply say that finally these bands learned how to play good music.  Strange, too, that so many celebrity fragrances which are no less interesting and no more banal than Like This should be derided out of hand.

Collaborations like M/Mink, Petite Mort, and Like This, whether with a celebrity or cutting edge fashion entity, would be much more fascinating to me were the fragrances better and the inspiration more compelling.  As Dior perfumer Francois Demachy said recently, "Don't tell the marketing people but briefs are very similar to one another, always for the same kind of woman, the same kind of man.  Briefs are just a term of reference...You can do whatever you like."  So it is with these collaborations.  Ultimately they feel interchangeable with more mainstream releases--it's just that in this case, they're all aimed directly at that snobbish blogger and perfume lover who says only something different, even wretchedly bad, will do.  These aren't collaborations.  They're briefs; key words plain and simple.

5. Politeness

I don't mind an impolite fragrance.  I don't see a need to curse Estee Lauder for the rest of my days for daring to speak too loudly or too crudely or whatever it is her fragrances are accused of.  It really seems like snobbery to me.  The stinkiest, most irredeemably vile niche fragrance gets all kinds of kudos for the very same qualities, it often seems to me.  I'm really not too worried about my office mates.  I can't remember the time a fragrance, even one I disliked, bothered me enough to write an anonymous letter.  Why is it that a fragrance can smell like orgasm as long as it's done by a trendy perfumer, is priced outrageously, and smells like suggestion more than sex, while a fragrance which I can easily afford and which rolls my eyes back into my head with pleasure is just too much to bear?  I'd rather not talk about manners when it comes to fragrance.  It seems like just another way to avoid discussing what really matters; quality and creativity.


Angela Cox said...

I never found one of L'Artisan's creations that was more than a cologne , applied then wafts away. I never heard of Petit Morte so looked it up , I won't be bothering even if the entire in-crowd wears it . As for Estee Lauder , Brian if you like the fragrances wear them . I am not a perfume blogger and certainly as popular as a mild case of the pox . I sometimes wonder why I blog when there are pens and notebooks .That said I'd miss you so don't stop will you ?

Undina said...

I clicked on Reply because, even though I'm a nobody in the community yet and I didn't have much to add, I liked what I read and seeing no comments at all I felt bad and wanted to voice my support...

Well, I still like the article but I think that a cutting-edge topic and a pre-moderated discussion aren't compatible.

Abigail said...

Agree on every single count.

I see this sort of behavior - the snobbery, the pack mentality, the dismissing of anything that isn't at the center of the in crowd's attention and I feel as if I'm the only one seeing these situations over and over again. It's sad and pathetic. This behavior clearly happens in so many industries (art, theatre, music, fashion and so on) but in perfumery, it seems especially pathetic given that fragrance is innately personal. I prefer to stay off-center and actually have my own opinion. I avoid pack mentality. I was the kid in high school who thought it was really funny that the goths thought they were so subversive, different, scary and superior when they all looked exactly the same!!! Oh, the irony of that.

You forgot Bond No. 9, Miller Harris, Creed and many others who make nice perfumes but are pretty much across the board dismissed as mediocre or even bad by the perfume community at large.

L'Artisan, btw, is slowly being phased out at many major shops in the United States (Barney's is one). The line doesn't seem to be doing well anymore.

ScentScelf said...

It's hard to tussle when someone won't take a stance. And I think tussling is sometimes necessary for either sussing our just where one's opinion lies, or re-lies after examination.

I'd certainly never accuse you of not being able to Do the Tussle. Which means I thank you for all the ways in which you drawing your lines have helped me to clarify mine.

That said...eh, ease up on L'Artisan. It's gone in waves, right? Haven't they seemingly been universally dismissed in the past because they were "fleeting" and "unexciting"? It's the grand generalizations that cause sinking. Which, now that that has come up, is where I'd kind of like to poke at your complaint about ELd'O...I mean, your plaint sounds like the punk rocker pissed off because somebody decided they liked the music but not the attitude, or vice versa. Whatever. Honestly, if liking "Like This" is what brings somebody in the door, I'm not going to begrudge them that. We can't all be in the audience at the unknown hole in the wall the first night the band played. If "Like This" is the trick that shows someone that a nose-pierced "freak" is really a human being after all, well, fine.

I am chuckling along with the manners and context bit. I have to be careful, though, because I really don't wish to overdiscuss Le Petit Mort any more than I wish to beat myself up because I can't learn to enjoy smelling like a sweaty racehorse that peed on itself. As you seem to touch upon, I am not a fan of embracing a scent on principle or concept or backstory-- though I can understand the impulse to protectively encase one's predilections behind intellectual justifications. (Strikes me as a kind of cry of "Don't judge me! I have just cause!!") One wants to like what one does, and feel comfortable doing so. Yes, it seems particularly snotty to put forth the concept first, seemingly embracing the product itself only because of the "vision" behind it. But while I enjoy proclamations of "I love it because I like the way it smells, dammit," I'd be nearly as leery of the potential inversion of snobbery: Instant sensory satisfaction means the product is superior. I mean, some things that bring me to orgasmic heights are, upon inspection, rather pedestrian. And beating one's chest in favor of "the common [man/touch/smell]" is just reverse snobbery, isn't it?

(Not that you ultimately went there, but I grew afraid.)

Besides, we're always learning what we like, and why. Sometimes we try to figure it out with our noggin ends, sometimes with our nether ends. Hearts and brains and libidos...one can't really separate them now, can they?

Who should be king? I dunno. No one?

My problem is I'm ultimately a fan of the "I don't want to be a part of any club that will have me" credo. So I am prone to start chipping at definitive boxes once they appear.

Thanks for the tussle.

FruitDiet said...

God, I love you. As someone who has purchased Charlie, Ciara, Cachet, three Britney Spears perfumes, two Juicy Couture perfumes, and two Elizabeth Taylor perfumes in the last month I'm the furthest thing from the traditional perfume snob. My devotion to cheap scents goes so far that I actively AVOID something if it has a glowing critical reputation among boring people. Like This is soooooo annoying- though I do enjoy the irony that all the people who ordinarily laugh off celebrity scents are wearing one now exclusively because it has a "cool" celebrity attached. You can achieve the same smell much more affordably by purchasing a fall-themed "pumpkin spice" Glade plug-in or air freshener, so clearly they're paying for the name.

As for politeness, a fragrance has to be strong for me to even consider it. Like, really strong. I don't know why people even bother with perfume if they don't want to smell. I don't care to purchase anything so light that I have to be concerned whether my unscented deodorant is overpowering it. Jean Claude Ellena was kind of good before he started the minimalist thing- if I remember correctly he created RUMBA, which is soooo garish and tacky and loud. If only he'd do more things like that instead of cutesy expensive classy rich people things for those afraid of smelling "overpowering".


Ines said...

You spoilsport! Why can't we take you personally?! Isn't it normal to criticize other people for having a different opinion?
(I couldn't help it) :)

Honestly, I'm firmly in the Duchafour camp. I don't love everything he does, but I smelled many of his creations before I knew they were his and in my case, I learned the other way I loved his work.
Which is not true with JC Ellena. I can appreciate why other people like his work but it doesn't speak to me. At all.
Btw, I am one of those people who get called very polite and diplomatic but how I love dirty perfumes. So much so that many of them don't even register as dirty (I am actually such a wicked girl inside). ;)

Basic line is - I value your opinion very much (and that of other bloggers out there) and enjoy these posts of yours very much.
Especially as I'm too polite to ever have the courage to write them.

Brian said...

Do people adjust the conversation about L'Artisan, Scent? Does it go through stages or flux? I've never noticed. Maybe it's just this spate of Duchaufour fragrances of late through L'Artisan that makes me resist. Dunno. L'Artisan seems to get more love than like or dislike, and while I don't advocate disliking them, I do find them lacking in any number of ways. I expect more out of even the average drugstore fragrance, frankly, and at a fraction of the cost.

As for the band thing, maybe it's just a poor analogy. Naturally there's no right or wrong time to find your way to something good. That said, it wasn't really my point that they'd discovered them late, but that they deem all the earlier stuff as failure. That's what gets to me about Byredo and Etat. I mean, really? They're no different than L'Artisan, certainly, in the sense that some are good, some poor, some very good, some rushed and mediocre. I do get very tired of the endless Etat knocking, and the need to say, "I Like Like This, but really everything else they've done is just so...meh." It's a different kind of argument I'm making I think than simply an aging punk's lament about the good old days, you know?

That said, the problem with a rant is that it always or often starts to sound a lot like what it objects to. Oh well.

I still think we should all find a resort to visit and swap and set up the perfume shop like you suggested last night. Imagine the intrigue.

Brian said...

Ines, convert me. Tell me what you love about him?

Brian said...

Angela, if you're the pox I'll always want some.

Undina, thanks for chiming in. Pre moderated it's going to have to be, unfortunately. For a long time we weren't moderated. I'm all for free speech, and I've always posted comments which don't agree with me. I'm not so crazy about personal attacks from anonymous "people" and erectile dysfunction spam, however. There aren't a ton of crazy people out there, but one or two are enough, and I choose not to indulge them when possible.

Brian said...

Fruit diet, I If only we'd know each other my whole life--except that you weren't even a speck in the universe the first twenty years of my life. I like to think I conjured you from the abyss.

ScentScelf said...

No, you're right...your emphasis with ELd'O was clearly with how folks would champion "Like This" while dismissing earlier stuff. I twisted it to suit the band thing...but I think there is overlap there. I do think it is possible that that which had previously seemed--indeed, perhaps was--inaccessible suddenly had something "accessible" to offer. There's a whole other thing to consider when it comes to how previous ELd'O's were "positioned"--but that's going to lead to more blather. (From me. I blather. You are pointed.)

So...yes, you weren't presenting as an aging punk. As I said, you didn't go there. But it felt like things could veer that way, so I pushed back.

A resort where perfume people come for a vacation and stock a little shop themselves...yes, the joy. The intrigue. The television show about it all I would happily produce and watch...and would probably have to do both, since who else would do either? ;)

Ines said...

Brian, can you be converted? ;)

I love how Timbuktu clears my head and lets me think clearly, I love that Paestum Rose surprises me each time I smell it on me or on my boyfriend by smelling rosey and strange, not easy to say straight away you like it but more, you're drawn to it and can't help liking it even though there is a strange discord happening.
I love that Amaranthine never smells the same to me, each time I wear it (last time some strange milky thing started happening which never happened before and made me wonder why actually did I think I like it). Mure et Musc extrait leaves me speechless and wondering why I thought I didn't like musk.
Ok, so I haven't tried the latest releases (even though I did my best to get to them) but I can say I had a serious averse reaction to Havana Vanille which almost never happens. And you know, love and hate are close friends.

The way I see it, some perfumers out there just speak more to me than others, even though I'm not going to like all of their stuff - I love what Dawn SH, O. Giacobetti, Mona di Orio (although it took me a long time to get her), L. Ericksson, P. Guillaume create, but again, not everything. But since I like enough of their perfumes already, I'm more inclined to look optimistically at their new creations and consider them good.

And maybe I have a soft spot for L'Artisan as they were my first niche brand and I still love Ananas Fizz and Vanilia.

Brian said...

Yes, Scent! A TV show. OMG! What if we got together ten bloggers and put them all in a house together for two months and filmed them and they all had to wear each others' perfume!? Actually, I think we would all get along. I'm more bark than bite. It would be fun to film the conversations, I think, no?

You're probably right, about Etat. And I am an aging punk in a way, so there's definitely that rancor. Grrrr.

Brian said...

Weird, Ines, I like the ones you mention, except for Vanille. I wore Amaranthine today actually, and love it for its milkiness. It has like Storer's Monk a great lactonic thing I like. Paestum Rose I appreciate but don't really...sense. As with Timbuktu. And I see your point about liking people who bring you pleasure even once or twice. I feel that way about many perfumers. I suppose I just feel a weird over hyped embrace of BD lately that really rubs me the wrong way.

Fernando said...

Interesting. The only L'Artisan I use is Timbuktu, and it has never semmed either light or short-lived on me. In fact, it seems to last a long time, coming back unexpectedly throughout the day. Is it just that I spray with abandon?

My wife uses both Vanilia and Nuits de Tubereuse, and they last a long time on her as well. So it seems weird that they don't last on you. Chemistry?

I'm with you on Ellena, on the other hand. And Lauder. I like loud!

Jeannine 520 said...

I agree with you for the most part but I'd like to swap out the L'artisan on your list with Serge Lutens. I get more compliments on L'Artisan fragrances than any other and I think Serge gets far more credit than his scents warrent.

Old Money Savoir Faire said...

God this is all such good writing around here for such young people. It's difficult to be totally closed-minded when things are so well worded... I seriously wonder if there isn't some correlation between brainpower - or life balance - and epicures of olfaction. Personally, my 'nose' is easily bewildered by expert wine tasters in particular!

RM said...

Gee Brlan, why can't everyone just like what YOU like?

(Ok, I'm kidding but I stil kind of mean it! Is that what people refer to as passive aggressive behavior? Lol)

Brian said...

RM, I ask myself that every day. I'm kidding but I still kind of mean it.

Seriously though. I kind of mean it.

Rule is an illusion. A cat can smile at a king.

Brian said...

Jeanine, I will swap you Serge Lutens for L'Artisan. I forget about Lutens. It takes some will power but I make it happen. All the gushing breaks me out in hives.

Brian said...

Fernando, I've heard good things about the lasting power of Timbuktu and Nuits. That wasn't my experience, but I've heard good things. Let's say I haven't heard bad things. The last L'Artisan I test drove was Al Oudh (Bertrand, again; a virtual revisitation of Sienne L'Hiver), and while I could smell faint little whiffs of things on my skin for a few hours, I should emphasize that they were faint and they were little. And it required a lot more imagination on my part than I think something that expensive should. I kind of figure they should be providing that part.

Brian said...

Ok, RM and Fernando. Weird. I looked up other posts we've done on Byredo, and this time last year, all three of us had another conversation, the last time I got all riled up, all hot and bothered around the issue of Byredo and hype and reverse discrimination! It's like some cycle thing with the three of us. Same time next year!

RM said...

LMAO! Brian - you're right!
And I very much had last year's post on my mind as I read and replied to this recent one - maybe in some warped way I was replying to both.
And as much as I love these rant-y posts of yours, I have to admit, part of me rolled my eyes and said, "OK, here we go again..."

Fernando said...

True! I guess your L'Artisan problem fascinates me...

My example of "overpriced for what it delivers" has always been the Kilians. Goshwowboyohboy, why do they need to cost that much? A lot of them just smell ultra-sweet to me. I'd rather get my wife something from Ineke or Lauder or (what the heck) Chanel...

Brian said...

Fernando, By Kilian is another one. At the same time, I hear less gushing praise about Kilian, so I tend to pretty easily disregard them.

What about Amouage? How do you feel about them? Funny but they're one of the highly priced lines that I just tend to not give too much flack, along with probably MDCI, even though their pricing is sky high too.

What was the last thing you bought your wife, just out of curiosity? Is it hard to buy for her/someone else? Hit and miss?

Brian said...

RM, how DARE you roll your eyes at me. I'm going to write a rant about it.

RM said...

Lol - Please do! Even now as I write this I'm already composing witty rejoinders in my mind in response to your future rant upon the topic of your past rants!

Brian said...

I am ranting as we speak! Oh the ranting I will do. You have never seen such ranting.

queen_cupcake said...

I'm just catching up on your lovely rant, Brian! I will defend Timbuktu only because I love it and it seems to last a very long time on me, not because BD made it up.

"Slobbering encomiums" Ha! Mind if I borrow that one? It may come in handy some day.

Who is King? Well, to quote one of my favorite films, "he's the one who doesn't have sh*t all over him." Maybe they take turns in Perfumeland.

Brian said...

Hey Queen! I've missed you. How's things?

Okay, I'm officially going to give Timbuktu a real running chance. Maybe it's the Coromandel of L'Artisan? (i.e. it lasts exceptionally well for the line). Maybe I'll never get over the bitter disappointment of getting Voleur de Roses in the mail; I sprayed it on and it seemed to vanish before I could get my nose to my wrist.

I could just be bitter period. I really don't know!

RM said...

Ooh, ooh, I love quizes! Um, I go with 'bitter!'

Ok, ok, I'll stop now.

Brian said...

Funny, RM, you're starting to sound like me. Dog gnawing on a bone much?

RM said...

I know, my apologies Brian. I've definitely 'jumped the shark' on this one, but I just couldn't resist one more playful dig.
Of course you're not bitter, you're merely expressing your point of view - which in many parts I agree with anyway.
Very much looking forward to the next one!

Brian said...

Deep in my heart it is all puppy dog tails, warm fuzzies, dappled late afternoon sunlight, and daisies, RM. I assure you. I am just one big daisy chain.

queen_cupcake said...

Brian, I love the rants; don't ever change! Glad I didn't miss this one, though I've not been reading as much as usual--work has got me a little crazy lately. PM me if you want a decant of Timbuktu. XOX

Zanne said...

Shreddin' post 'n comment thread man! Damn. I'm all out of breath. ha (Glad Abigail gave a hollah to Miller Harris with whom I'm presently in Mad Love over Fleurs de Sel & Figue Amere). :)

Unknown said...

Brian - First, may I say that you are a lovely writer? You are.

Moving on...you seem to have your finger on a pulse that I can't even find even though I visit several blogs every day. I had no idea people were loving Byredo now that they did M/MINK. Tried it myself...not so much. I did get the sense that people were loving Like This, and really tried to like, but...not so much. The difference here is that because I was aware that so many people liked Like This - I TRIED TO LIKE IT. It's like being shamed into something. I will no longer allow myself to be ashamed for not getting a well loved perfume (Like This, Nuit de Tubereuse, Traversee du Bosphore, come to mind). Nor will I be shamed for loving Mechant Loup or Safran Troublant.

Thanks for liberating me. I feel like Egypt!

Brian said...

Heya, Lang. Thanks for the compliment. I suppose I've paid attention to Byredo's reception because of my admiration for a few of their earlier fragrances which got strong negative reaction, particularly Pulp, which was often compared to a Yankee Candle or industrial strength shampoo. I love Pulp and wore it yesterday, and as often happens someone did flips over it, commenting on the smell.

Last year I liked Baudelaire very much, too, and was intrigued by the bad reviews it got. It wasn't just that people were less than enthused but that they seemed slightly angry at Byredo, as if Byredo were scamming them by putting out a fragrance which...what?...smelled like something else they'd smelled before, or many things--or not quite alarming enough, or expensive enough? I'm not saying they're the bomb. They're hardly Pol Pot, either. It fascinates me partly because much of what Lutens, for instance, puts out, or Duchaufour does, seems very similar to me, and is praised as if it were just the most groundbreaking thing ever.

Here are things I read online about M/Mink:

"After 2 very bad previous launches, where the notion of perfumery + quality were washed out in a repulsive chemical freshness, M / MINK by Byredo took me like a storm."

"I’m happy to see Byredo move in this direction. I really haven’t been thrilled with much they’ve done in the last 4 outings or so. They seem to give off the appearance of being on the bleeding edge of haute perfumerie, but not a lot that is very bloody, which is something that’s necessary to be considered "edgy."

"This is the first Byredo fragrance that seemed interesting to me. I cannot understand Byredo outfit, they to sell designer fragrances for niche prices. Their Chembur is a typical insense masculine fragrance, Baudelaire is a spiced tobacco thing that you could find for half the price, Blanche has a soapy-pear aroma which is disgusting and Pulp seems to be made for a fancy hair conditioner.
M/Mink stand out in their lazy fragrance collection..."

Brian said...

In short, I suspect it's politically safe to slam Byredo. Because many many respectable people favor Lutens, L'Artisan, Duchaufour, et al. If you say something bad about those, you risk not being taken seriously or losing access through some imagined gate into cultural authenticity. No one champions Byredo, so it's easier to show your "critical chops" by ripping them to pieces.

Unknown said...

Wanna talk about Malle??

Zanne said...

Now that I'm informed on L'Artisan worship, here's the perfect place to commit sacrilege. Tried my first and only intro to this line last night - twice - Fleur de Narcisse, Limited Edition - and Tried, Oh TRIED to channel an exclusive prance through exclusive French volcanic wildflowers, but oh, .. CATNIP. All I get is Catnip. A swell enough scent of Catnip. I will NOT conclude that my nose is a doesn't-know-any-better peasant!

Nina Zolotow said...

I’m always excited when there’s a new post from you, B, not just because I love your writing, but because I never know what it’s going to be: a short story masquerading as a perfume review, a review of an overlooked gem of a discontinued fragrance (which I immediately want to try and/or buy), an offbeat mainstream choice, or a contrarian’s rant. But when I read what you wrote about L’Artisan, I was, like, “What, huh?” Because I love Saffran Troublant (and which a certain someone finds very sexy on me) and Tea for Two, which not only smell great on me but which last just as long as most other fragrances I have. And I have given your favorite Bonds a try, and found them somewhat harsh and synthetic on me. Different skin? Different smell receptors? Different taste? So while I agree that there do seem to be trends toward loving and/or hating certain lines and certain noses (and some bloggers who are so enthusiastic about everything it seems a bit suspicious), maybe it’s not all hypocrisy. I’ve got no agenda at all except the same one you do: “a fragrance which I can easily afford and which rolls my eyes back into my head with pleasure.”

Brian said...

Hi Nina, it's great to hear from you again. You know, it is chemistry. It is. And I think you get into trouble using specific examples. Because those things are ultimately highly subjective, personal things, and can feel unfairly singled out. At the same time, when talking about how things can be overrated and how that process works, you need illustrations, and for me there are several lines which always feel emblematic of the phenomenon--good and bad--of favoritism, for lack of a better word. L'Artisan is one. People genuinely love them, and I don't mean to suggest they aren't worthy of praise. Who am I, anyway? Still, they're a useful point of conversation because, for me at least, they've been disappointing as often as not, and there are other lines, like Etat Libre D'Orange, which are admirable in intent and effort and just get so much weird hate and dismissal.

I certainly don't intend to make anyone feel stupid for liking what they like. That's not really my thing. It's more about looking at the way people group around certain things for me I guess. And getting tired of a certain kind of angle or slant. As noted in these comments, my own insistence on certain lines of thought becomes its own incessant angle as well. So it's...um...yeah...

greenlily61 said...

I got a free bottle of Like This in a goody bag - everyone was raving but I found it so boring I fell asleep halfway through my first sniff. I ended up swappping it away for the unsniffed Rossy De Palma's Eau Protection, which I absolutely adore. Anyway, loved your post...

Pimpinett said...

Oh, yes. I'm a little bothered by how correct and unassailable it is to slam everything new under the sun, praise every older formulation of any given fragrance to the skies and be condescending about young people and their horrid taste in fragrance.

Now, I love vintage, too; I pay good money for old fragrances too, I dream of that once-in-a-lifetime find too, but I find the notion that old = good and new = bad suspect, to say the least, and the constant hankering after "original" this and that just bugs me. It seems like sloppy thinking to me. I cannot accept the notion that all reformulations have to be bad and all new mainstream releases have to be dreck, because the general public lost it's taste in the late 80's.

I genuinely love M/Mink, though. That one was a case of instant love, badly, to the point where I'm considering a back-up in case it doesn't sell. Although I like Baudelaire - am I the only one to find it seriously animalic? - and Bal d'Afrique too, and Byredo as a house has never bugged me. I find them on the expensive side, but not ridiculously so - where I am they're in the same price range as Lutens.