Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ahh, the smell of it! Calvin Klein Obsession

Calvin Klein Obsession for Women launched in 1985 when I was 14 years old.  I remember how profoundly the Calvin Klein brand permeated 80’s culture.  I remember the scandalous Brooke Shield’s jean commercials followed by the oddly androgynous and creepy child-porn Obsession perfume commercials.  I never wore Obsession when I was a teenager.  I was fixated on florals and florientals.  It probably wasn’t until I dove headfirst into my perfume habit in the very late 1990s (around 1999 I’d guess) when I first purchased and wore Obsession. 

Lately I’ve been obsessed with Obsession (so sorry, I had to!).  I’ve worn it a total of maybe 10 times since 1999 but all of a sudden over the past month I’ve worn if for days on end and I’m so impressed with it.  It’s possible this new-found love for Obsession has something to do with the lack of good mainstream releases.  When I compare Obsession with most celebrity scents and the latest stuff from CK, Gucci, Dior, Givenchy…well…pretty much EVERYTHING at Sephora (and almost everything which is a current bestseller) I come away thinking that Obsession is pretty fucking amazing.  Obsession is a classic oriental.  Truly classic.  It’s also sublimely dry and unisex.  It’s really a shame that Obsession is considered by many to be a “big over-the-top 80’s powerhouse” because I find it to be quite understated when not over-applied.  Obsession isn’t anywhere near as sweet or powerful as most current bestsellers at Sephora such as Flowerbomb, Prada, Pink Sugar, Juicy Couture, Lolita Lempicka, Ralph Lauren Romance, Dior Miss Dior Cherie and so on.  Maybe I’m just getting old and cranky (entirely possible!) but to disregard Obsession as dated or “too potent” seems short-sighted and inaccurate (or is the reformulated Obsession I now have drastically lighter?).

Recently I realized I can’t wear Shalimar but that doesn’t mean I don’t still love the idea of it.  Orientals are one of my most favorite fragrance types and I especially like dry, spicy, ambery-incense type Orientals.  Obsession is all this and more.  It begins with the Shalimar-type citrus burst, which might be off-putting to those who don’t admire this sort of oriental.  The vanilla and amber in Obsession are very close to the manner in which these notes are presented in Shalimar.  This is not foodie vanilla. Obsession isn’t too-sweet and doesn’t have those jarringly synthetic musks like virtually everything launched since the early 2000s.  This is a warm, spicy, ambery oriental that melds with your own personal chemistry especially in the dry down. 

Vastly underrated, truly unisex, Obsession blooms then mellows into a spicy Oriental which is classic but still effortless.  Obsession becomes me as opposed to the fragrance “wearing me.”  

For those around my age or older, here’s a fun blast from the past (Ahh, the smell of it!)

Pretty creepy, no?!

Here's a newer commercial, I think this dates from 2001, Benicio del Toro and Heather Graham look so young!

 I wonder when perfumes stop being considered "dated" and instead become enduring classics?  Do you think Obsession is or will ever become a classic (be honest, I have thick skin)?  Is Obsession already a classic?  Do you think Coco by Chanel has made it into classic territory or is considered by most to be dated or in the dreaded "old lady" category?  I'm just curious...


Olfacta said...

I was at a Sephora the other day buying makeup. I only had a few minutes and didn't even go near the fragrances. Pretty sad commentary, I'd say, when even in the years before I started blogging I would have gone straight to them. All the mainstream stuff just seems like such dreck now.

Coco is a classic, I think. It's changed a lot since its first release, though. Obsession might not quite be there as it still has unfortunate associations with the gaudier aspects of the 80's. I might have a sample around here somewhere...

Tania said...

Obsession is a classic in my book. That book says if it's been around for years and I can instantly recognise it, it's a classic!
Yes, I'm fully aware that applies to Charlie, too. What? :-)

Original Coco might push the 'old lady' button, on them what's got one of those (not me). But the new version, not so much. Which is why I don't like it.

Anonymous said...

And here I was congratulating myself that I never get bludgeoned by Obsession anymore, and maybe that means it's on its way out...

HATE the stuff. Hatehatehate. (Sorry to fling haterade all over your new-found darling, because I heart you!) I don't mind Shalimar - and I love vtg Emeraude - but Opium, Youth Dew, and Obsession are among my most-hated ever. There's just something in there (a balsam? opoponax? ??? can't place it) that I cannot bear.

Obsession was, like Poison, ubiquitous during my college years. You couldn't go anywhere without being bludgeoned by it, which probably has something to do with my hatred.

I smelled it again last year, just to see if my tastes had broadened (I don't hate Poison anymore) - and it is indeed much much thinner... but I still hate it.

I don't know whether it's a classic, but I vote for "I hope not." You could be right, there's so little that's new or even interesting in the mainstream - and those ads were absolutely iconic (which reminds me, have you see the ad for Snooki's perfume, which is something like a takeoff of those classic Obsession ads? funny!).

Elisa said...

I must admit I'm not at all familiar with Obsession. I have a friend who wears it, but she lives in Alabama so I don't have the pleasure of smelling it on her. She says it smells great on her and people don't recognize it.

Abigail, are you familiar with Youth Dew Amber Nude? I've been wearing it lately and it strikes me as pretty dry for an amber/oriental.

Abigail said...

Sephora absolutely sucks beyond recognition now. Didn't it seem like they used to have more fragrance (and less crappy makeup) about 5 years ago?

Yes, I guess Charlie gets a nod with that liberal definition of classic. I'm glad you like it. I like Coco, too, but would wear Obsession in a would take some thought for me to pull out Coco...not sure why

Oh, well! I totally understand that. There are many things I hate from being around others who overused (Giorgio I'm looking at you). Glad you've come around with Poison. That's probably because it's got a lot to do with tuberose... :)

Now why do you have to go an make me feel a little ashamed...because I don't like Youth Dew or Amber Nude! And, in theory I should be crazy for Amber Nude. There's a note in both that makes me recoil. I was wearing PdN Vanilla Tonka and there's a similar note in that. What I like about Obsession is that it becomes sheer and easy once it dries down (this is probably due to the reformulation, as Tania says above it's a lot thinner now). I can't wear Shalimar, Opium or Emeraude (though I love the idea of all of these) and the Youth Dews fall into this "can't wear" category, too.
Sheesh, it surprising I actually like the reform of Obsession, but that's because I wasn't familiar enough with the original.
Anyway, you should try Obsession, E. You might <3 it (but definitely apply lightly and make final decision after 3 hours or so) :0)

Elisa said...

A, I was going to send you some Jolie Madame, wasn't I? I could trade you for a sample of Obsession! I don't have your current mailing address though.

I don't like Shalimar, Emeraude or original Youth Dew either! Amber Nude feels really sheer to me, almost like an osmanthus fragrance. I got some in a swap, maybe they sent me the wrong thing!

Abigail said...

Hi E,
I'd love some of your vintage Jolie Madame. I'm crazy for the current Jolie Madame so I'll surely flip for vintage.
I'm excited to send you a big decant of Obsession (with fingers crossed you might go for it!). If you like it, full bottles are dirt cheap online and the bottle is kindof cool itself. Makes me think of those L'Eggs egg shaped nylons packages from the 80's, too --- anyway, I'll email you.

Brian said...

I love Obsession. I agree the newer version is a little thinner - though I'd take it in a pinch. I have a slightly older bottle and a much older bottle and they're basically more resonant. I found out recently that the way to tell an older bottle (aside from the original squat bottles) is that they have a gold band on the cap, like in the picture you included. Obession gets knocked for being too strong but it's pretty mellow on me, just right actually.

Zanne said...

This is just a Hot Post! A balls-to-the-wall Kickass piece of writing! Being an 80's kid, I'm all over the subject, but I'm high-fiving the Way you wrote about it even more. :)


(p.s. Thought about you the other day when I broke my 'rules' and broke out the Pomegranite Noir Before January - recalled how you said it's one of your Christmas faves - damn, but I smell extra excellent even earlier) :)

Elisa said...

Yes, email me! I have plenty to spare and I'd love to try Obsession.

Abigail said...

I figured you'd like it, too, considering we have pretty similar taste. Do you like both the women's & men's versions?
Like you, I think it's rather mellow and tame but this must be the "reform talking."
Do you know... are those squat bottles in the commercials the pure parfum? I've only seen the egg shaped one's. If there is pure parfum it might be killah good.

Aww, you are too sweet to me :)
I swear, I was just thinking it was nearly time to break out Joey's Pom Noir! (In my head I always nickname her Joey Malone! like she's a gangsta or something) I truly crave that stuff this time of year. I think I'll wear it tonight.

Bailey Walker said...

I worked in a fragrance oils shop for a few years and we had scents that mimicked the big brands and for research i'd go into department store to smell its counterpart. I always found myself going back to the "outdated...old lady" scents and wondering the draw to them. Obsession wasn't one of these. I didn't love it on myself but it was just a nice statement scent to me and it seems like a fragrance that really wears well if you're not me.

I'm a younger readers and don't comment very often but i love your blog and I love the Oriental/Spicy fragrance family, my favorite is Tresor by Lancome

Katy McReynolds said...

I was trapped in the car with my Mom when she had applied too much Obsession. This probably would have been in the mid 1980s. Ironically, I am sure I was drenched in Poison. We were on our way to our favorite little French restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island. I did not say anything to her, but the memory of this otherwise pleasant evening is tainted with Obsession! You are a lover, as am I, of Encre Noire, Aromatic Elixirs, Habanita, very distinctive, not shy, fragrances. I am now curious to give Obsession a try again, just sparingly!

Anonymous said...

I stopped wearing it in the early 90s - my first bottle (when I was 16 or so) I went through in high school, and my second, purchased during my first year of college, never smelled right to me. It had a heaviness I never felt in the beginning. My first experience with reformulation, I think.

I would never get RID of it, but I haven't worn in in ages. I don't find it as dry as say - YSL Nu or even Oriental Lounge (which I am wearing right now and find increasingly charming, though I wish the delightful opening carried through)

Anonymous said...

I love Coco...definately a classic.

I like most Chanel perfumes, and even though everyone seems to not like Chanel #19 Poudre, I like it a lot. My boyfriend bought me a huge bottle of it, and it is lovely, it just does not last as long as I would like, so I put some in a little spray bottle & reapply.

Bryan said...

I like the masculine version, although it's a little on the strong side for me (I still have the original formulation in the 4 oz splash bottle). Very soapy and a little "churchy" but good stuff nevertheless. Now having read your post, I want to try the original.

Bryan Ross said...

Right, so I tried the original. Agree that it's utterly unisex and miles better than the dreck they put out nowadays. Really though I get a bit of a green grassy component off the top of this scent, which seems at odds with most of the press on it. Eventually it mellows into a spicy oriental, but the top is mystifying, in a good way. Brilliant stuff.

Abigail said...


Glad you like it. It's just so damn classically good.

deni-kirkova said...

I'm 22 and I just bought my first bottle of Obsession. Eva Mendes sold it to me. Just one spray is enough to last all night, which I find so unusual in the other fragrances I own (RL Romance, Miss Dior Cherie...)
Fantastic piece of writing, I was looking on the net for something just like this.
Thank you!

deni-kirkova said...

Oops Eva did Secret Obsession... what's the difference?