Beige is so much, really. "So good," as this certain someone would say. It's skin, for one thing; nude, pale, and fleshy, wandering around aimlessly in some of this some of that hues. Beige stands its ground in a terra incognita of ambiguity, comfortable withholding. It isn't declarative. Most declarations seem preemptively defensive: beige nestles in some vulnerable, unarmored space of ambivalence. To know and declare, to assert specificity, is a prized position culturally - to know and to classify is to hold some perceived, if not identifiable, advantage - and yet to me the idea that any position can be held with anything approaching certainty anymore seems increasingly fraudulent. Beige seems pretty complex, by comparison. Beige is actually kind of sexy in its quietly defiant reluctance. I'm talking beige as a concept, of course.
Narciso Rodriguez has been staking out this kind of skin so soft territory creatively ever since the release of his first eponymous fragrance in 2003. Created by Christine Nagel and Francis Kurkdjian, that scent was a study in musks, situating itself somewhere between carnal and clean. Musk is olfactory beige, maybe: a sexually insidious thing distinctly neither here nor there. Smelling the musky Narciso Rodriguez on someone you can sort of sense it without being able to pin it down. For a while, it hovered emphatically but somehow elusively wherever you went. Someone always seemed to be sweating it suggestively.
The pink bottle of the eau de parfum version is one of my favorites, and brought a lot of pleasure to my beige friend when I gifted him with one recently; all of the bottles since then have shared its flagship aesthetic of spilt milky solids encased in sturdy, streamlined glass, creating an interesting contrast - straightforward, legible exteriors harboring amorphous depths. Essence, released in 2009, pushed rose and aldehydes up to the surface of the template, startling the basic premise, but the musk was still there, pulsing around. That bottle was an erotic fun-house mirror, reflecting all your pinks back at you. Another favorite: Narciso Rodriguez for Him, a perverted old school fougere mashed up with sweaty wet concrete. All the scents of the line have been released in straight up musk versions, and for Him is the best of the lot. It was discontinued but can still be found online, and I'm told that the Extreme version, an eau de parfum concentration, is practically identical.
Narciso, the line's latest fragrance, infuses all those trademark skin musks with a lactonic gardenia. One Fragrantica reviewer commented that "it really makes [her] think of a perfume of pole dancers" but from twenty years ago. I'm not sure what she's getting at - yes or no to pole dancers? yes or no to their signature scents? - but Narciso does have a slight déjà vu quality, and not just in its relationship to the peachy suede tonalities of Daim Blonde and Bottega Veneta. Something in Narciso begs earlier comparisons, but in keeping with the rules of beige none of them come to mind. The bottle is beige squared, all buttery nudes; like the scent, it plays around with ideas of transparency and opacity. The fragrance feels cleanly sensuous, or pristinely skanky. It wavers back and forth in that like beige avoiding brown, and the way people who seem disappointed with it have described it online indicates it is entirely too classically inoffensive - not nearly enough or too much by far.
I guess you can have it both ways, but I can't say I'm interested, when either option feels lame these days. Strong fruity floral, weak fruity floral. Candied this or that. The pickings are slim no matter which end of the counter you swing to, so I'm not sure what Narciso is being held up to, or what exactly people are locating in its alleged alternatives. For me, Narciso proves that inoffensiveness itself can be wildly compelling - singing on the skin in a suggestive way. Suggesting what is the question. Everyone wants to know what the what is they're dealing with. Almost everyone: another online reviewer wrote: "It's got a mysterious calmness like a spiraling road going nowhere in the fog." That road goes on indefinitely on my skin. I'm a fan of whatever Narciso is doing.