Pierre Cardin fragrances are notoriously hard to come across, a fact that has led me to keep six backup bottles of Rose in my closet, just to ease my mind of the fear that I might one day have to do without. (A most unpleasant experience that has occurred in the past, leaving me craving it for years, like an addict) So, it will probably come as no surprise, that when I found myself in Paris, I wanted to visit one of the Pierre Cardin Boutiques on my first day already. Finally, I’d be able to smell all of the fragrances I’d been curious about for years – since the only ones I’d been familiar with thus far were Choc and Rose. The boutique itself was different than other houses I’d visited - darker, quieter, old-fashioned. It was immediately obvious that it is not geared towards a younger, modern clientele like the rest of the houses I have visited, but to a different type of customer: A more mature lady that will make an appointment for a fitting beforehand, or one that will pop in to add one more of the fabulous hats to her collection. If I didn’t know better, I might even think that this was a sign of stale decline – but the house is doing well. I decided to instead be charmed by the more traditional attitude and savor it, like gaining admittance to witness a piece of the past. (A little funny tidbit too: Once I’d made my request inside, that is, to be led to the collection of Cardin perfumes, I was immediately asked: “You want Rose, non?” I still ask myself whether it is immediately obvious that I am a Rose girl, or just that it is expected that the customer will ask for Rose, since even in their minds, it is the best of the lineup. Or perhaps I am being a romantic once again, and the plain fact is that Rose is the most well known female fragrance of the house. Regardless, seeing as I’ll never know, I like to flatter myself by thinking that I am strikingly, obviously, a Rose wearer.) Once before the rotating, peculiar stand that holds the fragrances I found myself excited by some - like the latest additions to the family, Tristan et Yseult- and disappointed by others, like poor Ophelia. I left the boutique quite happy with a bottle of Choc and a sample of Enigme.
Today, while remembering that beautiful sunny day, I am sampling Enigme for the second time. Enigme, released in 1992, debuted as the second male fragrance by the house, exactly 20 years after the release of Pierre Cardin pour Monsieur in 1972. I do not know exactly what the thought process behind the flacon was, but I find it slightly disturbing, as I do –albeit to a lesser extent- the flacon for Centaure. Even though Enigme is not unrefined, by today’s standards it does smell raw and savage. It is a bit as though its release was off the mark by some years, as in many ways it is reminiscent of a typical ‘80s fragrance: Big sillage, big statement, big ego, big everything. Even the fresh top notes seem to be announcing, nay, loudly declaring, the potent virility of the wearer. From the beginning already, this freshness finds itself struggling in a battle it is obviously going to lose from the imminent leather that is going to follow. For a while it manages to conceal its other great opponent, a cloying, yet somehow soft sweetness that is trying to emerge. Then it dies, perhaps for the better too, as I find that freshness is the last thing this fragrance was ever about. It seems to me as though it was always an after-thought, a well-known gimmick for male grooming products the world over. “Good riddance!”, the stronger elements of Enigme proclaim, and as though appeased due to the fact they no longer have to assert their presence over the briskness of their competitors, they too calm down, leaving behind part of their obnoxious character. I find the emerging clove alluring, but by that time I have already given up on this fragrance. ...Then an hour or two later, I lift my wrist to my nose instinctively, as one does when wearing a perfume they are not used to, and find, to my great surprise, something entirely different. Spicy, flowery, woody, softly sweet...it reminds me of an old friend. I don’t really have to think much about it, I know which favorite it has brought to mind almost immediately: Jacomo de Jacomo. I find new respect for Enigme. No, it is not as subtly nuanced as Jacomo, nor as unique. It is not as daring as Jacomo either, for where Jacomo dared to be vergining towards femininity, Enigme is still very much a man’s perfume without the shadow of a doubt. But its transformation is so shocking, I find myself delighted. If it was not so unabashedly retro-macho, I might even begin to like it. And on the right man I probably would. A graying, utterly confident dandy you can’t help but love. A raging heterosexual dandy, that is.
Images courtesy of: www.luggageonline.com and www.1stperfume.com