Monday, February 11, 2008

Let it Rock by Vivienne Westwood : Perfume Review

What’s in a name? Admittedly, a name like “Let it Rock” does not sound half as seductive as Libertine or Boudoir, but nevertheless, it is possibly the best name for a fragrance bearing the signature of British designer Vivienne Westwood. In fact, knowing some of the history behind it, instantly allows one to connect the scent with the images the name doubtlessly was meant to evoke. Our story goes back in 1971, when Vivienne together with partner Malcolm McLaren (manager of the notorious Sex Pistols as well as father to Westwood’s second son, Joe Corre) opened a little shop called Let it Rock on London’s King’s Road selling records and Rockabilly/Teddy Boy clothing. It was in that little boutique that Westwood first started selling her very own, rock-inspired, nonconformist garments. Later on, McLaren and Westwood moved the store a little further down the road and renamed it SEX, at the same time changing the direction of the clothes sold as well, moving on to provocative, fetish and bondage garments, largely made of leather and rubber. SEX had a large celebrity following, including perhaps most famously, the Sex Pistols. Needless to say, the clothes were not only worn by the members of groups in the Punk/Rock scene, but also by the wannabes and groupies. I recall reading many years ago in a Sex Pistols biography book, that the atmosphere in the shop itself was so sexually charged and the ultra-tight garments so provocative for their time, that many just visited the little boutique just for the few, stolen dirty moments they would garner in the dressing room alone, with their private fantasies and excitement provided by the clothes themselves... In June 1977, the Sex Pistols celebrated the launch of their most famous album, “God Save the Queen” on a boat trip down the Thames organized by Malcolm McLaren, openly mocking Queen Elizabeth’s similar trip down the river in celebration of her Silver Jubilee. The celebration ended when the boat was raided by the police. Exactly 30 years later, in June 2007, Vivienne Westwood celebrates the launch of her new fragrance, “Let it Rock”, aboard a boat on the Thames. Vogue deems the boat an unconventional venue...
And how does Vivienne herself feel about the name? According to her, it was her third husband, Andreas Kronthaler, who prompted her to christen the fragrance “Let it Rock”, since it was the name of the shop where it all started. And even though she, by her own admission, no longer has any interest in ‘that scene’, for her it still remains a period in her life filled with glamour...



My first impressions of Let it Rock were extremely favorable, I do, however, have to admit that what I experienced that day, was more likely the effect of Let it Rock layered with something else I must have been wearing. At least that is the only logical explanation I can give, for the impression that I get from the scent now that I have my own sample vial, is radically different from the impression I got then. Most strikingly, that original sampling led me to think that Let it Rock has an incense accord, when clearly (and sadly), it doesn’t. Fortunately though, my subsequent experience with this fragrance was not entirely anticlimactic. Even though I can’t say I like this one as much as the previous Vivienne Westwood fragrances, it is a good scent. The opening is very intense and packs a quite masculine punch. The rather generic citrusy freshness, most commonly associated with department store male scents to my nose, is soon softened up by a sweet, candied note. At this point, I cannot claim I am much enamored by the combination - as a matter of fact, my stomach protests quite the opposite. Soon, however, the scent quietly unfolds, revealing a more specific, mellower sweetness, smelling of sugared mandarin orange rinds. Just like the real rind of the fruit, the scent combines the fruity sweetness with a tart bitterness that takes you by surprise. The floral scent of freesias adds to the citrusy freshness and the darker, sweeter scent of violets lends depth. A dry, woody accord that is present throughout the scent’s development, antagonizes the sweetness and successfully manages to keep it from getting cloying. Even though the almost Mediterranean spirit of Let it Rock’s opening does not manage to impress me as much as I had originally hoped it would, what is really lovely and definitely worth waiting for, is its drydown: a heart of shy, clean patchouli wrapped in darkness. A deep ambery accord surrounds the patchouli, dark and beautiful, like a supple cloak that allows glimpses of it every so often, while the sweet scent of vanilla wafts from its folds, mingled with soft musk and gentle animalic undertones. The result is not only comforting, but interesting as well.

Images: Vintage Westwood t-shirts from the original Let it Rock boutique, www.vam.ac.uk
The SEX Boutique storefront, www.wikipedia.org
Chrissie Hynde, Vivienne Westwood and Jordan back in the day, www.punk77.co.uk
Vivienne Westwood shoes – image author's own, shot from the cover of “Shoes: A History From Sandals to Sneakers”.


14 comments:

Linda said...

Dear Divina,
Wonderful post! So interesting to read about early Westwood - and yes, I remember having Boudoir some years ago and enjoying its vanilla and faintly musky drydown. I LOVE Let It Rock: that candied note doesn't really last long, does it, and then the "real" fragrance appears. I think it's fun, exciting, and rather sexy...
It makes me smile! Thank you so much for the review,
Linda ;-)

Fragrantica said...

Dear Divina,

We love your articles! They are always fresh and with insight. Allow us please to promote little fragrance pool we are running at http://www.fragrantica.com/bestfragrance

Our aim is to find out what the opposite sex prefers. We think that this experiment is an interesting one and that the results might be very diverse, but let us see.

Pam Hoffman said...

Hi Divina!

I found your site very recently, coming from blogcatalog.

I'm wondering about something and maybe you've already addressed this as I haven't read every post yet.

I was very interested in perfumes at one point and I must stay away from them at the moment - my boyfriend has allergies!

Do you have any thoughts or advice on getting started in learning about or mixing perfumes?

It would be nice to find a good resource for that kind of thing.

Thank you very much,

Pam Hoffman
http://seminarlist.blogspot.com

Perfumeshrine said...

So Let it Rock isn't as exciting as her previous scents, although nice. I always liked Westwood: she actually had designing talent, not just ideas in general, if you have seen her sketches. Many of the famous designers cannot sketch too well!(LOL)

Perhaps we belong to a different generation, but I fondly remember the single of "God Save the Queen" (it had "Did you no wrong" as flip-side), which an older, more savvy schoolmate had in her collection of 45s and we used to borrow. I only managed to get the LP album that contained it, "Never Mind the Bollocks",much later on (I was going by pocket money, you see): I still have it in vinyl, among my other cherished records.

PinstripedZebra said...

I just love this article! Insightful, interesting and with great pictures, as always.

//Z

Anonymous said...

Totally loved reading all the background information. This was such fun! Love your blog :)

cu,

Christine

Mary said...

Amazing, totally cool post, love.

Divina said...

Dearest Linda, you are right - it doesn't take too long indeed for the 'real fragrance' to make its appearance. I immensely enjoy the drydown of Libertine, it is wonderfully comforting, discreet and sexy! Glad you are enjoying it as well :)

Divina said...

Thank you so much! I love your site too! I have been visiting for a while now but hadn't registered. I will register later tonight and take part in your very interesting poll :)

Divina said...

Pam thank you so much for your comment. I am most certainly no expert when it comes to the issue of blending and I am sure there are others better able to answer this question. To that end, may I suggest Jenny's yahoo group, perfume making? Here is the link: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/perfumemaking/ and you can find the address of her blog on that page too. (It is also in my favorite links bar on the right, "Perfume Making"). Another good resource page which also offers courses in perfume making and blending is Perfumers World. Here is the link: http://www.perfumersworld.com/

I hope this helps a little bit!

Divina said...

Hey Helg! I totally agree with you - I LOVE Westwood, not only for her talent but also for her daring. As for the Sex Pistols... Well, it is true that the band had already disbanded before I was even born, but I did go through a punk period in Highschool and I absolutely loved them! I used to listen to the Pistols, the Ramones, The Dead Kennedies, Abrasive Wheels... Heheh :) It is quite exciting for me to read that you also liked them... I would have never guessed that side of you!

Divina said...

Z, thank you so much! I loved finding & making the pictures! I especially enjoyed photoshopping the shoes in order to remove a quote by Manolo Blahnick that was on the cover! It is fun learning to use the program to make nice pictures for my blog. Wish I had more free time to really learn how to play with it. Maybe in the summer :)

Divina said...

Hey Christine! Thank you for the kind words! I very much enjoyed writing this... writing about all the connections in the past and how the story came full circle with the launch of this perfume. I've never been to London but I would SO love to go and visit the World's End boutique - it is the final incarnation of the Let it Rock shop.

Divina said...

Mary, thank you so much for visiting and commenting! *hugs*!