A lot has been said about the By Kilian line’s ad copy and even more has been said about its pricing. The general consensus on both issues can be summarized with the word “Outrageous!”. The names of each individual perfume have also come under fire for being incongruent to the juice. While I respect the above opinions and indeed both understand where the critics are coming from and can share a little conspiratory giggle with them since some of their points are valid (in the instance of the ad copy for example), I have to say that for my part I am left feeling absolutely no resentment about any of this. In fact, I feel nothing at all. I’ve had the same approach towards the indeed outrageous namesakes of the Etat Libre d’Orange scents. Provocative? Yes. Funny? Yes. Offensive? No. I simply don’t feel anything. We perfume lovers keep banging on about perfume being art. Well art is not just the beautiful classics, but also the usually misunderstood for their time modern pieces, pieces with “offensive” context, subjects and yes, “offensive” names.
The names of the By Kilian fragrances might be seen by some as incongruent to the juice, but is this really something new or even something that we should really be getting our knickers in a twist about? Have we forgotten about Youth Dew? Not, youthful and certainly not dewy. And how about L’Interdit? No, it doesn’t really smell forbidden. And who knew that an Angel could smell quite so... demonic? No, perfume names that seem counterintuitive to their respective scents are nothing new. And neither are over the top ad copies for that matter. Being personally inclined towards a certain amount of lyricism in my writing, perhaps I am more forgiving than most in this respect. However, perfume should be evocative and poetic. It serves after all, no other purpose than to please the senses and to guide the imagination to the realm of fantasy. If the only reason we used scent were to mask unpleasant odors, we’d all be happy just using deodorant and be done with it. But no. We do crave luxury, we do want to be seduced and feel seducing. Why then do we expect the ad copy that accompanies such frivolous luxury goods to be no-nonsense and down to the point? I am as resistant as any of you when it comes to ridiculously named fantasy accords that boggle the mind, but this is not quite the same as using a few more adjectives or references in order to try to convey the feel of a perfume, or the inspiration behind its creation.
As for the prices, it all comes down to whether you like something enough to pay the amount that is asked for the item in question. What is an outrageous price for a perfume? That is a question that depends not only on the ingredients used but also on the bottle and the buyer in question. A bottle collector would be willing to pay a different price than a scent collector. Similarly, someone that is truly a slave to his or her sense of smell would be willing to pay a different price than someone that just loves having an extensive perfume wardrobe, just as someone who considers themselves a gourmet would be willing to pay more for a dinner than a simple bon vivant. For example, I personally find it strange that some people actually save up to eat a restaurant that has Michelin stars. Needless to say, I don’t have a particular desire to make a reservation at El Bulli; I just don’t love food that much, which is not to say that I don’t love food enough to be willing to pay something more reasonable to eat at an amazing Japanese restaurant once in a while. Conversely, the people that do, probably think I am insane for spending as much money as I do on perfume, shoes and bags. Lastly, as I recently mentioned on Robin’s wonderful blog, my own personal reaction (or lack thereof) in regards to the prices of the By Kilian line, is also directly related to what I have been prepared to pay for a perfume in the past. One of my absolute can’t-live-without perfumes is Narciso Rodriguez’ Musc Oil for Her, a gorgeous, unbelievably sexy fragrance that happens to be both synthetic and not terribly original smelling. (It is basically just a great version of classic Egyptian musc) The stuff costs 150 euro per 50ml and its ingredients are not that expensive. Was I willing to pay for it? Yes, I fell in love and never regretted it. In fact I will keep buying it every time I run out. I need to smell it! Having paid what I paid for this oil, the By Kilian line priced at 175 euro per 50ml with its expensive, luxurious ingredients (especially the case for some of the line’s fragrances like Beyond Love) did not seem that expensive by comparison. I am not trying to say that it is not expensive; I am just trying to explain that our expectations and perceptions are subject to previous experiences and change accordingly.
Images: Thought Bubble sourced from Flickr, originally uploaded by cherbonsy and adapted by author, “Fountaine” by Marcel Duchamp from wikipedia, and money pile from www.sxc.hu