Friday, August 29, 2008

Evening Edged in Gold by Ineke : Perfume Review

After having already spent almost a decade in Europe, residing and working in England, The Netherlands and France, the Canadian-born Ineke Rühland’s heart found its true calling in Versailles, where she trained at IPSICA to become a professional nose. Currently, Ineke lives and works in beautiful San Francisco, creating her Abécédaire, the alphabet of perfumes. After A, B, C and D, the alphabetical collection’s most recent addition is, of course, the letter E, in the form of the absolutely stunning Evening Edged in Gold.

Few perfumes manage to inspire me already from the first sniff, most actually inviting introspection and careful consideration along with inarticulate murmurs of appreciation rather than coherent speech, but Evening Edged in Gold delivered its beautiful message with such lucidity that I found myself instantly describing it, singing its praises, to the nearest available ear – a stunned salesgirl. Today, hopefully with less crazed urgency, but certainly with just as much passion, I wish to describe its beauty to you.

The opening is heartbreakingly gorgeous, the fragrant osmanthus besieging heart and senses alike with its beauteous accents of fresh apricots and jammy plums with unparalleled erotic intensity, until they can but succumb. The fruity aspect is deep, dark and slightly abstract in nature, like the scent one would find upon opening an antique wooden cupboard used for keeping fruity liqueurs and preserves. Soon, the mellifluous intensity of the fruits recedes, giving way to creamy, exotic floral notes tinged with a mild cinnamon scent and rounded with the earthy, spicy yet sweet aroma of saffron. And although I hardly need any more coaxing to fall in love with this scent, seeing as I am already in its thrall, what comes next truly seals the deal: a beautiful, ever so slightly bitter note of suede leather starts rising from the skin, buttery soft and subtle, with absolutely no inclination towards aggressiveness. The inclusion of this note reveals the genius of this fragrance: In a perfume so romantic, so chic and sophisticated, so wistful of an erotic ideal under the twinkling of the stars and the sweetly yellow light of the moon, in creeps the very unorthodox scent of leather, seemingly uninvited. But you will have to believe me when I tell you it works like magic! Instead of drawing attention to itself or the perfume, it brings all the attention back to the wearer, for it magically emulates the feel of the skin itself, tricking the mind, breaking the boundaries between the perfume and the body’s own skin-scent. The result? Beautiful depth and a certain muskiness that create the illusion that the soft fragrance is being exuded by the wearer herself. To me, this translates as the feeling of owning the perfume, making it mine, instead of it wearing me. These feelings, as peculiar as they sound, are echoed in SweetDiva’s blog as well, making it clear that Evening Edged in Gold weaves a particular kind of magic...

Ineke Fragrances are available for purchase on the official website and perfumistas located in Belgium and the Netherlands can find a comprehensive list of points of sale near them on the International Brand Services website.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Announcement: Winner Cardin de Cardin Sample

The winner of last week's draw for a sample of Cardin de Cardin parfum is Christine! Please send me a mail with your details and I'll ship it to you. Results obtained with as usual.

Wishing us all a good week ahead,


Andy Warhol Lexington Avenue by Bond No. 9 : Perfume Review

I love Bond No. 9’s Warhol Series – in fact, the simply stunning Silver Factory is my favorite scent of the house. Unfortunately my little sample of Silver Factory broke just one day after I received it, so I never got to review it, although its memory still haunts me. Fortunately, I now have the chance to review the newest child of the Bond No. 9 and the Andy Warhol Foundation partnership: Lexington Avenue, the third fragrance in the Warhol Series, introduced in time for the 80th anniversary of Andy’s birthday.

“Think pre-Pop 1950s New York, when Andy Warhol lived on Lexington Avenue and plied his trade as a prolific illustrator – mainly of imaginative shoes. Hence the Warhol-designed mélange that covers the flacon. Lush and unapologetically seductive, this scent dares to link two of the most ultra-feminine commodities a woman can own: fragrance and footwear.”

How can I possibly resist? I am a Warhol admirer, have adored perfume ever since I can remember and I collect shoes with a passion... Already, Lexington Avenue and I are a match made in heaven! The absolutely gorgeous, shoe adorned bottle makes me ... wait, I have to teach you a Dutch word, cause there is no other way to describe it: it makes me hebberig, which can only be roughly translated as an unstoppable urge to possess something material, the clever Andy quotes on Bond’s website (“See a shoe and Pick it up and all day long you’ll have Good Luck”, “Beauty is shoe, shoe beauty...”) make me mentally giggle, for I most definitely can identify, and at the center of it all is a perfume, yes a perfume, and surely, there is no room left for more goodness in this, if my other obsession (bags...) would be included in this equation, my head would probably explode!

Needless to say, I’d have been bitterly disappointed if the jus didn’t live up to expectations, and those expectations were mighty high. But this is one of those rare occasions when everything is perfect (enter angelic choir sound FX): the bottle, the story and yes, the jus all fit each other perfectly. (A collective sigh of relief, followed by soft moans of appreciation) Yes, Lexington Avenue is utterly beautiful, beautiful and strange, probably the best combination for the niche-loving perfumista. In fact, it is absolutely delicious! The opening is warm and rich, while still managing to be filmy. It can already be identified as a gourmand, bypassing any of the usual freshness most often employed. Instead, we are presented with a beautiful light sweetness that is initially fairly innocent, smelling of mouthwateringly delicious, slightly vanillic, lightly roasted almond paste filling. Soon the nuttiness parts, to allow effusive warmth to bloom from within: woody notes laced with the aniseedic scent of fennel, tease the senses and urge the wearer to breathe in deeper. Again, the imaginary waves of our perfume part once more, to reveal yet more warmth: dark cardamom that feels intensely spicy and smoothly chocolate-y at the same time. I love the fast paced changes of Lexington Avenue, which make it utterly engaging. The intensity of the cardamom subsides -although it does remain a beautiful, deep constant in the background- and the peppery, fragrant scent of peony comes to the fore, lovingly supported by the powdery creaminess of iris, sweetened by thoughtful doses of vanillic, caramelized crème brulee. Don’t be scared off by this surprising note: it is a gorgeous compliment to the orris root and together they play a fantastic supporting role to the peony, which sings louder, being the true star of the heart notes. Finally, the drydown is slightly powdery, comforting and sexy, with hints of soft patchouli over creamy, seductive sandalwood. Gourmand lovers beware; this woody number is truly bewitching!

Images: Lexington Avenue regular flacon and limited edition flacon with sterling silver Robert Lee Morris necklace with shoe charms, both

Friday, August 22, 2008

Eucalyptus & Peppermint by Blackwick’s : Scented Candle Review

It’s been a while since I last reviewed a candle, and seeing as the weather is getting colder and colder (I am positively freezing today – outrageous, considering it’s still August), it seems like the time to start lighting scented candles again to create a cozier atmosphere in the house is drawing near: Fall is in the air. In order to cheer myself this gloomy morning, I decided to break the chilly air in the house with the companionable scent of my brand new Blackwick’s candle, and I am glad to report that the results were successful – Instant mood lift! (And I’ll admit, busying myself with creating a tasteful composition for the photograph below helped too!)

Blackwick’s is a Dallas based company and having just launched in 2007, a new player in the luxury candle scene. It is very heartening that the company is throwing all of its creative efforts and passion into one area instead of branching into a myriad of things, to ensure the high standards of their products: beautiful, handcrafted candles of excellent quality. Too, unlike other candle webshops which are disappointingly cluttered and as a result too daunting and confusing to navigate, the Blackwick’s website is a joy: clean, streamlined and easy to navigate, it gives shoppers the ability to find what they are looking for in a quick and easy manner, and -at least in my case- the urge to browse, to see what else is on offer. Shopping for candles should, after all, be a calming experience. The one I chose to burn on this cloudy day was the Eucalyptus & Peppermint candle from their Botanical line, and quite unexpectedly, it has been an utterly uplifting experience. I say unexpectedly, because the scent emitted from the unlit candle in its jar misled me to think there was a sharpness in the scent I didn’t quite enjoy. I needn’t have worried though: the burning candle released a very smooth, tender aroma with no hint of sharpness whatsoever. The scent is breezy and light, leaving a weightless aura in the air. The subtle aroma will please tired senses without overwhelming, but even though subtle, this candle is indeed effusive: it has excellent throw and will comfortably perfume areas adjacent to the room in which it is burning as well. I am impressed! The fragrance is fresh, with peppermint being more dominant and eucalyptus adding its characteristic gentle sweetness. Leaving the nose, throat and chest feeling lightly refreshed, it almost feels like the scent is the equivalent of sucking on an old-fashioned mint candy, with all the sweetness that entails. Most wonderful however, is the fact that despite its freshness, there is something about this scent that strikes me as utterly fit for autumn: it is somehow warming and comforting, the perfect companion for slightly chilly weather.

The prices are excellent, ranging from 3.50$ for the smallest (2 oz) tin presentation, to 19.95 for the largest (13.5 oz) glass jars. Blackwick’s is also offering a 30 days satisfaction guarantee, free shipping for orders that exceed 40$, and most importantly, 50% off for first time customers who enter the code '50Off'.

Image: Product shoot by Fragrance Bouquet. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Black Amethyst by Bath & Body Works : Perfume Review

Bath & Body Works has recently released the newest addition to their Signature Collection, a fall fragrance by Givaudan’s John Gamba. The perfume in question is Black Amethyst, a very pretty, sensual scent that veers very far from the soliflore offerings the company is most well known for, capturing the rich tones of fall with juicy fruit, sheer petals and deep woods. The Black Amethyst Eau de Toilette is already available for purchase from the official B&BW website, along with the following ancillary products: Body Lotion, Body Butter, Shower Gel, Creamy Body Wash, Body Splash, Bubble Bath, Body Cream and Hand Cream, as well as home fragrances such as room sprays and electric diffusers.

Black Amethyst opens with an intense, sweet citrusy blast that is sparkling and fresh and soon deepens, loosing part of its sweetness and becoming dryer, blending with a tantalizing scent of red berries and pomegranate. I love the dusty dryness of the opening, which seems to act as a guard, suppressing a far juicier, pulsating heart. This lovely, dry, dusty overtone pleasantly remains a constant throughout the development of this scent. Even though the opening is quite interesting as is, it doesn’t give an indication of the complexity that is to follow. Ten to fifteen minutes after application, the scent goes through a beautiful transformation: it feels almost as though a bud unfurls to reveal deep colors and a glowing heart previously unseen. A mélange of velvety and at once peppery floral notes which feels seductive and alluring, strikes me as intensely familiar, even though I can’t immediately put my finger on what it reminds me of. However, as soon as the slightly ozonic waterfruit notes really kick in, I have it: even though this is a much sheerer, airier fragrance, the waterfruit/melon notes over piquant, velvety dark petals instantly bring to mind my beloved Black Orchid. The similarities however stop there: while Black Orchid goes on to become ever darker and dirtier, shedding its floral character as time goes on, Black Amethyst works in the opposite direction, being slowly lit from within. The floral heart notes stretch, becoming sheerer and lighter as time goes by, to reveal caramelized, vanilla tinged woods in the base notes. The patchouli note is quite innocent and joined beautifully by hints of sandalwood and deep musk. The waterfruit notes that were presenting a rather guarded sensuality having died down, the drydown is very sexy indeed, perfect for autumn.

Official Notes:
Top: Bergamot, Mandarin, Tangerine, Orange Zest, Waterfruit, Melon
Mid: Muguet, Magnolia, Gardenia, Tuberose, Freesia, Peony, Camellia
Base: Patchouli, Sandalwood, Vetiver, Vanilla, Musk


Monday, August 18, 2008

Forget me Not: Cardin de Pierre Cardin

The “Man Who Became a Label”, the “Man Who Sold His Name”, fascinates me, always has. It might not have been Cardin who realized that women who cannot afford couture clothes will buy into the dream of a fashion house’s name by using its make-up products, however it was Cardin who realized that the notion was applicable to just about everything else. He is the man who brought couture into every day life – into the home, the street, even into the pantry. Other fashion houses followed: Versace tea service, anyone? Or perhaps a pillow or throw from Armani Casa? He was the man who took the fall, being expelled from the Chambre Syndicale for bringing Prêt-a-Porter fashion to the masses, but was soon reinstated and Ready to Wear clothes slowly became acceptable. As we know, other fashion houses followed: today we take Prêt-a-Porter for granted, without giving it a second thought. Today the Cardin name is still more important than the man himself, as he himself once stated. Have his daring entrepreneurial skills left a smear on his name? Perhaps. Perhaps Cardin took the fall for all the rest. Just so we can have a Prada LG mobile phone, or perhaps a Dolce & Gabbana Motorola. This irony seems to be completely lost on fashion snobs who still insist that the house sold out years ago, even as every other house is making money out of this man’s daring and vision. When will the fashion world take a bow?

...Merci, Monsieur Cardin. Merci.

The homonymous Cardin perfume launched in 1976 and was the house’s first feminine scent. Even though it is not my favorite Cardin perfume, I decided to feature it in this month’s Forget me Not, because it is indeed, almost, if not altogether forgotten: It is listed in neither the Basenotes database, nor in Osmoz, and I fear it might soon be completely lost in Lethe. (Note: I am reviewing the much rarer parfum concentration, which I own, and as such cannot speak of the more common EdT splash and spray bottles that can still be found at online perfume discounters.) Cardin’s citrusy top notes are ever so slightly damaged by time but this does not result in drama: a fleeting moment of mildly bruised freshness and then it’s all a distant memory. Immediately after the deceptively mild opening, we plunge into a world of dense, raw and sultry essences, which although expertly blended, tend to deliver quite a blow to the nose that is more used to today’s modern, airier, transparent fragrances. Middle and base notes seem to arrive concurrently, building a web of interlaced aromas of erotic blossoms and thick, prodding, musky, mossy nuances. Beautiful roses, manage to remain defiantly tender, even as the unmistakable, sweet darkness of pure ylang-ylang embraces them, along with highly indolic jasmine. If this already sounds overwhelmingly delirious, I dare you to imagine that all the while, our floral notes are also being drenched by the most audacious civet and musk notes. Do you get the picture? Yes, this stuff is intense. An hour or so later, Cardin’s fervor relents. Our bouquet starts breathing more deeply, revealing a beautiful, earthy oakmoss and labdanum base and manages to present a profile that is at once soapy clean and dirty with musk and civet at once. The scent becomes progressively smoother and creamier, bringing to mind Ivoire’s drydown, only better blended, with a slightly more muted oakmoss note which does not demand all of one’s attention. If I had to sum Cardin into one word, it would be perfume-y, just as you’d imagine a vintage aldehydic mossy floral to be. Although it is beautiful, I have to admit it smells quite dated, as well as strangely familiar. Despite the copious amounts of civet and musk in its composition, it doesn’t manage to be quite sexy. It is however, totally worth sniffing for sentimental reasons, for this paints a very accurate picture of many perfumes of its time, as well as for getting a blast of its furious animalic tendencies.

All readers who leave a comment to this entry are automatically entered in a draw for a sample of Cardin Parfum. The draw will be open for a week’s time and winners will be announced next Monday.

Images: and Author’s Own

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Fragrance Bouquet Loves NARS : Bohemian Gold, Voyage and Positano Reviews

NARS – it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call the brand miraculous. The products are of the highest quality and consistently find themselves in both editors’ as well as readers’ choice awards, the range of colors can only be described as astounding and the creator, François Nars is simply a genius with the brush who can hide flaws as well as accentuate and flatter each face’s natural beauty like no other. His book, Make Up Your Mind, is my make-up bible. I haven’t managed to get my hands on NARS’ fabulous Fall 2008 collection yet, so while I am eagerly anticipating trying out the new looks, I have decided to show you some older favorites and create a couple of looks that are perfect not only for these summery days, but indeed, for fall as well. I created both looks this Sunday and took pictures of both the same day but under different light conditions which accounts for the slightly different skin color: Voyage is shot in sunlight, while Bohemian Gold in the shade, a little later in the day.

· Voyage: This is an amazing single eyeshadow, whose color – a gold flecked warm beige – perfectly matches the hue of beautiful golden sand. This is an incredibly versatile shadow that can be used as an accent with countless other colors, as a highlight at the inner corner of the eye, or as a clever tool to light up the eyes and camouflage fatigue when used on the lower lid. In short, this product is a great investment! My favorite way to wear it however, is as shown, used as an all-over wash of color to create and intensely summery look that works day or night. Yes, it is amazing that you can create such an amazing, complete, eye-shaping look with just one eyeshadow! Also used in this look: Eyeliner Pencil – Black Moon by NARS, Mascara – Masterpiece by MaxFactor and Eyebrightener (Concealer + Primer used all over lid, eyebrow bone and undereye area) – Vanilla by NARS

· Bohemian Gold: Another gorgeous eyeshadow product by NARS, this time a duo consisting of Metallic Taupe which is warm and glowing and Iridescent Copper which gently changes color as it catches the light, its hue ranging from soft metallic salmon to deep and beautiful rosy copper. I love using this duo in the evenings during the summer and during the daytime during the colder months to add a splash of warmth. These are highly pigmented shadows that deposit color evenly and glide effortlessly on the skin, thus allowing for precision work. They don’t crease and last forever without losing their intensity over time or migrating on the skin. Another wonderful thing I have noticed with all NARS shadows I have used is that they practically leave no fall-out during application, an important feature when using darker colors. As is the case with all NARS shadows, these can be applied dry or wet, and the taupe works particularly nice with a wet brush as a lower lid liner. For this look I have used the copper boldly, lining half of my lower lid, the inner corner of my eye and extending upwards and outwards to the half of my upper lid, while I used the taupe on the outer part of the both the upper and the lower lid, extending outwards to create an almond shape. As you can see from the picture, the colors match each other perfectly, to the point that it is hard to tell when one ends and the other begins. Both the texture and the perfect match of the colors means that minimum effort is required for blending. Also used in this look: Forest Green eyeliner pencil – brand unknown, Mascara – Masterpiece by MaxFactor and Eyebrightener (Concealer + Primer used all over lid, eyebrow bone and undereye area) – Vanilla by NARS

· Positano: This semi-sheer lipgloss is the perfect shade for fall! Officially labeled as Cinnamon Rose, on my lips this turns out a warm chocolate berry color. Highly pigmented, even one coat deposits enough color to make the lips stunning, but its absolutely non-sticky consistency allows you to build the color to the intensity of your choice. It is incredibly glossy and smooth, creating the “vinyl shine” effect I’d been looking for, ever since Dior discontinued their Diorific Plastic Shine glosses. Positano is long lasting and its beautiful consistency makes for precision application and sharp results. The slightly chocolate-y color means it’s perfect for adding a touch of glam-rock appeal to this fall’s pastel colored clothes – it will be a wonderful match for pistachio, lilac and beige. A more wearable version of the gothic dark lips we saw on the YSL runway, this will be the perfect shade to wear with sophisticated pant or skirt-suits in rich autumnal hues, preferably worn with de rigueur lace shirts.

All NARS products featured in this article can be bought directly from the official NARS website.

Images: Author's Own

Monday, August 11, 2008

Exciting News: Donna Karan’s Chaos at Bergdorf’s

Countless perfume fanatics mourn the loss of their beloved Chaos, perhaps the most well loved of the lost or rare Donna Karan fragrances. In fact, Chaos is the only fragrance I have not written about and yet I consistently receive emails on. The question is always the same: Where can it be found? Well, Chaos is making its comeback!

Donna Karan Cosmetics and Bergdorf Goodman unveil an exclusive collection of classic, iconic fragrances of past and present. Brought back by popular demand (Bravo to Donna Karan Cosmetics for listening!), fragrances such as the original Donna Karan signature scent, Chaos, Fuel for Men, Black Cashmere and the Donna Karan Essence Collection (consisting of Lavender, Jasmine, Labdanum and the absolutely fabulous Wenge) are finding their way back to the hearts of their adoring public in just a couple of days time! I couldn’t be more excited – this is a collection of stunning perfumes that truly deserves to be resurrected.

Donna Karan fragrance experts Catherine Barber and Annette Williams will be available at Bergdorf’s from the 13th till the 16th of August, to offer “a personalized fragrance reading which utilizes a series of provocative images, colors and sounds to help you discover the Donna Karan scent that reflects the real you”. The experts will be found at Bergdorf Goodman’s Beauty Level (timetable found below), and due to the demand, it is recommended that interested parties schedulle an appointment with the Fragrance Counter (tel: [212] 872 – 2581):

August 13, 2008: 4.00 – 6.00 PM
August 14, 2008: 2.00 – 5.00 PM
August 15, 2008: 2.00 – 5.00 PM
August 16, 2008: 2.00 – 5.00 PM

Friday, August 8, 2008

L by L.A.M.B New Body Products

Fans of Gwen Stefani’s L fragrance have a new set of goodies to look forward to this September. The first step in the new body care line is the All Over Me Body Scrub, a creamy, luxurious scrub. After the skin has been buffed to the desired state of glowing, it can be pampered with the All Over Me Body Creme, which is enriched with super-emollient and nurturing ingredients such as shea butter and vitamins. If you’re a lover of the fragrance, these products sound perfect: Not only will they not clash with your perfume, but they will also make it last longer: scrubbing will get rid of all the dead skin cells and the cream will deeply hydrate, prolonging the longevity of your scent.

Announcement - Rosa Negra Blog Now Bilingual

A little announcement today, in regards to my friend Cris' Brazilian perfume blog, Rosa Negra: Rosa Negra, previously only written in Portuguese, is now a bilingual blog, with entries also offered in English. Those of you looking to add a new blog to your daily dose of perfume reading, should definitely take a look.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Learning to Love Orange Part 3 – Fleur du Mâle by Jean Paul Gaultier & Fahrenheit 32 by Dior : Perfume Reviews

With releases such as Narciso Rodriguez for Him, Gucci Pour Homme II, Amouage’s marvelous Jubilation XXV, Frederic Malle’s French Lover and Dsquared²’s He Wood, I find 2007 to have been a great year for masculine fragrances. But even if it weren’t for all those perfumes just mentioned, I’d still consider 2007 an excellent year. You see, if I am honest, the two releases I’m most excited about, even more excited in fact (bizarrely so perhaps), than I am about the excellent Jubilation XXV, are Jean Paul Gaultier’s Fleur du Male and Dior’s Fahrenheit 32. More than a year later now, these two fragrances still seem like bright highlights in my mind. I remember being terribly excited at the time of their release about the fact that two mainstream masculine fragrances were breaking the mold of “smell one, smell them all” bland freshness that has been the usual offering in the men’s fragrance department during the last decade. Both heavily featuring orange blossom, they still managed to steer away from the usual bracing eau de cologne background in which the note has traditionally been placed in masculine fragrances. Two sides of the same coin – one warm and comforting, one steely cold – I am still as excited about them today as I was when they were first released.

Fleur du Mâle by Jean Paul Gaultier: On the same musky, ambery, vanillic base that made his original Le Mâle so popular as well as unmistakably recognizable, nose Francis Kurkdjian has built this utterly gorgeous orange blossom scent that embraces femininity in the most faultless manner. After the initial freshness of the top notes fades, the gorgeously sweet orange blossom scent that has all the while been struggling to be freed is finally allowed to bloom. Different facets of it waft in and out for hours: it begins quite indolic and strong, but it becomes rounded and soft over time, its scent often coming across as tinged with accents of tobacco and at times with sunny hay, but presenting itself most beautifully when it finally becomes one with the beautiful vanillic lavender which cradles it warmly underneath. The drydown is at once milky and spiced, sweet and musky, utterly sexy.

Fahrenheit 32 by Dior: While Fleur du Mâle wears its lineage proudly, Fahrenheit 32 veers far away from its original. The first whiff is at once woody and fresh, packing a nicely done –if rather conventional- punch of masculinity in a plume of smoke. Give it a couple of minutes to settle and the absolutely delicious sweetness of freshly chopped spearmint leaves starts to emerge. If you love spearmint as much as I do, this is definitely one fragrance you have to try: the note is realistic, strong, beautiful and long lasting. The orange blossom arrives, frozen, cold to the touch, its usually warm breath surprisingly icy and heart-stoppingly beautiful. Its coolness is further enhanced by the aforementioned freshness of mint, as well as by a combination of dark, cold, earthy vetiver and an incense accord that remains as cool as the interior of a shady, abandoned church. Like Fleur du Mâle, Fahrenheit 32 also presents the wearer with accents of tobacco now and then, but even these threads of warmth don’t manage to dilute the steely cold edge of this perfume. Metallic, salty and iodine, Fahrenheit 32 makes the heart pick up speed with its strangeness.

Both of these fragrances present excellent reinterpretations of the orange blossom’s scent for men. Which one to choose? One is cold, the other warm. One is sexy and inviting, the other is an interesting intellectual, slightly reserved with its affections. I personally would have to go with the Gaultier, for I find it so attractive I have to nuzzle my own arm when wearing it. It must be said however, that I can’t help but be stimulated by the otherworldly coolness of the Dior. It is not often that the juice matches the name so very well – Fahrenheit 32 really is frozen and my nose loves to be intrigued by it.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Perfume for the Occasion: Gender Bending

Pretty boys in pink boas smiling coyly at passers-by this Saturday at Amsterdam’s Gay Parade, fashion magazine spreads filled with boyfriend jeans, mannish jackets, re-incarnations of Le Smoking and wide legged pantsuits, and perhaps most of all, reader PinstripedZebra’s comment the other day on the appropriateness of wearing an orange blossom scent all got me thinking about devoting this month’s Perfume for the Occasion to breaking gender rules when it comes to scent.

Let’s start by taking a look at the question that spurred me to write this post in the first place. (Originally found in the comments section of Learning to Love Orange Part 1)

PinstripedZebra said...

Dear Divina,

when i smelled Eau de Fleurs d’Oranger i was amazed! That is a very interesting and amazing fragrance. I presume it is made for females or would you say also males can use it?


Divina said...

Hello my dearest Zebra :) As you see from the post, the scent of the orange blossom was originally preferred by a king, so men have been indeed favoring the beautiful aroma through the ages. Of course this alone doesn't say much for how things currently stand, for at the time men were also wearing considerably more make-up than is the norm nowadays. I do believe in freedom when choosing a personal scent and as you know have worn masculine scents myself in the past. The reverse is perfectly acceptable in my eyes and it greatly depends on the wearer and of course the scent itself. There are certain feminine scents I could never imagine on a man and vice-versa, but having said that, a great majority of the feminine scents really DO work on men. (Unfortunately the reverse is not true, since fashion has forced men's scents into a greatly uniform wave of ozonic-marine freshness and insipid fougere blandness for the most part) This particular scent would probably work well in small amounts with a casual linen outfit and sandals during a hot summer evening, but safer yet would be a scent combining the blossom with a little leather or a little lavender for example. My advice is to try and see! And do come back on Wednesday, since Part 3 of the learning to love orange series focuses on masculine orange blossom scents!

My reply to PinstripedZebra’s comment alludes to the fact that gender distinctions in perfume have not always been present in the same fashion as we now know them. Additionally, gender distinctions both evolve over time and even currently differ in different parts of the world. Perhaps the most well known example would be that of rose scents, which are currently considered traditionally feminine in western societies, but which are still seen as traditionally masculine in eastern Muslim societies: perfume peddlers can be found outside mosques and men anoint themselves with rose before attending religious services, since the rose is the scent of the prophet. Too, as sociologist Marcello Aspria mentions in his interview with Victoria Frolova of Bois de Jasmin, if we are to understand gender distinctions in perfume, we have to see them in their historical context of fashion:

“(...) I’ve been forced to adjust my preconceptions of the perfume industry several times now. I’ve learned, for instance, that the fashion business has a much stronger influence on the culture of perfume than I ever imagined. In my original plans I wanted to focus on the perfume industry as an ‘independent’ entity, but I realized that by doing so, I would rule out too many important factors. The interdependencies in the luxury industry are tremendously complex.”

Where does the current rigidity in masculine and feminine fragrance fashions stem from? It was in fact in the late eighteenth century that the ‘fashionable’, or ‘foppish’ male begun to be satirized and ridiculed by popular culture, a reaction going against the grain of ‘habit à la française’, French taste. During the Enlightenment, the body and in turn fashion, become dominated by ideas of hygiene. Even French philosophers consider luxury to have enervating effects on the body.

“From the 1760s Rousseau and the philosophes’ circle attacked the urbanity of mode and manners characteristic of court society with a focus on that masculine transgressor, the ‘petit- maître’, the macaroni’s French counterpart. In literature and art the petit-maître occupied the “feminized” space of the toilette and the boudoir, female zones and practices which corrupted men’s reason. The petit- maître, it was claimed, deferred to women not only in matters of dress and deportment, but in literature and statecraft. His effeminate behavior, the philosophes argued, led to a corruption of the corporeal body and the body politic, and a set of moral and health discourses were mobilized against him.”

At the dawn of the 19th century, male fashion had taken a sharp turn towards an increasingly English, practical, restrained, hardwearing and long-lasting ideal and against anything that could be considered effeminate, extravagant, or superficial, in other words, against anything that could be associated with the “decadence” of France. From this, formal masculine attire, even to this day, has never really recovered. There can be little doubt on the effects that this turn of events has had on masculine perfume fashions.

The effects of this trend on perfumery can be traced today at the severely restricted selection of masculine perfumes at beauty counters. What’s worse than a limited selection however, is the limited range of smells offered to men: variations of boring/bland citrus, woods, traditional fougere and -perhaps most dominant of all nowadays- marine/ozonic colognes with absolutely nothing new to offer. Even though the emerging trend of the niche sector with its more peculiar offerings is gaining all the time, it still seems widely undiscovered in comparison. Fortunately, many men and women are now more than ever experimenting with fragrances that are marketed to the opposite sex. Yes, it is true that some feminine fragrances are too frilly or girly for a man, as it is true that most of the butch, marine blasts at the men’s fragrance section won’t really do anything for a woman. But the key word here is experimentation. We should have fun with scent. Who cares if something is seen as traditionally masculine or feminine? If wearing it gives you joy, by all means, go for it! If wearing it makes you feel beautiful, relish it! If wearing your boyfriend’s cologne makes you feel sexy, why let anyone stop you? Without further ado, here are a few ideas to help you get started if you haven’t dabbled in a little perfumed gender bending before but feel like trying something new and unexpected.

Men: Enhance your black suit with a little rose sex appeal: try Rosine’s Twill Rose. If you’re looking for a sea-breeze scent, why not give Eau des Merveilles a try? It’s much more subtle than anything marine at the men’s fragrance counter, and it won’t burn your epithelium. Play with Jean Desprez’ Bal à Versailles and Cabochard if you want to feel beautiful and don’t be afraid to try anything by Sisley. If you’re looking for the feminine answer to Kouros, Montana Parfum de Peau raises the ante with its urinous qualities and fur appeal. A little waterfruit up top, a little dirty play in the middle and a deep woody patchouli finish make Tom Ford’s Black Orchid a likely candidate. Floris’ Edwardian Bouquet will satisfy dandies. Lastly, don’t be afraid of white florals: A gardenia scent will update your tapered dressy trousers, while a skunky, indolic white floral like jasmine or orange blossom will be sexier with your summer linen outfits than a traditional masculine cologne.

Women: Things get a little harder here since a good masculine scent is hard to come by already, let alone one that would perfectly suit a woman. Look for scents that heavily feature either gourmand, leather, incense, vetiver or amber notes. A great place to start (unless that is, you’ve had the misfortune of living/growing up in an area were it used to be notoriously ubiquitous), is the much-maligned Joop! Homme, which is simply stunning on women that have the sense to apply with a light hand. Fleur du Malle is a gorgeous beauty that I am probably going to buy for myself one of these days. Wear Encre Noir with your leather jacket and roar, or apply a mild citrusy fougere of your choice on your collarbone to make a white linen pantsuit smile. Try anything by L.T. Piver, paying special attention to Cuir de Russie and try to discover the whole range of masculine Maître Parfumeur et Gantier fragrances, which outshines their feminine collection by far. The masculine Divine scents should also be sampled - I've noticed they are very popular with women and I have to concur that they are both beautiful.

Images: Yves Saint Laurent's Le Smokin photographed by Helmut Newton, wikipedia.
Yakshagana, man dressed as a woman, India by
Lord Foppington, wikipedia
Robert de Montesquiou, wikipedia
Marcel Duchamp as Rrose Selavy wikipedia
Fake mustaches, sold at

Quotes: comment section, and Shoes by Riello and McNeil, Berg, 2006

Friday, August 1, 2008

Learning to Love Orange Part 2 - Fleur d’Oranger by Prada & 40º à l’Ombre by Satellite : Perfume Reviews

White florals are made for summer: Tuberose, gardenia, jasmine, tiare, ylang ylang, lemon and orange blossom... But while most would probably consider jasmine to be the undisputed queen of white florals in the summer, connected as she is in our collective memories with warm, fragrant summer nights, ever since I managed to find a few orange blossom scents that resonate with me I can’t but disagree. Orange blossom truly embodies the spirit of the season: its joyfulness, its sultriness, its primeval animalistic hunger for life, its warmth, which seems as devastating as Livas, the dry African wind, but most of all, its ardent eroticism whose electrifying waves have the power to set heart and mind ablaze. Today, in part two of our three-part series, we explore two more golden beauties.

Fleur d’Oranger by Prada: I had the chance to fleetingly smell this once a few months ago, and it took only a moment to realize that yes, this was the good stuff. Upon my return from my vacation, I found a little packet hidden under the pile of mail behind the door. A beautiful angel from across the ocean had sent me a sample of this during my absence! I am so glad to have a little sample of this fantastic creation to go through as I deliberate on whether I need a full bottle. Fleurs d’Oranger was launched in 2003 and is scent No.4 in Prada’s exclusive boutique scent collection whose offerings all come in 30ml splash extraits. This one starts out with burning intensity: absolutely beautiful orange blossom streaked with glossy, luscious, honeyed accents of beeswax. Oh yes, it’s indeed as fabulous as it sounds. As time goes by, the beeswax accents unfortunately disappear and the scent looses part of its diffusive intensity while at the same time growing deeper and darker. Teasing fingers of jasmine emerge, caressing a heart of orange blossom, which in turn hugs precious myrrh and amber. This undoubtedly gorgeous scent presents me with a slightly disturbing dichotomy: like a child playing a game of focusing on an object first with just the left eye and then with the right and seeing two different pictures emerge, so am I just as amusingly presented with two different sides of the same coin. Focusing just so, Fleurs d’Oranger is ladylike and restrained... Closing the other eye, so to speak, it becomes carefree and erotic commanding me softly to “ferme tes yeux” with blissful abandon in the arms of my lover.

40º à l’Ombre by Satellite: 40 degrees in the shade. That’d be 104 Fahrenheit, a perfect name for a summer fragrance as I’m sure you’ll agree, but Satellite, predominantly known for their jewelry is also making play on words with this name, referring to 40 carats. And oh how marvelous this is! Absolutely stunning, in fact. Oh, my poor discarded coconut beauties! Ever since I discovered this, I didn’t wear anything else during my vacation. This is a thoroughly natural smelling, high-pitched orange blossom scent, blooming seemingly from inside the colorful zest of bergamot and lemon. It really begs to be worn with light, airy clothes, and to be taken out on a stroll in great weather. As the scent develops, it quietly turns more bitter, finding at its apex the most fabulous grapefruit note I’ve ever smelled. Dry, bitter and sophisticated the beautiful grapefruit scent unfolds in shimmering veils flecked with gold, every movement unveiling another gorgeous facet: whiffs of orange blossom here, accents of jasmine there...and through it all the marvelous undercurrent of something intensely human, yes, a little dirty, like a tiny smidgen of cumin. Oh, my word! This one is truly a gem and an absolute favorite. The best of the Satellite range.

Our Learning to Love Orange series is getting interrupted on Monday for this month’s Perfume for the Occasion, but we resume with part 3 on Wednesday. What is your favorite orange blossom scent by the way? Now that I’ve gotten my feet wet, I am hoping to find more beauties to love and I’m looking for suggestions.

Images: and Flickr, originally uploaded by Ashleytheartist2002 and Steven Fernandez