The fundamental aesthetic of Milano fashion master Giorgio Armani is a form of stratospheric normalcy; an incontrovertible elegance and simplicity that most of us mere mortals could never even hope (or in my case, want) to achieve, with its unfussed, seamless drapery and cut; its perfection; its conservatism. Look at any Armani show in the haute couture season, and he is invariably the least daring creator, particularly when compared to the more ‘out there’ designers of France, the UK, or Japan who seem, often, to push the boundaries of weirdity and alien unwearability to fiercely artistic, but sometimes unintentionally comic, effect.
The thing about Armani is that his clothes, even at the very top of his range, are always, ultimately, wearable. And the same thing can be said for his perfumes. While La Femme Bleue, which I have never smelled but have some kind of weird crush on, having read gorgeous reviews by The Non Blonde and Olfactoria about its oneiric, black-irised, cacao-lunared shimmeringness, does seem to warrant the extreme lust that a limited edition can inspire (1000 bottles worldwide, and Birgit somehow got her elegant, Viennese hands on one), the new perfume in the iris-themed Couture Collection, Nuances, is also rather nice, also a limited edition of 1000, and will convicingly accompany any extravagantly priced Armani creation with its taut but ‘romantic’ urbanity, its airtight, rounded tastefulness (the perfume was conceptualized around a particular metallic grey organza the company has created for one of its recent shows, and this ‘material’ effect does somehow come through in the perfume’s execution).
It is, however, as others have also noted, nothing new. In fact, on first application last night (a gorgeous package that came through the post yesterday from the generous Dubaiscents, just in time to spike up a tired, jaded perfumist into writing again), it was so resonantly familiar that the excited anticipation of a perfume that might be strange, enigmatic, perhaps austere, a quality I usually associate with iris, quickly wilted into a more shrew-eyed examination of what it was exactly that the much more standardized, formulaic perfume in the vial reminded me of.
And it is this: Prada Infusion D’Iris, which I like and consider one of the best mainstream commercial releases of recent years for its integrity, the sense that it smells like a perfume for once, with its own identity, balance, and lovely, endearing smell. It is also a perfume I find, on occasion, quite annoying somehow, with its wrapped-and-ribboned fashion perfection, a delicate and lovely scent that nevertheless leaves no room to breathe. If you know the Prada, then you will be immediately able to imagine Nuances, which takes that same benzoin and bergamot-infused, sweet, powdery iris accord, and places it neatly over (an again, familiar) modern, niche-level vetiver, the kind of vetiver found in anything from Vetyverio to Vetiver Extraordinaire; that refined, insistent, unearthy, but loveable and woody twenty first century vetiver we kneau so well, wedded convincingly to a high-quality sandalwood and heliotrope accord that allows the scent to persist for quite a long time on the skin as the iris, or orris root – not as pronounced as you might like or expect – encircles the blend, breathing a summoning, balancing gentility into the whole.
And there you have it. This is the kind of perfume that is very likely to draw compliments when the person who can afford to buy it (500 euros) walks into the room as it is so accessible, pleasant, even charismatic. There is a cinnamon-woody richness there in the base that for a few fleeting seconds was reminiscent for me of vintage Feminité Du Bois extrait, and this warmer aspect, and the decent quality of the ingredients elevates the scent above the more commercial (and ten times cheaper) Prada with an almost incensey richness that is quite pleasurable, even if the perfume overall lacks anything that could make me swoon. That ‘elevation’, though, is what this line is all about: and though Nuances is not what I would call special, it is certainly a well-crafted iris-vetiver (more a vetiver) that will not for a moment, I think, let down its chic, moneyed, and immaculately-attired, wearer.