Some perfumes seem to have been created with the explicit intention of making the wearer rise above, of making him or her feel unarguably superior. And iris, that olfactory epitome of flowered, powdered elegance, would seem to be the obvious choice for the person wanting to distance themselves, with an immaculately selected scent, from the addled, oversugared, crowd.
La Pausa (named after the iris-filled gardens at the summer estate at Roquebrune Cap Martin on the French Riviera, where Coco Chanel, that unstoppable engine of taste, talent and desperate, angry desire to put her shameful lower class origins behind her, entertained the who’s who of society) embodies this ideal perfectly. If any perfume smells supercilious, of a person ready to assume glassy, entitled airs of betterment, it is surely this.
28 La Pausa, in many ways, is very beautiful. When I open my miniature bottle, bestowed upon me beneficently by a cold-eyed assistant at the Chanel boutique on Rue Cambon, Paris, I smell immediately that the opening notes are flawless : a grassy, green, vegetally cool iris that transports you instantly away from the mundane, the everyday, to some verdant grove of the privileged; a place where plebeians and their grindstone problems are left definitively behind, and grace, and the cool allure of money, work their undeniable charms. The iris accord in this Chanel perfume simply breathes high class, which is, obviously, the entire point of its existence. The base notes, an hour or two later into its development, are also some of the most delicately done I have ever smelled: bend slowly down towards this lady’s neck, will you – smell her: she has become, now, the very essence of sleek, feminine, papery refinement: leaf-touched; rarified; beautiful.
All that is two hours or so from now, however. Unfortunately, from top to middle - and this stage lasts quite a while in 28 La Pausa – there is something rather pickled – an overly piquant, sour, thin and unpleasant note, like a chip-on-the-shoulder of resentment, that seems to somehow perfectly embody the snobbish look-down-the-nose the perfume seeks to emulate. A grimace of superiority; a mutual wrinkling of noses.
Who the hell do you think you are?
In short, despite flashes of artistry, beauty and a deftful handling of an obviously expensive and exquisite iris natural extract by Chanel in-house perfumer Jacques Polge, and the fact that as green, fresh, iris perfumes go you will be hard-pressed to find anything better in some regards, I must admit that personally, this is an iris scent that I hate.
If I had to make a choice between Chanel’s 28 La Pausa or Atelier Cologne’s Silver Iris to wear on my own skin, therefore, there is no doubt that I would choose the latter. Silver Iris is a pleasant and easy smell, like a sweet, thicker, ‘unisex’ version of Prada’s Infusion d’Iris, but with less of that perfume’s balance and perfection: a more generic and rounded irisian sweetness that would probably suit virtually anyone who happened to wear it. While the Prada can irritate a little sometimes with its unchanging persistence, at the same time, its indefatigable, powdery luminescence, its shimmering dove-like opalescence, still make it quite beautiful, and the Prada is definitely a perfume I would recommend to the right person looking for something current and pleasant that can hold up to close scrutiny.
Atelier Cologne is another bastion of tastefulness where one cannot ever put a damn foot wrong in any of its taut, brisk, and carefully calibrated scents, and Silver Iris, essentially centred around a lightweight, but overly clingy and somewhat sucrose accord of ‘white musk’, ‘amber’ and ‘patchouli’, is a typically wearable scent that begins with a nice dose of iris, mimosa and violet leaf that for a very few seconds, very nearly, makes you go ooh. This affectation quickly dissipates, however, modulating wordlessly into a gentle, inoffensive nothing; a nicely done skin scent that will follow you around all day and announce your well-judged presence to all that gravitate towards your orbit, confident in the knowledge that you are giving off all the right messages. Yes, I do believe my dear that you are quite safe.
Could I wear Silver Iris? Probably. If there was absolutely nothing else lying round and I just really needed to be scented, just to be smelling of something. If I did wear it though, I think I would feel a kind of nagging irritation all day along; feel a bit neutered; battered politely by conformity and ready made restrictions.
Roped in and box-ticked.
Bored to death.