It is almost time for the tulips.
Tulips: fierce, erect : pushing up through the soil… Solid.
Like Kenzo’s Flower, which it reminds me of in some ways, ‘La Tulipe’ is an imaginary rendering of a flower that in fact has almost no smell (Kenzo’s was the poppy), a concept that gives free rein to the perfumers to construct whatever they like – in this case a light, laundry musk with watery notions of cyclamen and freesia that couldn’t be a safer bet if it tried: no one at the office is going to start asking you to wear less perfume if you have spritzed yourself, unimaginatively, in the morning, with a touch of this.
Except me that is: the profound conservatism lurking at the heart of this plasticky fleur makes me want to scream….
No, I do not like this perfume one iota, but I do love the flowers the perfume is purportedly based on: lipped, springtime emergences of joy that are also in fact an important motif in one of my favourite novels of all time – Margaret Atwood’s terrifying, and brilliantly prescient Handmaid’s Tale (1985), in which she writes that
“the tulips are red, a darker crimson towards the stem; as if they had been cut and are beginning to heal there…”
Sutured, red spring flowers, emblematizing the handmaids in that futuristic dystopia (which always felt more chillingly possible to me, somehow, than it should), imprisoned for purposes of enforced maternity; clad, like Dutch nuns, in their tulip-like cloistered headdresses.
Inflorescence, another unimpeachably conservative floral from Byredo, is to me also like a form of contemporary,urbanite handmaid.
A luminous snapshot; a computerized Botticelli, that achieves a scary consummation: I can smell intuitively that this perfume is destined to be a hit.
An almost hysterically hygienic floral, it is the apex of the trend that began with Lancôme’s repugnant Miracle (the only perfume I know that made two female friends physically retch when they smelled it); its imprisoning of woman in extraordinarily artificial, spotless, ‘sanctified’ flowers: stripped of sex, grown in test tubes by fascists in white coats, grinning as they crush the heart’s desires and replace them with gender edicts.
Like Miracle, Inflorescence has the freshest, lemonest, top notes of the newest daphne flowers and leaves, but then goes far further in its capturing of a particular, youthful virginity with its delicate, lip-pursed white of muguet, freesia, jasmine, and new rose petals, all stitchlessly wedded to that purest of spring flowers – the magnolia; its majestic, ivory infallibility as it stands creamily erect for those dwindling days it can remain white; the brown rot that will creep through its magnificent petals only a short, mortal time ahead.
With Inflorescence, there is no rot. There is only a pristinely, rigorously constructed bouquet of ‘vernal’ flowers that will never die, only fade; reprised and re-reprised ad nauseam as it propagates itself tirelessly throughout the city, a perfume that really does reach a particular state of perfection (you will know what I mean the second you smell it), and one that I must admit that in many ways is quite brilliant.
I cannot imagine a more stainless floral.