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.
22 responses to “SHE:;:;:;: LA TULIPE (2010) + INFLORESCENCE by BYREDO (2013)”
Oh dear, awful memories of The Handmaid’s Tale, that fundamentalist misogynist dystopia. It did seem very real, didn’t it? For whatever reason. Your exquisite phrase “an almost hysterically hygienic floral” made me reflect on how scary it really is when the primal and earthy is cut out of a sensual experience.
Have you come across the Italian scent Tulipano Nero? Odd, a little smoky, not balanced, very much of the earth.
I knew there was an Italian tulip out there somewhere, and I would like to smell it in order to balance out this pristine bitch.
I agree with you totally: Diorissimo, for example, is the whore of babylon compared to Inflorescence, which takes this form of perfuming to new highs(lows). The Handmaid’s Tale was so gripping that at times I could hardly breathe while reading it. It was utterly claustrophobic and yet strangely convincing. If the conservative forces ever do win the culture wars, who knows, it might even happen. And if it does, the handmaids will be wearing Inflorescence.
You already know I don’t go for “clean” so I will pass on Inflorescence (I do like the name,however!)
and the tulip pictures are so lovely…thanks for sharing!
If you start wearing Inflorescence, I am coming after you
I don’t mind “clean”. It always has a place – especially in summer weather – but I have enough of “clean” fragrances. I hated Miracle, too! Now, that one was (is) really scary. But I loooove Tresor edp. I love your close up photo of the inside of the swirly pink and cream tulip. It’s so beautiful.
Isn’t that pink and white extravagance beautiful? I realize that I tried Tresor only once, along with a number of other things, and didn’t really notice it. I need to brave the department store fruityfloralsomething smog and test it again, by itself.
I think you might find it too safe, somehow. Inflorescence and Tulipe are so obediently ‘feminine’ though I find them scary. Ciphers.
And I love Tresor too, though it is not quite what it was. I think I wrote about it in my Laura Biagiotti Roma review.I can understand its detractors, for that peachy, insistent sweetness, but it is, for me, just a gorgeous, and very sexy, smell.
merci pour ta Tulipe review – I had to practically wring that sample from the wrist of the Liberty sales assistant, who was, coincidentally, also a pristine bitch, so am very glad to see it make your blog even if you do find it utterly disappointing (it reminds me of some dreadful floral disinfectant – Zoflora?). And adore the Handmaid’s Tale reference – I also loved the book and the film has never left me. Bee-utiful tulip pictures btw xx
Zoflora?! YEs!!!! Seriously, both remind me of floral disinfectants now I come to think of it. I would love to know how much they cost to make, considering how expensive they are…
This was a stunning, spectacular, jaw-droppingly powerful, and wholly persuasive line: “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.”
The very words brought a shudder to my soul. Even if I didn’t despise clean, “hygienic” scents (“hysterically hygienic” was another brilliant phrase, by the way!), then your description would convince me that this is not a perfume for me. But since I do despise stainlessly clean, spotless, floral test tube babies, I shall most definitely pass. But this perfume will forever more be linked to your review in my mind. Utterly brilliant!
Margaret Atwood’s writing is exquisite!So haunting.I loved Blind Assassin and Handmaid’s Tale
She is so taut and vivid..
First of all, I must disclose that I handed in my perfumista’s license. After 15 years of wearing and trying indie perfumes, I realized that I didn’t like to smell of rot, no matter how tragic or foreboding, or of faded sex or underarm musk.
I actually liked scents that I could enjoy, top to bottom note, for a whole day. I like fragrances that smell pretty, enjoyable, satisfying. I don’t like sillage monsters, and while I do not enjoy most department store fragrances, and have trouble walking by that bath-produce store because it smells harsh, I do love Inflorescence.
On me, it smells green and crisp, then opens to a series of delicious florals that get more complex in the drydown. In our extreme heat, that’s exactly what I want. But then again, I have a tendency to wear tailored clothes in black, ivory, navy and charcoal linen, no pink and no ruffles.
See, I actually highly rate this perfume, and I hope that comes across in the review. I know instinctively that it could smell amazing on certain people, for the very reasons you mention.
Still, for me there is something terrifying there: a whiteness I just can’t escape…..
Reblogged this on The Black Narcissus.
I am speechless after reading the review and the responses. I agree with both sides of the spectrum and can see what each is conveying. That being said, the writing and reviews are completely amazing. Reading this blog is better than reading any of the books I have piled up and waiting for me to read, while I am too busy reading perfume blogs! Love this blog!
I hope I haven’t “blogged” you to death with all my iterations of the word “blog”. Mea culpa.
No, I am just extremely flattered and happy you like it. My feelings regarding this kind of perfume is perhaps extreme and quite hard to express: it is almost a feminist response.
Such chemical, moulded perfumes almost seem to come with a hidden agenda, and it is one I am dead against.
That clinches it. The Handmaid’s Tale. Dude. One of my all time favorites!! did I just say ‘dude’??
Pardonez moi! I was a little overexcited when I read that!! I enjoyed Alias Grace also….
Brilliant post, Neil. I thought I had read all of your archives but I missed this one until now. It’s so much more disturbing to read in 2017, of course, so a reblog is very timely. Nothing in the Byredo line has ever tempted me to order a sample. I think they all sound quite watery and synthetic. Have I missed anything in the line with meat on its bones? Do tell. Meanwhile, your saying that Inflorescence makes Diorisssimo seem like the Whore of Babylon gave me good (and much needed) laugh.
I began to wonder what you thought of Fleurs de Rocaille, since I find it to be such a tender springtime floral that lives and breathes, and so I located your other post where you say outright that it is NOT at all like La Tulipe and praise it along with Quelque Fleurs (and a few more vintage florals) as “a perfumer’s imaginary note-painting of real flower essences, like pressed flowers kept in a well-loved album, not invented ones.” Perfect. My fifty or sixty year old bottles of Fleurs de Rocaille and Quelque Fleurs release such vivid aromas of real flowers that I can only marvel, one more time, at the quality of vintage perfume ingredients. I would add vintage Amour Amour to this group–another lovely thing. I have found a modern mixed floral that I thought was just as beautiful as these vintages–En Voyage’s Fiore di Bellagio. Have you had a chance to try that one?
You can tell that Margaret Atwood is one of those Canadians from the OTHER side of Canada. Here on the West Coast, we’re all peace, love, granola and burlap, wearing sandals and stoned smiles at the beach.
Love that first photo, as though I’d climbed inside a tulip.
Don’t have much use for Byredo and also enjoyed the last article you’d written about them. There is something too clinical about even the raunchy MMink type releases. Too calculated.
I could just pretend that I didn’t read about Miracle, but feeling confessional, and confessing to – gasp – smelling it in an orthodontist’s office about twenty years ago and loving it. It smelled great compared with the other smells there. Context.