Kenzo is a fashion house I can’t help but enjoy: a (privileged, expensive) refuge from reality that combines a precise, childlike Japanese aesthetic with a vivid, jungled, ‘ethnic’ spectrum: an idealized, Franco-Japponic, rainforest-batik world of colour. On occasion I go to their shop in Aoyama, Tokyo, just for a quick Kenzo fix ( love how they print flowers), and to consider the possibility of buying one of their leafy, kookaburra neckties. Eye-catching, lush, is the way I would describe the brand.
There is also something quite artificial about Kenzo: it’s ‘le monde est beau’ mantra, its smooth, plastic, futuristic packaging; those poppies, ubiquitous, trapped in their eye-brimming plastic towers – but somehow, on the whole, it all works. Many of the perfumes in Kenzo’s range, whether discontinued or not (Le Tigre, L’Elephant, Kashâya, Parfum D’Eté) are good: pleasing little concepts of scent and visuals that are very neatly, appealingly, packaged.
Like the magnificent Kenzo Pour Homme (one of my favourite summer fragrances of all time), Kenzo Summer is deliciously evocative of this season, and on first spray brought back to me a delirious myriad of photographic images of childhood holidays, flashing by in my mind in rapid, emotive succession: the unfamiliar yet comforting scent of a rented chalet’s bedclothes next to sunkissed skin after a day by the sea: my father asleep on a beach towel in the evening sun; flickering white and yellow light behind closed eyes as the waves crash on the shore and you slumber, beneficently, in that oceanic, dreamy limbo-land between sandy, sun-lidded consciousness, and shaded, cavernous more watery underworlds.
I don’t know how the perfumer (Alberto Morillas) achieved this estival feat, but it is all really rather clever. While the scent does contain an odd jarring synthetic, soapy note initially, this can be quickly forgiven, as from the start the scent is so extraordinarily cheering; the loveliest, yellowest, looming mimosa flowers cut through with a bladed breeze of leaf-green grass; a skin-caressing scent of sweet almond milk and sunscreen that softens, then, to a delicious, lingering, note of airy, care-free, sun-filled afternoons.