Tag Archives: Kenzo

THE SPRING FLOWERS THAT ENDURE : Nymphéa, Flower, J’Adore, Antonia’s Flowers, Floret, Romance, Pleasures, Bouquet De La Reine

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It is that time.

NYMPHEA / IL PROFUMO (2004)

I am not sure how such a heavenly creature actually works on a real life girl, but this dreamy, artful, fresh-green bouquet (bamboo, fig, white waterlily, lotus flowers, water jasmine, and white rose) is, in my view, almost heartbreakingly lovely. Il Profumo describes it as having a ‘lacustrine tranquillity’, and it does have such a transparent, lake-like, lily-pad beauty that I am compelled to agree.

ANTONIA’S FLOWERS/ ANTONIA’S FLOWERS (1985)

Antonia was a florist in The Hamptons, and knowing her flowers, and adoring freesias, and being dissatisfied with the floral scents available on the market, set out to create her own. In the process she produced three American classics: Antonia’s Flowers, Floret, and Tiempe Passate, all of which have apparently been among the best selling fragrances since their launches at Bergdorf’s and Barney’s New York.

Despite my own personal love of fleurs à la Parisienne, there is no reason why the classic French model (flowers, woods, musks and animalics) should necessarily predominate in a person’s floral wardrobe; not everyone wants that suggestive, ‘come-thither’ quality in a perfume – sometimes you want a scent that goes on fresh and clean and stays that way. And what distinguishes the Antonia’s Flowers perfumes from the mass-market chemical-sheen ‘flowers’ like Romance and Happyis a natural, well crafted, ‘made-with-love’ quality that, in the case of this, her eponymous fragrance, shines all the way through the brilliant fusion of light-shimmering, china-dry rosewood and crisp, springtime flowers (mainly freesia, magnolia and lily). It is a highly unusual fragrance – the intense but beautifully natural bois-de-rose note is too much for some – but one I would recommend to anybody who loves flowers and just flowers.

FLORET/ ANTONIA’S FLOWERS (1995)

Or alternately, try Floret: a tightly controlled, crystal-clear, sweet-pea floral, with  rose, tuberose and marigold, and a delicious, transparent apricot top note. Pure, feminine, it is springtime in a bottle: the olfactory equivalent of pressed, clean clothes in an airy, open room.

FLOWER BY KENZO/ KENZO (2000)

‘A flower with no fragrance.’

Kenzo, who I have always liked (for their Kenzo Homme, L’Eléphant, Le Tigre, Summer, Kashâya and their sensuous, eponymous original scent) suddenly became a major contender in the perfume world when, thirteen years ago, in a marketing act of brilliance, they released a rather stunningly designed bottle, which appeared to contain poppies at various stages of growth, and cleverly filled airports and department stores with them. The effect was startling, the concept (‘creating the scent of the poppy’) an instant hit with consumers, and thus cities were suddenly filled with scent of young office girls going to work in Flower.

It is a very pleasant scent, like anything by the company; airy and green, with soothing, gentle notes of Bulgarian rose, hawthorn, cassie and parma violets over a sheer, powdery almond base: gentle, carefree, light, and safe – like running through a neighbouring field in freshly tumble-dried, clean smelling clothes. Which is another way of saying that it is fragrant, and nice, but rather dull. I quite like it, but don’t get my friend Helen started on how much, and why, she despises this to the extent that she does.

J’ADORE/ CHRISTIAN DIOR (1999)

Knowing what the women wanted – something fresh, light, sophisticated but somehow ‘vulnerable’ – Calice Becker, one of the world’s undisputed masters of florals, created a scent for Dior in 1999 that  went down a storm – J’Adore is now one of the world’s best selling scents, and I can certainly understand why. Despite the usual fresh floral metallica, this perfume does have that ‘classic’ stamp on it; the greenness of the fresh ivy top notes; the gleaming flowers (orchids, champaca, white roses, violets – apparently it was designed as an ‘emotional floral’); the fruitiness (Damascus plum and blackberry musk), the gentle, skin-tone, base notes. This scent is ‘pure woman’, and something you can’t really go wrong with. For evenings out. For romantic dinners. For engagement parties and anniversaries: the magazine adverts featuring Charlize Theron say it all – in gold; glamorous, pretty, charming and ‘dazzling’.

Despite my objective appreciation of its charms, however, I myself don’t  like J’Adore at all, and, as the murdered woman in Goldfinger was to find, all that gold can be suffocating.  The perfection; the flawlessness, is all too much for me I’m afraid, and it catches in my throat; hysterical – a sharp, processed, gilded lacquer.

ROMANCE/ RALPH LAUREN (1998)

True-blue thoroughbred, how could Ralphie go wrong with an advertising campaign that played up to every Tiffany-dreaming, happy-ending, Caucasian fantasy? And the smell! So clear, so sheer, so ‘romantically’ floral and clean: so ‘right-for-every-occasion’.

Inevitable then, that Romance should be such a big hit. I can’t personally say that I like it (shrill; synthetic; far too conservative for this writer), but it might be what you are looking for if you want an inoffensive, indistinct scent for that wedding or baby shower.

PLEASURES/ ESTEE LAUDER (1995)

Pleasures is, I think, aimed at the same target audience as Romance; thirty-something mothers of a stable income and societal position who shun any hint of prurience (or even any acknowledgement they have a body) in their scent (what would the other mothers think?!?). For the successful original advertising campaign, that foxy British minx of the upper-middle classes, Liz Hurley, donned a lilac cashmere sweater, and, airbrushedly, tumbled about with a Lenor-washed puppy in a field, a thousand miles from the cleavage Versace It-dress that made her famous. The message was clear: like Romance, this woman was a Good Girl, and her family values were most Virginally Intact.

The difference between Romance and Pleasures, though, is that Pleasure has character, and lots of it – only characterful creations are this recognizable. So powerfully, translucently floral it almost hurts, this complex bouquet of rain-drenched flowers (lily, lilac,  violet leaves, peonies, baie-rose…) can be hypnotically feminine, mysterious even, on the right person if used in small doses (I have known women who have smelled quite gorgeous in it) but, ultimately, it is so resolutely ‘pure’, so WASP, I have to say that it rather scares me.

BOUQUET DE LA REINE / FLORIS (2002)

Middle England: a secret, illicit tryst between two married people, in love,  speaking in quiet voices under their drinks in the hotel bar.

He is wearing Eucris (Geo F Trumper): she is wearing this: a pretty, insistent bouquet, green and fresh (bergamot, blackcurrant buds, violet leaf,  rose, ylang and jasmine) that is respectable, pliant, and womanly. He leans in closer, and, furtively watching and smelling from a distance, we don’t doubt for a moment the passion that will later ensue.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Floral Bouquet, Flowers

DUMBO DUMBO : L’ELEPHANT by KENZO (1996)

 

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We have been  talking recently about signature scents, whether of Hollywood stars or just ourselves, and this excessive treat by Kenzo, which is still going strong, was definitely one of mine.

 

It is a milestone of sorts: the first ‘women’s’ scent I wore with pride, and also a marker of the first years of my time in Japan, when everything was new, exciting and disorientating and I would return to England periodically laden with incense and stories of my experiences, reeking (no, reeking, really) of L’Eléphant. If there is any scent my friends associate with me, it is probably this flamboyant creation, which somehow, for a while,  suited me perfectly.

 

I even wore it to work all the time, unaware at that point of the suffering I was probably causing……

 

 

One of my nicknames growing up, which I never liked, was Nelly The Elephant (along with Neil, Neil orange peel, or lemon peel, or whatever peel you like, any chantable derivative of my name) : yet, ironically, for a time I then eventually end up being synonymous with a perfume actually called elephant, a scent I would wear in unbearably huge amounts, and even deliberately spray on people’s walls when I was staying for the night at their houses, taking the perfume association thing to ludicrous levels of self-importance (you WILL smell me and remember me even when I am not there: I will haunt you with the presence of my long, vanilla-kissed trunk…..)

 

 

 

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It was always hilarious, though, I must say, to be asked

 

‘Wow, what perfume are you wearing?’

 

and be able to answer

 

 

‘Elephant!’

 

 

…a perfume so intense it actually burns human skin (mine in any case……I always had red patches from the absurd concentration of sensitizing spices and ylang.. and Japanese Parisian aroma chemicals…….maybe it would suit the skin of the great pachyderm itself better: : : : : : : : great runs of cardamom-scented elephants charging across the savannahs and plains, scaring off the yelping cheetahs and lions with gigantic clouds of ylang ylang and patchouli

 

 

 

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….a  perfume that, quite understandably, still has a small posse of enthusiasts across the world who keep it in production (Le tigre, which I also loved, is now unfortunately extinct)…..

 

 

No. The Elephanters truly love its plummy, Christmas cake excesses: its spiced, inspiriting intensity, but more importantly the fact that it elicits such positive, even wild reactions from others (especially in its closing stages). I have practically caused stampedes, wearing this perfume;  I distinctly remember the first time I debuted the perfume in a bar in Yokohama, and people were all over me, women especially, sniffing my neck wantonly, excited by its effluvium of everything in the poacher’s kitchen sink.

 

 

 

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With a great, bellowing, fanfare, the sweetest ylang ylang flowers; cumin, cardamom and mandarins trumpet savagely from the skin, a perilous stage you have to endure before you begin to wade through the massive, uninhabitable jungle to reach that delicious main theme, which is a rich, buttery accord of vanilla, patchouli and a huge dollop of liquorice.

 

 

 

Gorgeous and grotesque in equal measure, this really is a fun scent to wear out once in a while, but only in cold weather lest you be cloyed to death.

 

 

On the wrong, sweaty, hot and greasy day, Elephant is nothing short of an atrocity.

 

 

 

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I have had friends who have absolutely loved the scent on me (the closing stages) and then tried it on themselves, only to screech in distress at the initial toxic shock and run like crazy to the nearest source of water and soap. My current big bottle comes from a friend who bought it based on how I smelled, was appalled when he tried it on himself, and immediately handed it over to my willing, grabbing hands.

 

 

 

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Filed under Liquorice, occasionally sickening scents, Orientals, Patchouli, Perfume Reviews, Spice Orientals, Vanilla, Ylang Ylang

SHOCK WAVES: : KENZO POUR HOMME (I99I) + + TIRRENICO by PROFUMI DEL FORTE (2008)

Inside a super hollow wave in Hawaii

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Some perfumes arrive and totally change the air.

Kenzo Pour Homme was such a scent: iconoclastic, groundbreaking, with its olfactory shock of the new. Distorting the air in Rome, where I was living at the time, like a giant, salty, turtle-shaped watermelon: head-turning, inescapable (so many of the young Romani seeming having cottoned onto it all at once at their local profumeria ); so at odds with the classical surroundings that I walked among at night and where I kept on smelling this…..smell.

Drifting, unexpectedly, about the city.

Surfing the midnight air.

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People HATED it – my flat-mate referred to it as ‘that….. sea-piss’; my mother loathed it  (“What IS that FOUL smell?!!”……..)

It amused me. It intrigued me: I bought a bottle.

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Though Aramis New West had been the first scent to introduce the aquatic note of calone three years prior to this perfume’s release, Kenzo was the first to do it to such a fearless extreme as to make it essential: almost offensive in its oceanic, salted weirdness, yet so utterly of the moment and futuristic that it felt addictive. Unfortunately, in recent times, as is so often the case, the formula seems to have been tempered with over the years to make it more conformist (in that ubiquitous sea of dull aquatics) – watered down, its stingray zest somehow blunted –  yet to me it still remains one of the best of this type and remains quite popular, especially in France. It is a shame, however, that it no longer has quite the eye-opening surprise it once had. Which was this:

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a revivifying sea spray of salty green marine notes; an oceanic top note like the crash of waves (when you get dragged under helplessly joyfully swirling dragged up, sand and seaweed and splinters of sea shells as the sun tilts erratically through the refracted gluts in the surface and the solar blue peers through…) ….that delicious, electrolyte blue of the sea. An iodine rush that had never been done before in perfumery and that was startling.

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What it didn’t do next was also praiseworthy.

What it didn’t do was dry down to a gay-club sport cliché, like the dreadfully efficient Acqua di Giò (Armani), or the now standard jeune homme progression of calone, citrus, ‘spice’, and ‘woods’ a la Miyake that could bore a man to tears as it fills the international airports like a slow, deathly tsunami, instead being strange, interesting, confounding, and exciting.

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Kenzo’s heart is pleasing.

The top, filtered through with bergamot, some green notes, geranium, and a strange dose of anisic fennel, has an aqueous freshness, but it is undercut beautifully with quite prominent spice – particularly nutmeg and clove – on a musty, cool seabed of vetiver, sandalwood, light musks, and patchouli. And while I was always slaking more for the top notes, I also remember a beautiful walk in the Tuscan countryside Helen and I took that summer in Italy, Kenzo under our constant analyses under the burning sun (we really had smelled nothing like it, and we had smelled a lot of perfumes together over the years….) Helen particularly transfixed, I remember, by the closing patchouli/aromatic accord that I think set the stage for my later attraction to dry patchouli chypres along the lines of Parure, Aromatics Elixir, and Eau du Soir. Such an imprint lies at the sea-bed of Kenzo – you might even call it a chypre oceanic – because while refreshing and beach-bound, it also verges on mystery.

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The only other scent I have come across of similar bearing to Kenzo Pour Homme is perhaps Profumi Del Forte’s Tirrenico (2008), which I discovered a couple of summers ago while staying in Berlin. This beautifully constructed composition has the sea-green sodium feel of Kenzo but has a more torrid, even livid aspect (fennel again, plus dried fruits, elemi, and a very intense basil over ozone), that I found mesmerizing, but also almost depressing in its algae-filled darkness. Where with Kenzo the play-drowning and underwater torpedo-ing feel like fun, with Tirrenico I felt as if I might never actually re-surface. I have toyed with the idea of buying a bottle of this (supremely expensive) scent: but the company’s  tiaré-banana-noix de coco fantasy Apuana Vittoria (delectable!) has first priority, if I ever raise the cash..

For the time being Kenzo remains my only sea perfume. It is unique, and brings back wonderful sun and water-filled memories of sun-christened skin. Only to be worn in summer, the the breezy, saline atmosphere it creates is indispensable.

As the Japanese summer heats up and the coast begins to beckon, I will be taking my bottles out of seasonal rest-mode very soon.

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Filed under Masculines, Oceanic, Perfume Reviews