Awhile ago I blogged about how much I like Gucci Envy for Men, which features a lot of ginger, an unexpected (and for me, quite welcome) note in a scent. Musette, in one of our chatty email exchanges recently, asked me what I actually wear when I’m not test-driving something new. I admitted that I probably wear Gucci Rush more than is decent. I still can’t find the line in The Guide where Luca Turin describes a scent as (paraphrasing here) “making vulgarity seem like a richly-deserved vacation from good taste,” but I could certainly apply that to Rush, a milky-sweet thing that is both art and trash, like those big, shiny Jeff Koons balloon dogs. Gucci Flora was okay, and while I ragged in passing on Gucci Guilty on Monday, it’s … perfectly fine. It’s a very current, office-friendly floral-amber that I wouldn’t object to putting on my body, in theory. But as I don’t work in an office, and it’s a little too floral to be a wallpaper scent for me, I’d rather wear something else. Leading me, in roundabout fashion, to the top of today’s review: Gucci Envy.
Envy came out in 1997, when I had a toddler, a baby, and a more-than-full-time corporate job that involved travel. Whatever marketing message they were sending out with Envy, I missed it. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve walked by a bottle of Envy without once picking it (or any of its spawn) up for a sniff. I’d be able to buy one of those MDCIs and an Amouage, or maybe I’d dial up the Roja Dove boutique instead and see if they have any of that discontinued Les Larmes Sacrees de Thebes under the counter… anyway, how it is I’ve gotten to this point in my life and in perfumery without a hint of Envy I have no idea, but there you have it. It’s pretty hard to dig up a list of notes, here’s one cobbled together from Osmoz that seems plausible: bergamot, freesia, peach, hyacinth, magnolia, lily of the valley, rose, jasmine, cedar, sandalwood, orris, musk. The fragrance was done by Maurice Roucel. I had no idea. Maybe I’d have tried it sooner.
Envy is, if nothing else, an interesting study in how tastes have changed in mass-market perfumery. It’s a green floral, and a big one – one of those goes-with-cigarettes scents like Estee Lauder Azuree the original, Estee Lauder Jasmine White Moss, and Issey Miyake A Scent, although there’s no oakmoss finish to Envy. The first five minutes are sweet and fruity, rather synthetically so, like the hairspray top notes of the Rush bottle next door crept in. It feels a bit dated in a fun way, as if I’d oversprayed Chanel Cristalle and suddenly time-tripped back to 1984 for a pineapple daiquiri and a cigarette on the outside patio of the local watering hole. Then the top fades and it’s both green/metallic (hyacinth and the LOTV) and watery – I get a lot of magnolia – and as it drifts toward the drydown it becomes progressively more musky/woody. The florals aren’t identifiable individually to me beyond the touch of rose. Envy’s got the velvety curves of muguet rather than the sharpness of galbanum, and it’s never as dry or sharp (or grown-up) as, say, Azuree, but it’s quite pretty. It seems far more sophisticated than most of the new mass-market scents I run into.
People are still making green florals – there’s the Jasmine White Moss and A Scent right there on my list – but those seem more exclusive, or niche-ier, in terms of demographic. What’s Gucci making now to lure the huddled masses? Flora and Guilty, two fragrances that fit in seamlessly, scent-wise, with the newer offerings on the shelf at Macy’s and Sephora. The idea of releasing a scent that smells like Envy to the same market (18 to 30 year olds?) it was aimed at fifteen years ago seems absurd to me. It must have been the Obsession (or the Poison) of its day, right? For the party-going 20-somethings? These days it’s Gwen Stefani and Coach, cupcakes and light musk, nothing that’s going to pull a groin muscle.
I’ve enjoy my continuing journey through the powerhouse scents of the 1980s and 1990s, most of which I missed, not really being into perfume at the time. There’s always another surprise out there, no matter how assiduously I sniff. Envy is stirring my faint memories of green scents with LOTV … does anyone out there remember Sung? How about Fidji? Wow, that’s much older, from the 60’s. I knew a lot of women wearing it in the 80’s. Who wore Envy back in the day, raise your hand? How did you feel about it? How do you feel about it now?