Before I start, the winner of last time’s impromptu draw of… something-or-other on my No Regrets post is Spring Pansy! Email me at perfumediva at gmail dot com.
Marie Kondo wrote a second book awhile ago, Spark Joy, for the sock-folding set. I haven’t read that book or the first one (because of course I haven’t) but I saw an excerpt online recently about blindfolding your stuffed animals so they can’t look you in the eye while you’re getting rid of them. Kondo’s focus on less-is-more made me yearn to do an ode to perfume collectors, uselessness, and maximalism — an excuse to plumb the gloriously gaudy depths of House of Sillage, a line so OTT it’s (possibly?!) too excessive even for me — let’s find out!
Look, fragrance can’t all be tasteful subtlety. It can’t all be something that smells vaguely like clean air in bottles that won’t clash with your Miyake hakama pants. House of Sillage seemed like a solid bet for some mammoth scents — it’s literally called sillage, after all — and look at those bottles! They’re so ornately bejeweled you could probably spot their twinkle from one of those spy satellites circling overhead, or from Mars.
So, House of Sillage – about which I knew absolutely nothing going in, except that if the regular bottles aren’t flashy enough for you, they have the fancy bottles, which look like Judith Leiber minaudieres and I assume are priced similarly.* Per Fragrantica: “House of Sillage is an American haute perfumery founded in 2011 by Nicole Mather. Famous for its high quality scents as well as its delightful and whimsical ‘cupcake’ bottles adorned with beautiful crystals…. timeless and elegant scents designed for the most discerning of tastes.”
The individual fragrance names are a potpourri of heaven and whispers and bijoux and whatnot, written in dense script I can’t read without help. First I browsed the fancy guide they had on the counter at Bloomie’s, deciding where to start. I figured I’d get punched in the face at least once– death by oud, maybe, or the fruitchouli monster, or some skank. Let me tell you, I was positively giddy with anticipation. Think of what could be lurking in those bottles!
If the nouvelle air fragrance trend is for the Asian market (and teenagers, and people who don’t really want to smell like perfume), then these gewgaws are for… who, exactly? Beverly Hills housewives? (Or are these more Real Housewives of New Jersey?) The bottles are extremely heavy and the caps are quite detailed, and in terms of bling factor these photos truly don’t do them justice.
And the scents? Wow, not at all what I was expecting. As a group they’re surprisingly soft and weirdly … diffuse? They smell like quality ingredients assembled with not enough direction. It’s fruitchoulis, gourmands, and musky florals. I took notes on some of them:
Benevolence — orange blossom, bitter almond, musk. It’s got that weird root-beer thing going on and reminded me immediately of Acqua di Parma Mandorla, only the AdP is more dimensional and has bigger sillage.
Emerald Reign — a sweet/spicy oriental, heavy on the benzoin, pretty, wears close to the skin. Done by Mark Buxton. Huh. I like this one, but it’s not mind-blowing.
Love is in the Air — a fruity floral from 2012, also Mark Buxton. Plum, citrus, jasmine, rose, musk. Powdery.
Passion de L’Amour — is also by Mark Buxton. Bergamot, saffron, raspberry, oud, vanilla, patch, raspberry, muguet…. so, I’m realizing these all kind of sit on a base of vanilla/patch, or vanilla/musk, or something that makes them seem sweeter and gourmand.
Holiday — blood orange, peach, jasmine, rose, cedar. My favorite, surprisingly, and another Mark Buxton. I thought it would smell like holiday potpourri, but it has a creamy, lactonic sweetness I like a lot. Also, sorry, Mark Buxton?! How’d he wind up designing a scent for a bottle that looks like you bought your snowglobe at Swarovski?
So there you have it. I can’t imagine wanting these, but I’m clearly not their target market so who cares? Hat-tip to a line that has the money to hire Mark Buxton, and the chutzpah to design these insanely gaudy bottles. You do you, House of Sillage.
But in the end I’m still confused. Mark Buxton has done some of my favorite niche scents, including various CdGs and those recent-ish Folie things, and the Elternhaus Unifaith/MoslBuddJewChristHinDao that Luca Turin gave five stars to. He does that woody/radiant/spice so beautifully. So, I see his hand in the general shape of these scents, but at the same time he seems like the last guy you’d expect to be the nose for brand this conspicuous-consumer. And now that I know it’s him, I’m bummed, because think how great they could have been.
*Note: bottles are 75ml and prices range from $360 to $1,500 for the fancy ones, which puts you at the lower end of Leiber minaudiere territory on eBay (they’ll set you back several grand at Neiman Marcus.) For those of you who missed the Reagan years — a minaudiere is a tiny, bejeweled clutch for carrying your lipstick and Amex black card to the Oscars or a museum benefit gala. Some are charming; some are cutesy; some are spectacular. I probably spent 45 minutes trying to settle on *one* minaudiere photo for this post.