Perfume is a great way to bask in the reflected glory of a brand without breaking the bank. Maybe we all can’t be running around in this season’s jacket from Chanel (I certainly can’t) but we can spritz ourselves with No. 5 and feel like people who might buy a $5,000 fantasy tweed in the hour we had to kill between our manicures and ladies’ lunch. When I wore Poison and Paris back in the day, I felt buoyed not just by their strength but by their panache – I was someone to be reckoned with; I had a hint of darkness and mystery. The fact that half the gals in the elevator smelled like me didn’t dim the allure.
So now it’s 2018 and everyone who’s anyone in fashion needs an eponymous scent, I guess. And on the one hand it should be “you” (whatever that means) and on the other, it’s supposed to sell. Maybe it’s my particular quirk, but I find these scents fascinating. If you’re entering the crowded ring with your first scent ever, not its umpteenth flanker, what direction do you go? Should it be more “like” you, or more like the image its buyers want to project (these are not necessarily the same thing.) What does classy smell like, anyway?
I pondered these questions twice recently. The first was at Saks sniffing Jason Wu (the scent, not the man himself). Wu’s a New York based designer (although he’s a Canadian from Taipei) whose recent claim to fame is clothing Michele Obama in jaunty (yet sophisticated!) American-made style. Wu does some really stunning gowns, and I’d use words like elegant and tasteful and also young. His clothes aren’t cheap, but they’re not wildly expensive for designer goods.
The bottle is fantastic – exactly right. It’s heavy in the hand, and I think if you dropped the cap on your foot accidentally you might break a toe, it’s that weighty. It feels sleek and expensive and unfussy.
And the fragrance itself? Saks lists: Jasmine Sambac, Pink Pepper, Fig, Iris, Sensual Woods (lol). It opens up with a burst of fizzy citrus and pepper – the sort of top you expect on a summer flanker. It’s very pretty and gone in a flash, and then it’s the cleanest, least sexy jasmine on earth, a little fruity, a little summer-woodsy. It’s a quiet, safe little scent with zero surprises and decent longevity. I think I’ll call it a success. It doesn’t cloy or annoy, it doesn’t smell like laundry detergent, and it’s not going to kill anyone next to you on the Metro. Do I like it? Who cares? I think it’s going to sell just fine to Wu’s fans and stylish folks at Saks.
I wandered into Talbots for their winter 50% off sale – I’ve struck gold in those jam-packed racks of woolen knits many a time – and bumped into their new Talbots fragrance, Blossom. The original Talbots scent was a dull white-floral-fruity affair, its three sad reviews on Fragrantica (“upscale BBW Pearberry”) wildly outmatched by its many rabid fans on the Talbots website, their most-used adjective being “classy.” I wear Talbots clothes, so I’m allowed to mock: Talbots is the sort of scent that people who buy Talbots because they think it’s “classy” would probably like. Those same people are now clutching their (fancy-fake) pearls because it looks like maybe Talbots is dc’ing the original and replacing it with Blossom, which is not winning them over.
How is Blossom? God, it’s awful. It hasn’t popped up yet, Freddy Krueger-like, on Fragrantica, so all I have to go on is the website blurb: “Created exclusively with you in mind, this delicate floral fragrance has an easy elegance with notes of apricot and honeysuckle – and sandalwood for a memorable finish.” It’s as delicate as a dump truck and equally fragrant, a shrill mash-up of sourpatch candies and drain cleaner. It should be teal-hued, and also leaking from the bottom of a 55-gallon drum. It followed me around for hours – I’d wrinkle up my nose while looking at teacups in Anthropologie and think, what is that awful smell? And then sigh and remember, oh yeah, it’s me. If you handed me a bottle of Blossom and said you’d created it with me in mind, I’d throw it at you, and even with those tacky plastic flowers glued on the side, I guarantee you it’s going to hurt.
Jason Wu – 3 oz, $145.
Blossom – 1.7 oz, $59.