I was on some beauty website recently– nobody could accuse me of neglecting my trashy reading during the pandemic– when I discovered word had gotten out last summer about which fragrance Rihanna wears. (Note: it is not any of her RiRi house brand fruity-florals found dirt cheap online, in case you’re wondering why she hadn’t done a celebrity scent; she’s done five, I think, but that doesn’t mean she’s going to force herself to wear them.) Anyway, apparently her signature scent had long been the source of speculation among her hardcore fans; the gospel among them was that anyone who’d had the good fortune to meet her (or, I guess, just stand nearby?) said she smelled amaaaaazing. Clearly she had a signature fragrance, but what was it?
Rihanna doesn’t interest me that much — she’s pretty, I’m not sure I can name any of her songs, I don’t follow her on Instagram, etc. I think her makeup line is fantastic, but that’s a different post. The reason this caught my attention, at least initially, is because apparently the sleuthing revealed Rihanna’s signature is Love, Don’t Be Shy from By Kilian. I thought, wait, By Kilian? It struck me as an odd choice.
“I don’t want to pay $240 for fruity pebbles” – Sephora review
Then I embarked upon some hurried, extensive googling, because I was drawing a blank on that one. When I could still visit the Saks near me, I knew By Kilian had a whole slew of scents now, was this among the newer ones? Some flanker? Eventually however I reached the conclusion that we were in fact talking about his original Calice Becker-crafted scent called (simply) Love from 2007, part of his first-crop L’Oeuvre Noire releases.
“This smells like something middle school girls wear” — Sephora review
I remembered Love, a parlor-trick colossus that smelled of fancy caramel and marshmallows, interesting and amusing in small doses but not something I wanted to wear or even live under the same roof with. The more I thought about it, though, the more sense it made as Rihanna’s signature. Love as I remember it is loud and soft, unapologetic, and an absolute sillage monster – you announce your presence simply by walking into a room wearing it. The brand By Kilian is simultaneously exclusive ($240+ per bottle) yet easy to source – heck, some of it’s stocked at Sephora now. Maybe that’s how RiRi ran across Love in the first place, although I’m guessing she’s spent plenty of time and money at Saks. Speaking of which, Saks carries a Love travel set with a gorgeous atomizer and four small spray refills, perfect for someone like Rihanna who must spend a ton of time on the road.
“I was immediately not happy” – Sephora review
I’m not sure how and when the fragrance became called Love, Don’t Be Shy, although I did try to figure it out. When your line has seven different fragrances with the word “love” in the name, I suppose we’re all going to have to make an effort to distinguish them. My best guess is his little engraved musing under the name on the bottle label (“don’t be shy”) became incorporated into the name itself. Sprinkled throughout this post are pull quotes from reviews on Sephora, written by the unsuspecting innocents who ordered this $240 behemoth online and unsniffed because of Rihanna. I feel their pain, having bought plenty of things unsniffed myself with varying degrees of success. Hey, at least Sephora takes returns. In the meantime it looks like they’ve thrown together an Eau Fraiche version that’s a little less of a punch in the face for those club kids who didn’t cut (rot?) their teeth like we did on intense, syrupy bombs like Poison or Addict.
“At first spritz it smells like artificial grape candy?” – Sephora review
It would have been amazing if Rihanna had chosen a classic as her signature, something like Shalimar. But I’m guessing most of those scents would read as old-ladyish to her and her younger fan base. She’d want something she’d discovered and could make her own, so to speak. I think Fracas would have worked; in fact, Fracas fills kind of the same fragrance niche, with similar weight and sillage and outrageousness. It’s the first (and only) classic that sprang to mind as plausible, right down to the elegant black bottle.
“let’s see if this will be an office/date/girls night out banger! I too want to be known as someone that just ALWAYS smells good.” – Sephora review
Why do people choose a signature fragrance? Maybe they want to smell sexy. Or sweet and edible. They want something office-friendly, or something that projects competence, or something that comforts them. Maybe they want to smell expensive, or different and edgy, or exotic and worldly. Me? I just want to smell—all the things, all the time, all over my hair and body and clothing. I keep thinking I’m going to make myself a tee shirt that reads, I’m not wearing this perfume for you.
Have you tried Love? Do you own any By Kilians? (I have a couple decants but not a bottle). If you won a bottle in a raffle, which would you want? (I’ll take the honey-spice Back to Black, thank you very much.) In the meantime I’ve been after Patty to get Love back in stock at Surrender to Chance so I can smell it again and laugh; heck, I’d probably love it now. Stranger things have happened.