If I got a sample of a fragrance called Mimosa, I might make assumptions about the way it smelled. Those would probably be different assumptions than for a sample of something called, say, Satan´s Crotch. I might google “Mimosa EDP” and see if the notes said citrus and champagne – or maybe the flower itself. Any of that information might enter into how I feel about Mimosa the first time I smell it.
I remember the first time I smelled Apothia Velvet Rope, I was thrown off because it´s a sequence of nightclub smells, but I was expecting something literally rope-y – something that smelled like rope, woody and masculine. I was expecting something more like the smell of L´Artisan Fleur de Narcisse. Of course, if I hadn´t been pre-warned by others´ reviews, I would have been expecting Narcisse to smell like the odd, sweet smell of paperwhites in bloom – narcissus – and I might have been horrified, or at least temporarily put off, by the hay-ish, leathery smell that greeted me instead.
So when I received a sample of what I believe is the first Kenzo fragrance, King Kong, I wasn´t sure what to think. As you know, I´m neither a chemist nor a perfumer. I can´t smell King Kong and parse its ingredients. Nor can I find any notes about it online. So when I smelled this sample (a more accurate description is this: it is a sample re-created by its original creator) I had the name and my impressions, and that´s it. To whatever extent anyone else can produce some history, we can see how far off I am.
What do I smell? Oddly, and amusingly, it opens with a strong note of banana to me – which seemed completely bizarre until I thought – oh, yeah – King Kong! Bananas!! Of course!!! Next comes a rich, almost oily smell, like the inside of rubber boots, folded into a dank wet-pelt note (here comes the King himself!). At that point, the combination of sweet, slightly rank fruit, oily rubber and fur becomes almost unbearable. Sheer willpower kept me from washing it off the first time. My waiting was rewarded by a third phase — the rubber boots fade and are replaced by what smells like a clean, white floral resting on the fur, resembling a gardenia corsage on an old mink coat.
King Kong is one of the odder fragrances I´ve smelled. It´s aggressive; nothing is held back, but at the same time it´s weirdly tender. According to my benefactor, the fragrance was intended as a love story, from a man who loved the movie with Jessica Lange (released in 1976; the fragrance was released in ´78). Kenzo might also have been making a statement on several levels – about being Japanese, a rising star, a risk-taker, and a designer (Kenzo´s stores at the time were provocatively named Jungle Jap). And you know what? It is a love story; I find that absolutely believable. You can gaze at the eerie imagery of Kong battling from the top of the World Trade Center, at the giant ape with the beautiful woman he loves, and you can laugh at its ridiculousness — or be moved by its tragedy — or both at the same time. This thing is a paean to outsized desires – the Big Banana, the misunderstood hero, the wrong woman. You know it´s going to get messy, but that doesn´t stop you from enjoying the drama while it lasts.
bottle image: parfumini.free.fr