The other day, I optimistically went in search of some of the newest department store fragrance offerings. A while back, I wrote about how I found some hidden gems among the Clinique Happy clones and the ever-increasing stable of celebrity scents. This time around, I wasn´t so lucky; what I sniffed was not only unimpressive, it was downright vile. I don´t mean to arbitrarily toss around the word “vile” like a Frisbee at a picnic, but honestly, I can´t seem to find a more fitting adjective. If the stalwart cosmetics companies are paying a premium for the services of the finest French perfumers, spending obscene amounts of money on research, development and marketing, and this is the best they can do, we are in trouble. I know it´s only perfume, but it seems to be a symptom of what´s really going on in the world. Have our standards been so badly decimated and our imaginations so atrophied from strenuously trying to please the masses, that we can´t even smell good anymore? Grasse, I think we have a problem…
Perfume gets a lot of press these days, both positive and negative. The new mainstream releases number in the hundreds, and let´s not forget niche, limited distribution, and the ones that involve a ride via pack mule to some remote location to procure a scent so obscure, even the person who created it can´t recall its existence. On the flipside, there is the anti-fragrance brigade, squawking about how we all must co-exist in a scent-free environment in order to spare those individuals who suffer from fragrance allergies. Then, there are the purveyors of bad perfumes; they are the guiltiest of all when it comes to insulting our intelligence.
In my opinion, individuals who love perfume are able to appreciate it on a level that goes beyond the act of simply removing the cap from the bottle, spraying or dabbing it on the skin, and forgetting about it for the rest of the day. We live for what we smell. We anxiously wait for the initial blast to settle, revealing the heart of our scent, progressing to the dry-down, the most cherished phase of our chosen fragrance; the one that mingles with our individual chemistry and causes us to repeatedly hoist our wrists up to our noses and inhale deeply, reveling in the artistry. I can instantaneously alter my mood with my choice of fragrance; a foul mood can be lifted, and a good mood harpooned by a bad choice. I´m not talking about anything with any aromatherapeutic value, like lavender, peppermint or tea tree, just whatever scent I´m in the mood to wear. If it´s not working, I know it immediately. What´s worse than walking around all day smelling of something that annoys the crap out of you? And trust me, right now there´s so much crap out there, that a massive head cold wouldn´t be enough to deter the stank of these vile (there´s that word again) scents. I offer up some examples:
Ralph Lauren Notorious: Yeah, it´s “notorious” all right; notoriously bad. Whoever concocted the “patchouli musk” note needs to destroy it immediately. It has that sharp, metallic, mercury thermometer-tinge to it that permeates the entire scent from top to bottom. Where are the chocolate cosmos and the black currants? Swallowed up by that damn patchouli musk, that´s where. I literally feel like weeping when I think about how the mighty have fallen; from the frosty green, earthy perfection of Lauren and the languid, floral intrigue of Safari (not to mention that breathtaking bottle), to all those insipid “Ralph” scents and now this. Go ahead and fine me a dollar, but I´m going to say it again: VILE!
Lancà´me Magnifique: Remember my post from two weeks ago, singing the praises of People of the Labyrinths A.MAZE? Go buy a bottle of that instead. And splurge on the Parfum for $225.00 while you´re at it. I know $225.00 is a significant investment in these tough times, but if you´re a lover of rose fragrances, think of it as an investment in you. By purchasing Magnifique, you´d be making an investment in Anne Hathaway´s Christian Louboutin fund. Plenty of people will buy it; as a reader of this blog, you don´t have to be one of them. Consider yourself warned.
Jessica Simpson Fancy: You know how sometimes, everything a certain celebrity touches turns to crap? I believe Jessica Simpson is in that phase of her career. And why she still garners as much attention as she does is beyond my comprehension. But, Jess keeps plugging along, and her latest foray into fragrance is another in a long list of “craptacular” achievements. Her defunct Dessert Beauty line of edible fragrances, bath and body products is a faint memory, and her newest offering, Fancy, should have been chucked into the hazardous waste container in whichever laboratory it was hatched in. Did anyone at Parlux Fragrances bother to smell this crap before they bottled it? My guess is no. And that bottle? I read in the July issue of Beauty Fashion magazine that it is supposed to be “a more modern interpretation of Ms. Simpson´s favorite vintage perfume bottles.” There´s a fine line between what´s vintage, and what´s garbage; I´m curious to know just what exactly she considers “vintage.” As for the scent, it is probably an amalgamation of whatever was left over from those horrific foodie Dessert Beauty concoctions, with a drop of the most inferior quality jasmine and gardenia essences that can be had for forty cents a metric ton, thrown in for good measure. Ms. Simpson claims Fancy can be worn “on the red carpet or every day with [your] favorite jeans.” I wouldn´t wear it to my own execution.
Jennifer Lopez Deseo: I genuinely believe that Ms. Lopez has made a fragrant career out of ripping off already existing scents, instead of indulging in a bit of creativity that would add some credibility to her image. Her J Lo Glow is a spot on duplicate of Body Time´s China Rain perfume oil. Now, with Deseo, she has shoplifted another scent: this time, it´s Creed´s Virgin Island Water. Oops, she did it again. And I´m sure she´ll do it again, with whatever else happens to be in the development hopper. China Rain and Virgin Island Water are not in the mainstream; my assumption is that someone in her inner circle was aware of their existence, and steered her towards them as inspiration for her eponymous scents. Let´s not forget that the celebu-scent industry is one of the most successful out there at the moment. For some people, a celebu-scent completes the fantasy: while watching your favorite stars on the tabloid television shows Access Hollywood and Extra, or flipping through the pages of People magazine, you too can smell like your favorite celeb! See Jennifer Lopez on the cover of People cuddling her newborn twins while wearing a size 2 frock she was able to fit into mere seconds after giving birth. Witness a paparazzi snap of her frolicking in a bikini while an army of nannies is charged with the care of her infants. Boy, I bet she smells good! Hey, wait: I can smell like Jenny from the Block if I dash to the nearest Macy´s and pick up a bottle of Deseo – Spanish for “desire”, and my life and looks will instantly be transformed. Ah, the bliss of ignorance. When you revel in the search-and-sniff as I do, you deservingly give yourself a pat on the back for rooting out the scam, and keeping the cash in your wallet to spend on something infinitely more worthwhile, like $4.00 a gallon gas for your politically and environmentally incorrect SUV. Not to worry, I´m getting rid of mine; it´s severely cutting into my perfume budget.
Can you handle one more? This is the last one, I promise.
Sarah Jessica Parker Covet Pure Bloom: Let me get this out of the way first: I like Covet. I´ve almost drained the bottle I bought last year when it was released. I know a lot of people didn´t like this one, and the fact that it is pretty much MIA as we speak, is an indication that it is on its way to that great perfume graveyard in the sky. What a shame. That just illustrates the fact that once something different, or heaven forbid interesting, hits the stores, if it is not a success right out of the gate, it goes bye-bye. Less than a year later, a flanker emerges as an afterthought to the disaster that was Covet. It bears no resemblance to the original scent, and is in fact little more than a tropical floral mishmash with no personality to speak of. Original Covet has a tart-green citrus opening, and a touch of creaminess; the middle hangs on to a bit of the greenage and on me, the dry-down is not unbearably sweet. I was mortified when Pure Bloom´s debut was announced on the Home Shopping Network, where it was being sold purely for its name recognition and as a cross-promotion for the release of the Sex and the City movie. I heard it was going to be exclusive to HSN for a while, which is a deal-breaker for me. Even though I´ve confessed to loving Philosophy´s Amazing Grace, which is sold on QVC, I discovered it well before they partnered up with the evil, and generally tasteless, cable shopping empire. Again, here is another case of, “You want to smell like one of the hottest celebrities in the world? Then get out your credit card and dial that phone, so you too can have a snort of SJP.” I happened upon Pure Bloom a few weeks ago, in the Duty Free shop at the Thousand Islands border crossing between Ontario and New York State. It was vile. You heard me. And such a pretty purple bottle, too. Very disappointing…
I´ve made the mainstream sound pretty horrible haven´t I? I tried to do so with a bit of humor and irony to cushion the blow, but seriously, it is bad, isn´t it? I look forward to reading your comments, and please don´t be shy about mentioning some of your favorite horror-show mainstream and celebrity fragrances.