I find it hard to write about NEW perfumes because I find 99.9% of what is out there to be totally uninspiring and completely banal (Serge Lutens aside). The shop ladies at Smith and Caughey's probably know my face by now, one of those sample sniffers who never forks out. What is passed off as perfume these days is really nothing more than a body mist. Especially cheaper celebrity fragrances that have such poor sillage and longevity, they really sum up our consumer culture at the moment - immediate gratification and an attention span of about 10 seconds. Most start off pleasant enough, those fruity-florals that hardly knock your socks off - most consumers will only be giving a few seconds of attention to each fragrance before another sample is being sniffed, they can't afford for anything to be too bold, especially when the younger crowd are buying them on name alone. So what if the scent hardly lingers? They're cheap enough to re-apply and re-buy.
The grand dames of yesteryear: Poison, Opium, Youth Dew - Could they get away with them now with all their excesses and barbed edges?
I love visiting these ladies. I sprayed Opium on my wrist last week and went to the library - that's my favorite place to try on a perfume, there's something about the ambient temperature in there and something about those old pages. Its quiet too, so long as I hightail past the noisy bogans and teenagers using the free computers. I feel like I can really get to know a perfume in there, like I can really pay attention to the shifting layers. What amazes me, when I try out a classic, is how the notes really shine out, one by one, they strip back, ohh cinnamon! Oh - Patchouli! Every few minutes its a totally new stink.
They were all trying to convey this sort evil vibe, of forbidden pleasures, drugs, sex - even Angel's cotton candy sweetness had a dark decadent heart - while the top note was cotton candy - its more a gluttonous bulimic binge than childhood trip to the fair. I truly believe that for a perfume to be truly great it has to convey something about humanity; death, sex, drugs, addiction, all the best perfumes have a hint of something repugnant. Maybe why all the complex perfumes lend themselves to the colder seasons and the introspection that accompanies.
I imagine that women used to put a lot of thought into their signature fragrance, about a certain persona they were attempting to construct be it mysterious, powerful, professional, assertive, sexy - there was a certain intentionality there, a commitment.
Fast forward to 2013. Or look outside your window! Here is a new stink by Givenchy, it's called Play.
It looks like something I'd be embarrassed to own. It certainly doesn't look expensive, which it is, at least way more expensive than it should be. The problem with it, for me, is that a smart phone or an mp3 player is a banal, mass produced object. Their marketing department seems to have been like 'what do kids like?' music! They took it really literally and just ran with it.
The banality doesn't stop there though.
That sounds like fun, said no one ever. And it smells utterly generic to boot. Play is NOT playful. I've noticed with so many of these fragrances, they smell flatly flowers at first, then poof its gone, leaving only a slight musk/sandalwood base, because they're the least offensive base notes available. You have to stick your wrist right under your nose to detect them.
Look at this poster from the same house, Givenchy in 1984 for Ysatis
That looks like a party I want to go to. First off, looks like the secret orgy society from Eyes Wide Shut AND they're playing chess. Second thoughts no, I don't really like chess.
I wonder where its going to go from here? Maybe all the interesting juice will be manufactured by indie labels and everything else will smell like Glade air freshener. Probably. How else can it go? Even if Etat Libre d'Orange went ahead and made a GG Allin celebrity fragrance, there's no stopping this train, and no one would get the joke - the people have voted with their dollars, this is what they want.