Embracing the Modernization of Fragrance

The Future of French Fragrance. It's Soft, Sweet, Cute and Cuddly.

The Future of French Fragrance. It's Soft, Sweet, Cute and Cuddly.

Ah, there is no sound as sweet to these distantly primitive ears, as the howling of vintage freaks, discovering with horror that Guerlain ain’t what it used to be.  All that’s missing is a full moon.  Images of the good Doctor Smith, from Lost in Space, come to mind.  Oh, the pain.  The pain.  Little Will Robinson wants to somehow comfort the man – from the goodness of his heart.  He alone realizes that the Doctor only wants to go home – to the comfortable – to the familiar.  The audience – comfortably warm on their earthly couches, can afford to call Smith a villain for wanting no part of this nutty expedition into dangers unknown.  Dangers which, in any kind of reality, would have the hypocritical audience lined up behind Smith, scheming and plotting along with him to get the hell back to Earth.

Will Robinson, wearing his Redneck Perfumisto cowboy hat, offers Doctor Smith his beloved Hello Kitty plushie, only to hear the man sob anew at the umpteenth death of Guerlain.  The audience laughs at the cotton-candy salt in the absence-of-civet wound, but for a moment it also feels a bit of sympathy for both the innocent little devil and the older, more tragic one.

Flash forward from the horror of Revelation to the wonder of revelation.  I may be a bit late to the party for Dior Homme, but I’m smelling like Jude Law now, and when you smell that good, it doesn’t matter when you give the dude your coat.  You see, I got a wake-up call from Kevin Guyer, who pointed out that Dior Homme and Shalimar Parfum Initial are brother and sister.  WTF?  Um….. yeah.  And it’s more than just a tramp-stamp saying I <Heart> Iris.  Sometimes you just have to see something from a slightly different angle to get it, and in perfume space, there are so many angles, you may actually need a little help.

My big break, however, came with Dior Homme Intense.  In case you haven’t been logging into Basenotes, it’s gotten rather fanboy lately.  Young guys and n00bs have been schooling around A*Men Pure <whatever> like hungry koi in a fountain, waiting for Thierry Mugler to throw them a few bread crumbs.  And – strangely enough- this cargo cult of cotton-candy cologne has been spilling over to Dior Homme Intense.  Huh?  Yes.  To the point that the acronym DHI is as recognizable as ADG, and fast approaching LOL status.  What the hell?  What does a respectable Dior masculine aimed at fashionable Euro-boys and hardcore perfumistos have to do with Mugler’s angelic cotton candy flanker factory?  Are the Yankee frat boys actually reading the label?  It says Dior, damn it!

Well, it helps to smell the fragrance.  So when I finally smelled DHI, light-bulbs started coming on like some kind of modern fragrance Christmas display.  If I claim to have seen the light, don’t think that I’m claiming any special gift, here.  I’m just sayin’ that sometimes you have to sniff like a n00b to get it.

Dior Homme Intense strikes me as even more akin to Hello Kitty’s bespoke Guerlain, Shalimar Parfum Initial, than is the original Dior Homme.  Suddenly, it all made sense.  Guys are going quite crazy for the new Shalimar PI.  It was on my full bottle list before I even exhaled.  Why?  Why should a fragrance that Thierry Wasser made for his niece smell so great to a guy?  And not just this guy.  When a New York City cop over on Basenotes not only declares a Guerlain feminine FBW, but walks out of the boutique with one of the very first bottles in America, you have to figure something is up.

So what, exactly, IS up?  Well, it’s simple.  People actually like this sweet stuff.  A lot.  And not just in a populist, Baskin-Robbins, A*Men flanker sort of way.  Nor in a fruity floral celebrity-fragrance-of-the-month way, either.  Sweet stuff – apparently – can be created and loved as serious fragrance.  DHI is – for me – the ultimate proof that you can make something truly great from cotton candy.  You don’t have to just flavor it to make it more accessible, à la Mugler.  You can actually use it as a respectable canvas, à la Guerlain.  À la Shalimar Parfum Initial.  Sweet stuff isn’t just some horrific distraction.  It’s the next chypre.  It can be used as a backdrop to all the intricacy and skill that modern French perfumery can bring to bear on a problem.  We can move well past Angel and A*Men flankers, into some really great fragrance territory.

Guys.  Gals.  Doctor Smith.  Beloved fellow bloggers who may have declared the death of Chanel and Guerlain multiple times.  Who may have had a breakthrough on Prada’s most recent scent.  Named – appropriately – Candy.

This ain’t the end of fragrance history.  It’s the beginning of the next phase.  And I say – please – take my Chococat plush, and give it a big hug and let it comfort you.

There was a time before Chanel.  Before Shalimar.  Back when organic chemistry became the downfall and tombstone of fragrance.  You know – the last time that fragrance REALLY went to hell in a handbasket.  What you call the glory days of fragrance?  They were the dying days of fragrance to somebody else.  Maybe that somebody was a bit like you.  Maybe that somebody was your great-grandparents.  Or mine.  Whatever.  They probably objected like crazy to the inclusion of synthetics.  They probably viewed aromachemicals as the death of fragrance.  Well, you and I can both agree about something.

They were wrong.

I love to watch the people at the fragrance counter.  The majority of people who I see asking about great fragrance these days are not the people who already have class, style, and sophistication.  They are not the “old” Guerlain lovers.  They’re the people who WANT to have it.  And you know what?  They’re going to get it.  Not necessarily within their lifetimes.  But if not them, then their children.  The young ladies in Hello Kitty glitter T-shirts may be elbowing each other rudely to the Chanel counters.  Trust that their Ivy-League-educated daughters, bumping each other in strollers today, will be calling ahead for personal appointments.  Young men today may wear backwards ball caps as they smooth-talk their way into Creed samples.  When they come back someday as the producers of the music you’re listening to, they’ll be buying flacons, and they’ll know how the stuff smells before you do.

At that time, they will appreciate classical music, great literature, and the historic Guerlains.  They’ll want to buy the old Jickys and Shalimars and Mitsoukos.  For that reason, if no other, then the Powers That Be in the fragrance world will want to preserve their classics.  But there will also be new classics.  Perhaps they will have names like Angel.  Dior Homme.  Bleu de Chanel.

Perhaps the popular modernisms of the moment will appear less like the downfall of fragrance by caricature, and more like its renaissance by reimagination.  No. 5 Eau Première.  Shalimar Parfum Initial.  No. 19 Poudré.  Things that smell so good in the here and now, that I almost can’t bear to use the staining title of “flanker”.  Sweet, soft, cute and cuddly may not describe today’s oldies but goldies, but perhaps they will describe tomorrow’s.

Undoubtedly, there will come a time when Flowerbomb will make as little sense to the masses, as the civet bomb does now.  What will cutting-edge perfumes smell like then?  What will be the next revolutionary fragrance component?  Wouldn’t it be great to be alive for the next big thing in perfumery?

Well, Hello Kitty says it’s OK to have fun today.  After all, the next big thing is here right now.  Think of it as getting in on the ground floor of tomorrow’s good old days of perfumery.

Hello Kitty and Chococat getting cuddly with modern fragrances.

Hello Kitty and Chococat getting cuddly with modern fragrances.

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