If there is anything which proves that I have finally reached the status of true fragrance fanatic, it is the fact that I am about to take a five-dollar fragrance seriously.
BUT WAIT! It’s not like this is just ANY five-dollar fragrance that I bought in a computer store. No. This is Change 105, or “Change 105 Paris“, as it’s known to the fans of the famed iris fragrance, Prada Milano.
Change 105 is not to be confused with Chanel No. 5. In fact, this great business advice is rendered right on the label, where it is stated, in no uncertain terms:
CHANGE 105 is not associated with the makers of CHANEL No° 5
Indeed! Which is not to say that we have NO idea who those makers might be, but still – are we sure – QUITE SURE – that there is absolutely no connection?
For instance, in the very computer store (and not just any computer store – Frye’s Electronics!) where we purchased Change 105, there was a listing of many Famous Fragrances, along with the corresponding fragrance from The Diamond Collection which was intended to resemble it.
The Diamond Collection? What’s THAT?
Glad you asked!
The Diamond Collection is – for lack of better words – a company in India which creates rather reasonable knock-offs of famous fragrances at almost no cost, and provides them to Americans for almost no money via a company in – you guessed it – NEW JERSEY – that place where chemicals used to be made, before they were made in India and China.
Wow! That’s kind of like Ohio, where jobs used to be made, before they were made in India and China!
But I digress. Because just as it is possible for management to convince itself that products initially produced in developing countries they are under orders to patronize are just as good as those created by the expensive co-workers whose skills they subvert and minimize in the interest of remaining in management, so too is it possible to convince oneself that fragrances from The Diamond Collection are actually rather good. Particularly at a price which is very affordable on American unemployment benefits, or what is left of Social Security.
This, I know, because my purchase of Change 105 (LOL – I think I just got the joke) was not my first run-in with TDC – meaning The Diamond Collection, and not The Different Company, which is a future past overly expensive brand in a future Ohio known as France.
No. For on a street-corner in Brooklyn, some years earlier, I was introduced to TDC by way of a five-dollar fragrance named Horus, the box of which looks mysteriously reminiscent of a future former famous fragrance known as Kouros.
Horus is actually rather good (SEE? What did I tell you?) because it does what every Kouros flanker has done since Kouros: present a diminished version of Kouros. And the first thing that every Kouros flanker does, in the way of diminution, is to tone down or remove the civet. In the words of my dear wife, there is no tanuki in Horus. And for her, that is a good thing.
Which is not to say that Horus doesn’t do something to redeem itself, because it does.
The essential crux of Kouros, as noted by thousands of perfumistae for decades, is a “clean/dirty” opposition which endlessly fascinates or repels. Metaphors relating to the men’s restroom abound. My favorite, by purplebird7 of Basenotes:
But what about the beautiful white marble of the Greek statues? Must this always devolve into the tile of the men’s room?
I am tempted to quote from the great Brad Pitt: “Inevitable.”
Anyway, the fact is, Horus is remarkably true to the intention of Kouros, in that it manages to substitute SOMETHING for the missing civet. I’m still not sure what it is, and I’m not sure I want to wear Horus enough to find out. But it’s not really important. The essential clean/dirty opposition is maintained, and Horus manages to earn a place among the Kouros flankers.
So back to our story which, sadly, happens to be true.
On first smelling Change 105 in Frye’s Electronics, I was shocked – SHOCKED, I tell you – that it actually did smell like Chanel No. 5 Eau Première. So familiar was the scent, that I knew immediately that I was going to buy this startling mimic.
The problem, as I now understand it, is that absence makes the nose go wander.
Chanel No. 5 Eau Première is one of those scents that was, for me, literally unforgettable. However, unforgettability has its limits. Ah, yes. Send a boy to Vegas, and if he’s not busy drinking, gambling, carousing with hookers, spending the mortgage money on fragrance, or wandering around the desert in search of dangerous opportunities, bad things can happen. One of those bad outcomes is that he will forget his true fragrance love, and smell some reasonable facsimile with high-heel availability and mini-skirt prices.
Time offers a chance for reflection, and thus we were led to break out our still-wrapped bottle of Change 105. Would it still smell like a great clone of Eau Première? We were about to find out.
Tearing off the cellophane and pulling off the silvery cap [movie idea: Sex Clones – The Unboxing], I was treated to a small shower of tiny, curly things – which turned out not to be perfume beetle larvae, but rather, small plastic turnings from the manufacture of the cap itself. Brushing those away, I noticed that the bottle itself was not actually full, but probably about the maximum distance below full, that could reasonably be claimed not to be intentional short-changing.
And then the spray.
Having just recently worn Chanel No. 5 Eau Première, I was fully aware of her True Charms. Those having been lovingly recorded in an earlier but slightly eccentric blog post on Basenotes itself. A post in which we alleged rather shockingly that Eau Première wasn’t just great, but most likely legendary in her own time.
And we quote from the male lead of that little drama:
“You say our love is as if it were the first time. I say no – it is even before that! Your loveliness stands on its own, eternally. Your existence is not the dream of what once was. What came before was the prophecy of the unbelievable – of beauty even greater!”
And if that’s not enough:
Rubicene is red,
Dicycloocta[1,2,3,4-def:1′,2′,3′,4′-jkl]biphenylene is blue,
Because of your perfect level of aldehydes I am utterly in love with you!
Yeah. You get the point. We was smitten.
So with moderate memories of such extreme beauty fresh in my mind, Change 105 wasn’t exactly smellin’ fresh. In fact, there was a distinctly sharp and unpleasant note in my five-dollar fragrance that absolutely did NOT fit into my memories – neither those left from my sniffs in the computer store, nor any of those involving my treasured bottle of Eau Première.
Now – let’s consider all possibilities. It is entirely possible that my five-dollar fragrance “turned” while sitting in the dark for a year. Some of my own amateurish fragrance experiments did exactly that, and in substantially less time than a year. So there is definitely that possibility.
And while it would not exceed human mendacity for the tester I smelled in Frye’s Electronics to have been something other than Change 105 – say, a certain fragrance by the name of Chanel No. 5 Eau Première, I think it is far more likely that I was simply wearing “frag goggles”.
Frag goggles are entirely analogous to beer goggles, and are due to severe cultural and olfactory deprivation. Having spent considerable time running around the desert outside of Las Vegas with my redneck buddies, looking for interesting ways to sustain injury, and NOT hanging out in the various boutiques and fashion stores on The Strip, I was severely at risk for frag goggles.
The cure for frag goggles, like beer goggles, is simply waking up. This I did, by smelling the Real McCoy, Chanel No. 5 Eau Première. Better still, doing so in a side-by-side comparison with Change 105.
Oh my. Where do I begin?
Perhaps with the end. With the truth.
Every rumor and innuendo you have heard, spread by French-speaking marketers and parroting fashionistas with 1000 purses in their attics, alleging that Chanel actually owns its own fields of natural jasmine – I am happy to report that these allegations are Snopes-level TRUE.
Even the rumors that the Lagerfeld and Polge families have married into the tribal leaderships of Madagascar and the Comoros Islands, exchanging scalps with ylang-ylang garland-wearing daughters of the chieftains, in barefoot, at the altar of the Reformulated Church of Sustainable Fragrance, are TRUE.
Ladies and gentlemen – there are simply NO allegations of proper behavior to be lodged against Chanel at this point, that I am not willing to believe in full.
All of the above being the only conclusions I can draw, from the remarkable and obvious differences between these two fragrances.
The Chanel fragrance contains – and I do not say this lightly – natural ingredients. Not, perhaps, in its entirety, but enough that upon reacquainting myself with the love of my life, Chanel No. 5 Eau Première, I immediately recalled a sniffing session I had done with IFF perfumer Yves Cassar. In that brief meeting, he demonstrated to me the stepwise evolution of narcissus absolute, from a rather gardeny cacaphony, into the smooth beauty of his personal creation, Narcisse en Folie.
There is something unmistakable in the output of an experienced perfumer, just as there is in the output of an experienced programmer. It is a guidance of tempestuous possibility into a smooth and logical certainty. That certainty may be complex, variable, and filled with surprise and intelligence, but it is a type of certainty nonetheless.
Change 105 lacks something, which I suddenly realized was critical to Chanel No. 5 Eau Première. The mimic lacks the beauty of natural jasmine and ylang-ylang, tamed by a finicky mind – one which would brook no ripple in the glass-smooth surface it desired to spread out before us in olfactory space.
How the knock-off evades these critical floral characteristics is simple – it doesn’t. It can’t. Whatever Change 105 is doing to avoid doing the heavy floral lifting of Chanel No. 5 Eau Première, it’s not working. In the end, Change 105 is reminiscent of Chanel No. 5 Eau Première. That is all. Nothing more.
And when I say reminiscent, I don’t mean in any particularly appealing way. The really haunting, mind-blowing aspects of Chanel No. 5 Eau Première are simply not there. There is a resemblance, but it’s not centered on anything pleasant and attractive – nothing that would make me want to do anything but smell the original Chanel No. 5 Eau Première.
My guess is that Change 105 contains all or most of the synthetics, little if any floral absolute, or perhaps a cheaper variety, and a whole lotta benzyl salicylate.
No contest. There can be no competition with juice which has been rounded up by Chanel, and tamed by a Polge.
But now, in the spirit of Mythbusters, we ask ourselves a final question.
Even if Change 105 isn’t a particularly good, or even a sufficient mimic of Chanel No. 5 Eau Première, couldn’t it at the very least still be a decent fragrance in its own right? Maybe just a good buy on a cheap fragrance?
Sadly, no. It is what it is – a five-dollar fragrance – and WAY overpriced at that. What good is 100 mL of perfume that smells questionable and never great, when 5-10 mL of Chanel No. 5 Eau Première at the same price would be infinitely pleasing for a reasonable amount of time?
No good at all. A simple smell of old blotters betrays the truth. DAYS after spraying, Eau Première’s basenotes are still stunning and on-message. Change 105’s are barely there, and to make matters worse, barely Change 105.
No, my friends. There are people who settle for less, but it is better not to be one of them. I would rather spend the remnants of my dwindling check on two samples of Eau Première, than on a full bottle of Change 105. And now that I think about it, maybe the same goes for real Kouros, over the other kind.
Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes we erroneously regard a glass half-full of the real thing, as somehow being less than a glass brimming with a pale imitation. But there is no requirement that we keep making the same mistake.
No, my friends. Accept no substitutes.
When the cheap imitation walks by, strutting its stuff for what seems like a price which can’t be refused, refuse it. Just suck it up, walk away, and come home to your tanuki.
You’ll be glad you did.