I grew up smelling the original Fendi for women, as it was my mother's one and only perfume. She loved it more than anything else available to ladies in the late '80s, even classics like Chanel N°5. Whenever she came home from work I'd throw myself into her arms, and be immersed in the warmth of a cotton sweater and the smell of dry, rosy leather. Well, I'm all grown up now, and Fendi's original perfume no longer exists. The day she realized it was discontinued and priced beyond reach, my mother expressed intense displeasure. So last Christmas I figured I'd rally all the useless little fragrance factoids rolling around in my head, and find a suitable replacement for her.
It was quite a challenge, especially since there haven't been any notable designer releases of feminine chypres for years. My fist instinct was to do a total 180° turn on style, and find something "fresh" and "modern." At the same time, I was obligated to give a few classics some consideration. I dawdled around, poking at supposed masterpieces like Arpège, L'Air du Temps, Beyond Paradise, Fleur de Thé Rose Bulgare, and even Tommy Girl. Eventually, the folly of it dawned on me, and I realized that I had to get technical, not tacky. I had to reconstruct Fendi from scent memory, and match it with another fragrance, probably of the same vintage. Mom wouldn't go for sweet saccharine bouquets or tea florals anyway.
Research paid off. From reading alone, I was eventually drawn to K de Krizia. It had a heavily aldehydic top, laced with civet, which brought memories of those bright and fizzy topnotes of Fendi. There was something animalic about that perfume, and by all accounts the civet brought out K's inner beast as well. The rosy heart of Fendi gave the scent depth, and reviewers consistently mentioned K's rosy core. To varying degrees, reviewers lauded K's mossy and leathery drydown, proclaiming it one of the under-appreciated leathers of the last 30 years. Fendi was, if nothing else, a vibrant feminine leather, bordering on butch and masculine. Without further hesitation, I decided to take a chance and blind buy K.
After the purchase, I sampled it in the car. My nervousness was based on this initial test; if K de Krizia was the right stuff, I'd know immediately, and likewise if it wasn't. Luckily the scent was pristine, dry as a bone, immaculately balanced, and a blatantly fine effort all around. Feeling relieved, I returned home, wrapped it up, put it under the tree, and waited for the moment when she would unwrap it, and try it for herself.
In a nutshell: she liked it. Smelling it on her, I liked it even more than the first time. That old-world aldehydic top, all fizzy white powders and flowers, smelled so fresh and sheer that we couldn't believe it was of something under $50. The dank civet added a urinous-yet-earthy edge to what could have been a fluffy cloud, and grounded us for what would come next. Once the aldehydes blew off, the oakmoss and rose notes, flanked with a young peach, filled the air. The rosy, semi-sweet glow held on for a couple of hours, until eventually the leathery base followed mom everywhere she went. She enjoyed it more and more as the day went on, and so did I. In fact, I kind of wished I could have the bottle instead. K's incredibly delicate movement between bitter styrax, mosses, roses, and leather is intoxicating. She told me I did well. I agreed. Anything that starts with a soulful citrus and white floral explosion, and then smoothly transitions, like a lipstick chameleon, into a smoky mystery is always okay with me.
In retrospect, I can't help but wonder if K was the inspiration for Fendi, as it preceded its Italian sister by four years. I wouldn't rule it out, but there's no way to know without insider info. Recently my mother admitted that, while she does like K de Krizia, it's "sadly, still no Fendi." I'll give her that - Fendi was a masterpiece, while K de Krizia is arguably too urinous on top, and powdery in the drydown. Until the day she feels like dropping $300 on an old bottle of her former standby, she'll still smell classy, and most noses won't notice that something changed.