I'm not really sure why, but when it comes to Chanel fragrances, I'm curiously tongue-tied. It's hard for me to generate topical interest in them. Generally speaking they all smell very good, although some enjoy greater artistic success than others. I've been wearing Allure Homme a bit more often than usual lately, and when I get around to reviewing it I'll have a few sincere anecdotes to pass along - it's the only Chanel that is truly storied for me. Still, it seemed appropriate to give the original feminine perfume a nod beforehand, if only to defend it from a legion of critics.
The overarching criticism of Allure is that it's boring, uninspired, a drag. Apparently it is unworthy of the Chanel name, because somehow in the course of its colorful history the brand found the secret to olfactory Nirvana, parted the seven seas, became one with God. You'd think from reading about them that N°5, N°19, Cristalle, and Égoïste were unbelievable masterpieces that no one could top, least of all their own creators. They're all excellent of course, but put on a pedestal. Times changed, and so did perfumery. Inevitably the '90s came along, brought Allure and its flankers, and suddenly everyone gave up on Chanel. A collective groan filled the stadium; the game was over.
My beef with everyone else's beef is that people have forgotten context. The 1990s were culturally decrepit years. Music, movies, art, fashion, philosophy, all started sucking in a big way. Music, specifically rock music, suddenly lost its spine, its bravado, and went the way of the Goo Goo Dolls, or as I like to call it, Limp Dick City. Listening to the radio in the '90s was torture. Everything made me want to puke, from Cheryl Crow, to Mariah Carey, to Kid Rock, to Eminem. Especially Eminem, who found an unfortunate fan base in my high school clique. Then there was the whole fashion devolution of 1992 - 1999. Saggy, over-sized jeans, polo shirts three sizes too large, the return of bell bottoms for girls (aptly called "flare" pants, as my temper would flare every time a punk chick trudged past me in them), the "Caesar" haircut for boys . . . the agony was endless.
This isn't to say that the whole thing went ramshackle - it didn't. Some movies held up particularly well. I'm thankful for Pulp Fiction, Jurassic Park, Grosse Pointe Blank, The Three Colors Trilogy, Home Alone, Goodfellas, Casino, and a few dozen other superb pics. But the talented animators that brought the world every Disney movie since Snow White were suddenly buried under the crippling influence of Pixar and Toy Story, which heralded the dawning age of the Great FX Cop-Out: Computer Generated Imagery. This particular topic brings me so little joy to discuss that I'll just leave it here.
So it strikes me as particularly nervy for anyone to reckon that somehow, out of the accelerating decay, the House of Chanel would rise above it all and continue to give us the same 1920s, '70s and '80s-styled masterpieces. Do people like Luca Turin really think the brand had another Cuir de Russie in it? Was it really expected that something better than the insipid Platinum Égoïste would follow its bold predecessor in a year when a solo Sting, who should have still been fronting The Police, was crooning the unlistenable lyrics, if I ever loooose my faith in you / there'd be nothing leeeeft for me to do? Further to the point, do Chanel's critics ever stop as they continue to harangue the house for its recent Bleu de Chanel and Jersey releases, and wonder why it is the company continues to disappoint? Could it be that world culture has continued to decline, and so perfume remains in a stagnant, generally uninspired place? This is postmodern hell, and perfumery is no exception to it.
Sniffing Allure EDP today, I feel it's a marvel that the company managed to release anything like it. Somehow they fought past the Clockwork Oranges and gave us a serious, well-composed jasmine scent for women in their late twenties and early thirties. It's very crisp for a Chanel fragrance, and it smells wonderful. The bergamot and peach in its top are clean, sheer, and well within its class. Eventually a vanillic cedar and papery jasmine accord comes through, accented by orange blossom and vetiver. True to Chanel fashion, this scent is highly blended, and nothing really vies for a leading role (although to my nose the jasmine has the edge). Is Allure exciting? Definitely not. But it is a functional perfume, something a career-oriented woman can wear to the office without risking credibility in a male-dominated workplace. It's quite pleasant and friendly, but also prim and understated. Considering how disastrous other '90s feminines were, Allure isn't bad at all.
I'm sorry, but that's all I have to say about it.