10/18/14

Green Generation Him (Parfums Mavive)




One of the many things about perfume economics that makes no sense to me is the drive to inflate prices for no clear reason, other than severely miscalculated greed. I've been told by other amateurs a few things about this, both in person and on the internet, and I'll paraphrase them here. The reasons vary slightly, but all share a theme: stupidity, both on the part of the seller and the buyer. "Perfumes are subject to capitalistic mechanisms like everything else, and why not increase prices to compensate for demand, especially if that demand is increasing daily?" Another good one is, "The market can sustain two, three, four, even five hundred percent price increases, so therefore such ratchetings are justifiable." Better yet, "There is always a legitimate reason to fork over a down payment on a car if the perfume has a 'fan base.'" And one man told me over coffee that it's "like any other art, I guess."

None of these reasons are true. Perfumes are indeed subject to capitalistic mechanisms, like everything else, yes. But if demand for a product is high enough to justify pricing a one hundred dollar fragrance at six or seven hundred dollars, the perfume's original manufacturer, privy to all the consumer data on actual market sales of said product, would never have discontinued it in the first place. The reality is, demand for a discontinued scent was always too low. And to say that the market can sustain these dramatic increases suggests that these fragrances are seeing low turnover among buyers, but this is clearly not the case. If buyers were holding on to these "precious gems," Ebay and every other hawking site would have dried up long ago. People are actually buying and spending big dollars only so they can further inflate prices at resale. They're essentially hoping they can turn a profit by buying something ostensibly desirable that they have no real desire for.

The "fan base" argument is the one that truly reeks of intellectual idiocy, but only when placed in the appropriate context. Let me use Dr. Seuss as an example. Seuss started out in the 1920s publishing commercial art and cartoon strips for newspapers and journals, and eventually began dabbling in books. His first manuscript was rejected by every publisher he approached, but a chance encounter with a friend - a "connected" friend - gave him the "in" to publishing his first, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street. Four publications later, each on rather shaky commercial ground, he still lacked a dedicated fan base, but in 1939 Random House published his one and only daringly illustrated story for adults, The Seven Lady Godivas, a poetic morality tale involving seven women, all represented, from cover to cover, entirely in the buff.

The book was unsurprisingly a flop. Seuss himself admitted he could not convincingly render women in the nude, and it was his last attempt at adult fiction. Subsequent children's publications steadily grew in popularity, and eventually The Cat In The Hat made him a household name, a full eighteen years later. Seuss built a strong global fan base for himself by continuing to write and illustrate friendly, colorful children's books, and throughout the forties, fifties, sixties, seventies, and most of the eighties, The Seven Lady Godivas was shunned and allowed to go out of print, one of only two Seuss books to do so (the other was some sort of Cat In The Hat songbook). To review his bibliography and even his commercial design history, one would suppose that if The Seven Lady Godivas were no longer being printed, its value would have skyrocketed, now that Seuss has such an established base of fans, both young and old.

In all actuality, it was briefly reissued in the late 1980s, and can be found today on Ebay for $12.99 with $4 shipping. You can buy the eighties publication for pocket change. BUT, if you want the first edition from 1939, expect to pay about $300 for it! Why so much for a failed "adult" story book? Easy: Seuss has a fan base, something he developed over the course of fifty years of publishing. He offered an initial product that was rejected but minimally preserved, then followed it with products that were accepted and universally loved, and the world came full circle back to his initial offer with renewed interest and appreciation for something it once disliked.

Compare this commercial dynamic to the work by Jean Patou, for example. Patou released its only masculine fragrance, Patou Pour Homme, in 1980, and it endured a decade of commercial struggle before its demise. Very few men alive today actually know what Patou PH smelled like new out of the bottle in 1980, and even fewer can think of anyone they know, family or friend, who wore it with them. This brand did not have a long line of successful masculines, nor did it have any real interest in catering to male tastes beyond this perfunctory "signature" release. Nothing came before or after it. It simply existed in a vacuum of negative perfume space, a bubble floating in a sea of feminines (most of which were just as commercially unsuccessful), and then it ceased to exist, due to poor sales numbers.

Currently a bottle resides on Ebay for $630, "or best offer." It's been there for two days so far, and no winning offers, but it's only a matter of time before another merchant buys it and adds it to their inventory, priced at an additional one hundred and thirty dollars. The margin of profit isn't even that great with this perfume, but it continues to exist as a supposed bastion of perfume legend, a masterpiece worthy of rent money. Why? There is no reason. Patou never established a "fan base" with men. This perfume does not rest on the laurels of other greats. No other greats followed it. It was not desired enough to warrant continued production by Patou, hence its discontinuation. To its credit, Patou cashed in on the recent "niche" craze and issued a new perfume under the same name, supposedly sharing many similarities with its template, but by many accounts the original was "better." Yet the formula was never called upon by Patou in the nineties or the naughts. If this perfume was truly so great, so worth $630 in 2014, then think of all the money lost in those years it was absent from stores.

One could argue that the "fan base" for Patou Pour Homme comes with the Patou name alone, but that doesn't wash. Try telling me with a straight face that heterosexual, beer drinking, football-watching American men care about Jean Patou. You can't do it. You can't even tell me that homosexual American men care, and Europeans? I've been to Europe, and hung around many of their guys. They don't give a shit, either. Of course, this isn't surprising, as Patou's brand was never successful in catering to men on either side of the pond. The "fan base" doesn't exist beyond perhaps a handful of guys who don't have anything better to do with their money, most of them bidding on that overpriced bottle so they can resell it a year or two later at a profit, right back to the guy who sold it to them in the first place. Like I said, an incarnation of idiocy.

At this point, no one can even say that Patou PH's vintage bottles are increasing in value, because they keep popping up, time and time again, right there on The Bay, with absurd asking prices, at the tail end of 2014. Isn't stock limited? Haven't all extant vintages been purchased by now by die-hard lovers of this perfume, to be held onto and cherished forever to the very last drop? Evidently not. There are ten bottles up for auction today alone, not including a slew of aftershaves and even a couple bottles of the reissued version.

This brings me to Parfums Mavive and the Green Generation line of perfumes, released in 1998 in partnership with Weruska & Joel. Parfums Mavive is not the original manufacturer of any of the Pino Silvestre products, as the brand was purchased from Silvestre sometime in the eighties or nineties. Pino Silvestre has a fanbase that extends almost as far as Dr Seuss' - the original fragrance was issued in 1955, and has been an impressive commercial performer ever since. There have been a few variations on the theme, but nothing too dramatic or long lived. Men simply enjoy this perfume, both here and in Europe, and they continue to enjoy it. It has a huge fan base that took decades to create.

Granted, it was never a "luxury" brand like Patou, but Silvestre's scent was the only true pine-centric perfume a man could wear, giving it huge market share in that corner of the men's department (and without containing any actual pine). Pino Silvestre Extreme, Fifty, Ice Water, Blue, and Green Generation Unisex were all late twentieth century spin-offs that sold moderately well for brief periods of time, before the money dried up. Right now the only available flankers are PS Sport and three new releases that seem to have nothing to do with the original, called Oud Absolute, Rainforest, and Underwood. I'd hazard to guess that none of them will live to see 2020.

Green Generation Unisex is the only discontinued fragrance in that sub-line by Mavive that perfume connoisseurs are aware of, it seems. For a long time, it was the only one I was aware of, until I stumbled across Green Generation Him at a local brick and mortar. That's when I discovered that the GG lineup includes a "His" and "Hers," and sure enough, basenotes lists them. Yet nobody talks about them. They're not even on Ebay. They're not on Fragrantica. There are no threads dedicated to them. No blog posts. It's like they never existed. Very strange.

Stranger that something bearing the Pino Silvestre name would slip under the radar like that, given the brand's visibility. But the economics behind it all are not strange. The economics make sense. I purchased the 3.4 ounce bottle for $29. It's been out of production for at least fourteen years, and surviving bottles are extremely rare to boot. But the perfume was a commercial flop in 1998, both here and in Europe, and there is no consumer memory of the product to add to that. Despite having a fan base, the Pino Silvestre name was not enough to justify inflating the price of this rare and wonderfully made perfume. That's almost a shame, because if anything deserves to have a three-digit price, it's Green Generation Him. Unlike the original scent, this is a very smooth, dry, brazenly synthetic, yet classy fougère.

If you want a blow by blow description of it, see my review on Fragrantica. Here on my blog, I'll just relate the important stuff. The first thing you need to know is, your chances of finding this perfume anywhere are slim to none. That shouldn't deter you from looking, however. If you are miraculously lucky and do find a bottle, the second thing you need to know is, you should buy it. The third and perhaps most pressing point is that you need to wear it. Don't store it in a drawer and covet it, and then put it up on The Bay for three hundred dollars. You buy and own perfumes for the love of perfume, right? Then in owning this, you own the fact that you'll be wearing something that no one else in a five hundred mile radius is wearing. It's a brilliant composition, admittedly a bit rocky in the first two minutes from the atomizer (not sure if age is a factor, but it's likely), yet it dries down to a suave, subtle, woody base after several hours of pleasant citrus, lavender, black currant, violet leaf, tomato leaf, anise, pine, and Calone notes. It's fresh, it's dark, it's modern, and it's a pleasure to wear.

I'm not familiar with the smell of Green Generation Unisex, and I doubt I'll ever encounter it, or the Her version, but I hope I do. Parfums Mavive had their finger on the pulse of the fashion world in the late nineties, and channeled the successes of things like Drakkar Noir, Green Irish Tweed, Cool Water, Horizon, Aqua Quorum, Claiborne Sport, Polo Sport, and even Eternity for Men. Fans of those kinds of old-school aromatics should consider Green Generation Him to be their El Dorado. I feel fortunate, for today I am wearing gold.




2 comments:

  1. I never purchase except to wear. If I have unloved bottles I give or swap them away. Funny that you mentioned Pino, because I purchased my own little pine cone bottle recently and really enjoy it. It is in many ways the perfect scent for gardening. I get greatly perturbed when I cannot purchase vintage fragrances to try and wear because certain people think that they should be able to retire on the proceeds of a vintage bottle of Shalimar they got at a garage sale for five bucks. It is a rather ephemeral and uncertain to expect bank on things as fragile as perfume.

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    1. You bring up yet another point about the pricing that I hadn't mentioned, which is that perfume is fragile and unlikely to survive thirty or forty years without some degradation, which only adds to the absurdity of taking a vintage bottle and marking it up. These things are like cars - once driven off the sales lot, their value depreciates significantly, except at least with the car a good mechanic can restore it to perfect working order. Perfumes don't get to have that sort of treatment, and therefore the sellers would have to answer another key question: if that bottle of (whatever old-school frag) is so valuable to you, why don't you find someone you know personally to buy it off you? Someone you know will take care of whatever's left and enjoy it, actually use it? Putting it up for auction on Ebay means you value if as much as you value a TV. Anyway, glad you like Pino, it's a treasure of a scent that Mavive preserved well.

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