9/25/16

Geoffrey Beene's Bowling Green Is Back. The Question Is Why?



According to numerous internet sources, the long-discontinued sophomore effort by Beene has been reissued to commercial markets at steeply discounted prices. Whether they are new stock or "new old stock" is not entirely clear, but my understanding of Beene's extensive distribution history suggests that it's highly possible the frag has been rereleased by EA Fragrances. Apparently a few people have received bottles with EA stickers, although at least one person has received a vintage Sanofi Beaute bottle, so the situation remains unclear.

I'm not interested in purchasing a 4 ounce bottle from Amazon, even though they're going for about $19 a pop, but the feedback on them is interesting. I remember Bowling Green as being very herbal, spicy, and woody in character, with relatively little "fresh," and a whole lot of old-school eighties-styled "green." It smelled like grass clippings, dried basil, rosemary, pine, lemon, cedar chips, sour citrus, and stale joss sticks. There was a weird, oriental, fake incensey undercurrent, probably because the cardamom and juniper notes had lost clarity and balance. The bottle I used was twenty years old at least. BG's opening accord was spiky and very ruggedly herbal, with only a hint of synthetic lavender. Think Drakkar Noir dressed as a hippie for the first minute, but BG is not a Drakkar Noir clone. It's unique enough, and a very good scent, but nothing great.

Why is Bowling Green back? Recent reviews on Amazon are overwhelmingly positive, and it's safe to say people missed it. But Grey Flannel, which is ten years older, is resoundingly superior in quality and composition. In the late seventies and early eighties, Grey Flannel was Beene's sole creation, a conservative chypre loaded with dry citrus and rich oakmoss, its ruggedness softened by the world's greatest violet note. To suggest that Beene needed a "green" fragrance to follow it is like saying Lincoln needed to offer a "full-size" car after the Mark V.

Yet in 1986, Beene inexplicacably released Bowling Green. The world seemed to like it enough to keep it alive for seven or eight years, but something odd happened. Despite being lighter, airier, and arguably more accessible than its older brother, sales for BG slumped, and Beene had to kill it. Grey Flannel marched on, but Bowling Green was benched. I suspect that things like Lacoste Original, Quorum, Tsar, and Red for Men devoured its market share, and BG just couldn't retain its identity in the face of so much competition, but I'm not sure. Another possibility is that the fragrance suffered from being too ambitious. Beene had a good but limited budget for perfume. Grey Flannel was relatively simple, a stark lemon, coumarin, ionones, and oakmoss affair, but Bowling Green had a more conventionally eighties pyramid of two hundred different notes.

It smells very nice, but also busy and a bit cheap. The money to properly render and balance all the superfluous herbs and florals wasn't really in play. Inexperienced noses give the scent ten minutes and declare it a grassier Drakkar Noir. Advanced sniffers appreciate its unique interplay of citrus and woods, but in thirty years nobody can say why this fragrance exists. Has it been thirty years already? Well now, I just stumbled on why it's back: EA is celebrating its thirty year anniversary!



9 comments:

  1. Here are some stray thoughts, and maybe irrelevant ones, based on my memories of living through the era. I was a teenager when Bowling Green came out, one who, nervous to fess up to being interested in mainlining art & poetry, instead told my dad I'd like to be a designer. He was a supportive guy, and started buying me copies of GQ magazine, which was enjoying something of a heyday in those years... amazing years for creativity and luxe in men's fashion, though I could afford exactly none of it. I did manage to save up for fragrance though: advertisements led me to Grey Flannel around 1987, and Fahrenheit by 1990 (has anyone ever made better fragrance choices based on naiveté and ad copy alone? I doubt it.)

    Anyway, here's the thing... Bowling Green won some kind of award, I believe, and received a lot of positive press. It seemed like a bigger deal than Grey Flannel. Already loyal to my new purchase (spray cologne, aftershave balm, splash bottle...) I resented the gleeful new marketing. My impression at the time based was that Beene was aiming at some sort of halcyon, pseudo-Edwardian proto-metrosexual aristocrat-in-the-rough vibe, chasing the then-very-current craze for Merchant Ivory films (A Passage to India had made a splash at the Oscars in 1984, and Room with a View was a huge commercial & critical success in 1985.) Interestingly, all this interested me a bit less that Grey Flannel, maybe because this fantasy seemed less direct (or more complicated, what with the reading required) than Grey Flannel's mix of Cary Grant-ian charm, Wilde-ean violet flourish and cool austerity. Is it possible that the more fleeting success of BG relates to shifting cultural trends?
    On an entirely different note, you might find this rather funny -- a comparison of Bowling Green as product with Bowling Green as place: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1350&dat=19870710&id=dlBPAAAAIBAJ&sjid=6wIEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6459,6409320&hl=en

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    1. What you're describing isn't that different from what happens today. In the eighties there was this undercurrent of "sophistication" in pop culture that rode a beauty of a wave in the Merchant Ivory films, the revival of Egyptology with the American tour of King Tut, and everything Meryl Streep. Frankly I see a lot more of this trend in the original Beene scent than in Bowling Green. Thanks for the link!

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  2. EA is such an oddly run company. I have a cousin who manages the EA outlet in Ft Lauderdale. They recently sent her a few cases of Arden Men Sandalwood and some EA men's NASCAR inspired fragrance. She asked EA if these were rereleases or old stock & never received an answer. Both are decent fragrances for the price. I haven't heard my cousin mention any new fragrances or rereleases.
    Apparently EA is being sold AGAIN according to the oracle of wikipedia- "In June 2016, US cosmetics company Revlon announced its intention to buy Elizabeth Arden Inc. for US $870 million. When the deal is concluded, the company is expected to have annual gross sales of US $3 billion."

    EA seems to be shifting it's focus from cosmetics to fragrance. EA owns the John Varvatos line as well as all the Giorgio, Hilary Duff, Elizabeth Taylor, Mariah Carey, Juicy Couture, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, & Britney Spears fragrances.

    I wear EA's 5th Ave as my office appropriate inoffensive white floral. It's tastefully done and less than half the price of other inoffensive office appropriate tastefully done florals like J'Adore. If you live near one of EA's discount outlets they're worth a visit as they do give a substantial discount on all their fragrances & cosmetics (unlike some brand outlets that don't).

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  3. Oh my. Here's Ea's full fragrance portfolio-
    The company's brand portfolio includes Elizabeth Arden skincare, color, and fragrance products, the celebrity fragrance brands of Britney Spears™, Elizabeth Taylor, Jennifer Aniston, Justin Bieber, Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift, and Usher; the designer fragrance brands of Juicy Couture, Alfred Sung, BCBCMAXAZRIA, , Geoffrey Beene, Halston, Bob Mackie, Ed Hardy, John Varvatos, Kate Spade, Lucky Brand, True Religion and Rocawear ; and the lifestyle fragrance brands Curve, Giorgio Beverly Hills®, and PS Fine Cologne.

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    1. They're basically the Coty prestige of forgotten fragrance brands. If I'm not mistaken French Fragrances and EA are one and the same. The Revlon deal sounds like it could maybe possibly perhaps be good? I'd rather the focus shift to fragrance than lipsticks and nail glosses.

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    2. Awww.....Mr Ross, I have a soft spot for EA cosmetics & skin care. After all EA's an American icon! EA's products were used by Marilyn Monroe & Mamie Eisenhower! Nowadays they suffer a bit of a 'granny' image but the quality is still there & I use some of their products.
      Luca Turin said something smartassy & overly simplistic but true on his blog about the cost of perfumes. Andy Tauer wrote a brilliant response detailing the niche perfume business on his blog-
      http://tauerperfumes.com/blog/2016/10/02/the-price-of-things/

      Odd, I don't usually agree with Mr Turin but $120 for 100 ml of EdP or a half ounce of proper extrait is as high as I'm willing to pay too.
      https://perfumesilove.com/2016/09/28/enough-already/

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    3. I just read that post of Mr. Turin's, and want to do a write-up on what he said about formula costs being only 10% of production cost for perfume. It's factually accurate and debunks the long-held theory that reformulations occur to "cheapen" a frag and widen its profit margin. In fact reformulations occur for more technical reasons - naturals are no longer available, IFRA regs mandate changes, and overall fashion trends dictate lighter, less bombastic scents. Sure, he's usually a smart ass and his 10% assessment is of course simplistic and cannot be applied across the entire spectrum of perfumes, but I have yet to see a professional who is in the field or connected to the field of perfumery who has ever asserted a formula cost being over 15%. Usually the brunt of the expense is in marketing, packaging, and general production, which addresses factory and labor costs, not formulation expenses.

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  4. It could be an attempt on EA's part to drive a higher valuation at the time of the acquisition--if Revlon wanted to buy a stable of classics, then AE just provided another one. I always liked it (Bowling Green) and felt that it was a start to building a complete portfolio of GB scents, but that never came to fruition.

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    1. It's unlikely that one relatively obscure masculine from the eighties would have enough cache to add any significant value to a behemoth like EA. However, I do think that manufacturing and licensing entities like EA and Revlon do careful analytical research on the overall "vibe" the public gives to discontinued fragrances, by parsing the numerous independent blogs and major perfume forum communities. They likely have a handful, a small team of people, and these folks basically follow the "trend" in how an old and out-of-production frag performs in both popularity (via nostalgia) and pricing (eBay sales). Reviews are read, tallies are kept, and if there's a statistical likelihood that a rerelease would be well received and improve profits, they proceed with a reformulation and rerelease. Such was the case with Azzaro Acteur, Giorgio's Red for Men, and I should think also with Bowling Green. Bear in mind that this is all speculation. But in this digital age of ours, it's hard to see any other motivation for reissuing stuff like Acteur and Red.

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