10/25/18

Unplanned Obsolescence: Do Millennials Lack the Attention Span For Perfume?


A suitable replacement for any Creed.


I recently read an article by Sarah Wu on Glamour.com, entitled "I Replaced My $215 Perfume With This $6 Body Wash," and it intrigued me.

Sarah writes:
"Twenty seconds into trying on my first perfume (the classic, spicy Paloma Piccaso), I got bored and proceeded to add a few generous spritzes of Bath & Body Works Cucumber Melon . . . I wear something different almost every day, flitting between bottles as often as my mood changes (aided largely by magazine testers, blogger swaps, and free samples from department stores)."
When I read this, I had to rub my eyes and reread it twice before believing what was actually on my screen. Paloma Piccaso couldn't even hold her attention for twenty seconds? Twenty seconds??

It surprised me for two reasons, the first being that it suggests our attention spans have become so poor that we can't even maintain interest in our own personal fragrance, which presumably has ever-changing top, middle, and basenotes. It also reminded me of my ex, who was given to "layering" perfumes, and randomly spraying new ones, often blending cheap body mists with pricier fare.

It now makes sense why she did that: she was bored. In the age of iPhones and apps, social media immersion, and the Internet of Things, we are officially becoming the insipid children of tomorrow, in an age when everyone, in chronic fits of technological withdrawal, seeks stimuli so forced, detached, and fleeting, that worldly pleasures no longer satisfy even brief moments of exhaustion.

Sarah apparently fell in love with Grand Soir by Maison Francis Kurkdjian, but when it was confiscated at an airport on her way to a country where it was unavailable, she discovered Dove Cream Oil Intensive Body Lotion, and felt that the soft, vanilla skin scent of that stuff was an excellent substitute.

This is a very strange thing to say. This isn't the same as someone saying their interest in niche perfume has been diverted to a greater interest in cheap drugstore lotions. It's not like saying that well-crafted perfumes are no longer your taste. It isn't even saying that a lifestyle change necessitated such a bizarre substitution; in the age of the interenet, we no longer need to worry about sourcing products, as any online merchant can ship them directly to us.

No, what Ms. Wu is saying is that she enjoyed the ambiance of the Dove cream enough to not miss, or even long for, Grand Soir. She is essentially saying that she doesn't see the need to ever purchase Grand Soir again, thanks to Dove. Now, if she had said this in an intellectual vacuum, where this topic alone was addressed, I would understand. But with the paragraph quoted above preceding her story, I can't help but think that Sarah Wu can't sustain interest in a luxury perfume, and thus prefers an almost undetectable skin scent lotion, upon which she can parade a myriad of different scents.

If I ever said I'd replace my Green Irish Tweed with Nivea Men aftershave lotion, because it's green and fresh enough to always make me smile, I'd ask you to take me to the emergency room.

Sarah's article fills me with despair. On her embarrassingly pathetic twenty second trajectory, we are headed for a different world, with a different kind of perfume. Instead of having perfumes as individual scents with legible drydowns, the future will bring us perfumes marketed as chameleons, strange creatures that are labeled as being "3-in-1" scents, each drydown phase so disparate from the others that they will save wearers the trouble of layering, or changing scents mid-day. It is conceivable that the young woman of tomorrow will purchase something like a "summer mélange mist," with top drydown of lime and coconut, middle drydown of watermelon and sea salt, and base drydown of lemon, grapefruit, and cherry blossom.

Each drydown will happen abruptly, spaced out by two hours, and in the course of six hours, the young lady will have worn the equivalent of three distinct perfumes, after only applying one. The old rules of citrus and aromatic top notes burning off and leaving a sturdy base of woody florals and musks will no longer apply, as new (and some not so new) advancements in technology will enable perfumers to attach formerly transient accords to late phases of wear. And instead of each drydown phase assembling into one beautiful composition, their transitions will intentionally diverge in character and tonality, stark enough to leave no trace of a single preceding note.

While this may sound like a good idea to some, I fear it would mark the beginning of a dire age. Imagine a world where people have so little attention and patience that they can't even bear the thought of wearing one perfume all day? What else would they have no time for? Reading a book? Watching a movie? Having a conversation? Eating a meal at the dinner table? Answering childrens' questions about life? Having a single original thought?

I keep waiting for the day when it will become obvious that technology is synonymous with progress, but after a lifetime, I'm still waiting.


10/12/18

Creed Is Releasing Yet Another Aventus Flanker. Is This a Good Idea?


Oh, It's You Again.

Apparently Creed has decided, against its better judgment, that one Aventus isn't enough. The world desperately needs another. They came to this conclusion two years after the release of the first Aventus flanker, the clumsily-named Aventus For Her. And by the way, Aventus isn't the only Creed to get flanked - Love in White has LiW For Summer, in case it gets lonely. There are probably one or two other Creed flankers that I just haven't noticed, so if you happen to know them, please mention them in your comments below.

The thing is this: Creed is supposed to be a niche brand. I know there aren't hard and fast rules for marketing niche frags. It's not like the words "Thou shalt not flank" are etched in marble on the sidewalks of the Upper East Side. It's a free market. You can do as you please, and let the shareholders judge for themselves. But in a world where every designer label feels the need to flank incessantly, a world where Thierry Mugler's obsession with flanking has infected Chanel, Dior, YSL, Prada, and many others, eventually the question is raised: should a niche brand make flankers?

How does it look, exactly? I see Aventus, and I see Creed created another industry-changing behemoth, in the tradition of Green Irish Tweed and Millesime Imperial. At some point, a legacy designer will get smart and create a nearly identical clone of Aventus, in much the same way Davidoff and Armani did with Olivier's aforementioned perfumes, which is all the flanking a truly great fragrance needs. Creed should be setting an example for other niche brands by firmly reiterating their erudite approach to creative output as the ever-chic and simple "one-and-done."

Why riff off your own work? What more can you add to something done right the first time? Then there's the question of whether it's worthy of your brand's pedigree. Creed is supposed to be top shelf. We're talking $500 bottles here. Why should I see them on that level if they're following a designer trend, and making flankers? Brands at $90 per bottle issue flankers. Brands at $45 on the grey market issue flankers. Brands you buy in boredom at Marshalls and Walgreens for $16 issue flankers. Brands that make you choose between their perfumes and paying your mortgage should not be peddling cynical, money-grabbing flankers.

How do people perceive your brand when you start hedging your bets after critical letdowns? I perceive nervousness, with a dusting of panic. Creed got spooked by the underwhelming reception for Viking (and the rather intensely polarized reaction to Royal Mayfair), lost the belly to chance it with something new, and decided to play it safe by releasing a variation of a sure thing. An understandable strategy, but not the best look. It's embarrassing, especially for Creed, and anyone with half a brain considers it a clue to how devastating Viking was to their bottom line. The combined efforts of keeping Viking on shelves and releasing Aventus Cologne right after seem more like vain attempts to save face than smart business.

I think Creed has done excellent work in the past, and hope they continue releasing incredible perfumes in the future. But I'm really hoping they don't go all lowbrow on us and start making flankers, and then flankers for flankers. Aventus Cologne might smell great, and might be a limited edition, which would be preferable to a permanent entry in the line. But then again, it might smell like another disappointment. And after Viking, I doubt Creed wants more perplexed and dissatisfied customers.


10/7/18

Lomani Pour Homme, A Review of the Latest Reformulation (Parfums Parour)


New and Improved Package, New and Improved Contents

I don't know when it happened, but sometime in the last three years, Parfums Parour reformulated Lomani Pour Homme, and significantly changed its packaging. I reviewed this fragrance many years ago on basenotes and Badger & Blade, and pointed out that its "fresh" dihydromyrcenol and slightly fruity top notes were more a progenitor to Cool Water than anything else, but here on this blog I aligned my opinion more with its being on the Drakkar Noir axis.

At this point, in late 2018, the Year of the Barbershop, I found myself wondering if Lomani PH was worth revisiting. Again, to recap prior opinions, I found its structure classically fougere, masculine to the hilt, but also remarkably cheap in both concept and execution. It smelled like the perfumer put dihydromyrcenol through an olfactory amplifier, and had dialed its synthetic facets to eleven in the top and early drydown stages, but then ran out of money. To close out the show, Parfums Parour settled on a very lonely tree moss note in the base, which made Lomani smell like a handful of stale wood chips after ninety minutes of wear.

I think this reformulation is a good opportunity for me to point out the key differences between oak moss and tree moss. Some fragrances benefit more from tree moss than oak moss, and some are the opposite. Two examples are Z-14 and Lomani Pour Homme. Z-14 belongs in the former camp; Lomani belongs in the latter.

Tree moss is dry, and aids in streamlining woody accords. It works beautifully in Z-14, among dry woods and woody citrus. Oak moss is much more diffusive, and amplifies any "fresh" chemical in its vicinity. It works like iso E Super, as a fixative and texturizing agent. Good fougeres marry cool aromatics to warm coumarin, and benefit from oak moss. Tree moss flattens aromatics and coumarin, leaving a one-dimensional drydown (Lomani circa 2010), but oak moss activates the aromatic connectivity between top and base, allowing crisp herbal notes to powder into a pleasantly clean (but still undeniably cheap) shaving foam effect.

Thus the reformulation of Lomani PH is a more successful fougere than its earlier iteration from several years back, and for one reason alone: they replaced the tree moss with oak moss. No longer does Lomani PH dry down to a hollow tree moss note of no distinction. It now dries down to a powdery, talc-like, vaguely herbal shaving foam effect. Lomani PH is arguably the cheapest fougere you can buy, now yours for literally $6.98 if you can catch Fragrancenet's 30% discount offer. That's actually cheaper than most sources for Pinaud Clubman.

That means you can be utterly broke, and still possess a modern aromatic barbershop fougere in Lomani PH, which I also still consider an unheralded entry in the Drakkar Noir axis of barbershop ferns. Will you smell sophisticated? No, you will smell like you shaved, and applied some mixture of aftershave and witch hazel.

Lomani PH is a celebration of synthetic barbershop chemicals. They even colored it the same as Barbacide. P-Parour isn't going for broke here. They're just putting out the most basic Reagan era fougere imaginable on a shoestring budget. The hilarious thing is that they tout its "new look" on the box with a red imprint (something no classy brand does), and yet the box and bottle are almost identical to their former selves. The box is still drab grey with 1980s font; the bottle is still clear glass with an elliptical cap. Except now it has a silver plastic atomizer, and silver shoulders separating cap from bottle. Great. It looks better than it did, but not by much.

I often read about how Lomani is such a great clone of Drakkar Noir. I'm not sure it's "great." Drakkar's use of dihydromyrcenol is clever, taking its freshness and using it to amplify pine, wood, leather, and lavender. Lomani has a hint of apple-like fruitiness, a hint of soapy lavender, a very vague hint of pine. Yet nothing materializes into an accord. Instead it smells like dihydromyrcenol is an ingredient in a shave soap from a dollar store. It smells good for the money, and you got a superb deal.

What more needs to be said?