Sunday, May 20, 2012

2012 FiFi Awards Special Part 1: Intro & Best Packaging Men's Luxe

This year the FiFi Awards, given to the best and brightest in the fragrance industry, celebrates its 40th anniversary and it couldn't be a better time to be a fragrance enthusiast. Not only is the industry alive and well, its expanding, as more fragrance makers have been popping up around the world. This is echoed in the stratification of categories in the FiFis to promote the celebration of fragrances in all levels of production, distribution, and consumer demand, which is a great way for niche and small perfumers to show off specialty wares that warrant just as much adoration as flagship labels and creators.
FiFi Award

I'm constantly told "Oh, I didn't know about the FiFis!", and I have a logical explanation as to why they are not common knowledge as awards in other industries. Sampling! When there are awards for movies, TV, art, etc., nominated works can be seen or reviewed easily by the masses. When it comes to fragrance, only an insider or a die-hard would have the patience and fortitude to find samples of fragrances in competition to review, which is especally true since the final 5 isn't revealed until a month before the awards and doesn't leave much time to collect samples. That dichotomy alone is why awards for fragrance are not as commonplace. I myself would love to be able to review as many nominations as possible but even for a collector that can be challenging.

Moving on, this year I'm only focused on the Men's Luxe category. I don't preclude myself from being a snob, unfortunately, but it's only this category in which I've been able to smell samples of, and not even all of them, so my opinion is a mix of my first hand experience of some of the scents combined with my take on reviews and opinions floating around the interwebs. I do appreciate niche and classic scents, but my forte is the uber-modern and staying current. I love seeing where fragrance is going

To get things going, let's start off by talking about packaging and the finalists for the 2012 FiFi for Best Packaging of the Year - Men's Luxe. Packaging may be akin to the old adage "Never judge a book by its cover", but in fashion presentation is key. The art of packaging allows the creator to convey their message in a supplementary manner. This allows the viewer, and potential customer, consider where the fragrance is coming from artistically, which is a more powerful compulsion than most people realize. Although I do not recommend basing your sense of scents on packaging, it is a complementary artform that helps tell the story of fragrance over time.

2012 Finalists - Best Packaging of the Year - Men's Luxe
  • 34 boulevard Saint Germain, diptyque
  • Armani Code Sport
  • Gucci Guilty Pour Homme
  • Incense Oud, Kilian
  • John Varvatos * U.S.A.
  • Sweet Redemption, The end, Kilian
My Take

The Kilian house is represented with two finalists in the category and has a great eye when it comes to presentation (tassled key-like boxes with luxurious linings among others), but its bottling leaves something to be desired. This isn't to say the bottling isn't beautiful, it's based on Kilian's repeated use of the same bottle style, much like any line wanting to stick to a more apothecary vision of bottling. This method is somewhat en vogue lately because of its vintage hearkening back to the time when bottling was universal rather than specialty, but I have yet to see a perfumer rival Bond No. 9 when it comes to this method. Bond uses the same star-shaped template for every fragrance it produces but yet goes beyond the realm to give each its own clearly distinct flavor and personality by means of photography, design, patterns, etc.

Armani Code Sport and 34 boulevard Saint Germain both showcase timeless design elements from the 80's; the subdued but yet candied branding, the finessed yet practical bottling, and the cleanliness. However, between the two, I have to lean in favor of 34 boulevard just because the top's numbered embossing looks has such a distinct personality. The design house's unique trademark round shape of the bottle speaks volumes as well. Not quite circular, not quite oval, not quite rectangular, the shape that I'm calling "cameo" creates depth and interest. 

Gucci Guilty Pour Homme and John Varvatos * U.S.A. have the masculine elements of design wrapped up. Guilty's homage to the classic mid-20th century flask and U.S.A.'s gorgeous stopper mechanism cylinder have statement power without going into the territory of too overworked, as many masculine fragrances in broad/consumer production are. Between these two I give the edge to U.S.A. It's clean masculinity is not only captivating, but it's so downright original. Guilty has had a year of great branding and its packaging is also breathtaking, but it doesn't have that taste of originality.

Argent's Top Three

Here's the part where I make my prediction. I can't very well pick one to stick with, so I'll name my top 3, and it being close to the Olympics I can't help but use the classic Gold/Silver/Bronze distinctions.


Gucci Guilty Pour Homme


34 boulevard Saint Germain


John Varvatos * U.S.A.


My prediction is that Varvatos has best packaging wrapped up this year based on visual character that has its own, singular identity without visible contradiction, even though when dissected there are several artistic contradictions which make the packaging interesting and lasting. 34 boulevard Saint Germain will strike a note with those who prefer a cleaner, simpler identity and its subtle character may entice a part of the modernist crowd. Gucci Guilty Pour Homme has a bold, almost American Southwest meets high Italian fashion fusion that is hard to miss. Its only downfall is that it doesnt have the character of 34 boulevard or U.S.A. despite it having a rival amount of style.

Next: Last part of the Pre-Awards Breakdown, the big one: 
Fragrance of the Year - Men's Luxe

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