Sunday, September 22, 2013

Re-View: Eros, My Soft Spot for Sweets, and My Gameplan

So, it's been pointed out to me that I don't get into the specifics of note profiles in my reviews. There are two reasons. One, I am kinda too lazy to meditate over a diagram of a dozen scents and how each might fit or not into a fragrance. Let's face it, only one or a handful of notes get to be the star, the half a dozen plus additions are backup singers at best. Two, I like to keep it real. The average guy has no. fucking. clue. what any of the minute names of features in perfumes and stuff are. If the average guy smells, let's say the subject of my review today, Versace Eros, he isn't going to say "Interesting combo of vanilla and mint top notes descending into cedar, and the dry-down has a nice mix of woods and vetiver." He is going to go. "??? Goood? No. Bad. Ehhh. Grunt"

It's far more fun for me to write from experience without using too much cataloging for reference to bridge the complete novice to the enthusiast. That doesn't mean I don't like it though! If you're interested in more thorough note profiles I strongly suggest searching fragrances on They have an awesome and well-designed interface to show what individual fragrances are made of, what people think they are like, etc. You might have to join to view entries (a big downside, I'm tired of sites making you join to research what is pretty banal knowledge), but if you're interested it's worth the time. And hey, I can't complain too much. It's free damnit.

On with the main show.

Sweet scents get a bad rap. If there ever was a fragrance trend which could be called the bad boys of the industry it's sweet smelling. Chocolate, coffees, vanillas, caramels, so on and so on. Sometimes along with other food-based scents called gourmands, and sometimes just desserts, there's a perception that anything smelling sweet in men's fragrances (sometimes women's too) is tantamount to being corny or dumb. It's hard to explain why, but considering the traditional palette of fragrance notes has been dominated by rather inedible notes for generations it's not hard to understand. It's also easy for sweet smells to "smell cheap", so they can be dangerous in concoctions.

I LOVE sweet scents, myself. I love wearing them. There, I said it. Deal.

Versace Eros

This little beauty, the newest in the Versace pantheon of men's fragrance (I think, if i'm wrong comment and correct me please), came out in all markets fairly recently. It's one of those fragrances that instantly divided the masses. You either love it (guilty here) or hate it. It is SWEET. Mint and vanilla are both incredibly obvious in Versace Eros, and the rest of the scents (tonka bean) base it. Although it's not been described as having it, I get the sense of an incense middle note that adds some a smooth complement to the singing sweet vanilla. I have to admit, it is a damn decadent smell to wear and could go wrong. What elevates it from feeling too sticky for me is the mint. The cleanliness of it helps keep the rest from becoming a muddled mass of cavity inducing goo.

What's amazing, I think, is that this fragrance came from Versace in the first place. (Audience gasp). Now hold up. Hold UP.  I'm not saying anything bad about the house, the fragrance, or anything, it is just SURPRISING that such a clean-sweet scent would come out of Donatella's empire. Consider the following evidence:

1.  Versace and many other Italian design houses, if not most of Europe altogether, stay away from clean or sweet like the plauge. The cleanest I've smelled is Burberry, and even then they use enough herbs and woods to make you think you fell face first in Narnia if you smelled them all at once..Tradition meets modernity in the the European palettes of fragrances, and the inelegance of prominent edibles is usually absent. A*Men by Thierry Mugler, a universal classic, challenges this, but that's for another day.

2. The name is Eros, a Greek god (Donatella wisely went Greek instead of Italian "Cupid", preventing the silly connotations), and the Greek-godlike ad campaign, a heavenly display of man meat if I've ever seen, emphasizes masculinity to such a degree you'd THINK Eros would be spicy or deep, at the very least incense and aquatic.

3. Donatella herself playing up the masculinity. I found this gem of a Donatella Versace quote on Fragrantica: "This fragrance is for a man who is his own master. He is a hero, a man who defends his ideas and goals."  Of course every designer and perfumer promotes any men's fragrance has having masculine attributes, but using the words hero, ideas, and goals doesn't quite translate into sweet fragrances.

All in all, getting over the surprise, I love Eros. The mint is key in making this a wearable joy, because otherwise it might smell like stayle syrup. Eros will make you hungry, but it's worth it. Definitely not for use for being active, but it's a great anytime fragrance. If you're in mixed professional company with some people who might not like perfume and cologne, this is a good one to go for, as edible scents are pleasing to just about everybody. I give this full marks, 7 out of 7 sprays.

Donatella Versace, have you got anything else to say about Eros yourself?

Heh. Aight.

That's not really her, it's of course the superb Maya Rudolph as Donatella Versace. Speaking of which, Lifetime made a movie called House of Versace starring Gina Gershon as the big D. I cannot fucking wait for this awesome movie. I'm gonna be front and center when it comes out in a couple weeks.

Peace out.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Reading is Hard: Episode 1: The Emperor of Scent


I've been reading lately, more than usual. And I think I have something that's worthy to discuss here.

As far as I can tell, there isn't too much out there when it comes to literature concerning fragrance. There are some great coffee table worthy titles that are pretty detailed reviews written in elaborate ye olde encyclopedia fashion, and maybe even a few fun craft and hobby style books about oils, but not too much about the industry through the eyes of the people invested in it. While the fluff books are nice and I am admittedly a sucker for reviews (if they're funny and snarky), a person can't learn much from a bible of reviews. Luckily there are some gems out there and I'm confident with the proliferation of 21st century fragrance there will be many more explorations to come, and not just in books but in all manner of newfangled media as well.

The Emperor of Scent
by Chandler Burr
A 2002 title caught me eye when it was prominently displayed in a small book store: The Emperor of Scent by Chandler Burr. This awesome tome colourfully illustrates the life of Luca Turin, somewhat of a mad fragrance genius who is both olfactory fashionista and biophysiologist.

What is so great about this book is that it takes the reader, likely somebody interested in fragrance/fashion etc., and forces them to reconcile scent aesthetics with science. The myriad of tidbits about the chemical properties, secrets, sequences, and the labs and technicians who toil endlessly perfecting molecules gives a fragrance enthusiast such as myself a cold and clinical view at the man behind the curtain.

Turin is portrayed as a man on a mission. We're informed that at a young age he was very interested in smells and being from the heart of Europe he grew to know the old, if not ancient, shops and perfumers that dotted the heart of southern France very well. His freakish skill for memorizing the hundreds of perfumers and design houses and ability to identify perfumes just by similar subtleties in differen fragrance stunned shopkeepers, perfumers, and everyone else. He also displays a skill to distinguish when fragrances were created based on knowing when the notes being smelled were likely at play in the market or in labs of the time.

Realizing that his goal was to relate his seemingly divine gift into a comprehensive study of perfume in order to codify knowledge of fragrance, he sets out into the scientific community and becomes thrust into a much larger arena; in the already brewing debate over exactly how our sense of smell functions (something that is still contested today.) Despite his initial inabilities to comprehend scientific method, Turin proves he is a fast learner and becomes embraced by many who believe in his cause. Turin also explains that in the rapidly growing availability of synthetic fragrance molecules, traditional perfumers and their supplies have become too expensive to produce and many of the "true" perfumes created before synthetics were becoming a dying art form. This creates an innate desire to help preserve classic fragrances, and adds to the urgency of his cause.

While the book itself introduces fragrance to readers in a fantastic way by marrying the scientific with the artistic, it is not written in a steady way and will be more challening to digest for people who do not have a basic to intermediate knowledge of the perfume business. Considering communiques and events referenced in the book took place roughly in 1999 and the book was first released in 2002, there was obviously not a very long period of time between book conception, to research, to drafting, to editing, and to the final product on shelves, and the writing shows this unfortunately. The jumping between the name-dropping while expounding on fragrance's tradition and luxurious status and the fleeting and confusing chemical process descriptons and diagrams was interesting aesthetically, but does tend to muddle the bounty of information provided.

All in all, regardless of reservations over writing style, this is a fantastic and possibly revolutionary book with its unheard of point of view looking into fragrance and perfume. Burr has done us all a huge favor, and for you guys who consider yourselves to be more technical and analytical and all Top Gear and stuff, the science behind perfume (and the sense of smell as a whole) will blow your mind and give you a new-found appreciation for how our aesthetics and seemingly arbitrary sense of art forms. I'm mos def not the technical type, and even I was getting into the elementals.

The Emperor of Scent is worth a buy, paper copy or e-book or otherwise. And I have yet to have said that about ANY book about fragrance or perfume.

Just get it.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Re-View: Marc Jacobs for Men and Tomorrow

Staying up too late isn't healthy. Oh I don't mind the physiological effects, it's the mental that annoy me. Considering how infinitely melancholic the last review was I am determined to issue a more upbeat, if not just even-toned, follow-up review.

Keeping within the scope of fashion, I define my experience as fashion before, during, and after McQueen. That's simply out of my own personal taste, and it's not a scale for everybody (clearly). Post-McQueen has been odd for me. Fashion, much like any art or skill or trade or tradition, however you define it, is now blown open to hundreds of new faces and new markets because of our world's rapidly expanding consciousness. More people know about fashion, more people have access to it, and more people are getting involved in it. Because of this there is a glut of designers and trends and styles that is so overwhelming what once used to be a joy, shopping, can now easily become an intimidating if not fearful venture. It's the grand irony that our expanding global identity has been the result of civilization, and yet how post-consumerism brings our or animlastic hunting urges is clearly a sign of our humble caveman roots.

During this vacuum buffet of fashion and design, I've been very interested in American design houses and their fragrances. For generations American culture has been intangible considering how different one person is to the next, but I've been noticing how there are glimmers of the beginning of what could be called a uniform American style, even if just loosely at best. Our national obsession with cleanliness is mostly to blame. Everything has to be fresh. Wear white in winter (I do!). Nothing too heavy. Pass on musk. etc. etc. This type of under-design was somewhat laughable in its early days as being seen as anti-fashion, and can you blame people in the 80s who loved layering on everything (hair, makeup, clothes, attitudes, so on and so on)? The way American powerhouses have evolved around their subtleties has given way to a Trojan horse of world-changing fashion contributions that everybody enjoys and is enriched by. Donna Karan. Ralph Lauren. Vera Wang. Calvin Klein. all designers and brands that have celebrated clean and/or sporty simplicity. They celebrate the lines more often than the shapes. And their fragrances are no exception.

One designer I have thoroughly been enjoying lately is Marc Jacobs, the irreverant personality of American fashion that effortlessly blends high fashion, street fashion, and casual fashion into one, heart-achingly elegant style. And I only got into his style by being introduced to his fragrances.

Marc Jacobs for Men

Marc Jacobs for Men is now easily in my pantheon of ultimate fragrance favourites. When I heae the word "cologne" mentioned by somebody, this is what I think of. This fragrance could easily qualify as gender neutral, even though it is within the pinnacle of men's fragrances in my own tastes. There is an overall sense of "perfume" that brings a slightly feminine character, but the soft woods are constant and keep the overture from having too many flourishes to detract from the masculinity. Perfumy and woody, yes, but as I have illustrated earlier, Marc Jacobs for Men sails strongly as a clean-loving American fragrance. Suitable for day wear and incredibly elegant at the same time, I cannot get enough of this one.

I don't know much about dating women, but I'm willing to bet this is a great first date scent. But hey, don't take my word for it. Get out there, roll up your sleeves, and get into it yourself.

Re-View: Kenzo & Autumn Perspec

Of course i'd like to think I'm not a stark raving fashionphile because some part of me is convinced I'm this super-mega-rennaissance type and my main source of insecurity is being labelled by anything I do, but I am obsessed with many aspects of fashion (fragrance is the biggest one, obviously)

What most people day to day don't understand about fashion, specifically about the design house and couture worlds, is that these clothes should be thought of as wearable canvases. There's always a color piece written up in some newspaper or newscast about how audacious and crazy some of the designs are, but really they are just paintings meant to expand our conceptual horizons and are not meant to demand consumers wear them en masse. I could explore that idea more, but I'll spare the time. The thing enjoy about fashion almost as much as fragrance (a close second) is the art of the fashion show. The scenery, the sound, the whole context which comes from the designer's universe to put this moving art gallery inside, all lasting for a mere 10 to 20 minutes, and each one never being able to be witnessed in person again. The supermodel era brought on the plain, white runway, which is what everybody thinks of when they think about fashion shows, but in the past decade designers of every calibre have certainly been as highly inventive with set design as major tech firms have been with our ever-evolving persoanl devices. To get a taste of what I am trying to convey I strongly suggest to anybody who is unfamiliar with fashion to watch videos of Alexander McQueen's shows from the 90's up until 2010 when he unfortunately left this earth.

Speaking of Alexander McQueen, I took news of his death in February of 2010 very hard. Not that I knew very much about him, but I knew his work, and his set design, and his universe was a deep inspiration for me and continues to be to this day. The more I learn about him after his life only multiples the deep respect and affinity I have for him ans his work. What does this have to do with fragrance, you might ask. Well, the scent of one fragrance in particular gives me vivid McQueen imagery, so much so it's how I describe it.

Kenzo Pour Homme 
by Kenzo. 1991

To describe this fragrance I use two words:

Plato's Atlantis

That is the name of Alexander McQueen's final fashion show, which was his Spring/Summer 2010 line shown at Paris Fashion Week in 2009. It's the only way I can comprehend Kenzo Pour Homme logically in my own mind. To me, it is a marine fragance. Although rich in wood notes, the ozone and overall outer layer scream seaside scents to me. But it's not marine in your average summer-season aquatic fragrance, it is deep, dark, and dare I say gothic. There is a salty sourness that bites when I use this fragrance, and the deep woods underneath add a brown layer that only further masks the dark marine mystique. The moody sea scents strongly echo the melancholy and understated elegance of Plato's Atlantis, and the touch of modernity makes me recall the moving camera arms and their cold but stunning ballet as they tracked the models and audience alike. I have yet to smell anything similar to Kenzo Pour Homme and that is something I am both disturbed and delighted by.

I do have to say that Kenzo Pour Homme is not something I routinely use and most days I feel it is a highly inappropriate, but the elaborate art the fragrance creates for me is something that I will treasure forever.

The fragrance is not for every man, but it's position bridging the thick, pitch black ("night") scents with the noble marine and wood notes is easily suited to anybody identifying themselves as being harbingers of the little known masculine mystique.

Use it wisely, guys.