Restrictions on oak moss, public disaffection and the hijacking of the name by P.R. departments to label juices that are anything but… We’ve all but buried chypres by now, haven’t we?
Most classics have either undergone a full-body lipo and chemical peel like Mitsouko, or they’ve been castrated like Miss Dior. Newer family members sport various surgical enhancements – like Tom Ford’s trout-pouting, silicone-breasted and rather delightful Arabian Wood, a misnomer if there ever was one, as it is neither Arabian nor woody. Or else they seem to have succumbed to over-breeding, like the no less delightful Jubilation 25 by Amouage, with its baroque cumin and balsam overdose.
Enter Estée Lauder’s new Private Collection Jasmine White Moss, a Seventies style green chypre with a fruity bent, meant to be one of Estée’s undeveloped formulas and thus, perhaps, a move to anchor the brand in its own heritage. And, possibly, a bid to seduce older, chypre-literate demographics without scaring off the young women who are graduating out of the fruity florals. As an added bonus, a new captive material, “white moss mist”, is introduced to replace oakmoss and usher in the era of the rash-free chypres.
Spraying on Jasmine White Moss is an odd exercise in déjà-senti.
Cristalle? Check. The original Private Collection? Check. L de Lubin, Acqua di Parma Profumo (pre-reformulation), Azzaro (again pre-reformulation), Givenchy III, Diorella ? Check. It’s got bergamot, it’s got galbanum, it’s got jasmine, it’s got that slightly over-ripe fruity, melon-like note you find in classic Roudnitskas, as well as the ubiquitous, cleaned-up patchouli used in most of what’s currently labeled “chypre”.
And like all three of the new Private Collections – think of Tuberose Gardenia’s tamed shrews – this neo-retro chypre has been cleaned up, thoroughly groomed and spayed of anything remotely earthy, musty, indolic or otherwise disturbing. Thoroughly Americanized – no offense intended to Americans: I’m talking about the concept, not the actual, diverse individuals. And that’s what PCJWM is: the concept of chypre, rendered IFRA-compliant and palatable to contemporary tastes; the spirit but not the flesh. As noncommittally lovely as a rom-com star – and don’t get me wrong, PCJWM is very pretty indeed, though somewhat pallid and lacking in staying power. She’s just not Romy Schneider or Jacqueline Bisset.
I guess what mostly bothers me about Jasmine White Moss, despite its loveliness, is the fact that it doesn’t bring anything new to the genre: it just reminds me of a lot of things I love and have lost.
This is how chypre will be allowed to live on, then: as a hologram. This is as good as it gets.
Image: Kate Moss "hologram" from Alexander McQueen's Fall 2007 show. Which isn't actually a hologram, but a special effect used by magicians since the 19th century called Pepper's Ghost. It's all done with mirrors, folks!