vendredi 14 août 2009

A Scent by Issey Miyaké : Greenwashing Perfumery





The current green revolution in perfume-land – led by Chanel’s Cristalle Eau Verte and Estée Lauder’s Jasmine White Moss – feels like a late 60s/early 70s revival.

Fidji (Guy Laroche, 1965), Chamade (Guerlain, 1969), N°19, Cristalle (Chanel, 1970 and 1974)… With their galbanum/hyacinth, these scents picked up twenty years after Balmain’s epochal 1947 Vent Vert left off, to express the youth revolution – albeit in the poised, bourgeois tones of an industry that catered to the middle-class rather than to patchouli and musk-dabbed Flower Children.

But today’s revival isn’t as much about youth or retro sensibilities as a response to the trend for all things green – from environmentalism to vegetarianism and organic food – a symbolic green-washing of the perfume industry, so to speak.

It is also another way of expressing “freshness” without resorting to citruses or aquatic notes -- which brings us, of course, to Issey Miyaké…

Since 1992, L’Eau d’Issey has managed to sell millions of bottles on the premise that “it smelled of water” and thus, not of perfume at all, despite the industrial strength of its melon/cucumber Calone note. A Scent by Issey Miyaké similarly aims to pass itself off as a non-perfume. “A scent as simple and beautiful as the air we breathe”, claims the press release. After water and fire (the defunct Feu d’Issey), air… If the next one is about earth, Miyaké will have the four elements covered.

But A Scent by Issey Miyaké is actually – cue drum roll… a chypre, albeit one of the new-fangled, de-materialized, holographic chypres.

My first impression was of a stripped-down version of Cristalle. And I must say I like what Firmenich’s Daphné Bugey did with Henri Robert’s original idea quite a bit more than Jacques Polge and Chris Sheldrake’s recent, bitter-lemon variation on it.

The official notes state galbanum, verbena, hyacinth and jasmine, along with a “crystal moss” that is clearly Firmenich’s answer to the “white moss” accord used by IFF in Estée Lauder’s Jasmine White Moss. Apart from the discreet powdery musk base that seeps through after a few hours that list pretty much seems to cover the notes.

A Scent kicks off with a pretty hefty galbanum blast – its fizzy bitterness intensified by lemon (from the verbena and, I suspect, a sprinkling of aldehydes) – before moving on to the slightly dirty-earthy tones brought out by the moss. It is in this phase A Scent is most reminiscent of Cristalle. But this is actually a fragrance with a classic pyramid evolution, so that, like its forerunners (starting with Vent Vert) is segues into a floral heart, with hyacinth – galbanum’s usual partner-in-crime – and a decently substantial, though non-indolic jasmine. The lemony verbena notes lasts well into the drydown, which seems to fall a little flat after five or six hours.

Though A Scent is marketed to women, there is no earthly reason why it couldn’t be worn by men: it is drier, more translucent and much less distinctly femme than the other big green floral of the moment, Jasmine White Moss. I can’t exactly figure out why the Lauder inspired me to grumble while I’m feeling quite happy about the Miyaké: they clearly have the same lineage. After all, I bear a lot more of a grudge with Issey Miyaké who’s been poisoning my airspace with Calone for over 15 years.

Could it be that A Scent’s fabulous bottles have softened me up? It’s probably no coincidence that two of the very best flacons of the year, Ross Lovegrove’s for Narciso Rodriguez Essence and Arik Levy’s for A Scent have both been commissioned by the same company, Beauté Prestige International (a division of Shiseido that also makes Jean-Paul Gaultier). The new Miyaké bottles come in three different sizes, and they look like they’ve been laser-sliced from a chunk of ice (click here for pictures). The cutting-edge, minimal design of these will probably inspire quite a few cases of bottle-lust. Including mine.


Image: Verushka von Lehndorff by Franco Rubartelli

30 commentaires:

  1. It irritates me that I'm likely to buy 'A Scent' just because of its bottle. The scent itself doesn't interest me, but the bottle is truly fantastic.

    RépondreSupprimer
  2. I gave this a very quick sniff a few days ago and my initial impression was good. Better than Jasmine White Moss, which I tried in both the edp and parfum. The Lauder started off nicely but seemed to just fall apart into a mildly green, synthetic jasmine and bland mossy bit of nothing on me. Yes, even the parfum.

    I did not have much of a chance to study the Miyake, as I was a bit more focused on other fragrances that day. But I was impressed by the kick of its opening and I recall liking it an hour or so later when I remembered to re-sniff it. I will need to try it again. And I still haven't tried Eau Verte. Not sure that I really need any of these though.

    RépondreSupprimer
  3. Nathan, have you smelled it? I actually quite like it, and kept going back to the arm that wore it even after having published the post...

    RépondreSupprimer
  4. Melissa, I feel there's an empty slot for a modern green fragrance in my wardrobe, since my supply of vintage Vent Vert is dwindling and my Bel Respiro decant is way too fleeting.
    Oddly, I could see wearing A Scent in the morning and Annick Goutal Grand Amour later in the day (must be the hyacinth thing).

    RépondreSupprimer
  5. I was really taken with the opening of this when I tried it, but found that it fell apart on me about an hour after I put it on. Perhaps I should try it again.

    RépondreSupprimer
  6. Jarvis, I find it lasted quite a bit more on me, but that may be a matter of skin/weather. The drydown is a bit disappointing, I agree, but it's the best green so far to my nose.

    RépondreSupprimer
  7. The Miyake Scent bottles look like they ought to be vodka bottles.
    -- Gretchen

    RépondreSupprimer
  8. Gretchen, you're entirely right. I think that's part of what makes them attractive to me!

    RépondreSupprimer
  9. Ce commentaire a été supprimé par un administrateur du blog.

    RépondreSupprimer
  10. I adored the initial blast; the drydown fell apart.

    Fortunately, it is not so $$$ that one couldn't bathe in it, and I don't think it would stain if you sprayed it on clothing ;-)

    Very pretty and cooling.

    RépondreSupprimer
  11. Chaya, I feel just about the same. It holds up very well on me but on a male friend's skin it fell apart and ended up smelling of muguet and Elsève shampoo. Pleasant but not quite perfect. Still, when all's told, I think I'm not much of a "green" girl myself -- vintage Vent Vert excepted.

    RépondreSupprimer
  12. Bring it on, I say. I often am fascinated and impressed by vintage scents, but end up feeling more affinity to modern scents. NOT true in the case of green or chypre, though...have loved many of both. Galbanum is a happy thing, always. There is no doubt I'll be hunting this one down...full development, which is generally a pleasure, and sounds nearly certainly so in your description...

    If I am doomed to be perceived as part of the flavor of the day, so be it. I'll take a stroll through the greens any day.

    RépondreSupprimer
  13. ScentScelf, I often wear more modern scents as well (if you include the late 80s as modern).
    As I stated in the comment above yours, A Scent can also fall apart a bit quickly on certain skins... Gotta test it a couple times, I'd say.

    RépondreSupprimer
  14. I haven't tried this yes. It's funny I do quite like L'eau in small doses but I've never worn it. I can't help but thinking it's for people who don't really like perfume- but whenever I smell it I remember it is rather wonderful. I rather loved L'Feu though, milky and strange and good.

    I love green perfumes so I am happy to see more mainstream green releases/

    RépondreSupprimer
  15. :) Yup, '80's = modern. Had to laugh--I was mentally editing as I wrote that, but didn't spend time clarifying the "line" between vintage/modern...one which in my mind is as much a function of a given scent or house--or attitude--as it is one of a date on a timeline. So I abandoned explaining...until here, lol.

    RépondreSupprimer
  16. Rose, I suspect that after the initial green blast, A Scent is also for people who don't like perfume. I forgot to put it in the review. Actually, it *is* perfume, it just peters out really fast on some skins.

    RépondreSupprimer
  17. ScentScelf, I was mentally including stuff like Féminité du Bois... I'd say the line could be drawn at Opium. Of course there were moderns before that, and classics that came after. As you say, it's a matter of style.

    RépondreSupprimer
  18. I sniffed this (on paper only) last Thursday at Saks. It was pleasant, but I know myself and it would not hold my interest for an entire day (assuming it lasted that long). I liked the new Natori a lot better - wore that one Saturday and enjoyed it for the whole 5 hours that it lasted. As for green scents, I rarely reach for them, but I do like M&B's Green, green, green the best out of the lot.

    RépondreSupprimer
  19. Tara, I can't see you in A Scent. I'll have to check out the Natori if it's available in Canada when I get there next week.

    RépondreSupprimer
  20. You know that people where I live still love and wear the original Issey Miyake more than almost any other scent except maybe the original Hanae Mori. Funny. Vent Vert is one of my very favorites but I'm skeptical as to whether I'd like it or not.

    It turns out those musk and patchouli dabbed flower children WERE thoroughly middle class but they made dedicated space for them at the office. Lots of patch wearing baby boomer lawyers I know come to mind.

    I will definitely go behold this flacon.

    RépondreSupprimer
  21. I meant to say I'm skeptical about whether I'd like A Scent

    RépondreSupprimer
  22. But I give it to you, Eau Premiere is pretty good for a latter day take on a classic genre.

    RépondreSupprimer
  23. I'm on board with Scent Self -- your "(if you include the late 80s as modern)" comment made me laugh out loud . . . but I knew exactly what you meant!

    RépondreSupprimer
  24. Cait, don't I know it about those Flower Children and sundry revolutionaries... In France, they're the people who bought L'Artisan at the time. Now, a good number of them wear L'Eau d'Issey.
    The point I wanted to make is that the perfume industry totally skipped the Pop aesthetics of the Sixties: their production was very conservative.
    Not sure A Scent is your kind of beauty, but it's definitely worth sampling.

    RépondreSupprimer
  25. Nathan, this is my philosophy of vintage for clothing: never wear a fashion that post-dates my puberty (i.e. the age when I started choosing my own clothes).
    It's a little different when it comes to perfumes since now "vintage" will come to mean "pre-reformulation", and that can be last year's batch!

    RépondreSupprimer
  26. Wah, sorry I'll miss your visit to Canada. If you don't find Natori, let me know and I'll send you a sample.

    RépondreSupprimer
  27. Tara, I'm sorry too. Thanks for your offer. No rush, but I might take you up on it!

    RépondreSupprimer
  28. This was an interesting take on the concept of the "green revolution" in perfume land and "greenwashing". My understanding of this comes closer to what FlowerbyKenzo is trying to do with their communication "FLOWER YOUR LIFE" for Flowerbykenzo with a strong focus on refillable bottles and changes in the outside packaging that reduce waste and carbon dioxide emissions. However, if it is sincere and inline with the core values of the brand "love of nature" is it considered "greenwashing" or just reseponsible behavior that should be communicated on?

    RépondreSupprimer
  29. Alexi, my use of the term "greenwashing" was more of a play on words. As far as Kenzo goes, the environmental policy of any brand belonging to a luxury giant like LVMH has to be considered at least partly as greenwashing. LVMH's only core value is making money for LVMH stockholders. If sounder environmental practices result from their PR policy, then that's positive. Plus they make good perfumes.

    RépondreSupprimer
  30. P.S. I mean Kenzo make good perfumes, not necessarily LVMH as whole.

    RépondreSupprimer