Yves Saint Laurent's new Belle d’Opium tries so hard to be the polar opposite of its flamboyant ancestor that it winds up looking like those computer-generated composite portraits of several faces: a bland-featured blur. Vaguely orange-y like Elixir des Merveilles. Vaguely patchouli-ish like a 10th-generation photocopy of Angel. Vaguely lily like… nothing much. It disappeared altogether within a couple of hours, leaving a wan trace of something woody and musky.
Belle d’Opium is a case study of everything that’s wrong with the mainstream. Flashy launch, fancy face, the talent of an excellent perfumer wasted -- Alberto Morillas made Flower by Kenzo and the Mugler Cologne, proof enough that the man can turn out classics, though I’m not familiar with the work of Honorine Blanc, who co-signs with him. A product that has neither character, nor diffusive power, nor tenacity, capitalizing on the renown of a fashion legend – Yves Saint Laurent, the operative word here in France being “Saint” – and of a legendary perfume. To sum up: a fragrance for an age where brands trump products, and where any kind of sillage is a social crime. Opium was scandalous in its day. So is Belle d’Opium. But not for the same reasons, unfortunately. I guess we have the scandals we deserve.
Chanel’s new Bleu doesn’t fare much better. This is what you’d expect to smell on the guy who comes to fix your alarm system and tries to hit on you in a fairly polite way. You know the type? Decent-looking, friendly, but a non-starter, because, you know, his cologne… Just so generically sporty-male that even a shower couldn’t fix it. Because you know the type who chooses that – just like the guy who names blue as his favourite colour – is, let’s say, a little lacking in imagination. So: been there, done that.
I think I’ll fix him up with Belle. Because she’s worth it.