“It’s for women in their 40s who are freaking out”, quipped global fragrance expert Marian Bendeth to the Toronto Globe and Mail when asked for input about Candy.
Ok, now I’d like to give me one good reason, just one, I’m not greedy, for not freaking out given the current context, whether you were born in 1950 or in 1990. Just one. I’ll buy it. Now. On the stop. Give up? Very well. This, for instance: Candy.
That misses Prada and Andrier, who up to now had offered us marvellously presentable juices, the kind of juices the most tweeded-up, stuck-up Milanese bourgeoise couldn't impeach, have stuck us with a caramel delights me no end. Granted, the caramel was bought in a chic candy shop on the Corso Como. Still, it’s the polar opposite of an infusion. Infusion is a perfectly honourable perfumery term, but in French is also means herbal tea and as such, it reeks of ladies afraid of insomnia, indigestion or kilos. If you’re going to freak out, you might as well go all out and shoot up on candy. And that’s where you can recognize La Prada: it’s the perverse side of her stance, which always seemed to me to shine out through her designs. They’re obviously meant for women intelligent enough to understand their slightly surly, slightly unattractive aspect. The thing about them that’s not quite willing to please men, a bit like Léa Seydoux’s hiked-over-the-belly-button pink knickers in Jean-Paul Goude’s advert…
Candy, in a way, can also live without men… Candies are self-erotic. You can suck on them alone. But what makes Candy so perverse is that it frustrates the expectations of the Prada-perfume public. Can you imagine something more common than caramel? More of a mall-rat cliché? No, Miuccia, not that, not you! Well, yes. And what’s more, dressed up in a shocking pink box that references that other Italian-artist-who-makes-dresses, the great Elsa and her frankly ripe 40s juice, but also C’est la Vie, Christian Lacroix’s 80s megaflop. And to top it off, it’s got the kind of illustration – by the great François Berthoud, but still – you’d find on a chick-lit book cover (the Devil Wears Prada, for instance).
Candy might well be a bid to draw in tweens or freaked out women in their forties who are as depressed as the markets. But it may also be the Prada-esque equivalent of L’Eau Serge Lutens: a way of being where you’re least expected, of breaking the routine. And, in Miuccia’s case, of displaying the undercurrent of bad taste – which is still taste – that runs through her work.
But smell Candy carefully and you’ll notice it’s crafted much in the same style as, say, the revered Infusion d’Iris. And that caramel is nothing, deep down, if not benzoin’s secret longing, its way of slumming it up. Daniel Andrier blows it up until it’s a micron-thin bubble. Then she whips benzoin with cloudy musk, molecular-gastronomy style, until it foams. If you’re going to go sweet, you might as well go for real sugar rather than artificial sweetener, and just work in smaller, more efficient doses – this Candy won’t go straight to the hips. Offered on a base that picks up the wood in vanilla – another facet of benzoin -- it is actually a delectable, impeccable composition.
Vintage perfume lovers will have noticed that Goude’s advert turns around the scenario in Tabu’s old print ads: this time, it’s not the bearded violinist ravaging the lady pianist, but the pupil savaging her teacher. Back in “the forbidden perfume’s” days, the forbidden was sex. Today, it’s sweets. Duly noted.
Prada is smart enough to have noticed her customers needed comfort. Not necessarily because they want to go the mutton-dressed-as-lamb route by spraying themselves with sugar. But because a few grams of sweetness in a brutal world are nothing to sniff at. In French, the boudoir is a place to bouder, to sulk. It’s also the ideal setting to nibble on bonbons.