lundi 30 avril 2012

Madonna, musk and IFRA

I haven't smelled Truth or Dare yet since it hasn't been launched in France. But I can think of at least four good reasons to own a bottle. And only one of them is tuberose.

First, because Madonna always interested me for her systematic exploration of mythical female personas -- “she who is blessed among all women” turning herself deliberately into all women. This, to me, is epitome of post-modern femininity and post-feminism: an exercise in sampling, slipping on masks you believe in just enough to take pleasure rather than allowing them to define your identity. 

Given the star's lability, it's not much of a coincidence that some of the identities she's taken on have crossed paths with some of mine (and millions of other women, I should imagine). Though sometimes it's gone a bit further than that (let's just say the bullfighter in her Take a Bow video was a bit more to me than an acquaintance). Learning she was a tuberose aficionada didn't surprise me in the least. And then, I found we had another little thing in common when I read Katie Puckrik’s interview of Stephen Nielsen, the perfumer who composed Truth or Dare, in the Guardian.

Madonna was adamant that she did not want musk in Truth Or Dare's formula. "I tried to explain to her that it needed musk to round the edges, like you sand and seal a stippled wall," Nilsen remembered. In the end, he took a chance and went ahead with a version that included the much-needed musk. When he nervously presented it to Madonna, he said she smelled it sceptically, then grudgingly conceded, "OK – you were right. Leave in the musk." (Excerpt from Madonna's perfumer suggests the popstar remains a hard towoman to please”, by Katie Puckrik, The Guardian)

I think I know how she felt. You see, I went through a rather similar episode during the development of Séville à l’aube. I wanted Bertrand Duchaufour to take it easy on the musk. He stuck some in anyway, and proved to me we needed it. Which only goes to show that whether you're a diva or just some obscure scribbler, you've got to listen to the perfumer.

Another reason to love Madonna? As most of you must be aware by now, when informed of regulations by Stephen Nilsen, she uttered the perfume lover's favourite anathema: "Fuck IFRA!"

10 commentaires:

  1. I just loved that piece by Katie! It made me laugh, and it confirmed my suspicions that working for a big star is hard.

    No musk seems to be a common request, from what I hear. Most of the time, the perfumers say, "yes, I will not add any musk," and then they add it anyway without telling the customer. Most people can't tell a difference anyway.

  2. Madonna embodies female empowerment. She's having a good time with 24 yr old brazilian studs and she's launching her perfume? I can't wait to be 53! With Madonna the process behind the perfume creation is according to herself but you still hear people say she's a control freak, that's because she's not a man, women are not supposed to be assertive like that, they're supposed to doubt everything.
    Oh and Fuck IFRA, yes she's got that right too ;-)


  3. HAH! Madonna is hilarious, can't wait till Truth or Dare gets here in Oz too.
    I am enjoying your book.
    Portia xx

  4. Victoria, I wonder why that is? What's funny is that when you read Septimus Piesse, you find out the exact exact thing was going on in the 19th century: customers didn't want musk but actually preferred products that contained it, provided they were assured there wasn't any.

    I know my own reason was that because Séville à l'aube contained vanilla, I was afraid a strong musk note would make it too close to other recent Duchaufour compositions, especially at a time when he was experimenting with adding rose to make the floral note more powerful.

  5. Emma, I must be doing something wrong then -- nary a Brazilian stud in sight, of any age or description...
    Knowing what you want is something perfumers would like to see more often in clients, though, from what I hear. The problem is the ones who change their minds all the time! Still, when you're dealing with someone who's never done it before, you've got to find a common language and from Katie's article, that seemed to be an issue. Though apparently Madonna learned pretty quickly, which isn't surprising at all.

  6. Portia, I'm very curious to smell it now too!

  7. I think--and this is just my guess--that most people think of sweet, rich musk blends that were popular at one time, such as Jovan Musk. They think that all musks smell that way, whereas musks can take on some many different forms.

    And in the 19th century the musk symbolized the dangerously sensual, the exotic, which may not have been acceptable to everyone. I don't remember where I was reading it, but during the Victorian era, it was a bad tone to smell strongly of musk or other exotic scents. What do you think?

  8. Victoria, that makes sense, especially for people of Madonna's and my age group, who smelled those post-hippie musks as young girls.

    As for the 19th century, I've read of that too and certainly Septimus Piesse seems to say the note has a bad reputation! I don't remember the reference, but I did read that when Queen Victoria visited France, her elegance was praised but the musk in her fragrance was thought a bit common...

  9. I've got a bottle waiting for me at the department store... will drop in this weekend to pick it up. I loved it when they had the tester and even though tuberose is not my favourite note... well... I liked this one. And.. for heaven's sake, IT'S MADONNA!


  10. Normand, glad to read another positive impression. This might be my first actual celebrity perfume!