lundi 29 août 2016

Comme des Garçons Blackpepper: Faux Noir

In the early, day-glo 80s, Rei Kawakubo turned black into the color of female empowerment, much like Chanel had sixty years before her. Though their approach was profoundly different, the former could have embraced the latter’s motto, “Elegance is refusal”: in the aptly-named Comme des Garçons, it was the refusal of the standardized codes of femininity; the search for the beauty of the misshapen, the rejected, the odd. (Wearing CdG-inspired garb in the aerobic 80s earned me as many sneers and jibes as my punk get-ups during the disco era.)

Since then, black has become the default setting of the fashion and beauty world, and one of the most common epithets in fragrance. Translating black into scent, however, remains just as subversive an experiment, and one that Kawakubo has often asked Christian Astuguevieille, the creative director of Comme des Garçons Parfums to carry out. The brand’s first, eponymous eau de parfum sprang from a brief that envisioned diving in a pool of ink-black water; its groundbreaking Incense series explored the combustible resin in nuances of soot, spices and smoke. Black from the Play trilogy used soot-on-metal oxides to conjure the color. The later, award-winning Black aligned olfactory synonyms for “charred”.

After the brand’s most recent launches – Dot’s osmanthus in an ice storm and the purring rose held by Grace Coddington’s kawaii kitty-shaped bottle – Blackpepper comes off as both an Anti-Dot (as in “antimatter”), and an altogether more feral beast, all fiery tooth and claw and black fur. It’s more figurative than Play Black or Black, in that the eponymous spice is immediately and unrelentingly recognizable. And no wonder, since Antoine Maisondieu injected a nose-searing 20% of it in the formula.  Yet this shot of peppercorns punching black holes in the air (and our olfactory epithelium) -- a reminiscence of the infamous “Comme des Garçons lace” produced by knitting machines induced to go awry – is also a deconstruction of the note. (In this, again, the scent echoes Kawakubo’s approach to fashion.)

In the 90s, Serge Lutens created a palette of eyeshadows for Shiseido that was a set of four different blacks. Blackpepper, like its tinted bottle -- just on the edge of blue in certain lights, its mirrored glaze catching glints of surrounding colors – is also an essay on the variegations of its namesake color; a marquetry of faux noirs ranging from the dark-chocolate smoothness of tonka to the matte amber of clary sage, by way of flint, dust, leather and tar.  And the methodical refutation of everything La Petite Robe Noire stands for.

Illustration from the Comme des Garçons Winter 1982-83 collection, by Peter Lindbergh

4 commentaires:

  1. Very very very occasionally I have a guilty hankering for LPRN (the original) but my factory settings mostly coincide with the CDG version of noir. As I age I find so much depends on texture. If a black garment has a cosy fluffy quality or an ability to reflect light (a sheeny velvet say) then it is still flattering. It sounds as if this could be the olfactory equivalent. Nicola x

  2. I know exactly what you mean. Though in my case I kind of wish I could wear that black Anish Kapoor bought the rights to -- the one that reflects nothing (and therefore no unsightly bumps). Angela over at Now Smell This commented on the scent's smoothness and it's true, it does have a velvety quality that's very comfortable.

  3. What a coincidence that we both reviewed this the same day! I love reading your always thought-provoking take on Blackpepper. This is one I wouldn't mind having a bottle of.

    1. I like it very much too. Though it has a lot of character, it seems like something you could spritz on with giving it a great amount of thought. And, yes, it's pretty funny that out of all we could have reviewed, we both picked that one on the same day!