Sunday, December 10, 2017

Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male: fragrance review of a best-seller

Back in 1995 when this Francis Kurkdjian composed fragrance launched Le Male didn't look like it would become that huge in popularity. Jean Paul Gaultier's first masculine fragrance (programmatically named Le Male) was honestly too sweet for the times. No man would capitulate to such a sweet scent surely? And I'm saying this in full knowledge that the archAngel of sweetness came out 3 years before. Angel by Mugler was still too sweet by any mass market standards in 1995 and a very slow commercial success in the market; it took confidence and patience to make it the monument that it is. Le Male followed an analogous path though a bit more speedy thanks to its intended audience.


Le Male was evidently camp with its rippled torso and sailor paraphernalia. It was made by a French brand, for Pete's sake, fronted by a "crazy" looking guy always dressed in a matelot top! But it caught on spectacularly because of a very specific reason. It caught on first with the fashion congnoscenti and the tasteful homosexuals who were drawn to its campy imagery and gender bender advertising aesthetics. Truth be told gay men with fashion savvy often have an uncanny ability to focus on just what is right and works in the style stakes and predict trends. Evidently all strides of life favoured it commercially in the end. The advertisements and the scent were so tongue-in-cheek that you couldn't ridicule it no matter what one's orientation were; it had a healthy portion of self-sarcasm to carry it through.

Composition-wise the sweet lavender over coumarin-vanilla recalls a hint of classic fougère specimens, but the execution is nothing but. To better view this one can do a side by side experiment with a classic sweet lavender built on coumarin notes; Caron's Pour Un Homme. Whereas the Caron is a fist in a velvet glove Le Male is rubber band or nitrile gloves that slap shapely buttocks in jest.You can detect the modern musks which make this powerful. Or at least which used to make this powerful and very long lasting. I hear it doesn't last as long nowadays though my last personal testing is a couple of years old to be honest.

Now that fragrances for men have become increasingly sweet, Le Male continues to be popular with all ages of men (fathers and sons alike), but especially young ones who have rediscovered it. Quite a feat for something older than the age of its wearers!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Comme des Garçons Incense Series Avignon: fragrance review

Using as fine fragrance the equivalent of ecclesiastic incense of the Catholic variety, marvelously assimilated in Avignon by Comme de Garçons (2002), is an acquired taste for many and probably a bit of a sacrilege for some. But for perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour it must have felt relieving to drive out the ghosts of the past by appropriating them a dissimilar role.


Comme des Garçons Avignon fragrance, named after the French seat of the Papal court during the conflict with Rome in the 14th century, evokes grim cathedrals and catacombs with centuries of humidity and tangy frankincense smoke attached to their stony walls. To give the background of the name a short historical perspective, it all arose from a conflict of power.

Following the strife between Philip IV of France and Pope Boniface VIII, and the death of his successor Benedict XI after eight months in office, a rupture was evident between the French crown and the Pope seat in Rome. The conclave elected Clement V, in 1305. Clement, who was a Frenchman, declined to move to Rome, and in 1309, he moved his court to the papal enclave at Avignon, where it remained for the next 67 years enjoying a succession of no less than 7 French popes.

via wikimedia commons

Incense reigns in Bertrand's work,  accounted for in reverse psychology by his strict Catholic upbringing. When church duties collide with corporal punishment, guilt and internal suffering, it might become rather discomfitting. The realm of the senses, smell in particular, retains nevertheless a visceral appeal, enhanced via the perverted pleasure nascent from that which is denied of: ambrette and labdanum in the scent of CDG Avignon recall the sinful body...

For someone like me, raised in the Christian Orthodox faith, I find that the fragrance of Avignon, due to its smoky and denser background with patchouli and moss, bears kinship with my Mediterranean memories of church incense wafting off Byzantine abodes. I may have been spared the rod, but I can identify with the odd sensuality of an austere type of scent which I shouldn't really like, yet which I end up loving all the same.

Related reading on PerfumeShrine: 

The Incense Series: a Holy Week through Incense Scents
Incense fragrance reviews 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Niki de Saint Phalle: fragrance review and musings on memory

My experience with Niki de Saint Phalle goes back many years ago. I was aware of Niki being a force to be reckoned with artistically of course even before meeting her scent; her impressive snake-shaped creations in hues of vivid emerald and lapis blue were like a prelapsarian vision of Heaven. I will never forget the time when I saw a real size serpent of hers in the library of one of the university facilities in Cordoba, Spain. I doubt the serpent sculpture is still there, yet the impression has stuck with a mental recall vividness which is truly arresting.


Niki de Saint Phalle's eponymous scent, Niki de Saint Phalle eau de toilette, is much the same arresting affair both in looks (the cobalt blue oval with the intertwining snakes) and in smell.

It feels like one steps into an immense pine forest in a day of frost, when the needles hang with snow on them. The snow feels like dry powder and soap, very starched and proper, like some aldehydic fragrances of the 1970s, but with that green bitter touch of wormwood-mossy quality and a dose of carnation, which makes it more mysterious than just a bon chic bon genre aldehydic floral.

In what concerns hardcore chypres Niki de Saint Phalle is an odd man (woman) out. It's artsy yet not too hard to wear, with a playful twist that recalls violet candy, less herbal or animalic than most chypres, a hint of leather, some temptation, some tongue-in-cheek. It's a bit like stepping into a university library only to be greeted by a giant snake sculpture that looms above your head in insatiable hunger.

Related reading on PerfumeShrine: 
The Chypre Series: history, culture and aesthetics
Chypre Fragrances Explained for Newbies

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Best-selling Fragrances for Men: Russia 2011

The point of exploring which fragrances sell best is not only to understand trends, but to predict which fragrance references will be used to gauge the next fragrances to be made. Focus groups work in that way inside the fragrance industry, when developing fragrances, as we have analysed on the Perfume Shrine before, so it pays to pay attention, literally.
The Russian market is a major force to contend with lately, although it has to do more with niche and luxury brands aimed at the affluent (which is its own bag of bones to contend with yet again), however the mainstream sector is not without its own merit. We explored the taste of women with the best-selling perfumes in Russia for 2011 in our previous Perfume Shrine post. Now is the time for men.


Here are the top selling fragrances for Russian men for 2011 according to the Euromonitor.

1. Chanel Allure Homme
2. Baldessarini Baldessarini Ambre
3. Gucci Gucci Guilty
4. Dior Dior Homme
5. Givenchy Givenchy pour Homme
6. Giorgio Armani Acqua di Gio pour homme
7. Dior Fahrenheit
8. Chanel Egoiste Platinum
9. Clinique Happy for Men
10. Paco Rabanne XS
11. Hugo Boss Boss in Motion
12. Hugo Boss Boss Pure
13. Paco Rabanne Black XS
14. Paco Rabanne 1 Million
15. Carolina Herrera 212 Sexy Man
16. Dior Higher
17. Gucci Gucci pour Homme
18. DKNY Be Delicious Men
19. Giorgio Armani Armani Code
20. Hugo Boss Boss Selection
21. Versace Verscace Man Eau Fraiche
22. Shiseido Zen for Men
23. Lacoste Lacoste Essential
24. Lacoste Cool Play
25. Giorgio Armani Armani Mania
26. Burberry Burberry For Men
27. Estee Lauder Pleasures for Men
28. Davidoff Champion
29. Carolina Herrera 212 for Man

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