I attended the launch of the L'Artisan Parfumeur Explosions d'Emotions series at Tessuti a few months ago, and this post has been percolating in my brain ever since. Why has it taken so long?
Writing about fragrance is challenging. There's no colour or texture, which means no swatching or demonstrating it on myself. As much as I like to throw around words like "sillage", "accord", and "animalic", I suspect I still do a pretty poor job of actually describing a perfume.
But hey, why not talk about $332 (NZD) perfumes anyway!
Bertrand Duchaufour is the nose behind the Explosions d'Emotions series of fragrances. The idea behind them is that they document the different stages of a relationship, from the initial excitement, to carnal knowledge, to (maybe) post-coital bliss. The collection started off with Deliria, Skin on Skin, and Amour Nocturne, which launched at Tessuti in May.
I'm really glad I went along to the evening, because I learned a lot about the brand, and about fragrance in general, from Nick and Natalie (I think) of Libertine Parfumerie/Agence de Parfums. I ordered sample vials from Luckyscent because I was intrigued by these, and wanted to do as thorough a writeup as I could.
Deliria is an odd beast, and the one I find most interesting. It includes rum, toffee apple, and candy floss -- all warmth and sweetness, except for a metallic note in there, making it quite a contradiction. We were told that the idea behind it was a trip to a fun fair, capturing the dizzying mix of rollercoasters and food stalls. It has good longevity on me -- I still smell it after twelve hours or so, although it does wear closely on the skin as time goes on.
Amour Nocturne (cedar, milk accord, caramel, gun powder, orchid) opened really sourly for me, and almost scared me off. It soon mellows down to a warm, powdery, food-y scent, though, and feels to me like a progression from Deliria. I don't catch any of the gun powder until the very end, and, rather than being a harsh note, I'd liken it to adding a bit of pepper to macerated strawberries, if that makes sense. It fades quite quickly on me, within a couple of hours.
Skin on Skin (suede, saffron, whisky, lavender, rose, iris, musks, skin effects) is probably the most wearable for me out of the three. At first sniff I get the florals, along with a whiff of what smells to me like pineapple, but the fruity, almost plastic quality quickly goes away, leaving the flowers to mingle with the powdery leather notes.
Are these worth the $330? Let's face it: when it comes to cosmetics, there is generally a huge disparity between how much the actual product costs to produce and how much it costs the consumer. Sure, eyeshadows from a mid-range brand like Urban Decay may have better pigments, less filler, and superior manufacturing processes when compared to something from ELF, but the difference in production costs is negligible by the time it gets to the consumer -- in the order of dollars, if not cents.
At the launch, Nick told a story about meeting the person behind the design and marketing of a certain designer perfume (the name of which rhymes with blot) who boasted of getting the flask and collateral down to something like $1 a bottle. I also came across this article which breaks down the price of an average bottle of department store perfume into percentages of how much everything costs, including overheads, marketing, package design, and profit. How much of that is the actual juice? Two per cent.
So what makes me buy into a particular perfume, beyond personal taste and budget? I would say the artistry that goes into the concoction, as time goes on and I learn more about the stuff. Most commercially available perfumes are made by just a handful of perfume conglomerates, and while I have a pretty average nose, I can appreciate that the more niche producers -- L'Artisan Parfumeur, Byredo, Serge Lutens and the like -- are more likely to design perfumes that evoke certain concepts beyond the average inoffensive floral or fruity gourmand that is so rife at the department store counter. They also don't spend squillions on celebrity endorsements or magazine campaigns.
This is perfume as art foremost, consumer product second.
Of course, that's not to say that all the perfumes at Farmers aren't worth what you pay for them. I have more than my fair share of those in my "fragrance wardrobe", and most would argue that fragrance is such a personal thing anyway, so who cares who made them or what goes in them. If you love it, who's to judge?
Tessuti now also stock the second half of the series: Haute Voltige, Onde Sensuelle, and Rappelle-Toi, none of which I've tried yet. Funnily enough, these are selling for $282, so I'm guessing the exchange rate took a dive when they launched. I'm looking forward to seeing how L'Artisan Parfumeur have continued the love story.