Monday, 4 January 2016
Dragon Tattoo – Ys Uzac
I wanted this as soon as I read about; it seemed quite a deviation from the established quietly sublime musically inspired work that Swiss house Ys Uzac had launched to date. Run by perfumer Vincent Micotti and his wife Vera Yeoh makes beguiling perfumes that are very unique. The quality of the work is superlative, each scent a carefully formed aromatic experience inspired by musical motifs, pieces of music, Beethoven’s mysterious Immortal Beloved, jazz, Nina Simone, musical terminology etc. I have the crystalline Lale, an apricot-infused tea-tinted white floral that is so deliciously light it’s barely there, but still the skin smells of sweet glittering snow. I have Pohadka too, although I have to be in the right frame of mind for it, the blond tobacco note is shockingly realistic and sometimes I just can’t handle the full-blown smoked vanilla and hay ambience. Dragon Tattoo is a whole other ball game though. The name obviously references Lisbeth Sander, the extraordinary protagonist of three huge bestselling novels by the late Stieg Larsson. The first novel in the so-called Millennium Series was actually called Men who Hate Women in the original Swedish, but changed to the more palatable The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo when it was translated. Dragon Tattoo is a scent of fierce collision and shock. I have never really experienced anything else like it. It is almost repulsive at times. I love the fact that most of my friends loathe it. The image Ys Uzac used to promote the fragrance, a punk-lite model, tongue out, flipping the bird in a too-pretty studded leather jacket was almost insulting. Dragon Tattoo is way more fucked up and dirty than any faked up faux-punk fashion editorial aesthetic. You have to remember how deeply damaged Lisbeth was, how scarred, raped and punished she had been and continued to be at the hands of men and a state system that set out to bury her. She is shockingly vulnerable and distasteful, hard to like, but she compels you to care through survival and a refusal to ask for pity. This scorned and vengeful woman is a part of this utterly bizarre and visceral olfactory experience. This abstracted homage to Lisbeth and her kind is so powerful to wear, it hangs off the skin like a battered hand-me-down biker jacket, thrashed in club sweat, split booze, make up, teen perfume, hairspray and blood. The mix of ink, ripened peach, apricot, leather and shuddering levels of primal, private musks make Dragon Tattoo quite a perverse aromatic experience. It smells deeply feminine, almost disturbingly so on boys, as if one’s gender was being challenged. The fruit has a whiff of fermentation, the musks just sliding into the uncomfortable side of sweaty. Yet, it is an exhilarating perfume, raw, pornographic and base. It has a certain prettiness, an initial allure, but then it savages the senses with fierce beauty. The best yet from a vastly underrated house.
Saturday, 2 January 2016
Alaïa Paris – Alaïa
It did seem amazing that superstar Tunisian born designer Azzedine Alaïa had never launched a scent; but he was an unusual talent who oscillated between enormous publicity and intense reined in privacy. His clients who included some of the most famous women of the day such as Grace Jones, Tina Turner and Naomi Campbell are generally reluctant to discuss him personally except to reiterate how extraordinary his talent was and how special his clothes made them feel. Alaïa Paris was created by the sophisticated hand of Marie Salamagne in collaboration with Beauté Prestige International. Monsieur Alaïa had a specific if oblique brief; ‘a smell of cold water splashed on burningly hot whitewashed walls’. A memory perhaps of Tunisian heat and evaporation. For such a short proposal it is arresting enough and the resulting parfum is one of the most beguiling and enigmatic mainstream launches in years. It was initially exclusive to Harrods but now widely available. The Paolo Roversi campaign and gorgeous Martin Szekely bottle with its black opaque glass design (with incised motifs echoing the laser cut leather of Alaïa’s cult collections) and a cap resembling a spool of golden thread only added to the luxe impression of Alaïa’s debut scent. The vague list of generic pink pepper, freesia, peony, animal notes and musks was interesting but not as much as Alaïa’s dictate that no one note should be detectable over another. On paper this sounds relatively easy. Yet from an olfactory and technical point of view it is incredibly demanding. During development, BPI and Salamagne honed and smoothed the complexities until this exquisite cold, mineralised consistency was achieved. I am on my third bottle of this strange, indefinable scent already; much is its moreish power. There is both luminosity and fade to the mix; I love the way the musks cling close, while the overall impression is one of disconcerting allure. As the lines and edges continue to blur and shift between niche and certain perfumers working in mainstream scent, Alaïa Paris is a sublime (and price accessible) reminder of luxurious high street beauty.