By far the best novelty of 2015 for me, even if the year hasn’t ended yet. I must start by saying that I am not crazy for classic Habit Rouge; I really respect and appreciate it, but I like it really mildly – for no specific reasons, it just never completely “clicked” for me. Dress Code instead, I fell in love with it from the very first sniff, and I wouldn’t know where to start with to motivate why. It smells at once really complex, really quality, completely new for me yet robustly rooted into the classic heritage at the same time (starting from Habit Rouge itself), and just tremendously good. Basically, I think Dress Code may basically and inaccurately be described as a sort of remarkably inspired blend which brilliantly mixes Habit Rouge, the Guerlain Homme line (notably Intense), several classic French masterworks like Mouchoir de Monsieur or Monsieur de Givenchy, an apparently unrelated contemporary designer vein (mostly for a subtle and sharp smoky-woody base layer) and a tiny bit of vintage Hermès Bel Ami too, especially the way leather gets a floral-sweet treatment there. There’s some echoes of Tom Ford Noir too for me, which was however a clear tribute to Guerlain’s classics, so here we are again. There’s a lot going on here, and yet it is all so well blended it’s really hard (and eventually pointless) to “read” it.
Anyway, shortly Dress Code opens with a fresh and soapy bergamot-rose-barbershop accord with some quality vanilla, a sprinkle of mild brownish spices (cloves and nutmeg above all, as a distant whiff of a classic Bay Rum) and a dry, sort of incense-infused leather woody base, all tinged with a really peculiar and quite prominent sort of really sophisticated dusty powdery-gourmand feel of what I think Guerlain calls “praline” here – which is basically a gentle cascade of delightful vanillic powder with a truly clever sort of spicy and “toasted” aftertaste, perfectly keeping the “autumnal” feel of Habit Rouge and balancing the sweetness. I expected something more cloying, while this sweet accord is really subtle and mannered, and yet decidedly there.
At first, Dress Code is quite uplifting, even fresh and well more Oriental than classic Habit Rouge, also pleasantly “barbershop-clean”, showing some slight boozy nuances as well – hence my reference to Guerlain Homme Intense; that same sort of distinguished woody-herbal booziness is partially here too (and actually, with a hint of 2003 Gucci pour Homme’s incense woodiness as well) just evolving then under a completely different light. A darker, more luscious, dirtier and, say, “ambiguously sweeter” light – where the ambiguity lies in the Frenchies’ tradermark fondness for sweetness and dirtiness . The evolution is truly dynamic and shimmering, and is in fact all about a descent into a dandy’s closet; powder, nondescript sweet dust, dead flowers, a whiff of salty antique woods (maybe vetiver), luxury leather (true luxury: tanned, rich, comforting, really smooth but sharp – paired with spices, floral notes and a hint of sweetness, here’s why I mentioned vintage Bel Ami). The freshness goes almost entirely away soon except for a hint of citrus, leather becomes earthier and saltier, a gust of warm wind spreads the dirty, spicy, sweet powder all over. And still, Dress Code remains inexplicably gentle, distinguished and almost weightless. This scent is quite all about that - sweet but dark, innocently powdery and dirty at once, mature and really sophisticated yet sort of light and youthful, comprising a whole timelapse over Guerlain’s history in a whiff. It’s quite hard for me to describe this fragrance and its evolution properly, as lots of nuances and notes smell really new to me (better say, the way they are presented and how they evolve); but well, you can just expect a brilliant, refined, cozy combination of classic and contemporary bearing a lot of echoes of stuff you know (more or less the names I mentioned so far), and yet smelling like nothing else. The evolution is really great, and the performance is really fine – this scent is quite more discreet than it may seem from the composition, but it’s not ephemeral at all.
I think Wasser did a truly remarkable job in bringing Guerlain’s DNA and specifically Habit Rouge autumnal formal and “dirty” elegance under a completely new light – not a “designer” light, not a “niche” light, just really new and out of boundaries and definitions, as if he almost tried to get rid of any formal training and just compose “out of the box” to create something quality and new yet solidly rooted into the past, avoiding any cliché. And he surely succeeded for me. Superb.