Anessa's Perfume Blog
I often see people judging a fragrance solely on the criterion whether it possesses "a certain wow-factor" or not. While the definition of such is still somewhat elusive to me, I had accepted it without much thought when I began on my review-reading journey.
Some will nonetheless grant a neutral rating after admitting the fragrance is nothing 'unique', whereas others dismiss it as something completely worthless, giving it a negative rating.
As reviews themselves are intrinsically and inevitably of subjective nature, I might as well leave it be. And yet, I sometimes can't help asking myself if, and since when, the fragrance world and its perfumers had signed a silent contract to, if ever, only create fragrances with "wow-factors". And if they do not meet this obligation, their creations seem doomed for ill-favoured reception, even condemnation.
Of course, I do understand when the 'consumer' (audience), who was charged with a very high price, in exchange regards this as a(n) (unspoken) promise of the 'performer'-part to deliver "something really astonishing, knocking off one's socks", since the consumer wishes to emotionally and rationally justify the expense. However, it would be questionable whether the majority of perfume houses are really promising such "one-of-a-kind, magical, life-changing, eye-opening moments" besides their standard copywriting.* They certainly imply the 'quality' being relative to the asked price, where the measure for a fragrance's "quality" will be subject of individual interpretation. It still remains a fact that In most cases, with exception of some houses, the perfumers will not be the ones granted with maximum power over, nor maximum profit from, the price set on their creation.
With that being said, what are these "wow-factors" exactly, a novel uniqueness which had never existed under the sun (or rather, one's nose had never met yet)? Something special that will grab the attention of the whole room? As a matter of principle, a fragrance loses its 'uniqueness' once its success prompts many 'follower' products, and in the worst case it could actually be compared and subordinated to exactly its own non-related offsprings probably in the 3rd generation, by someone (perhaps) oblivious to the historical order, and be called "Nothing unique, not the best of its kind, there are much better ones around". Someone will always be the pioneer, serve as the founding stone.
I had never used the term "wow-factor" for anything myself, but when I think of other fields like literature, music or cinema, there will be those that are well-made and enjoyable entertainment or offer food for thought, and then those which touch me deeply in a personal way. I am sure it's the same with fragrances, despite the limited possibility of fragrances being 'intellectually' stimulating. While music could well be the latter, fragrances seem to be much closer to one's instincts and primal reactions, like the sense of taste.
So, considering the above, are "wow-factors" something that touches the person on a deeply emotional level? Or rather something like the newest blockbuster using the latest CGI? Something that provides the feeling of a 'kick'? An olfactory climax? Or just something that would set the wearer apart from "the rest of the crowd"?
I could imagine and understand (almost) all of the above. As for the last, it is interesting to observe that many people, while insisting to smell 'unique' and, supposedly, take care to show themselves in every other facet as 'unique'/'outstanding' to the world, would still need the feeling of acceptance and security of a larger group. Perhaps - since I am ignorant in this field, I can only speculate - this is the extension of adolescence where many strive to be 'different' by identifying with and simulating their chosen role models. I find that, in order to aim for 'uniqueness', one needs to define and set a certain reference frame to distance oneself from, and this itself is an act showing a present dependence. 'Uniqueness' within the visible bounds of safety.
Lastly, without meaning offense, I rather think that the urge/wish/need to stand out from the crowd with every means possible, even with a fragrance, seems rather based on a competitive mindset focusing on "me vs. the rest of the crowd (rivals?)", a character trait more pronounced in some persons than in other. Otherwise, we ourselves are certainly not full of "wow-factors" all the time and do not have to be, and still remain unique animals, each on our own (even in our natural smell.)
*I will exclude those that justify the high cost with not only the quality of ingredients, but with the explicit promise that the fragrance will have 'mystical' effects on the wearer and the surroundings.
A non-rating comment from 2001 on Coco Mademoiselle (Eau de Toilette) featured on a review site made me chuckle. The nuances of the original got lost in my clumsy translation.
"Received the blotter and when I came home
both our cats ran away :-D
The scent is sweet but also spicy
appears to be generic and yet, it's not.
Sorry, I'm not good with words, so my explanation doesn't make sense.
CK Eternity, Escape
and Origins Ginger Essence Sensuous Skin Scent,
Cabotine (that's my sister-in-law's favourite)
to none of these did our kitties show any signs of dislike, but
for some reason, from Coco Mademoiselle they fled away in a dash...
'Have pity, do throw it away, quick!,' mother told me and I was going to put it into the bin, but then
'It'll keep on smelling when you toss it around here, use the bin in the bathroom!,' she said
so I trashed it in the bathroom, however
later on, every time I walked past the bathroom, the cats were scurrying there,
they looked pitiable, but also a bit cute.
The scent had rather appealed to me as a human, but
with cats, it's quite unpopular. To everyone living with a cat, please be careful."
Always amusing how the brain picks up the topic for tonight's dream program from the subconscious mind, almost like letting a computer randomly pick up your SOTD based on a few informations you had provided.
More than weeks after I had last read anything on Mon Guerlain, I literally dreamt about it. The first time a perfume ever entered my dream - what a memorable event for a perfumista greenhorn! Good thing is, despite my life-long chronic nightmare disorder, neither the dream about Mon Guerlain nor the perfume itself (in my dream) turned out as a nightmare. I was testing it from a sample and following the interesting development, comparing it with the notes I had made in my mind, based on the reviews and descriptions. Too bad the dream then faded away before I had reached the drydown.
The funny part is that not even once had I thought about trying this latest Guerlain release - I might pick up a tester if it were displayed on the aisle in the department store, but I would not seek it actively. Admittedly, I had gathered some information about it, but it was rather based on my curiosity for the newly relaunched creation by one of my most favourite houses. And from what I've read so far, I fear that any amount of lavender (a beloved note) would not be enough to save it from the haunting sweetness. No, considering my general low tolerance towards sweet fragrances, I do not feel the urge to try it.
Apart from its debut appearance in my first perfume(d) dream, I rather feel impartial/neutral about it at this point, wishing Guerlain good success to keep their other fragrances on the market and invest in high-quality new creations to come, as in the old days.
And for every other perfume lover, I wish a beautifully scented dream with their most beloved/sought after perfume.
Recently on the shopping mile, I walked past a couple when the woman caught my attention swaying her hips with every step. She had loose hair enveloping her upperbody like a curtain and was clad in a tight, light beige knit tunic which rather resembled a homewear. Now, I usually don't really care or watch what other people are wearing or look like, except for people dressed in eye-catching colours or a (yet) unfamiliar style, like those increasing "slip dresses" in broad daylight on the streets, with a generous back neckline reaching the buttocks revealing more than bare skin; obviously designed to be worn under clothing and not as a public summer dress instead. This woman in the tight tunic only remained in my memory because I could smell her perfume while overtaking her: She was wearing Agent Provocateur Maitresse.
While I do like that perfume very much, it was the first time I had smelt it on someone else, and the impression I received made me think. Until then, I had felt that Maitresse possessed an intimate air, but still not to the degree to be called a "boudoir perfume" - despite the brand's apparent intention, since I personally miss any sexual suggestiveness which would make me feel awkward wearing it in public. I had only worn it for my own enjoyment at home, but would've considered it for a casual going-out.
After being given the opportunity to observe the matter from a 3rd point of nose, I was not so sure any more whether I would want to wear it in public. Moreover, I was neither convinced any longer that the frequently heard and more or less shared motto: "Wear what you like, whenever and wherever you like (unless you overspray)" would apply, even to more subtle types of fragrances.
This question of the fragrances' occasion-based appropriateness had occured to me already once last winter, when I encountered an otherwise attractive woman in the supermarket whose intense perfume left a literally strong impression in a split second. It was a biting cold winter's night with the shop lit almost blindingly bright, and the young woman was wearing something with a heavy honey note, reminiscent of Lady Million mixed with a tropical, musky-sugary, sunscreen-like scent.
In either case, the perfumes definitely felt 'out of place': Maitresse to be worn on a busy shopping mile on a humid day, the other one with a musky, tropical suncream scent not unfolding well on a freezing winter's night. And, while I do respect everyone's right to wear whatever takes your fancy, I also found that from my subjective conception, these fragrances did not work out nicely for neither of the wearers; although I appreciated her taste, Maitresse was a great mismatch to the overall 'loose' homewear-fashion; as for the honey-sugared-musky-tropical scent, it even influenced my perception of the wearer - the thought that instantly crossed my mind was, "What a pity this otherwise attractive woman is smelling like that".
Wear what you like, whenever and wherever you like and feel comfortable with, unless you are bothering people, you can't please everyone - this still holds true. And yet, are there no fragrance equivalents for such things like white beach sandals in winter, or a 'not quite fitting dress/suit' affecting the impression of the wearer in a negative way? I wonder...