The only predictable thing about Comme des Garçons is that any guesses will be off the mark. Rei Kawakubo didn’t forever change the way we dress by being easy to read. Instead, she’s taken a Stanley knife to conceptions of fit, silhouette, and what it means to be a man or woman – in the process creating new ideas of what fashion can be.
Which has always been the jump-off for the brand’s fragrances too. They’re often gender neutral and show little respect for perfumery’s norms, with scents like Odeur 71 – posed as an olfactory introduction to earth for any alien visitors who happened to stop by – freewheeling through notes like nail polish, electric batteries and dust on a hot light bulb. Suffice to say, they’re probably not ones to grab for the old man’s stocking.
The brand’s latest release isn’t awash in household effluvia, but it’s no less counter-intuitive. As though seeking to address big Will Shakespeare’s quibbles with how labels and scents relate, Floriental tacks hard against its name.
The flower it’s based on – the cistus – is scentless, and nose Émilie Coppermann has danced past vanilla, the usual oriental signature, in favour of plum tea and labdanum, the resin from the flower’s tree. Which makes for a fragrance that plays fast and loose with denominations but, old Bill will be pleased to hear, still smells just as sweet.
As you’d expect from Comme, the conceptual trickery doesn’t get in the way of wearability. Floriental is distinctive, but in a way that will have colleagues requesting a namecheck, not that you go shower. It opens with spice from pink pepper, but this dissipates quickly, mellowed by smoke and then the sharpness from that plum tea. The dry down is signature Comme; woody notes of sandalwood and amber, with a hint of vetiver arriving late.
This transition is swift, though. Those darker notes emerge almost immediately and linger; what you smell after five minutes is what you’ll smell when it’s time to reapply four hours later. Which means that, if you like CDG’s avant-garde take on a floriental fragrance, it’s extremely versatile. If your prefer your florientals to smell like flowers and orientals, you’ll be waiting in vain for them to emerge.
Comme des Garçons is available now at END Clothing, priced from £62 for 50ml
Bottle: Comme des Garçon’s signature pebble-shaped bottle, in shimmering scarlet.
Head notes: pink pepper, plum liqueur, incense;
Heart notes: Cistus flower;
Base notes: sandalwood, labdanum and vetiver.
Best for: buying for your better half, then using yourself.