One Thousand Scents

Friday, April 07, 2006

Flower Pow(d)er: FlowerbyKenzo


In the late 1980s, clothier Kenzo released a stunningly good eponymous scent, a floral which had not only the standard top-middle-base construction but also levels within those divisions; the middle seemed to change and evolve perpetually on the skin. (The bottle was baffling: a pale gold-green fluid rested inside a stack of uneven, moss-covered rocks topped by a flower. It was a very strange, almost mutant bottle for a very beautiful scent.) A decade later he released FlowerbyKenzo, which if anything is even better, but in the opposite way; rather than being composed of intricate layers, the whole thing reveals itself immediately and only slowly and minimally changes.

The top announces itself as a powdery floral, and it's really powdery: it smells very much like Johnson's Baby Powder, that soft, innocent vanillic scent that virtually every North American would recognize. Alongside it are the distinct scent of violets and roses and just a hint of a biting edge provided by hawthorn. (It's reminiscent of Givenchy's L'Interdit, which also opens with a salvo of rose and violet; but L'Interdit bolsters the flowers with the shimmer of brilliant aldehydes rather than subduing them under a carpet of powder.) At the same time, the whole thing has a diffuse brightness--a glow--probably provided by the jasmine derivative hedione. The powder very gradually subsides but always maintains a presence, as vanilla has a way of doing. The whole composition isn't complicated, but its beauty is in its simplicity and its balance.

I haven't been a big fan of all of Kenzo's scents (not that I've tried them all). Both Kenzo Homme and Parfum D'Ete were too sharp, Kashaya was simply nondescript, and the jury's still out on KenzoAir but I expected a lot more from a scent that's supposed to have anise in both the top and middle notes; it just seems like another fresh-ozonic scent. But FlowerbyKenzo is glorious.

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