One Thousand Scents

Friday, August 11, 2006

Much of a Muchness: Paco by Paco Rabanne


Hot on the heels of 1994's ground-breaking CK One came a slew of knockoffs, of course: there are a few innovators in the fashion industry, of which the fragrance industry is now inextricably a part, and everyone else jumps on the latest bandwagon.

So we got bunch of CK One clones: citrusy, herbaceous, musky, pleasant, unisex, safe. Gieffeffe by Gianfranco Ferre, Benetton's Hot and Cold, various eaux such as Eau Fraiche de Caron, Dalimix.... As recently as 2001, Cartier launched Eau de Cartier, which bears a strong family resemblance; fragrance houses are probably still doing knockoffs. (CK One wasn't the first unisex, or "shared", scent, not by a long shot, but it was the first huge seller in that category, tapping into the zeitgeist as all Calvin Klein scents are meant to do.) Even the packaging of these scents is generally all of a kind, sleek and nondescript.

Paco by Paco Rabanne was part of the trend, and there's no doubt upon smelling it that, two years after the launch of CK One, it's a copy if not an exact double. The top notes are similar: bergamot, pineapple, muted spices. It's all very brilliant, just this side of harsh, and a little synthetic; no fresh fruit here.

The middle notes of both scents consist of flowers, artfully draped behind greenery so as not to seem feminine. In Paco, it's leafy, bone-dry geranium and tea that form the disguise. Both also have base notes including musk and ambergris, a seemingly indispensible pairing for unisex scents.

There's nothing, really, to distinguish Paco from its cluster of imitators, and yet I kind of like it. I don't love it madly, but every now and then I'll look through my collection wondering what to wear, and I'll spot that embossed aluminum canister and think, "Just the thing!" Because sometimes it is.

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