Business Sense: Armani (vintage)
It seems like everything I've been writing about recently has been a chypre, but honestly, oakmoss was ubiquitous up until the late 1980s: if it wasn't in everything, it came pretty close.
It also seems like everything I've been writing about recently has been accompanied by a comment along the lines of "They don't make them like these any more." And they don't. They can't: even if the ingredients hadn't fallen victim to IFRA regulations, the fragrances wouldn't sell well enough to make them a viable business proposition, because they belong to another time. They'd smell "old-fashioned" or "old-ladyish" to the modern (i.e. young) nose. Women over 40 might buy these interesting, complex fragrances, but such women are not the perfumery world's target market any more.
Basenotes lists the notes for 1982's Armani thusly:
Top Notes: Bergamot, Spearmint, Galbanum, Green Accord, Aldehyde, Pineapple, Marigold.
Middle Notes: Muguet, Tuberose, Orris, Narcissus, Rose, Cyclamen, Orchid.
Base Notes: Oakmoss, Amber, Sandalwood, Musk, Benzoin, Tonka, Cedarwood.
As often as I like to say that a list of notes is usually pretty useless, here's the exception; that's a plausible description of Armani, which is as classically constructed as anything you can imagine. The middle is a big, no-kidding bouquet of flowers, lots of cyclamen but otherwise a huge abstract armload of flowers. Jammed down through it is a luminous spike of bitter greenery fizzing with aldehydes and a surprisingly clear spearmint note that manages to avoid toothpaste-ness. And underscoring the whole thing is of course an ungodly quantity of oakmoss, accompanied by a great dollop of sandalwood. The presence of amber, benzoin, and tonka could have steered the whole thing towards candy sweetness (and nowadays certainly would), but Armani was not interested in being sweet, or approachable, really, or even likeable. It was launched in the early 1980s, so, like so many strict chypres, it had only one thing on its mind: control. The flowers were a disguise. Armani was a perfume not to seduce, but to search and destroy.
Remember the Sigourney Weaver character in Working Girl, who wore Shalimar as her weapon of choice? I never believed it. Melanie Griffith's curvaceous, fluffy-haired Tess McGill
would wear sugared-bronze Shalimar (and did) when she meant business, but a woman like Katharine Parker would be wearing an intimidating floral chypre like 1988's Knowing, or 1984's Paloma Picasso Mon Parfum, or Armani, and she'd mean it, too.