Sometimes it's hard to distinguish the bullion from the bull. Gold has a way of masquerading into the most unexpected guises, while the reverse is also true.
Comme des Garcons 8 88 new fragrance was released for only one week (!) in London at the Burlington Arcade guerilla store. It won't be available again until March 2008, but a generous and kind soul was able to get us a sample and Perfume Shrine has the rare privilege to review the elusive scent with the weird and -reputedly lucky?- numerological name.
Comme des Garcons has always gone for the quirky, establishing themselves at the vanguard of art perfumery with a twist. A resolutely modern line of fine fragrances. The brand by Rei Kawakubo who introduced the pauper-chic of the early 80s to jaw-dropping Paris has set a high standard for shock value. Their Guerilla stores were the kind of avant-guard marketing that makes for cleverly calibered word-of-mouth. It even convinced me to go under the shade of an ancient ruin for the sole purpose of shopping for the first time in my life!
The challenge was to see whether they delivered this time around, as they had previously succeeded in doing with their wonderful Incense line (a long-time favourite of mine) or the Red series or indeed the original fragrances that bore their name, aiming at working like Ayuverdic medicine (they don't...).
Antoine Lie, a perfumer from Swiss giant Givaudan, was the nose who created 8 88. It tries to capture the odour of gold, an elusive goal no doubt but in line with the brand's attempt to ride on the Luxe bandwagon: a concept perhaps at odds with their conduct thus far.
Jewels have always mesmerised both the artistic and the mystical in me, with their aura of hidden but powerful energy surrounding them. Most importantly the feel of heirlooms and historical pices, some of which have pride of place in my ever expanding collection, give me a rush of aesthetic and intellectual pleasure in running my fingers over them, contemplating just how they were made, who they belonged to and what feelings they evoked for their owners.
Yellow gold pieces in particular remind me of ancient rituals, the homeric "Mycenae, rich in gold": the loot from ancient Egypt by the Ekwesh (whom recent research tautologises as Achaean Greeks coming from Anatolia).
Alas, much as I lean on my comparatively less important pieces, I cannot bring myself to smell anything more than the faint remains of the fragrance that clung from my skin since the occassion that I wore them. Gold really has no special smell, apart from the metallic coldness or the odour of blood shed in its pursuit...
The task set before Antoine Lie was therefore difficult. According to the creator:
“We started with the concept that we wanted to find if gold has an odour and we looked for an olfactive expression. I looked at a number of different materials and decided very quickly on Safraline because of its very specific character.”Safraline is an aromachemical, a molecule produced by Givaudan, derivative of saffron/crocus flower: the latter being a very expensive material due to its difficult picking and handling of the fragrant stemens by hand.
Official notes for 8 88 are: safraline, pepperwood, curcuma, coriander, geranium and amber.
As I sprayed the juice of 888 on my skin I perceived an initial fresh, almost orangey aroma from the coriander, a slight wet pottery whiff with tender sweetness to it that later on cedes to dryness. The opening has the cheery gusto of a sparkling finish on a fashion handbag done in metallics with none of the leather smell that would denote its quality materials or the metallic feel of typical aldehydic or iris fragrances reminiscent of the insides.
In that stage there follows the faint plasticky smell of freshly new DVDs out of their box, an odour so weird as to become instantly memorable for anyone who has had the chance to step into a very new, very big videostore. Some vague spiciness pops in and out, but as it dries down it does so with a woody and ambery character that is subdued and rather feminine, remaining close to the body without overstaying its invitation.
Compared with Safran Troublant by L'artisan parfumeur, 8 88 lacks the round feeling that accounts for much of the pleasure derived out of wearing the former, while at the same time it doesn't offer the jarring and jolting effect that one expects from a Comme des Garcons fragrance. It is pleasant, a little bit boring and very inoffensive; which is really tearing it apart with mild praise, I realise.
The bottle is in the traditional shape of the original CDG fragrance and Man2: the smooth tactile peeble, this time done in gold.
The price was 52 British Pounds for 50ml of eau de parfum concentration last time I checked. It is doubtful whether it will remain the same or rise: they shouldn't ask for its weight for gold, that's for sure.
Pic of 18K gold & tourmalines necklace from personal collection.