Thursday, February 5, 2009

John Varvatos for Women: fragrance review

When one's name is Varvatos and they're Greek, the plot thickens and the Gods might accuse you of hubris if you dare produce something light and innocuous. "Varvatos" means well-endowed, smelling of raw sex in Greek and the anticipation for his masculine fragrance was laced with a dollop of humourous mirth on my side and a sense of the joke being on the English speaking world who would be rather shocked to have known the truth. Luckily the scent was quite good, succulent dates captured in a leather jacket's pocket, with an individualistic streak that differentiated the fragrance from comparable scents already in the market.
But whereas the men's offering went for kick, the women's product went for meek. In other words John Varvatos for Women went for the road of least resistance and contrary to the axiom that men are less likely to take chances with their fashion or fragrance choices, it's the women's side of the pool that has beginner's steps, never venturing to Olympic scale depths. I guess Varvatos is not a concept in step with feminine sensibilities when thought of in relation to their own scent.

The scent is classified as a floral chypre, belonging to the "modern" style declination of the genre, which eschews the perfume-y aspects of yore and the mossy depths of murky sensuality to invest fragrances with modern abstract tonalities; an effect most successful in the almost classic by now Narciso For Her, judging by its immense repurcussions to the field of feminine launches of the last 4 years. John Varvatos for Women was developed by perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux (DK Black Cashmere, DK Wenge, DK Labdanum, DK Gold, Clinique Happy, TF Neroli Portofino, John Varvatos for men ) aiming to grab the demographic looking for a sexy attitude with feminine touches at a recognisable direction. In other words, nothing too daring, too strange or too opulent, although the lighthearted approach has its fans and as such is not to be trifled with. The official information wants the inspiration to have been Joyce, Varvatos' own wife, who has worked on the art direction of the fragrances, while the face of the advertisements is Louise Pederson, photographed by Alasdair Mclellan.

Smelling John Varvatos for Women I can't help not thinking it is one part re-issued Rumeur to two parts Coco Mademoiselle with an added fruity facet that doesn't add significant dialogue between the two parts, like neighbours living next door to each other barely lisping "g'day" when getting the dog out. The initial impression is of a descendant of the Narciso lineage (which the new Rumeur belongs to anyway) with the fresher, sharper aspects of almost champagne-like magnolia and white rose notes, while as it opens up its heart is suffused with fruity jellies of peach and mandarin that inject a girly aspect. After half an hour on skin, the resemblances with the clean patchouli, vanillic and white musks of Coco Mademoiselle are unmistakeable; and indeed how could it be different when 1 in 3 scents aiming at the mainstream feminine market utilize that base? Fans of the above mentioned fragrances might like the approach if they have caught the collector's bug. The flacon is actually very appealing, designed by Doug Lloyd of Pochet in a shade of dusty peachy pink like vintage underwear.

Notes for John Varvatos for Women: aromatic grappa, Georgian apricot, Damascus plum, golden mandarin, rubrum lily, Indian mango blossom, Egyptian jasmine, Turkish rose, oakmoss, patchouli, tonka beans and wild honey

John Varvatos for Women was exclusive to Saks Fifth Avenue before going into wider distribution and is available in 15 ml Parfum, 50 and 100 ml Eau de Parfum, and in matching body products.

I have one sample of the scent which will be given to one lucky reader. State your interest in the comments.


  1. Hi Helg! I have a pair of Converse Allstars in a John Varvatos limited edition (ie no laces...) - forgive my ignorance but who is he? Glad to hear it means HUGELY MANLY in greek despite the fact that the shoes in question weren't exactly!

  2. Oh honey, he's a fashion designer who's prolific in the US. He has a pared down aesthetic, much like the Calvin Klein style, with good cloth and smooth lines. Didn't know he designed All Stars too!! the things I learn through my readers. Keep them, they'll be collector's items soon.
    The name is funny for a foray into scents ;-)

  3. I think his bottles are glorious design !

    While the fragrance is well-made and pleasing-
    It has that aquatic note that makes me crazy, and spoils it for my wearing.

    Still, it 's better than many others out there.

  4. Anonymous15:26

    I tested the parfum version of this recently and it was very nice. That aqueous note doesn't appear so glaringly in the parfum.

    (I still don't see what makes a 'modern chypre' a chypre at all! NR for her is not a chyore in my book. Maybe we need a new designation altogether.

  5. This one was just way too sweet and well I know this is going to sound mean, insipid. I tryed it on and I asked myself "why?"

  6. My dear I,

    how are you?
    (I saw something with a BIG delay on POL -sorry about that- will mail you seperately).

    I agree that it's better than many other things on the market. After all Rumeur is not that bad (have a strange liking for it once in a while) and Coco Mademoiselle has a huge following. Yet, I expected more I guess.
    I agree that the bottles are delicious design-wise!

  7. HR,

    I can well believe it that the parfum sould highlight the less volatile notes and be prettier. I don't find it that aqueous to begin with, to be perfectly honest.

    As to the chypre moniker, I am just following Michael Edwards' classification (he lists them under "Mossy Woods" along with other classic chypres). I can't really wrap my mind about them being true chypres either, although I guess there are no traditional chypres being produced any more, are there?

  8. J,

    I don't blame you too much, really. It's rather pretty, but inoffensive. Nice but necessary? Hmmm....

  9. Hmm...I think I'll just take a bottle of the men's version, and leave the women's alone. Doesn't sound like me at all, but I bet it wins some fans. Flores-Roux (is that a real name?) certainly has a fine track record.

    PS. E, your post notices have stopped showing up in my email. Maybe there's a snafu somewhere. Did you get my message about My Sin?

  10. M,

    I think you're right. Yes, the perfumer's name is real and he does have a fine record, so obviously this is an intended direction.

    No, didn't get a message (please send again?) and will see to it, now.

  11. Anonymous09:06

    Now you got me all curious about this one even with your inoffensive remarkes, given the comments about the watery notes, I don't know how I will like it in the end, but please count me in for a sample, thank you.

  12. Hey, E--I just re-sent the email. Pop over to my blog and let me know if it doesn't get to you. I'm still not receiving your post notices. Hotmail is having hot flashes, or something ;-)

  13. I bought the men's version for hubby and love it, so I'm curious to smell the women's. Please enter me in the drawing.


  14. Aline,

    you're included, good luck!

  15. Pam,

    I have entered you in the draw, rest assured. Good luck!

    I do like the men's version, great choice!


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