Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thierry Mugler Womanity: fragrance review

All Mugler fragrances create a stir, from the iconic Angel to the stomping woody jasmine in Alien, the metamorphosis-inducing androgyne tuberose of À Travers le Miroir to the surprising Miroir des Envies with its Nutella chord: Womanity, a woody, sweet (fig notes) and salty Eau de Parfum which was advertised with fish references (the caviar accord) alongside the name cannot but conjure images of female genitalia to the fertile imagination. And maybe this was at the back of the mind of Mugler and the creative team at the Clarins group all along!
The designer's house has almost gone bust, kept afloat via perfume & accessories and the man has buffed himself up into a mutilated rendition of a seedy-magazine bodybuilder named Manfred. Something has got to keep the perfumes at the position they are nevertheless and that something is innovation and originality. Womanity is no exception, the definition of a love-it-or-hate-it fragrance, much like all Mugler perfumes are with the possible exception of Cologne.

"Womanity is the quality of being a woman. We differentiate ourselves from the rest of huMANity in biological, social, cultural and spiritual terms" (according to womanity.blogspot) Colour me unimpressed. Yet the composition which perfumers at Mane concocted for Parfums Mugler is nothing short of apocalyptic (in both senses of the word). The overwhelming sweetness (and loudness!) of the fig note is flanked by the austerity of wood and a salty nuance (ever so slight) which manage to create something that doesn't conjure anything concrete, and doesn't recall any other fragrance on the market. In fact if the saltiness was more pronounced (as the woody drydown progresses the arch seems to fall flat and become dull and incongruent) we would be talking about a true classic-to-be.

Smell and compare with other fig fragrances ~such as the two classics, Philosykos by Diptyque and Premier Figuier by L'Artisan Parfumeur with their hint of coconut and bitter leaf note; or the ultra-refined Un Jardin en Mediterranée by Hermès with its herbal aromata~ and you will see how Womanity differs. First of all, there is a watery-sweet note on top which is very unusual: The fruity note passingly resembles that in Un Jardin En Mediterranée or Figue Amère by Miller Harris, but whereas the warmth co-existed with the cool in the Hermès fragrance, laid on thin over the green notes, and it was bitterish-cool in the Miller Harris, in Mugler's Womanity the figs have caramelised. Their succulent flesh id more apparent in the sun than the leaves or the bark of the tree, with a nod to fig cookies as well. And then the salty note, said to evoke caviar!! Its intimate, lightly animalic quality is musky and intriguing. Pierre Aulas, olfactive director of Clarins Fragrance Group, revealed that it was a true challenge to work on Mugler's idea of combining savoury and sweet notes. The ambery-woody drydown is the "weakest" part aesthetically, borrowed as it seems from Alien, and not exciting enough, echoing as it does a base common in other fragrances on the market.

The finished effect though is so powerful that it is worth amassing some of the quotes of people who have sampled Womanity and publicized their impressions on Fragrantica. Those range from the impressionist ("a futuristic scent, or what perfume would be like on an alien planet" and "something a mermaid would wear. Overpoweringly fishy at first as she rises from the sea, but later as she is sitting on a rock combing her tresses, breezes from the nearby fig groves sweeten the air. Perhaps she is on a Greek island somewhere in the Mediterranean") to the programmatic ("I know many people get citrus, fig, salty caviar, nail polish or bad body odour, but I smell spicy cookies" and "Womanity smells like popcorn from a movie theatre, filled with gobs butter"), all the way to the purely dismissive ("It smells dirty, like youd been cutting trees all day and smoking at the same time, but smells even worse than that if you can imagine"). A fragrance which creates strong feelings......but a very strange one!

Thierry Mugler has once again jumped into the deep end with Womanity, proposing a new release which sounds odd but will definitely open up new doors, possibly more refined along the way. If the previous Mugler scents are any indication to the spawn they leave behind, then expect to smell more of this combination in the future. I don't think I would personally wear Womanity, my tastes running to subtler, more intellectual routes concerning personal fragrance, but I cannot deny its risk-taking as the proper stance to take at the moment, even if not entirely successful. If all fragrance houses did this, the world of perfumery would be much more interesting at least, without a doubt!

NB: The review is based on my own sampling at store and at home and NOT on the promotional pre-release "kit" which several other bloggers got in the mail in summer 2010.

Related reading on Perfumeshrine: Thierry Mugler news & reviews

Caviar on Fig photo by Boverthemoon


  1. He, he, I'm glad someone thinks it's great. :) I couldn't really say if it's good or not as it caused a nauseaus reflex so I tried to keep my wrist as far from my nose as I could.
    But I can definitely concur that it is not like everything else out there. :)

  2. I like fig, I was intrigued by the idea of caviar, and the early reviews didn't sound all bad so I ordered a mini from the Mugler website (and got free shipping!) I tested it and thought it was interesting enough to try again. My next wearing was for an outing to a theatrical performance AND I RECEIVED A COMPLIMENT! I can count on one hand the number of times a stranger has come up to me in the past five years to compliment my fragrance. The Womanity admirer said it was "fresh" and "really nice". Not the words I would have used, but then the average man probably doesn't have a vocabulary for talking about fragrance. I haven't worn it again since then, but will when the occasion calls for fresh/fig-y/caviar.

  3. Ines,

    oh dear me, no, I don't think it's great really (in the Guy Robert sense). But I do think (like you) that's very interesting and will probably shape out to turn into a huge hit just because it's so unusual!
    It's very strange, very discordant which has its own appeal. :-)

  4. Phoebe,

    I gotta say early reviews could potentialy (might?) be swayed by the novelty of it all and the fact that some companies send pre-release kits to writers.
    Like you, I found it weird and interesting enough to warrant a second and third test: then formed my opinion.
    It's very interesting that you got a compliment and no less by a non-perfumisto man (a segmentation that is rather concervative in their tastes re: fragrances)!!
    It's definitely not "fresh" in the sense that you or I would use the world in relation to fragrance, yet there is something that keeps it from becoming too jammy (lots of synth woods and musks actually).

    Somehow I got it into my skull that the concept of Womanity sprang out of an intense research of the type of customer who buys Mugler fragrances in the first place: they're not your average cookie-cutter type, to be sure!! ;-) Agree?

  5. Discounted perfumes,

    your comment has been deleted due to spammy linking. I'm copying it below for all to see without the advertising links. You're free to contact us if you want to get advertised in an official and open manner.

    "TMW has been perfectly reviewed! This is a lot better than the other review i read before. Fig counts the praises, especially on the site where you can buy discounted perfumes. That will definitely open up new doors in modern perfumery."

  6. Anonymous15:55

    Hi E!

    I sampled it twice and I was put off by how it reminded me of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I like peanut butter and jelly but Womanity is like a very sweet and nauseating peanut butter and jelly combo. It made me queasy.


  7. Anonymous15:56

    Or should I say, it made me Seasick? :)


  8. I must be one of the few who actually enjoyed this scent. It actually worked with my chemistry. I do like marine notes and while it does smell fruity, I didn't realize it was fig. I thought it was a berry. The fig is not like L'Artisan's at all.

  9. Anonymous02:35

    I, like Dixie enjoy this scent. It works well with my body chemistry as well. I wear Angel everyday, but wear this when I want something different. The Womanity, after it settles down a little bit does have a freshness to it and energy/vibrance, it seems changeable imo :)
    ~Enjoy your articles! Have learned so much! TY~
    ~All my best~Ranay~

  10. Dawn,

    I did a double-take myself when I first sprayed in the store!! LOL It was so LOUD! It seemed to engulf everything in its passage. Here the culture is for subdued perfumes on the whole (I mean subdued in their projection, because everyone is wearing what they want regardless, no scent police) and I did get a few furtive glances when I was going out and about my day from then on.....I think I scared a few souls that first day :-D
    But subsequent testing -which seemed almost compulsory, it was so weird, it had to be resampled- left me with the impression we're dealing with something that will catch on as a concept/idea in the near future, Hopefully in a more refined form.

    "Seasick" is a perfect term considering the accords!! Hahahaha!

  11. Dixie,

    oh dear me, I bet there must be quite a few who share the enjoyment! Don't feel isolated. I think it's a very interesting idea, maybe played out too loud (like Angel is loud) so it would require a special technique into easing oneself to it.
    The fig isn't the "fig leaf note" in most fig scents, which is very green, dusty and bitter with an edge of coconut. Definitely a good nose you have! You're spot on!

  12. Ranay,

    thank you for the nice word, it's an honour.

    I think the Mugler consumer can't be pegged or pigeonholed and you seem confident enough in your choices, so I bet Womanity would perform well on you and your temperament (personally I'm subscribing more to the temperament-fitting concept than the chemistry-fitting concept).
    It's certainly a changing perfume: there are obvious stages and it does perform differently on blotter than on skin. I'm looking forward to seeing this idea being exploited in a subtler way in the future. I'm all for savoury!

  13. Yesterday I got a sample and reading your review makes me want to stop everything and smell it. I will write down my blog what ever crosses my mind while smelling Womanity.


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