When the first Agent Provocateur perfume first launched in 2000 in its ostrich-egg-sized pink bottle, little did one expect that the scent within would be atavitistic to the lineage of impressionable floral chypres of yore. Chypres, a perfumy and mossy family of fragrances, had been effectively extinguished from a whole generation's memory by then (relegated to mothers and grandmothers who continued to wear their signature scents discovered decades ago) and were incomprehensible things to another: surely this was a doomed project? Who in their trendy minds remembered or wore Shiseido Inoui, Balenciaga Cialenga, K de Krizia, never mind Mitsouko or Miss Dior?
But curiously enough, it caught on!
Why it Worked
Agent Provocateur is a lingerie brand teetering on the edge of campy and they made ample use of that element to promote their fragrant wares. To quote Adentures of a Barbarella: "They aspire to be kinky, elegant, sophisticated, and somewhere along the line it goes wrong. Their clientele is stuck up, their models are either socialites or Russian escorts (it's a fine line), and they sold out last year. The depraved tone of the campaigns can be hilarious". But after all, what's the point of racy lingerie if you take yourself too seriously, right?
But the thing is their first fragrance is sexy as hell, a bit retro, a bit modern, and all around brave and great, considering they launched at the end of the aquatic/ozonic brigade of the 1990s and the advent of cupcakes-from-hell of the 00s. It's deservedly something of a cult favourite, if only for the fact that it was so very different.
The big Moroccan rose in Agent Provocateur's heart, much like in classic Jean Couturier's Coriandre from the 1970s, is complimented by a paper-y woody note of amber and vetiver combined with warm musks, but it is the saffron along with the upbeat coriander that bring a rather animalic and weirdly "dirty" quality to the fragrance making it the olfactory equivalent of an aged Hollywood star the morning after she has had a rampant night in bed with a nostalgizing fan half her years.
This is a perfume to wear sparingly (it can be big), but it won't change much during the day and after the initial impression it dries down to an erotic and skin-friendly, skin-compatible nuzzling buzz.
Agent Provocateur original EDP is in hindsight similar to many fragrances which followed, so if you like any of them you should give the great-aunt a try: Gres Cabaret, Lady Vengeance by Juliette has a Gun, Narciso Rodriguez Narciso for Her EDT.
Available as Eau de Parfum from major department stores.
Flankers & Stuff
The brand has brought out variations on the theme with: Agent Provocateur Eau Emotionelle (EDT from 2006), Agent Provocateur L'Eau Provocateur (new, lighter interpetation for spring 2012), Agent Provocateur L'Agent (2011) and Agent Provocateur L'Agent L'Eau Provocateur (spring 2012) in similar pink-ostrich-egg bottles. They can differ quite a bit with L'Agent being a woody floral musk.
Nota bene that the quite different fragrance by the same brand called Maitresse is also having a lighter flanker edition for spring 2012, called -you guessed it- Agent Provocateur Maitresse L'Eau Provocateur.