Monday, February 6, 2012

Agent Provocateur by Agent Provocateur: fragrance review

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.

Scent Description
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.


  1. Terrific review (as always) - I love AP!

  2. Thanks C! :-)
    Yeah, isn't it just great? Brave and terrific smelling perfume.

  3. AP is in pretty heavy rotation at my house! It's so inexpensive at the discounters, too.

  4. I love this one. Actually at first I liked it, then I didn't like it for a while, and now I really love it. On me I notice a distinct evolution -- it starts off quite sharp with that saffron note and just gets dirtier and dirtier with musk and patchouli as the day wears on. It's funny, because it seemed quite prim to me initially.

    What do you think of Strip?

  5. P,

    hi there sweetie! Did it go well? :-)

    It's a fabulous scent really! Can't blame you! I use the candles a lot, which have led to some...ahem...atmosphere in the bedroom. Remember those when the scent first launched? With names like Strip, Tease etc. and a silhouette embossed in various stages of undress. ;-)

  6. Elisa,

    yeah, as you say: it's getting "dirty". In a good way!
    Not wildly different after the first 30-60 minutes on me, it's given all it's supposed to give; but give it did! Do you get the big mossy rose?

    I quite like Strip! (though it can be a bit much sometimes). It's more orientalised, more incensey somehow. Different than the original.

  7. Yes, Strip is very different -- I get lots of menthol at first, and then a musky amber drydown that reminds me of Bal a Versailles.

    And I do love that mossy rose in AP!

  8. Bal a Versailles eh? (one of my favourites) I need to get another sample of Strip then to revisit!

  9. The similarity is in the deep drydown of both, but yes! Strip has a very classical drydown I think.

  10. A ha! Thanks!

    I had read the comparison to Old Spice, but -come to think of it- what doesn't smell like Old Spice in a way, really?

  11. I still use Agent Provocateur.......still sexy. The original fragrance.

  12. I just bought this and I must say it's weirdly addictive. I don't like rose, especially the kind that's presented here; but somehow, it works for me. It's sexy and comforting at the same time. The rose and musk make it powdery and soft. But there's definitely something intimate and 'undergarment-y' about it - must be the coriander - bit like a girl's bra after a long day. Very appropriate for a lingerie brand. I love it.

  13. Glo,

    it's a fabulous fragrance: truly mossy, yet contemporary too.


  14. Laura,

    so glad you're enjoying. This is one of the modern releases which confirms that one only needs a proper sense of style and panache to pull things off. And yes, sexy as hell and fit for a lingerie brand.

    Thanks for commenting!


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