Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Twin Peaks: Calvin Klein Secret Obsession & Oriflame Chiffon

Usually the Twin Peaks series, an album comprised of smell-alike snapshots, springs from the demand for similar-smelling perfumes, either less expensive homologue scents, alternatives when a specific fragrance doesn't quite work but you know you like the effect or substitutes when one's favourite is ruined through reformulations. The case of Secret Obsession and Chiffon by Oriflame (a Swedish skincare & cosmetics company that distributes its products throughout the world BUT for the USA) is neither: The former just immediately sprang to mind upon happening to smell the latter. And it needed documenting for posterity's sake, especially now that Calvin Klein's Secret Obsession is getting axed and disappearing from fragrance counters. Who knows, it might be someone's favourite and they might be desperate to find a replica!

Though Chiffon is not an intentional replica (i.e. a dupe), being neither marketed nor created as such, the case with Oriflame perfumes is that often they reprise the formulae of successful brands with minimal twists. Anyone who has ever smelled their perfume portfolio has noticed that Volare for instance is Lancôme Trésor's "décolletage over a peach angora sweater" less flamboyant sister. That's nothing new in the perfumery market of course, when big companies unblushingly flat out copy other big companies, but I digress. The reason in this case is because Oriflame fragrances are developed by the same company that develops brand fragrances for designers (namely Givaudan). Like with many Twin Peaks articles, a good formula is carried on by perfumers from brief to brief (see L de Lolita Lempicka and Musc Ravageur, both by Maurice Roucel, or Azuree, Cabochard and Aramis, all by Bernand Chant).
Oriflame isn't reticent on putting impressive images into their presentation either: they hired mega-model Natalia Vodianova for their Midnight Pearl previously in a clip that was eerily reminiscent of the Dior Midnight Poison commercial in all its sweeping drama. So looking down on them isn't always a wise move is what I'm saying; they have a few things worthy of further exploration.

Secret Obsession is presented as a floriental, created by Givaudan perfumer Calice Becker and art-directed by Ann Gottlieb who is responsible for many Calvin Klein successful launches. To me however it registers as lightly fruity-spicy-woody, much like the Lancome feminine fragrance Magnifique, with which it shares many facets. Poised between Lauder's Sensuous and Magnifique, along with its congenial sisters, it's part of the new vogue in feminine fragrances: namely woody, duskier notes.

The initial impression of spraying Secret Obsession is rum-like boozy with an alcoholic hairspray blast petering out quickly, plummy and ripe but not overtly sweet (a good thing!), especially compared with the overall sweeter Magnifique.
In Secret Obsession there is a distinct phase in which the resinous, intense aroma of mace provides a welcome surprise as the fragrance opens up on the warmth of skin.
The overall effect is tanned skin, cocoa-buttyric musky, cedary-woody, much of it accountable to Cashmeran (a woody musk of synthetic origin) and is less loud than the oriental monochromatic amber of the original Obsession by Calvin Klein or the fruity megaphones of Euphoria, but perceptible. Secret Obsession has a linear development that doesn't change much as you wear it: the initial scent becomes warmer and duskier, but doesn't change significantly over time. I wouldn't necessarily deem it too sexy or provocative (despite the advertising) and would prefer to see it in a body oil concentration where its shady character would shine.

Chiffon has a lovely name, evocative of a sheer, expensive material with a soft tactile feel and reprises the softest elements in Secret Obsession to project as a woody-musky hum with indefinable "clean" notes that translate as soft, powdery, whispery. It's accompanied by sensual advertising that is short of the overt sexual innuendos in the Calvin Klein scent. It's just a classier image overall. Typically for an Oriflame fragrance Chiffon is light in volume and not tremendously lasting (invariably they're eaux de toilette), though decently pleasant and wearable. The bottle is overall more innocent, less weird and more conventionally pretty than the Klein vessel. Incidentally, Chiffon is Oriflame's local best-seller, alongside Elvie, and comprises a body cream and body spray deodorant in the same scent.I guess it hits upon the local desire for abstract smells (nobody desires a straight vanilla or a flat out  fruit scent) , manageable price points and a hint of sensuality in the mix.
Tuberose is almost non existent in Chiffon, it's so minimal, but then the same happens with Secret Obsession anyway. The given notes do not mention mace, though the note appears the same as it does in Secret Obsession and is indeed the individual twist which differentiates them from just any woody floriental on the shelves. In fact while comparing the notes for both perfumes what jumps up to the nose is -for once- corroborated from what appears in black on white. Proceed accordingly. Just hurry, if you want to grab a bottle for yourself, because Oriflame is also known for axing fragrances right & left.No one's perfect!

Notes for CK Secret Obsession:
Top: exotic plum, mace, rose Damascena
Heart: French orange blossom, Egyptian jasmine, tuberose, plum, woods
Base: cashmere woods (=Cashmeran, a soft, woody musk), burnt amber, Australian sandalwood

Notes for Oriflame Chiffon:
Top: plum, ylang-ylang , iris
Heart: orange blossom, tuberose, plum, cedar, patchouli
Base: white musk, sandalwood


  1. Astrid11:32

    Both Magnifique & Secret Obsession had the same problem for me: great concept, poor execution.

    I wonder if perfume manufacturers aren't aware of how godawful & chemical Cashmeran smells in every single thing it appears. Perhaps because they're inured to it by now, or maybe it's better than something even more horrible they're not using.

    Regardless, for me it's instantly noticable & the tiniest amount makes whatever it appears in smell like one of those teen-store cheapo fragrances (Hollister, Aeropostale).

    Magnifique especially was really bad. Maybe just leave the fake "musk" out entirely & design the fragrance without it - an overdose of real patchouli would be preferable to Cashmeran's chemical blast. This is, I believe, what Paloma ended up doing with Mon Parfum, & it's still quite wearable for me.

    Magie Noire's just about Lancome's only good scent any more, although my bottle was purchased 2 years ago & they may have ruined even the new glass bottle version by now. Note to development departments: nobody wants to smell like a chemical bath, guys.

  2. Astrid,

    good observation!

    I also agree that Mgnifique is among the least interesting of what Lancome has produced over the years, then again as you say, they have effectively axed all they had that was interesting to begin with.

    Cashmeran presents endless possibilities in structuring a scent, as it provides tenacity while acting as an extender of certain notes, so I'm not surprised it's so popular. It's also a floralizer, boosting what floral is there. Now that I wouldn't take other musks over it, of course! But que sera sera etc. Let's hope they come up with something more exciting in the near future. ;-)

  3. Wordbird19:25

    I was struck, when I first smelled Secret Obsession, of how much it reminded me of Dior's Dolce Vita and consequently Shiseido's Feminite du Bois - the plum/wood/musk combo just rang out at me.

    Thought I'd mention it, just in case anyone can't find Chiffon and is looking for a more expensive alternative to Secret Obsession. :)

  4. I haven't tried any scents from Oriflame yet but from what I've read here and on other sites they seem to give good value for money.
    I bought a bottle of Magnifique in my pre-Parfumista days, but can't stomach it anymore.
    A correction, Oriflame was founded in Sweden, not Switzerland although I guess it's a thoroughly international company these days...

  5. W,

    how utterly intriguing! I hadn't made the connection, probably because I find DV and FdB really sweet and very plummy, but it makes sense. Thanks for inspiring an unexpected comparison.
    I should now run to smell my bottles to see for myself!

  6. E,

    thanks, you're right!

    The irritating thing is they're manufactured by the same "noses", the same labs (with access to same ingredients on the whole one should argue, apart from very very select cases), the same glass makers even but usually they don't last as long. Weird, huh? They're uniformly pleasant and decent-smelling (not "cheap") and some are worthwhile.


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