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Monday, May 20, 2013

King Kong out of the Jungle: Fragrance Sleuthing



A bottle of this surfaced on Ebay again recently. It was funny to see it amidst a sea of genuine articles by the same seller. Despite everything, you see, I honestly think King Kong de Kenzo is a knock off produced to ride on the coat-tails of the infamous Jungle fragrance (and Kenzo's Jungle Jap fashions) and not a genuine article. If you notice, the brand is "Parfum de Kenzo" (singular), not "Parfums Kenzo" (as in every other authentic perfume by the designer Kenzo and on the official site). Besides Parfums Kenzo division was founded in 1987. The databases online seem confused as to King Kong's date of release: Basenotes gives it as 1980, Fragrantica as 1978. Michael Edwards, the definitive perfume encyclopedia, with access to discontinued perfumes, doesn't list it at all. That should give us pause.

Additionally, the typeface, general aesthetic, generic spray bottle and typical red box might suggest something that didn't come out straight off the factory. The argument that the Right Bank resto on top of the Kenzo offices is called Kong is neither here nor there; it only opened in 2005...

Furthermore, the original fragrance Jungle (L'Elephant) by Kenzo was introduced in 1996, composed by Jean Louis Sieuzac and Dominique Ropion (with the "flanker" Jungle Le Trigre introduced one year later). The scent of King Kong further cements the tie with the 1990s (and particularly with Jungle of course which it copies closely), when intensely fruity notes first came to the market in various contexts (Yvresse, Deci Dela, Yohji, Poeme, Eden), with its mix of wild green banana, whiskey notes, intense ginger spice and what looks like a classic sandalwood-vanilla-amber base.

True enough, the people mentioning that it actually smells good and "like perfumes used to be" in so many words (such as the Perfume Posse and The Non Blonde) aren't delusional, all the same; after all they're experienced sniffers. Posse goes as far as saying that according to the procurer of her sample the fragrance was made by someone who loved the King Kong movie with Jessica Lange and Jeff Bridges (*editor gives slow wolfish whistle*) back in 1976.  I'd be willing to believe that, only thinking that if a Japanese designer would be intimately enamored with a beast out of the post-nuke era, that would have been Godzilla, wouldn't it? Anyway...What's the truth? It's just that dupes of old times smell better than the genuine article circulating on counters today. It's sad, I know.

Furthermore, someone created this obviously, lovingly  du fond du coeur and didn't anticipate it to become the object of so much dissecting. But for history's and posterity's sake, we might as well set the record straight.

16 comments:

  1. Informative post as usual. By chance, I happen to be in possession of an original bottle of King Kong, retrieved in the stuff my sister left at home when she moved out in the early 80s. The original bottle is round, splash, with a plastic cap that apparently also had a banana (though that's lost in my bottle).

    As for the scent, it it typical of the era - I doubt replicating it would be feasible (let alone profitable, the style is out of fashion). There is an oomph, a richness, a complexity (for lack of better word) that's probably due to a bunch of now restricted chemical. It's a ripe fruit - floral, but has nothing to do with shrill or pink current ones. In fact, having recently smelled Fruit defendu at the osmotheque, I'd say it's more in that tradition, just with the aid of 1980s new synthetics.

    cacio

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  2. M,

    thanks for commenting!
    Oh, another bottle, huh? Sounds very intriguing indeed. Plot thickens.

    My hypothesis however is that never had such a perfume been officially produced by Kenzo himself, at least basing this on searching thoroughly the Michael Edwards database (and he does list every single release). I searched for both the whole line ever issued by Kenzo and for all the fragrances issued between 1975 and 1982. Nothing, nada, nil.
    It's strange, isn't it?

    The scent has a cassis "base" and lots of spices and thick base notes.

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  3. Interesting. My sister moved out of the house around 1984, so the bottle must have predated that, and so it came before the official creation of Kenzo parfums and Jungle. (I could ask her more details, but I doubt she'd remember - I found an unmarked Guerlain bottle and she doesn't remember what's in it).

    But of course, it might well be from a company that used the Kenzo name but was not affiliated with the designer. Or it was some early experiment connected with the designer that was then put aside when the official brand came out.

    In any case, it must have been relatively common in Italy, because I saw several mentions of it on various forums.

    cacio

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  5. Sorry, no spam allowed.

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  6. I have read somewhere, sometime, that King Kong was Kenzo's first fragrance but it may be one of the myths that just circulate the internetz.

    However, I've seen the very same bottle in various sizes and from various sellers over fleabay and possibly some other places. I'm certain that I've shopped at least with one (possibly with two but I'm too lazy to browse the years of my paypal bills to see whether they correspond with the fleabay ID) repeatedly and I don't have a reason to doubt their reputation.

    I somewhat doubt that someone would produce a fake of an obscure fragrance in no less than three sizes and distribute them through sources I'd consider reputable.

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  7. Anonymous15:19

    Very interesting - and you are most likely right!
    (I own a 8 oz Bottle of King Kong btw, bought sealed)

    Here a link to an interview Kenzo Takada gave to L'Express (french newspaper with good reputation) in 2008

    http://www.lexpress.fr/styles/beaute/kenzo-parle-des-parfums-kenzo_473352.html

    For anyone not speaking french: Kenzo says that his FIRST perfume was "Kenzo de Kenzo", later renamed to "Kenzo ça sent beau". So Kenzo either just doesn't want to remember a flop or - more likely - King Kong de Kenzo isn't really 'de Kenzo'

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  8. I also have two old bottles of this fragrance. I bought them from an old man who collected in the 70s/80s.
    As with cacios bottle my stopper is broken, I didn't know that there was a banana on top.

    I have one bottle EdP and a smaller one with pure erfume.

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  9. I also have two bottles from the 80ies, bought from an old man who stopped collecting perfumes.
    As with cacios bottle the stopper is broken (didn't even know that there was a banana on top), but still sealing tight. One is a Eau de Parfum, the other is smaller and pure perfume.
    Both are very intensive but not as stron and unpleasant like described in the first posting.

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  10. Anonymous02:25

    My girlfriend wore King Kong by Kenzo in the late 70s or early 80s. It came in a MUCH classier bottle than what's shown. As I recall, it was a chunky bottle, almost square, with rounded corners and a red top. I recall that it had a paper label, as Chanel used to have, but I might be making that up. It simply said King Kong. Don't remember a banana. It smelled fantastic. My girlfriend was older than I by 7 years, from NYC, and always SO sophisticated. I was jealous.

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  11. Thanks Barbara,

    that's very helpful!

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  12. Anon,

    thanks, the plot thickens!

    Seems like the info on the bottle rather than the scent is the detail that throws light: maybe there was an official release, denounced by the company later, and THEN imitated in the 90s in THIS bottle, the one shown. That would make sense actually! (the margin for those wearing the original wanting to keep purchasing would be realistic)

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  13. Anonymous13:33

    Hi Elena,

    I did some further investigating and found that "King Kong de Kenzo" got filed for registration as a Trademark in the US on Jan,7 1980 and abandoned June,30 1984 by a company called Nodiris AG through legal counsels based in Virginia.
    There was no further activity of this company with regards to trademarks and I could find no other informations about it.
    The same legal counsels filed for the US trademark "Jungle Jap" in 1982 with registration in 1984 on behalf of Kenzo's company Jungle Jap based in Paris.

    Based on this, to me it seems that King Kong de Kenzo is real - and really by Kenzo!
    1978 as year of release does make more sense than 1980 as I would think that registration of trademark in the US wasn't the first step...

    Btw: The brandname Kenzo got registered in the US fairly late: 1985 and was co-owned by Jungle Jap, Paris and Kenzo SA, Paris (the two legal entities owned by Kenzo in France)

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  14. Thank you EVER so much. I will incorporate the info in the article and credit you with it soon!
    I believe the registration has to absolutely precede the release of the fragrance in any respective market.

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  15. Anonymous04:47

    Hello, everyone. I may be able to shed some light on King Kong. In the very early 80s, I happened to be shopping at Bloomingdales on Lexington Avenue in NYC when I stumbled on a large promotion of King Kong de Kenzo happening in their cosmetics section. I remember the fragrance sold in both eau de toilet and parfum. The parfum came in smaller bottles highlighting King Kong on the side/top of the bottle. At the time, I purchased the eau de toilet which was in a bottle matching what I have been seeing on Ebay lately. I paid around $30.00+ for it. Two years later, I called Bloomies in order to order a new bottle. I was able to get it but in a larger size because the salesperson told me that the scent had been discontinued and they only had that one bottle left. Since that time, it has been my favorite scent of all time and I had always hoped that Kenzo would reissue it. The salesperson at Bloomies told me that she felt that the name of it had been off-putting and that it had been discontinued due to poor sales.

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  16. Anonymous09:27

    Buy this perfume is genuine !! 120 ml, details at this address cristi_gl82@yahoo.com

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