Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Giorgio Armani Si: fragrance review

It wouldn't be inaccurate to claim that Sì, the latest feminine fragrance by Giorgio Armani, is L'Oreal's (the parent company of Armani parfums) answer to the commercial success of Lancôme's La Vie Est Belle from the previous year. Both are competent but rather forgettable perfumes that are sure to capture and retain the demographic they're aimed at: 35-50 year old women seeking something a little more sophisticated than the average fruity floral at department stores, while still not shocking anyone with their limp-wristed, yet persistent, wake of scent.

They're the Empire State Building rather than the strikingly asymmetrical Reykjavík’s Harpa Concert Hall & Conference Center. The tousled hair rom-com heroine rather than Irene Dunne. And a predictably lyrical novel that reads like a self-help book by Paulo Coelho rather than Orhan Pamuk. No, strike the last aphorism out: the fragrances in question are not Coelho-bad, surely!

Several small details point to the correlation between the two scents,  and La vie est belle. I mean.
The blackcurrant top note revisits a theme that was forgotten for long (First by Van Cleef & Arpels brought it into the scene and it's famously giving the piquancy in niche cult L'Ombre Dans l'Eau by Diptyque). They share a small fruity lactonic chapter (reminiscent of peach and pear). They both are buttressed by the familiar contemporary patchouli with woody-smelling Iso E Super and musks, plus a cotton candy vanilla note that -especially in the Lancome fragrance- instantly references Angel to anyone's mind. In , the feel of a nouveau chypre (see our article for more on those) is enhanced by a cosmetics-smelling chord that is feminine and subtly intimate: the rosy note is simply put buoyed by soft, powdery violets like in many lipsticks and face powders.
Giorgio Armani's Sì is less sweet overall, with a drier, less cushion-like ambience. The cleaned-up feel and powdery abstraction recall segments of Knowing, a forgotten 1980s perfume by Estée Lauder. As per the perfumer, Christine Nagel of Mane, the base of Armani Sì includes Orcanox, which is another name for Ambroxan or Ambrofix (an aromachemical with an abstract woody-ambery scent aiming to recall natural ambergris), that gives great diffusion and tenacity to modern fragrances; indeed this Armani is one of them.

The official fragrance notes for Guorgio Armani include blackcurrant, freesia, rose, vanilla, patchouli, blond woods, orcanox.

The choice of actress extraordinaire Cate Blanchett as the fronting woman for Armani's latest fragrance ("Cate Blanchett says Sì" -i.e. "yes" in Italian- is the motto of the campaign) has created the expectation of something truly exceptional and smart, like she is herself -the modern equivalent of Katherine Hepburn. Maybe the stakes were just too high. Sì just couldn't possibly live up to it or the "chypre reinvented" perfumista-nod on top of this. That doesn't mean it's not a pleasant fragrance; you could do much worse in the department store circuit, I'd wager.
Lovely bottle (in 1, 1.7 and 3.4oz of eau de parfum at major department stores), reminiscent of the Armani Privé perfume bottles aesthetic, a nice bonus.

Below, watch the official film for Giorgio Armani (rather uninspired if you ask me, though beautifully shot by director Anne Fontaine) and a small interview with Christine Nagel where she explains the fundamental blocks of the perfume composition.


  1. Thanks for this in depth review. I won't be buying this one.

  2. Anonymous08:37

    Thank you. This helped me make the decision not to buy.


  3. I tried it at Harrods the other day and found it exactly as you described. The fact that the SA sprayed it on a black satin ribbon instead of blotting paper "because it keeps the smell better"... didn't help either.

  4. Astrid12:33

    He lost me at "cotton candy." As usual.

  5. Gail,

    you're welcome.
    It's nice enough, but ultimately it won't go down as making a big ripple in the pond. I'm sure it will sell well.

  6. Gina,

    by all means, do give a sniff if it passes under your nose, though I'm rather sure it won't produce the "wow" we were hoping for.

  7. Sabine,

    thanks for confirming my thoughts, glad we agree.
    The ribbon spraying seems to be quite a new thing (and rather more luxe looking): Narciso Rodriguez do that with their perfumes as well. I believe it's in the belief that the ribbon can be tied to one's handbag or key ring, so that the reminder of the smell would be of a more constant nature ;-)

  8. Astrid,

    oh, no no, La Vie est Belle has much more of the cotton candy. This is nicer in that regard. But you know, vanilla and patchouli do bring in mind that reference we all know from the numerous patchouli gourmands. Thankfully it's tempered on the sugar, but it's not "wow" like I said above.

  9. I liked the ad, it is exactly how I like to see fellow Aussie Cate, she makes the mundane magical for me. She is so striking and present in every shot, though the greys, pinks and muted tones say much more DIOR than Armani to me. Now at least my juice expectations are seriously low, that is good news.
    Portia xx

  10. Anonymous20:54

    Culdn't believed that the fragrance with Cate Banchet as a face, can smell like cheap celebrity juice. Or maybe i shouldn't be surprised.

  11. Portia, darling, hi there! :-)

    Your compatriot Cate is such an exquisite creature (so full of emotion, so proficient in what she does) that she can elevate even a potato sack and a TV jingle into high art. I agree with you that she makes things magical. I admire her very very much (as I believe most perfumistas! She loves Aromatics Elixir by the way, how cool is that?)
    Apart from that (and the beautiful aesthetic of the clip, as I said in the post), the concept of the commercial is a bit deja vu. That's what I meant. I have seen this "yes to life" stance before (notably for Lancome's Oui, remember that one?) But then most perfume commercial these days tread on well known paths.

    Interesting what you say about the muted tones. I always considered Armani the master of muted tones (so many things in ecru and grey in his collections...) but there's a point you make about the grey combined with the rose, hmmm, there's something there....I should think that those are the shades best fitting Cate herself, though, and the rose recalls well, roses (apparently in the core of the scent), so maybe it's not so random after all, eh?
    Anyway, just a bit of how it strikes me.

    Thanks for chiming in as always!

  12. Dominic,

    salut mon ami!

    Yeah, it's a let down, since Cate herself is so discerning and since she is so admired by us. But Armani can't step too far off the beaten track, I suppose. Even his Prive line has to have some more crowd-pleasing scents alongside the more esoteric and it's aimed at people into perfume! Imagine how the mainstream line should be.

    There's a market war between big brands (I mean the brands who own the rights of the designer diffusion lines, such as their fragrances) and this is the result. :-/

  13. I loved this perfume! Tried it in Paris and was sad they don't sell it in the US. But I love the smell on me..every perfume smells different in every skin..

  14. Good for you Sabine!

    Unfortunately I find Si dull on skin, fabric and paper alike. But it's not bad. Just deja vu. I guess I'm jaded.

  15. Anonymous18:57

    I LOVE it! It has a wonderful sense of refinement and class that does not bowl you over as you walk by!

  16. Anon,

    great for you (and thanks for commenting)!

    I find most contemporary scents don't bowl you over as you walk by these days. I sorta miss the "vhoom, watch me devour the room, its furniture and inhabitants" perfumes of the 80s in that regard. More statement inducing, though sometimes they needed extra care with the nozzle.

  17. Anonymous05:00

    I have hunted for a few years for a new perfume and finally found one I love on me. Si is LOVELY and I get compliments all the time. It doesnt smell juvenile, as the review would suggest (cotton candy & patchouli).

  18. Anon,

    no, it's not juvenile (patchouli & cotton candy together wouldn't be juvenile anyway).
    It's rather nice, but not terribly interesting. IMHO.

  19. Great and very detailed review :) i gonna try this one out for sure .... thnx

  20. Anonymous17:01

    Glad I've found your website, I even tried Si at a Boots against Marc Jacob's Decadence, and both smelled like watermelon, sweet. Decadence smelled much more "single-like" and fresh, not as complicated as Si, and I tried Si once again... It just smelled "strange", and I bought one, thinking "maybe this strangeness will turn out to be marvelous, when I'm more used to it". Then it hasn't turned out to be that. It still smells "strange", but shockingly, in my own scent memory... it smells like an old barber shop for men!!! Please explain to me, why...

    1. I believe many modern patchouli-rich scents smell masculine because of the woodiness being traditionally associated with men and barber shops. The superficial sweet fruity-berry notes on top are just feminine masking.

  21. Anonymous21:40

    I find it very silly that so many people here comment that reading this, or any other perfume review for that matter, helps them make up their mind about a fragrance. Firstly, the same perfume does smell different on different people, and I mean, sometimes COMPLETELY different. I first smelled this on a little piece of paper and thought I disliked it but then smelled it on someone and was ...intrigued... so I sprayed it onto my wrist and once again disliked it first ... a few minutes later and I could not believe it was still the same fragrance on my wrist - within minutes it miraculously transformed into something I absolutely adore. By the way, I still don't like the way it smells when I first spray in on my skin, it needs a few minutes to sink in and mix with the smell of my skin. While I know that this is not that unusual with fragrance, in this case it is such a huge contrast between the initial 'I don't like it at all' and a few minutes later 'I love it!' reaction that it always surprises me. At the moment, it is my very favourite scent. It's classy, sensual, sophisticated, comforting and surprisingly delicate yet memorable and long-lasting. While I would never base my fragrance choice on even the best written review, it is always interesting to see how the same scent can strike one person as gorgeous, classy and delicious while leaving no lasting impression on someone else. To me, Si is exactly as I imagined it to be after watching the perfect, sophisticated and classy Cate Blanchett in the Si commercial - feminine, sensual, unique and super elegant. I personally LOVE this scent.

    1. Your statement and I quote "I find it very silly that so many people here comment that reading this, or any other perfume review for that matter, helps them make up their mind about a fragrance" is supposed to be a diss on our readers or on perfume reviewing in general?

      You're clearly in the wrong place in either eventuality.

      Good for you for adoring Si though!

  22. Anonymous17:17

    I don't agree with the statement that it is a "forgettable, a little more sophisticated than the average fruity floral at department stores" perfume, or that it is aimed at rather older women.
    I think it smells really feminine and youthful regardless if you spray it on paper, textile or skin.
    When sprayed at first, the scent is way too sweet for me but as somebody already mentioned, in several minutes it settles into a very delicate and classy scent and I find it especially suitable for women in their 20's (as myself).
    I also don't understand how people form an opinion based solely on a comment or so. Take a sample and see how you wear it..

    Thx for the indept review though ;)

  23. Anonymous21:01

    I really like this perfume and have many of the perfumes that so called conoisseurs would approve of, so I trust my nose. My view is that the juice is very attractive and I think subtly unusual but my problem with it is it is a touch too sweet and too synthetic to smell sufficiently sophisticated...and then I smell it again and it's delicious. I'm thinking of buying it and wearing it and time will tell whether this remains a guilty pleasure of delicious but synthetic, commercial smelling scent or if it grows on me and attracts compliments. Christine Nagel is now at Hermes and she is a great nose so I think perhaps a combination of cheaper ingredients and the general impression of the Armani brand has conveyed a weaker impact than this blackcurrant patchouli concoction might have had had it come in an Hermes box and been a little less teen fragrance sweet. Just a thought!

  24. Anonymous16:50

    Personally I love it, everyone keeps asking me about it.


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