Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ma Dame by Jean Paul Gaultier: fragrance review

Ma Dame, a spoof on the French word "Madame" which could be translated as "my lady" is Gaultier's latest feminine fragrance. A fresh floral blend of rose, sour orange, grenadine, musk and cedar Ma Dame aims to distill the essence of a modern-day garçonne, or "Une fille au masculin, un garçon au féminin" (a masculine girl, a feminine boy) like the song goes. “Ma Dame is not a Madame,” declared the designer (in the sense of a brothel-keeper or bourgeois lady). He puts the emphasis on the "ma" more than the "dame" part. “She is my muse. She amuses me.” (quote via the Moodie Report). I like word-plays. I like that he used a word-play to explain one, too!

Gaultier also explained he loves the bright pink of highlighters and attempted thus to bottle the imagined "scent" of one of his favourite shades. “It’s almost electric,” Gaultier says to Elle magazine. “The perfect color to make into a fragrance.“ Liking the highlighting almost fuschia shade is nothing ground-breaking, as press releases would like you to think; so do I, as I use it to highlight much more "agressive" art listings that depict ancient warriors and cthonian deities and my tastes run a more conservative gamut than dear Jean Paul's. “I didn’t fit in well with the kids in school,” Gaultier continues the confession to Elle. “While the other boys were playing sports, I was busy sketching!” At this point I am beginning to think that Gaultier and I share some degrees of Kevin Bacon! (something that would have my father in stiches)

The commercial for Ma Dame directed by Jean Baptist Mondino has supermodel du jour Agyness Deyn (also seen in Burberry The Beat commercials) literally tearing up the scene, snipping a long platinum wig, ripping off her sleeves, cutting her pant legs with a scissor (an allusion to the ripping that needs to be done in order to access the bottle inside the carton), all the while dancing to the beat of dj.Miss Kittin ~in a remix of "3rd Sex" by French group Indochine. She ends this on the sweet side with a kiss on the cheek of Gaultier himself.
Supposedly the aim of Ma Dame is to shed the cumbersome ideals of femininity for a rebellious, modern, cutting-edge interpretation. The French catch phrase is: ‘Interdit aux dames’ (NOT for ladies), but they changed it to “For the woman who is unique, unconventional, different” in English. Tag anything with a prohibition and you create intrigue. The rectangular bottle that features in its heart the torso bottle of Gaultier's best-selling Classique (by perfumer Jacques Cavallier) set in relief gives the game away though: we're far off the land of controversy or rebeliousness and the only thing that is ambivalent about this fragrance is the decision quota of its intended clientelle. Seeing the street credence of punky (but perfectly angelically-featured) Agyness Deyn makes one think they're buying into a slice of the wild side and the brand is obviously aware of the public being in the know about Gaultier's edgy reputation (how ironic that it is his jackets cut with scalpel-precision that are the best hidden thing about his line)

Sniffing or spraying Ma Dame is a violent surprise at first: an intense, eye-searing blast of citrusy sweet shampoo latheriness jolts you like the lightsabers used in Star Wars, this time hued Bright Fuschia for the person who teeters between Luke Skywalker and Prince Leia (this is the 00s!). The shade and feel has been described as "lurid pink" by Mrs.Veneering on POL and I couldn't find a more perfect description. The composition by talented, almost in-house* nose Francis Kurkdjian (from the Takasago team) revisits the canned peach-candy orange-pink lotus in hysterics of Classique smothered in vats of vanillic powder and a prolonged white musk drydown that is anodyne more than androgyne; in fact the more they dry-down the more they're indistinguishable to me. Thankfully Ma Dame is not cloying like Classique can be, mostly thanks to a very fresh treatment of alleged cedar which veers on aquatic: it's utterly synthetic-smelling and sanitised like being dressed in futuristic tinfoil which is a new direction that Gaultier ommited to include in his amazingly wonderful costumes for the "Fifth Element". Ma Dame is mischievous and diabolical enough in that it will make you wonder whether this is good or bad which I hope reveals humour behind its creation. To take you out of the dilemma I have one admission to make: it's nothing I would wear myself. Consider yourselves accordingly advised.

Nota bene the creative prowess behind the bottle design: the transparent spray mechanism is invisible!

Official notes for Ma Dame
Top: Orange Zest, Grenadine
Heart: Fresh Rose velvet, floral Notes
Base: Cedar, Musk

Available at major department stores since September, 50ml/1.7oz for $95 of Eau de toilette (also available at 100ml/3.4oz). Matching body products as well.

*taking into consideration he's responsible for Gaultier's Fragile, Gaultier 2, Le Male and Fleur du Male.

Pic of Agyness Deyn and Jean Paul Gaultier via Pic of bottle via


  1. Anonymous17:24

    Lurid - I agree, because I can't stand it. I can't even get myself to try it again. :-(

  2. Wouldn't put it near my skin but couldn't stop smelling paper. Sweet Tarts on a space station!

  3. Anonymous03:00

    It doesn't sound like something I'd wear either, but I love that bottle!

  4. Anonymous03:23

    I still stand by that Lurid comment and I am going to add that the word searing is apt, first it sears your eyes and then it sears the nostrils , inhale deeply and your grey matter gets it... I am not kidding. I was foolhardy enough to try this on both paper and my skin.

  5. "Bright Fuschia", "lurid pink", orange/grenadine and Gaultier 's same old androgyneous rehashed theme...thank you perfumeshrine for your review but I think I 'll pass on this one too!

  6. I adore the man.
    My kind of guy, in every way.

    CANNOT abide the frag, but many like it.

    I get the humor, though.

  7. Love Jean- Paul and think he is a clothes design genius. I have never taken to any of his women's scents although I don't hate classique, it's just not me.

    I do have a secret passion for his lip gloss for men though! that smells incredible (vanilla gourmand).

  8. L,

    I can see it's *very* polarising. I was confused when I tried it as well!

  9. J,

    "sweet tarts on a space station": PERFECT description!!!

  10. Amy,

    the bottle is cool: the torso insert is a nod to the brand's "history" and the mechanism is hidden. It must have taken lots of energy, brainpower and funds to come up with this one.

  11. Nubs, honey, you really said it amdirably! Why change? :-))
    How did it last on your skin? It was quite tenacious on mine.

  12. Caline,

    you're very welcome on the review and yes, I don't think it's to your taste either ;-)

  13. I,

    I hear from journalists friends who met Jean Paul that he is sweetly-spoken and really well-mannered (the kind of attitude your mother would approve!) and I do believe he is part of fashion history.
    I do hope they began with scads of humour to back this project.
    Still, nothing smells like it currently in its shocking "out there" character, which is in a twisted way :P

  14. Rose,

    I agree on both counts: fashion genius and perfumes.
    And now you have given me desires for lip treatments for men: how twisted is that? LOL! (thanks all the same, it sounds yummy)

  15. Of course you know that i am already a true wearer. Just love its uncomplicated-ness yet Gaultier-typical message and style.
    ;-) lillie

  16. N,

    you're full of humour and your own very special charm and style so I have no fear for you! ;-)
    I have to admit that it jolted me out of the usual "blahs" when sniffing at the department store and this is no mean feat!

  17. Anonymous21:41

    Sniffed this on a scent strip in Glamour magazine last night - terrifying chemical concoction, would not even consider trying this on my person. Yikes!

  18. Anonymous02:56

    It was very long lasting , as much things that strike this sort of chord tend to be. Those we love do not seem to ever overstay thier welcome and the others never seem to go away.

    I do have to add that I am a fan of his male frags or at least Le Male and the Fleur offering , and as much as I loathed Classique in edt , I count falling in love with the parfum as a happy and joyous thing.

  19. Anonymous14:23

    I tried this one over and over again.
    About the concept female-male-female I don´t find the fragrance an olfactory androgenious experience.
    On the contrary, on my skin, it felt very girlishious.
    Peppery yes, but rocket desappeared very soon.
    I thought of a cocktail, peppery juice in the metal shaker.
    The fragrance persisted for hours, but very subtle, delicate.
    Than I thought of candy in my mouth when I had braces! Yes that thought was strange indeed.
    In the end I decided that I loved it.
    It is diferent on me and people around me seemed to enjoyed too :-)
    It is fruity without being gourmet - I loved it.
    The bottle is nice - considering they wanted to renew the concept, modernize it. But frankly I never was a fan of the torso thing... Boring...
    One thing is for sure. It does put a smile on the face...
    I also thought of a condom, in a pink wrapping...

    That explains the smile maybe...

    kisses Simone.

  20. Tara,

    very chemical seems to be the word. Even among enthusiasts. I guess it might strike a chord if one views this humorously.

  21. Nubs,

    aint's that the truth (the Murphy's Law application in Perfume Matters)!

    I also like Fleur du Male a lot, but hadn't tried Classique in parfum: don't say!! ;-) (will test it)

  22. Simone,

    LOL, you have a way of describing things which is very funny and engaging: *loved* the braces ref and the other reference too (touche!).
    It's good that it's sweet without veering into gourmand (sooooo trite). I can't pull this one off but all the more power to you if you get compliments on it too.

  23. Anonymous02:22

    I bought it for myself for Christmas and I've loved wearing. I've received countless compliments on how I smell. The initial spray is powerful but after about ten minutes it tones down into a refreshing, zesty scent which is youthful, alluring, and energetic. I like to think of myself in that light. My only problem is that I just now(literally) busted the bottle while I was cleaning my apartment. I plan to repurchase...

  24. Rebecca,

    thanks for stopping by and commenting!
    It seems you have found a winner, so never mind us. If it makes you feel alluring and energetic, then it accompishes its job and you should definitely enjoy!
    Sorry about the accident though.

  25. I wanted to give it a try because it was described as "androgynous" but because of some reviews I guess that's not the case. Is there any perfume you can name that is unisex but not spicy? Something like Le labo Iris maybe? I am wearing Narcisso Rodriguez for her EDP and Coco Mademoiselle these days.I think I am tired of floral perfumes and need a change especially for winter.

  26. B,

    it's quite sugary, so it all depends on whether you're fine with that.

    Unisex things fit for winter? So many!
    Looking through only more recent reviews, there's Kiss me Tender by Patricia de Nicolai, La Nuit de Paco Rabanne, Santal Massoia at Hermes boutiques, Juniper Sling by Penhaligon's, Patchouli Imperial by Dior, Fille en Aiguilles by Lutens, the Tauer Pentachords (3 scents)

    And take a look at the Unisex fragrances tab here too. You might also enjoy our gender bender fragrances article.

    HOpe that helps!


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