BLURRING THE BOUNDARIES
A coalescence of masculine and feminine is a particular raison d’être of Tom Ford’s fragrance line (the invigorating citrus hit of Mandarino Di Amalfi is unbeatable in summer) and it also provided the inspiration for Roland Mouret’s collaboration with Etat Libre d’Orange. At the launch, he explained that he wanted Une Amourette to smell like “the scent of the other [your lover] on your skin…” and it’s precisely this intermingling that makes it so devastatingly sexy. Now other luxury, designer and mainstream houses have begun to follow this path, offering fragrances that are no longer furtively borrowed in the bathroom, but deliberately composed to be shared. We’ve seen all this before, of course – a swathe of salt-infused scents that marked the Nineties, Calvin Klein’s CK One advert portraying bright young things of both sexes happily cavorting with the same fragrance – but this time around that idea of ‘unisex’ has changed, and it all goes back to the inherent fear of being put in a cage. When Guerlain launched LUI last year, it proved the ripple had become a tidal change, ditching the ‘unisex’ label altogether. On paper, it sounds like it would normally be slotted into the company’s feminine fragrance collection, a powdery floral with a woody, leather base. Yet Guerlain chose to market it as ‘gender-fluid’, reasoning: “Feminine. Masculine. Why choose? LUI is a fragrance that likes to blur the boundaries. Not entirely feminine, nor truly masculine, it is both at once.”
THE CULT OF THE INDIVIDUAL
For Frédéric Malle’s Superstitious, a collaboration with designer Alber Elbaz, they sought to evoke “…Elbaz’s free-flowing vision of an elaborate fabric in which everyone can find their own beauty.” And there are no flouncy frills here: a clean, crisp cotton opening becomes imbued with the steam from a freshly pressed shirt, then plunges headlong into a thrillingly decadent swirl of the sexes colliding. Armfuls of jasmine and rose almost tip into diva territory, so you’re smothered in a buxom embrace then pulled back by a snarling, defiantly masculine throb of bone-dry vetiver and the wet-earthiness of patchouli. Roses abound in fragrances still marketed for men, too. Trussardi’s Black Rose is a swaggering, dandyish affair, entwining the Ta’if rose with pink peppercorns, spiced vanilla and chocolatey patchouli; while Etro’s ManRose drives home the message in name and juice alike – Turkish rose emboldened by aromatic cardamom and freshly ground black pepper, tendrils of incense snaking across supple leather, spiky geranium mellowed by a final flourish of petals on a deep, dark woody base. The term unisex has become tainted by those fragrances that believed, in order to make themselves acceptable to all, they had to remove anything that hinted at femininity. Could it be that we’ve finally woken up once more to the concept of sharing fragrance without stifling individuality?