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October 28, 2005

Fragrance Review: Odeur 53 by Comme des Garcons

Picasso250

Abstraction is what modern perfume has been striving for over the course of the 20th century, moving away from the representational genre dominating the previous periods. The first abstract fragrance was Houbigant Fougère Royale (1882), which combined synthetic material coumarin with bergamot, oakmoss and geranium. Elegantly serene abstraction is how Odeur 53 can be characterized, a fragrance that is comprised solely of synthetics in its attempt to reproduce such inorganic smells as sand and metal.

Created in 1998 by Martine Pallix, Odeur 53 strikes me as a cubist take on a classical jasmine and wood combination. Abstract is an important qualifier here, since the fragrance does not represent either to the extent that they are obvious. Yet, somehow the composition reveals the essential elements of this pairing—warmth and woody sweetness. Daringly, more than 60% of the formula is comprised of hedione, which is an aromachemical possessing a radiant jasmine quality. ...

By itself, hedione is a sensation of luminosity, yet paired with floral notes, it magnifies them and extends their qualities. In Odeur 53, hedione is a bright stream of light that moves across the arrangement. The warmth abstracted from jasmine fills the space, refracting through the mineral and metallic facets.

The juxtaposition of associations is one the most fascinating aspects of Odeur 53, taking one from the Japanese stone garden, with its fragrance of hot sand hanging in the air, to the laundry room, with its smell of fabric softener and plastic crates. Metallic twist of the musk note which has a delicate freshness makes the final result almost addictive as some things that are unconventional can be. As the fragrance dries down on the skin, it attains a gentle, serene softness that makes Odeur 53 quite wearable, despite what the description might indicate. Yet, the glow that filled the initial stages persists while the fragrance lasts, which it does fairly well.

Available from Comme des Garçons boutiques, Barneys New York, Jeffrey New York, Luckyscent, Mecca Cosmetics, Sephora, Sloanhall.

Painting: Pablo Picasso. Composition. Bowl of Fruit and Sliced Pear. 1914. Wallpaper, gouache and plumbago on cardboard. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia. From abcgallery.com.

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