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When an obscure indie brand called Odin New York launched their fragrances here in New York City, the word never quite reached the streets but stayed within the parameters of our tiny region of the perfumed blogosphere.  Yet, who knew one of their offerings, Petrana 04 (black Jordanian iris), would become a finalist at the prestigious FiFi Awards, in one of the most relevant categories to the flavor and fragrance industry: Perfume Extraordinaire, a most coveted "jus" exemplifying true refinement based on a blindtest?  Redolent of silent films, face powder and peaches-and-cream, Petrana is a unisex offering timewarping back to more traditionally *feminine fare (*by which I mean "maternalistic"), a classic Madonna fragrance featuring peachy, wooded rose, musk and lily a la Trésor, Nahéma, Tocade, Realities and Allure, forever popular despite its reputation of smelling like a pampered Park Avenue madame, a beloved staple in Women's perfumery typical of Women's perfumes designated to "Moms". 

We must always be hip enough to protect ourselves from condescending products peddled to us, but this retro frou frou accord was made fresh this fall, with a jarringly angular twist of vegetal greens and musks to characterize a modernized, coarse and androgynous nouveau Floral.  This Floral is for the brave new generation that cares not about demographics, and consciously chooses to break societal rules, because it knows not, cares not, about archaic character designations based on flower symbolism.  Some might say the Futuristic Floral era is here. 

*Perfumistas (*all gender-inclusive) are simultaneously having a collective scent memory moment.  The 20 year reign of Woody Oriental (Angel, Prada, Pink Sugar, Flowerbomb), Leather and Chypre perfumes (Agent Provocateur, Bvlgari Black) proves it's musk that reigns supreme - the scent of an imaginary animal more so than that of a flower.  It's that furry, clingy, all-enveloping, powdery "parfum fourrure" feeling known as a "comfort scent", aka "skin scent" that interests us, only after decades of being told to smell like an age-appropriate "Mom", we often want clean and functional, like a Men's fragrance.  I want glimpses of life-affirming greenery piercing through from underfoot all this desert dry austerity - all that, and to still have my cake and eat it, too.

I remember one perfume very well from my childhood, a drugstore sensation as popular as Anaïs Anaïs but something I could afford with my saved up allowance (I'd also collected Revlon Charlie, Bill Blass, Diane von Furstenberg Tatiana and Payot Pavlova).  This sugary sweet, powdery, baby oil and talc-like (talc used to be used on babies' bottoms, but it's been replaced by ointment for safety reasons) drugstore icon, Love's Baby Soft (1974), had preceded Lorenzo Villoresi Teint de Neige, although the powdery gourmand-maquillage trend was set by Molinard Habanita, the imaginary harlot in her boudoir laying on a vampire's bed of talc, dark berries and decaying roses, in contrast to the imaginary pearly alpha female that is Chanel No.5, the contemporary of its time (1921). 

The popular good girl / bad girl dichotomous Venus potion is called Love's Baby Soft with good reason.  Who can forget those ads featuring a little girl with a tousled halo of ringlet curls hugging her teddy bear, gazing into the camera wearing red hot vinyl lipstick like a Rolling Stones album cover?  It's a good thing this angel in disguise smells good, because these kinds of retro ads are scary images we'd rather forget, reminiscent of a time in history when violence against women and sexism were par for the course.   

Our love for Baby Soft never ended; it explains our affinity for the suede-like gentle comfort of "skin-scent" Donna Karan Cashmere Mist, as well as for the penetratingly hypersweet, candied berry musk of Givenchy Hot Couture.

This season, the fragrance floor at Bloomingdales is brimming with new hope as it presents dozens of new powdery gourmand floral musks.  As I made my way through the aisles of Bloomingdales which, by the way, are new and improved with more conviviality, I discovered the industry has done an about face from the gangsta "million dollar" patchoulis to make room for the new vintage powderies, these vegetal-candied floral musks I'm suddenly so intrigued by.  The ones that couldn't go all the way with iris have gone instead with a bold, assertive peony note (or some such sweet, yet spicy green floral note, like freesia), juxtaposed against dirty powders of the linear, smoky-balsamic type (this trend was set by L'Artisan Parfumeur Vanilia (1978)).  Now marketed as "candyfloss", the new dirty floral note is a fixture in our jaded yet fun-loving olfactory palette. 
Among the notables, Prada Candy smelled exactly like its vintage packaging, a retro pin up doll candyfloss, but voluptuously wooded and powdery, finally, a candy scent for fans of the unsweet; Elie Saab likewise smelled sumptuously tame, featuring a warm, honeyed Kurkjian solar musk accord (solar reminds me of Dune - is it broom?) and a revealing heart of traditional rose deftly neutralizing any sharp edges. 

Balenciaga Paris also asserted itself as a nouveau maquillage floral musk - and by nouveau I mean borderline gourmand but bitter enough to stay away from the dreaded gourmand label (which I of course happen to love). 

Givenchy Dahlia Noir gives us the ultimate snapshot of the black desert flower, the nouveau Noir essence of Odin Petrana as only a prestige perfume of its calibur could reinvent: this season's most spectacular launch is redolent of a futuristic flower with graceful petals of inky black gauze, its Baby Soft powdery aura a familiar yet newly streamlined elegance, a flower neither delicate nor found in nature but one as bold as an inkblot or sumi-e.

Contributor and NEW YORK LIAISION EDITOR Sali Oguri

The Noir Floral: Abstract Trends 2011 - 2012
September 10, 2011

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