Change; for such a small word it has such a large effect. For most, we dislike change we want the things we like to stay the same. Our view of perfume brands is no different. There are times when I wonder if I am falling into the trap of resisting all change just because I don’t want to give it a chance. Am I the old man wearing vintage perfume standing on the porch telling these modern compositions to get off my lawn? Of course, I’d like to envision myself as the antithesis of that always looking for new experiences the past be damned. It has been an interesting week to consider whether that is true or not.
Earlier this week in his regular column for Style.com Arabia called “Message in a Bottle” perfume writer and reviewer Luca Turin wrote of Guerlain in his review of the new Aqua Allegoria Teazzura, “These days, Guerlain fragrances are more like seventeenth century concertos of average caliber, commissioned by the dozen for delivery a month hence. Much like baroque concertos, they are intended to perpetuate a house style, to serve as background music to frivolous conversation as opposed to devoted silence, to develop foot-tapping tunes in an unambitious way, and generally to be pleasantly unobtrusive.” I don’t on the whole disagree with that statement but are we wanting something that no longer exists? The “house style” is still recognizable we just liked the previous version. Do I want the grand perfume houses to stay true to the past? Or do I want innovation? Which by necessity means hewing to modern trends and customers?
The second event this week was my review of the new Serge Lutens Le Religieuse. I am on record for not appreciating the new aesthetic Serge Lutens has imposed on the newest releases. I have publicly wished for a return to the past. I woke up this morning to a passionately worded e-mail from a reader who actively disliked the past releases I adore and conversely owns all of the new ones. She thinks Le Religieuse is as good as it gets when it comes to Serge Lutens. After an exchange of a few e-mails I started to wonder if I am so reluctant to let go of the past I can’t embrace this new direction. There were many who told me if I gave L’Orpheline more of a chance I would come to see its charms. I did wear it some more but I found nothing to enjoy. I said in that review that I just think that for this current phase of Serge Lutens perfumes I am not their audience.
I admire both perfumers a lot. I think Thierry Wasser has done a creditable job steering Guerlain through the last few years. I think Christopher Sheldrake is the perfect facilitator of M. Lutens’ visions. I don’t think it is lack of skill or desire. I don’t think these are perfumes without an audience. I think I am not that audience and that brings me back to my metaphorical porch waving my cane. All artistic endeavors should not seek to please everyone they should try to please a specific audience. There are plenty of other perfumes out there which do thrill me and they come from venerable brands as well as precocious independents. I still believe there is a future Guerlain and Serge Lutens which will challenge me and thrill me. At that point I’ll put down my cane and go join the kids on my lawn.