There has been a very interesting trend over the last few years as niche brands reach out to work with mid-level prestige brands. This is a bit more refined version of the capsule collections by haute couture fashion designers at mass-market department stores. The most recent partnership is between J. Crew, a clothing line with a very recognizable aesthetic. The same can be said about Arquiste. Both of these brands are successful because of the creative direction at the top. Jenna Lyons is the President and Creative Director for J. Crew. Carlos Huber holds the same positions for Arquiste. Both of these talented visionaries have combined to create Arquiste for J. Crew No. 31 and No. 47.
Jenna Lyons of J. Crew
When doing a project of this kind both of the brands who have their name on the label have to come through without overwhelming the other. It very much has to be a true partnership. Sr. Huber as he does with all of his fragrances found a setting he wanted these fragrances to represent. For this he looked back to the 1943 exhibition, the first featuring art exclusively by women, curated by Peggy Guggenheim called “Exhibition by 31 Women” and held in her gallery, Art of this Century, on W. 57th Street in New York. These are the source of the numbers in the perfumes No. 31 for the number of artists and No. 57 for the location. Sr. Huber felt that he wanted these perfumes to be “as stimulating as the art, drawing on the scents of the strong cocktails and bold perfumes that filled the night.” He then turned to his two longtime collaborators Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Yann Vasnier to create the fragrances.
Carlos Huber of Arquiste
No. 31 is the one of the pair meant to evoke the mise en scene of opening night at the gallery. It is really working to pick up the drinks and perfume as the crowd mixes and mingles. When I wore No. 31 for the first time there was part of me that felt like it was very reminiscent of some older vintage perfume. I realized instead this is the smell of many perfumes overlapping in close quarters not so much one as a virtual collage of many. Sr. Flores-Roux and M. Vasnier do this by using plum, rose, and an eau de vie accord. All of these are classic perfume ingredients of the past and together they create a vintage feel. A bit of booziness courtesy of sweet vermouth is joined by oakmoss and patchouli. All together this truly achieves the desired effect of creating a 1940’s night in the gallery.
The exhibition was of modern art and No. 57 is meant to have a bit more modern feel to it than No. 31. I also think Sr. Huber really likes the idea of the drinking going on as No. 57 features a potent whiskey. No. 57 opens with that whiskey but it is paired with a vibrant cinnamon to create a spicy cocktail. This is all framed in with clean cedarwood. It all heads towards a base of vanilla and labdanum which is warm and comforting.
Both No. 31 and No. 57 are eau de toilette strength and have 6-8 hour longevity with moderate sillage.
Both of these perfumes fir right in with the J. Crew aesthetic of clothing and accessories for the modern woman. The Arquiste half is a bit of an introduction to the idea of niche perfumery as neither fragrance probably goes quite as far as It might if it was a full-on Arquiste release. I think that is probably for the best because I’d like to see these perfumes succeed in showing the J. Crew customer that there is a world of perfume beyond the department store counter if they can just be shown the way. Ms. Lyons and Sr. Huber are to be congratulated for constructing a pair of signposts which do just this.
Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.