One of the things that can be tough to watch is when a perfume brand loses its way. This more frequently happens within the designer mainstream sector. As creative direction at the fashion house changes direction it will eventually trickle down to the ancillary products like fragrance. Balenciaga has recently undergone one of these changes. In 2012 Alexander Wang took over from Nicolas Ghesquiere at Balenciaga. For my tastes the perfumes that were released under M. Ghesquiere’s tenure like Florabotanica and Balenciaga Paris did not live up to the heritage of a brand which produced Le Dix back in the 1950’s. I was interested to see in what direction M. Wang would choose to take the perfume side of Balenciaga. The first data point has arrived with the release of B. Balenciaga.
One of the things I like about M. Wang is he very much wants to integrate the perfumes which carry the Balenciaga name with the couture that name represents. He used B. Balenciaga to scent the Spring 2015 runway show in Paris. The B. Balenciaga bottle is meant to remind you of the marble floor in the Balenciaga flagship store in Paris. The runway carried the same pattern. Beyond aesthetics the photo of Gisele Bundchen by photographer Steven Klein is a visual example of M. Wang’s desire to break Balenciaga free of the past. On the perfume side M. Wang partnered with perfumer Domitille Bertier to create B. Balenciaga.
From the first moment I sniffed B. Balenciaga I was drawn in by a steamy vegetal accord. When I saw the list of notes there it was right on the page, edamame accord. Mme Bertier has constructed a very green accord which is suffused with steam and humidity. She tempers some of the ability to feel like you are being made to figuratively eat your olfactory vegetables by using violet leaf and muguet to give a floral place to orient oneself. I found all of this quite fascinating and it lasts for a couple of hours this way on my skin. After that it proceeds pretty normally through a finish of cedar and cashmeran.
B. Balenciaga has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
After his predecessor’s habit of playing it safe with a collection of bland florals I am pleased to see M. Wang seems to be trying something different. B. Balenciaga is a floral but that edamame accord makes it anything but bland. I am looking forward to what comes next at Balenciaga.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample of B. Balenciaga I received at Sniffapalooza Fall Ball.
If you’ve been following along you have figured out that I have many things I am interested in. Over the weekend of October 9-12, 2014 two of them combined to give me one gigantic weekend of immersion into my passions. Over these four days I attended New York Comic-Con and Sniffapalooza Fall Ball. Two years ago the same confluence of events happened and I dubbed the weekend ComicSniffaConPalooza. I would spend Thursday and Friday at Comic-Con (Comic). Saturday would be a day of perfume in the morning and comics in the afternoon (SniffaCon) finishing on Sunday by spending the whole day with my friends downtown sniffing new releases (Palooza). Since this is the sequel to the first one it needed a catchy subtitle which really makes no sense except Kilian really was there.
I awoke at 3:30AM to catch a 5:00AM bus to NYC from DC. By Noon I was walking on to the show floor at the Javits Center headed for the Marvel booth to get an NYCC exclusive Rocket Raccoon plush doll. Others around me were dashing for their particular obsessions as well as Green Power Rangers sprinted to the BanDai booth for a statue. Others headed to the Hallmark booth for the exclusive Star Wars holiday ornaments. Others actually headed to comic brands to pick up exclusive printings of specific titles. It is fascinating to see what each person really wants because you can only really get one and the way everyone spreads out is a fascinating exercise in consumerism and the desire to have something exclusive.
With my bag of Marvel swag under my arm I was ready to walk around a bit. One of the things which has expanded greatly at Comic-Con has been people who walk around in costume. Costume Playing or CosPlay for short. This year I saw one of the sweetest moments I have ever observed. I was walking next to a woman dressed as Elsa from Frozen. A brother and sister I would say were both under 10 screamed at the top of their lungs “Elsa!!” and ran headlong for her hugging her around her knees. The children’s mother was horrified but the young woman in the costume leaned down and fully in character talked with the kids. There were smiles everywhere.
I would spend the next two days seeing panels with one of my favorite authors, Kim Harrison. One of my favorite TV shows Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. One of my favorite comics The Walking Dead. One of my favorite personalities in all of media Kevin Smith. I was soaking it in but as I went to sleep Friday night I knew it was time for the perfume portion of the weekend to begin.
Kilian Hennessy at Bergdorf Goodman
At 8AM I showed up at Bergdorf Goodman and sat down in the café with my fellow perfume lovers to have the wondrous new releases displayed to us while sipping coffee and eating croissant. There were a lot of things new to me this year. The most impressive collection of the morning was the new Diana Vreeland perfumes. Ms. Vreeland was the person who created the editrix position at Vogue when she joined in 1962 and shepherded the magazine through the remainder of the decade before moving to the Costume Institute at the Met. She was influential and she was dynamic. I am happy to say the new collection of five fragrances capture the essence of what Ms. Vreeland was all about.
The other new perfume to me was the new B Balenciaga, It stands out for the use of an edamame accord on top which actually works well with the rest of the perfume.
Our final presenter was Kilian Hennessy who presented his Addictive State of Mind collection. Because I had already tried it I had a lot of fun watching others in the room reacting to the three perfumes for the first time. Based on my unofficial consumer research I think all three hit the mark for someone in the room. He also presented the wearable jewelry which can be scented. A couple of the necklaces were gorgeous. There really was no wrath here just well-done perfumes and accessories.
Next it was off to lunch where I heard from multiple speakers the highlight of which was Karen Dubin putting Chandler Burr through the questions James Lipton uses on “Inside the Actor’s Studio”. It was very funny when Chandler turned the tables on Karen when he had a hard time answering and asked her the question. Very fun way to see a different side of both of these people.
The clock was ticking and I had to bolt for the Javits Center so I could catch the panel for The Walking Dead TV show. The panel was completely crazy with the crowd roaring and screaming as everyone was introduced. My favorite moment was actress Melissa McBride talking about how the cast is a family and without that support she couldn’t have the courage to hit her performance week after week. It was sweet to see the love for a cast and crew in a show about a zombie apocalypse.
One last panel to see a preview of the upcoming Netflix series for Marvel’s Daredevil. I was giddy with excitement how one of my favorite comic book characters might just get done the way I want it to get done. The clips we saw have me ready to binge watch as soon as it is released in 2015.
Sunday began at Osswald downtown where Carlos Huber of Arquiste took the crowd through the entire Arquiste line of perfumes ending with the fantastic new release The Architects Club. Next stop was Sue Phillips’ The Scentarium. It is where she will guide you through the process of making your own personalized perfume using pre-blended accords. This is all done with a wonderful joie de vivre which makes the experience feel very personal.
It was my turn to be the entertainment at lunch as I introduced the speakers. The two speakers who had perfume were the new brand Kiori and the young brand Phoenix Botanicals. Both perfumers presented perfume oils which are starting to become more common and desired by the consumer. Both new perfumes were very good and I will be reviewing both shortly.
It was now time to head for my bus to take me back home but I will be dreaming of superheroes and perfume all the way home.