The perfume side of Chanel is in the midst of a generational takeover as son Olivier Polge takes over as in-house perfumer from his father Jacques Polge. The first release by the new man at the helm was last year’s Misia. It gave some indication of what direction the new Polge was taking the grand maison. One point does not make a trend we needed some more evidence. The second data point has arrived with the release of Boy in the Les Exclusifs collection.
Arthur "Boy" Capel and Coco Chanel
The name is not meant to be taken literally it refers to Coco Chanel’s lover Arthur “Boy” Capel. Boy was her muse during the years they were together. It was he who would finance her first boutiques. It is also said his fondness for blazers was what led Coco to include them in her fashion at the time. From 1909 until his death in 1919 he was one of the great loves of Coco’s life.
The perfume bearing his name is meant to be a masculine fougere according to the press materials. It also mentions it being genderless in homage to those blazers being worn by both genders. I am not a fan of using titles like genderless or unisex when writing about perfume. Even less so when directed to do it. Perfume is a simple equation you should wear what you think smells good on you. Unlike wearing a dress or lipstick perfume doesn’t immediately step out as having a gender preference. If you feel good in it you will never have anyone thinking you smell like a particular gender. Despite those misgivings M. Polge does take what are considered some masculine and feminine tropes and blends them together. I think it comes out like an interesting variation on fougere but it is also easy to see it as a perfume which contains both genders in a duality.
Boy opens on the traditional fougere citrus and lavender opening. It not only opens on it, it comes in with a lot of power as the lavender really carries a presence. I like lavender and the level was pitched just right for me. In the heart is where using a set of floral notes M. Polge tries to bring in the softer side of things. Rose, orange blossom, and heliotropin form the floral trio. There is a freshness to it as well as a soft fuzziness which mellows the lavender. If you are looking for gender wars this is where you will locate them. For me I enjoyed the floral variation on the strong fougere accord. I think if I didn’t have the press materials talking about it so much I probably wouldn’t have mentioned it. The base is back to the traditional fougere architecture. What I particularly like is M. Polge has returned coumarin to its fougere roots. The use of coumarin was what defined modern perfumery when it was used in a fougere. Matched up with vanilla, sandalwood and white musks it is a very Chanel kind of finish.
Boy has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
While I was wearing Boy I never felt like this was a new step forward for Chanel, fougeres, or genderless perfumes. My overriding feeling was one of classical forms being varied in a very brand conscious way. I think Boy could only be a Chanel perfume. It feels like somewhere in the note list there should be a secret ingredient called “Coco” because it feels so much like her style. In a time where many of the grand maisons feel like they are trying to lose that distinctiveness Boy feels like it is embracing it.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle I purchased.