New Perfume Review Stella McCartney Pop- Light ‘Em Up, Up, Up

I took my quarterly filed trip to the huge mall nearby to do some observation. For the second time this year I was keenly aware of the perfumes which are being marketed to Millennials and I was curious to see if any of them were hitting the mark. Back in March it wasn’t obvious if they were or not. On this latest trip while standing in line getting my coffee there was a group of women in my target demographic talking in front of me. Most surprising they were actually talking about perfume. Part of the reason was the large Sephora in this mall is right next to the coffee place. The gist of the conversation was one of the women had found, “the perfect office perfume, it’s like I’m the only one who can smell it.” This is one of the current beliefs that the big perfume brands have when catering to this generation; they want it light. Naturally I followed them into the store to see what the identity of this perfume was. This time I kept my distance so I couldn’t hear the conversation but I definitely could see which bottle was being sampled. Turns out it was one of the same perfumes I particularly wanted to try as well, Stella McCartney Pop.

stella mccartney

Stella McCartney

Stella McCartney has created a thriving fashion and fragrance empire since she started her eponymous brand in 2001. Since 2003 she has released fragrances and Pop is the 21st release from the brand. As mass-market consumer brands go I would place her in the upper percentile of that sector. She certainly kept to a particular formula of sensual florals with presence. The one time she strayed from this formula was 2012’s L.I.L.Y. where she went for a modern chypre. It never caught on and was pretty quickly discontinued. Since then she has stayed true to her early aesthetic.


The Pop Crew (l. to r.) Lola Leon, Grimes, Amandla Sternberg, and Kenya Kinski-Jones

When I was reading about Pop the short description from the brand reads, “Pop is a spirit. It’s about celebrating that exciting time when you are coming into your own. It’s about freedom, and starting your life away from judgments or labels.” To go with this Ms. McCartney gathered four young creative Millennials to be the faces of the advertising campaign: Grimes, Lola Leon, Amandla Sternberg, and Kenya Kinski-Jones. All of this seemed to be exactly the kind of buzzwords and campaign designed to entice the target audience. It surely had worked with my test group from the coffee bar.

Louise Turner

Louise Turner

It was when I saw what the key notes were that my interest was piqued. Pop was described as a tuberose and sandalwood perfume composed by perfumer Louise Turner. Ms. Turner is one of the best perfumers in the mass-market category as she knows how to get the most out of her budget. But tuberose and sandalwood? Really? Tuberose is one of those derided “old lady” notes and sandalwood trends more masculine. Neither of these seemed like something that would appeal. Except for my little focus group. As they walked towards the cash register with two of them buying the rollerball version I approached the shelf with the tester.

When I sprayed it on a strip I got exactly what was promised, tuberose and sandalwood. Except these are not full-blooded essential oil versions, these are the cleaned-up synthetic versions. Ms. Turner has cleverly found a tuberose which has all of the “old lady” scrubbed out of it. Indoles, and intense floralcy are replaced by a well-mannered floral. The sandalwood synthetic is one that is so cleaned up it might as well be cedar. A few clean linen white musks and you have Pop.

Pop has 8-10 hour longevity and low sillage.

Pop shares a similarity to pop music as it doesn’t really want to challenge anything. It wants to be a pleasant fragrant companion which never offends. Depending on how you feel about those goals will likely color your feelings about Pop. The other thing that is most obvious about Pop is it is pitched so light that it is perfume nobody else but the wearer can smell. Which going back to my pop music analogy might be exactly what the Millennials want. Nobody knows just yet but maybe Fall Out boy has it right and when it comes to fragrance this generation wants to “Light ‘em, up, up, up” until you barely know they are there. At least with four young women Pop is a rousing success on all fronts.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.

Mark Behnke