3 excellent perfumes were recently launched by L'Oréal for their cherished brand, Giorgio Armani, the fabulous "Red Carpet" designer of the movie stars in the past decade. They are all excellent creations in terms of power, tenacity and the evolution of the scent, they all possess exceptional ingredients combined with more usual materials but they also reveal some less honorable intentions behind the scenes. For the regular consumer they are stereotypical "Arabian scents", built exactly on the same pattern as the perfumes bought in Paris by rich people from the Middle East since the 90's. They are Montale in a refined, wearable version. But do not expect anything original from L'Oréal, the world center of copies and recycled ideas. Their perfumes have always been an idea "borrowed" from somewhere else skillfully packaged by their huge marketing team. Other invent and every year l'Oréal takes ideas making millions without paying a cent for royalties because fragrance is not protected and nobody would dare to sue the cosmetic giant.
But let's go back to "Oud Royal, Rose d'Arabie, Ambre Orient", a beautiful collection of stereotypes built in the 1001 nights theme, a recent concept used in the luxury universe by Kilian. The bottles, gold and black, such a classic combination, fit perfectly with the creations of Tom Ford and Kilian. "Where stops the inspiration and where starts plagiarism?" is a question of debate even in design. The scents are certainly not an exploration of the oriental universe. When you are a big money machine you do not have time to explore. You take an idea previously on the market and you sell it as something new through a huge distribution. Rose, Oud and Amber are not only a stereotypical vision of the Orient, much like some Orientalist painters who depicted harems from their imagination and never really saw the Orient, they are also stereotypical fragrances. We do not find here the concept of rose / oud / amber, but a very specific accord that has been around for more than 5 years.
Ambre Orient - is a very modern amber interpretation of the Ambre 83 theme where the note of amber and labdanum is wrapped in the sensual sweetness of balms and vanilla, softly underlined by spices (cinnamon) and woods (patchouli, sandalwood), a beautiful idea explored several years ago by Annick Goutal in Ambre Fétiche. It appears as a clear copy of Mitzah Dior, only modified with a light oud note. While smelling the perfume, which is actually beautiful and very well crafted but not original because this idea has been around precisely in this shape since many years in the niche, I was wondering about the similarity with the LVMH product. Is l'Oréal the master of "industrial espionage"? How did they have a perfume that smells like Dior on the market just several weeks after? Who is the perfumer behind Mitzah Dior and behind Ambre d'Orient by Armani because now I find impossible to accept François Demachy as the nose behind Dior. We'll find later what is the story of this beautiful plagiarism. Ambre Orient has also a very delicate fruity note, built around modern rose ketones and peach, and this shade is lightly reminiscent of Black Orchid having the same depth for the ambery notes. Rose-amber-light oud are the main facets of this perfume, underlined by a fresh spiciness dominated by cinnamon and pink pepper and each of them is a modern interpretation taking advantage of both natural ingredients and exquisite molecules. Of course, there is a huge amount of vanillin and ethyl vanillin that appear almost naked in the drydown, 24 hours after.
Rose d'Arabie is a conventional interpretation of the Oriental rose, as it has been done for many years by Montale, surrounded by sandalwood, amber, spices and touches of red fruits. But unlike Montale, this blooming and heavy Rose de Damas is perfectly mastered, very close to the "essence" of Rose Oud by Kilian. Again we could find traces of the notes previously rendered by Black Orchid as if the perfumes of Tom Ford became the olfactory reference for Giorgio Armani while their bottle design with gold was translated into the l'Oréal "design concept". But the most surprising element and extremely embarrassing in my opinion is another new creation - Portrait of a Lady by Frédéric Malle. There is less natural rose and less red fruity note, but basically the structure is there, the Armani perfume being less contrasted and smoother. Did l'Oréal girls smell the Frédéric Malle perfume created by Dominique Ropion at IFF? This wouldn't surprise me at all that a small bottle found its way on their desk perfectly guiding the creation of Giorgio Armani. In fact, l'Oréal has always been about less ethical practices in cosmetics, perfumes and most of all business. The good news is that Armani Rose d'Arabie smells excellent, though quite conventional. The bad news is that Frédéric Malle should be very careful with his launches and his whole creation process. Ideas from Malle should not be stolen so quickly by the competition nor other ideas worked at IFF for big brands should enter his line as a more elaborate / expensive version. The average consumer would not feel the difference but the whole story collapses. That's why fragrances should be protected and copies produced by the competition should not be launched almost simultaneously.
Royal Oud is the wearable interpretation of the heavy animalic leather that is the must-follow trend of this year. Everybody does, did and will do an oud perfume, a variation around the same note and the same formula, first launched by Montale many years ago in a strong, contrasted and less elaborated / crafted version. The fragrance of Giorgio Armani could be seen as a conclusion of what was done previously in a more refined and rich way. This is engineered oud note, perfectly adapted for the European market having both the power and the olfactory characteristics of this type. It is a direct descendant of Oud Wood (Tom Ford) and Pure Oud (Kilian) but it is unclear to me if the Armani perfume is more than a simple skin layering of these previous creations. The oud note is surrounded by the softness of woody-ambery notes, underlined by incense and smoky tar notes. It combines the harsh violence of the original material, the ambery smoothness of modern ambery notes and the power of synthetic sandalwood notes. A rose note, almost similar to Rose d'Arabie reveals herself under the powerful oud note. Somehow, each perfume is "contained" in the others from the line, while Rose d'Arabie and Oud Royal are the closest in the drydown as if they were built from the same pattern.
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Fragrance is the 8th Art - Octavian Coifan - Le Parfum est le 8ème Art