Apr 062013

Dries Scent

Frederic Malle has recently released Dries van Noten par Frederic Malle ($185/50 ml.), the first of three in a series of “olfactory portraits of extraordinary individuals.” As the description goes, this is “a modern oriental evocative of classic perfumes which translate the distinctive sensuality of Dries van Noten’s world.”

Fashion Designer Dries Van Noten

Fashion Designer Dries van Noten

I find the mens and women’s clothing designed by Dries van Noten to be fascinating, beautifully made, and timeless. There is always a deeply human element to them, sometimes a quirk, sometimes something deeply evocative of culture, and extraordinarily well tailored. His shops are like a journey, I always feel like I’ve been to foreign land when I’m inside, and enjoying every step along the way. His research and originality in developing interesting and original fabrics is legendary. And, as his critics have pointed out, his clothes look modern but, due to some twist in the Dries-time continuum, it becomes impossible for them to look outdated. One could wear something made ten years ago, and still look completely up to date. A sketchbook of his work (click to enlarge):

Dries Van Noten Collage

When I learned that Frederic Malle was introducing the Dries van Noten fragrance, I was immediately curious. I obtained sample, and have been experimenting and gathering opinions about the scent.  The notes include sandalwood, vanilla, sacrasol, a refined patchouli, saffron and jasmine absolute.

As one might expect from a scent based on a designer of both mens and women’s clothing, the scent is appropriate for either gender. My first apray, which I shared with a friend, gave us both the same impression–this was easily one of the most complicated fragrances that we’d ever experienced. The notes were as separately defined, yet as harmonious, as Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. In that first moment, I had the experience of sensing a tapestry of individual spices, wrapped in a bit of vanilla and sandalwood. Unlike some scents which hit emotionally, Malle’s Dries van Noten strikes me as an intellectual scent, a Rubic’s cube that holds together but is unquestionably made of many individual moving parts. The sillage is robust, and the scent lasted easily all day. The dry-down was powdery and comforting, with a strong harmonious spice. After a few hours, the notes seemed to blend and blur into a pleasant, slightly sweet spiced fragrance.

Frederick Malle

Frederic Malle

Dries van Noten is a fragrance is office friendly for either gender. As an interesting and pleasing scent, the effect is strong but far from overpowering. There’s a level of sophistication in the works, clearly the work of someone who is operating at the height of his craft. This is an eminently gift-able fragrance to someone who has a library of excellent books and a very high taste level.

The sample that I have is generous enough to last me for several weeks, particularly as I’m trying out several others at the same time. For now, this is on my “maybe” list, but I haven’t placed any orders yet and there are a few others above it. Perhaps this has more to do with my mood for a more feminine, emotional scents at present, rather than a reflection of the superb craft of this fragrance.

Available at Barneys (also available in 100 ml. size)

Other reviews:

  • Bois de Jasmine is here.
  • Grain de Musc is here.
  • Now Smell This is here.



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Mar 102013

Chanel 19321

Chanel has just released another Exclusif fragrance, 1932 ($130/ 2.5 fl. oz./ $230/ 6.8 fl. oz.) The fragrance is available online at Chanel.com, Chanel boutiques which carry fragrances, and Chanel Studios within department stores. I received this small sample from Nordstrom Seattle, a designated Chanel Studio which carries the Exclusif line, when I placed my phone order for some other products.

This fragrance release commemorates Chanel’s new 1932 Fine Jewelry collection. Like Gabrielle Chanel’s original 1932 jewelry exhibition, this latest fine jewelry line is based on the beauty and purity of the diamond.

Chanel 1932 jewelry

Rather than coldness, the fragrance seeks to evoke comets, stars and ribbons–the shapes used in the original collection. According to Chanel:

1932 evokes a dazzling array of diamond stars and comets. Created petal by petal, the soft,woody fragrance expresses an enveloping heart of White Jasmine.

Chanel 1932a1

Jasmine is the strongest note that I pick up when first applied, a note that I do not typically like. In 1932, the white jasmine the note is so soft and refined that I actually do like this as it is blended. The jasmine plays with the other floral notes and woods, and lacks the unpleasantness that jasmine often has.  It’s a diamond jasmine, if you will, in the sophisticated sense of the term. I’m picking up other bright, soft notes of rose, ylang-ylang, and the slightest touch of carnation. The base is a very soft wood, perhaps with a bit of vanilla. A full list of all of the notes appears here at Basenotes.

Chanel 19325

Chanel 1932 has a floral feminine delicacy. There is something a bit formal and light about it, like dress worn in a proper French garden. It is soft as silk jersey. It does transform one back in time. Although I find the jewelry design quite modern, the fragrance does seem to derive from 1932 as appropriate for  teas, weddings, and other daytime social events of the era.

Chanel 19324

Chanel 1932 is quite gentle in its sillage and lasting power. If you shy about strong fragrances, you will love Chanel 1932. I applied several dabs and found that it was not at all strong. In truth, I had to work to find the scent after about six hours of wear. As my skin warmed during a late afternoon walk, the scent re-awakened again for a few more hours. However, those who love strong scents should note that 1932 is perhaps the most subtle fragrance that I’ve ever worn. It’s quite pleasant, it will go on my “gift list” for future occasions.

Bottom line:  This is a lovely, polished floral that will appeal to those who love a soft, feminine, traditional fragrance.

For more about Chanel’s 1932 jewelry collection, please enjoy this video:

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Mar 032013


At Cafe Makeup, we must admit to adoring deep, relaxing fragrances. Maison Francis Kurkdjian has a collection of three based on the oud note– Cashmere Mood, Silk Mood, and Velvet Mood ($375 each/ 2.4 fl. oz. extrait de parfum spray, available online).  This trio was imagined by parfumier Francis Kurkdjian “as feelings, sensations, rather like those one would have when wrapped in a fragrant stole. The play on shimmer, comfort and warmth. They are precious, intense and concentrated.” We received samples of all three:

Maison Francis Kurkdjian1a

Our samples

As you likely know, “oud” is a fragrance note that derives from the resin that is formed in the heartwood of Aquilaria and Gyrinops trees (beautifully explained here at Blogdorf Goodman). We found that each shared the soft emotion and a touch of spice. All had a lovely lasting quality, as you would expect from an extrait de parfum. They were rather strong at the first spray. After some time, they became part of the skin in a more subtle way but continued to project a sillage. I notice the scents later in the day seemed to have mellowed, they were not overpowering but continued to remind me of their deliciousness. Each has a completely different character.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud trio3

Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Silk Mood was my favorite. This is the lightest, with a very slight touch of floral and spice that is absolutely appropriate for either gender. According to Kurkdjian, it is “airy reminiscent of the soft touch of a petal,” although there are woodsy and warm notes  that ground the overall impression. According to Kurkdjian, Silk Mood’s notes are Bulgarian rose, Moroccan blue chamomile and papyrus. This is an extraordinarily complicated and mysterious fragrance for one that is so soft. I strongly dislike shrill florals, and Silk Mood had none of that. The wood and rose notes are the strongest, particularly at the first spray, although I sensed some green and spice (although not nearly as green as Serge Lutens De Profundis). I had the impression of being inside Silk Mood, the blend was very comforting and natural, yet very refined.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian3

Kurkdjian Cashmere Mood is perhaps the most classic oud of the three, although there is a softness that best fits the parfumier’s vision of a comforting wrap. Certainly a universal scent, this oud has Moroccan labdanum, Loatian benzoin and vanilla. This is beautifully harmonized and slightly addictive. Like Silk Mood, this is both very complex and very refined. There seems to be a bit of smoke, a fair amount of spice, and masculinity in this (I feel as though I’ve borrowed Cary Grant’s cashmere blazer and “forgot” to return it). I agree with Kurkdjian that this gives a “second skin” effect, there is nothing distant about this fragrance. Rather, this perfume holds you in its center and creates a world of deep, warm comfort.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian2

There cannot be any question that Velvet Mood is the strongest, and most long-lasting, of the three. This combines cinnamon, saffron, and Brazilian copahu balm. It has a resiny quality that brings out the fullest scent of the oud. Velvet Mood has a very assertive quality that gives it some muscle. This is a very full, strong, almost heavy fragrance that in intended to cast you into its spell. It cannot be just my imagination that this lasted longer than a day on me, as the Scentrist noted the same quality in its review. Although Velvet Mood can be worn by either gender (I would certainly wear it), the style is more tailored and masculine.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian4

Maison Francis Kurkdjian is carried worldwide at these retailers (including Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus in the U.S.). Please call before going to a store to ensure that stock is available as these are just now slated to release in March 2013.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud trio1a

Bottom line: Intense, incredibly unique, and well worth exploring.

Cafe Makeup was provided with these sample bottles without charge for consideration for review.

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Jan 052013

Edward Bess Eau La La

Lauren at the Edward Bess counter at Bergdorf Goodman, New York City, was kind enough to send me a small sample of the new Edward Bess fragrance, Eau La La ($125/0.25 oz.). The fragrance was inspired by Cafe Makeup’s favorite city in the world, Paris.

Screen Shot 2013-01-05 at 8.22.37 PM

Edward Bess Eau La La is infused with frankincense, fresh gardenia, and amber. The scent is complex and harmonious. I love incense notes in fragrances. What is unusual about Eau La La is that the incense is filled with light and florals. The amber grounds the scent, which keeps the impression very sophisticated. The inspiration (click to enlarge):

Edward Bess Eau La La 1

Other incense fragrances can be a bit dark, and not particularly fitting for a social event or romantic evening. Unlike those, there is something a tiny bit sweet about Eau La La that is optimistic, warm, and beautiful. The scent remained balanced throughout the day, without an overly aggressive silage. Overall, this was a beautiful first step into fragrancy by Edward Bess. This is well worth obtaining a sample, or a spritz at your nearest counter.

edward bess eau la la1

 It’s available at Bergdorf Goodman (Lauren is so helpful!), Edward Bess online, and Sephora online. The image on Sephora shows a set with a purse container, a large crystal bottle for your makeup table, and a funnel to transfer:

Edward Bess Eau La La set

Along with my little sample, Lauren sent the following description of the perfume: (click to enlarge):


Cafe Makeup reviewed Edward Bess Eau La La  from a sample sent free of charge from Bergdorfs

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Nov 172012

 I hope you accompany us as we look at the new Christian Dior beauty area at Neiman Marcus San Francisco. Liz and I went to the Union Square store last week to see the new larger, Dior-exclusive area.  Come inside with us!

The area is beautiful, fully renovated and exclusively dedicated to Christian Dior makeup and perfume. The area is a new construction, creating a calm and elegant enclave featuring Dior’s entire makeup and skincare line. The crowning jewel of the space is in-person access to Dior’s La Collection Privée series of fragrances. Aside from this Neiman Marcus location, the only other locations where this line is sold is Bergdorf Goodman in New York City, and the Dior Las Vegas Boutique.  For anyone visiting or near the beautify City by the Bay, this is a delightful place to stop and browse.

This new space reminds me very much of Dior’s studio inside the Le Bon Marché in Paris.  As this press event, Dior’s La Collection Privée was elegantly displayed in two locations throughout the studio.

Liz and I were treated to a tour of the line by Dior fragrance consultant Michael Gizinski.

At the event, hors d’oeuvres were elegantly displayed and Liz was able to have nip of champagne as we sampled the fragrances. In the background, a stylized image of La Maison Dior in Paris reminds me of the line’s heritage. As you may know, Monsieur Dior returned from the war wishing to infuse life back into Parisian fashion.  He developed The New Look, with tiny waists, large elegant skirts and adorable jackets with stylish lapels and pockets placed to emphasize a woman’s form. Together with a number of other signature looks, Christian Dior ensured that Paris dominated couture for the next decades.

La Collection Privée evokes an elegant balance of the line’s heritage. For example, the Neiman Marcus Dior space features  a display of extrait de parfum versions of its fragrances. Below, an image of one named after Dior’s 1947 New Look , which I understand are not for sale but for on-site experience only.

One of the favorites that captured Liz and I was Milly-La-Forêt, which is named for Christian Dior’s garden retreat, with a beautifully balanced combination of mandarin, neroli and white musk. The medium 4.25 ounce spray in $155, and the large 8.5 ounce spray is $230. I love that both size bottles are rather large and generous for the excellently executed fragrances.

There is so much to learn in this space, I feel as though we only touched the very top level of information. For example, the space had a sample of the rare Diorama, formulated by Monsieur Dior in his Paris studio (not for sale in the U.S., although there is some possibility that it might be ordered). This subtle and beautiful combination reminded me quite strongly of the city of Paris–complicated, floral, and oh-so-interesting.

Also is Christian Dior Jules, which has a beautiful combination of leather and wood.

Of course, the space is designed for beautiful makeovers as well, with Dior’s amazing line of foundations, eyeshadows, brushes, powders and nail polishes. Each station has a lighted mirror, seating area so that several clients can be assisted at the same time.

As the event moved to makeovers, Liz and I decided to come back for more investigation. 

In the meantime, you owe yourself a trip to Neiman Marcus San Francisco to investigate Dior’s La Collection Privée.


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