YSL’s New Declaration – Yves Saint Laurent Manifesto Perfume Review

Jessica Chastain looks good in EVERYTHING, even purple paint...

Jessica Chastain looks good in EVERYTHING, even purple paint…

The stand-alone feminine fragrance is the bread and butter of the designer fragrance world. I personally find it fascinating to see what the big three houses (Chanel, Dior and YSL) will do with their next feminine pillar, as with each release one sees the change in times and tastes, and it seems that change is definitely afoot at YSL. Having recently, under the direction of Hedi Slimane, dropped the “Yves” to become simply “Saint Laurent Paris” the fashion side of the brand looks to move in a new direction and the fragrances may just follow suit.

When I think of YSL (the perfumes will still be marketed under the old name) I think of bold, fearless perfumes such as Opium, Rive Gauche, Paris and Kouros. Yes these fragrances embody the styles of their respective eras but they’ve always seemed, to me at least, to capture the spirit of Yves Saint Laurent the man and the renegade designer perfectly. Recent efforts by the brand however, have failed to live up to the legacy of the classics.

Manifesto, created by perfumes Flipo and Doc Long, is YSL’s first major feminine release since Parisienne in 2009 and whilst that wasn’t exactly a tough act to follow it feels like the pressure is on for YSL to bring out something new and daring. Well, it appears that YSL have sensed this pressure, describing Manifesto as “an attitude, a burst of laughter, a tone of voice, a presence” [1] and “the manifesto of femininity” [2]. Is it really as daring as it seems?

The Notes

Top: Green Notes and Cassis
Heart: Jasmine and Lily-of-the-Valley
Base: Atlas Cedar, Sandalwood, Vanilla and Tonka Bean

How Does it Smell?

Manifesto is bright, tart and dewy in the top notes thanks to a generous helping of blackcurrant. One gets a very full impression of the fruit, almost as if the greenery of the bush from which it has sprouted is included along with the juicy, sour berries. There is also a fuzzy, sulphurous quality to the top notes that, whilst being relatively subtle, ensures that Manifesto’s opening isn’t just your typical fruit-by-numbers.

Things turn a little bit more run-of-the-mill as the fruits settles and Manifesto unveils its heart of flowers. This floral heart is your typical impression of flowers; hinting at jasmine, lily, muguet and gardenia but never quite settling on anything specific, instead opting to be vaguely green and vaguely floral. That said there is a strong hint of marzipan that cloaks the flowers giving them a rather lovely gourmand coziness that, whilst not being totally groundbreaking, does give Manifesto a quirky little edge that one doesn’t expect.

Manifesto becomes warmer in the base with a sweet, creamy cocktail of vanilla and tonka bean. There are mere hints of greenery and hay that cut through the sweetness but for the most part it’s all about the vanilla. It’s difficult to feel enthusiastic about a warm, creamy base in a floral fragrance, this style is just so prevalent and Manifesto’s use of this base feels like a bit of a cop out. One can’t help but feel that a drier base, perhaps with rich woods (sandalwood and cedar are listed as notes but they’re AWOL as far as my nose is concerned) and incense would have made for a more interesting fragrance and would have more accurately represented the modern, daring and confident woman that Manifesto intends to evoke.

When you take the olfactory history of YSL into consideration it is no surprise that Manifesto fails to wow, but taken as a perfume in its own right then one has to admit that it isn’t bad at all. YSL may be billing it as “daring” but it’s nothing of the sort (bearing in mind that YSL have already walked the nutty floral path with Cinéma which is infinitely better), nor is it particularly outstanding. It’s hard to interpret what YSL is attempting to say with Manifesto, yes it’s a perfectly palatable warm floral that could be worn by women of any age, but on the other hand it really isn’t daring or bold enough for the brand that gave the world Opium.

I may not be entirely on board with what YSL is saying on this occasion but you betcha bottom dollar that I’m glad they’re still talking.


Manifesto is available in 30ml, 50ml and 90ml Eau de Parfum with prices ranging from £44-£85. Matching body products are also available.


Image 1 via beautyandthedirt.com. Notes and [1] via osmoz.com. [2] via yslbeauty.co.uk. Video via yslparfums on YouTube.


14 thoughts on “YSL’s New Declaration – Yves Saint Laurent Manifesto Perfume Review

  1. Nice review T’ 🙂 … And what a pity that Manifesto ain’t as exciting as YSL wish it to be. … I was silently hoping I’d like it, as I must say I’m actually quite fond of the rather fetching & elegant bottle design. (‘Purple gems’ being by far my faves )

    I’ve not yet sniffed M’ – but will make sure to do so now that you’ve made it sound not as bad as I expected. 🙂

    • Tis a shame, but it’s OK overall. I just find it odd that they call it daring, could there be anything less daring that a creamy, cosy floral?! Seriously!

      BTW the bottle looks quite tacky in person and not as nice as in the picture.

      • That is too true 🙂 … And I agree, sniffed this today, & it’s indeed = ‘meh’. Not horrid as such , but ……… (*looses-interest*)

        As for the bottle, you’re right, it is indeed much tackier ‘in-hand’ 😦 What a pity !

        (Oh, and by the way, … haven’t entirely forgotten ’bout earlier promised sample. Just thought I’d give u a little time to settle in at nu job & all. – But will come a knocking one of these days, just so u kno 😉 … (& perhaps I can even exchange the favour). 🙂

  2. “Warm floral” describes this style perfectly.

    I could of tried Manifesto last weekend but I was so traumatised by the radio-active fruit syrup of La Vie Est Belle by Lancome that I avoided it. I doesn’t sound anywhere near as bad but certainly not daring in the least and I can’t deal with marzipan.

    Thanks for the review!

  3. I am glad this isn’t a complete bomb, but I wish the reviews coming out were better. I will still give it a whirl, but I’ve adjusted my expectations (which were not high, but are now lower!).

  4. Hrmph. I knew there was a reason I was staying away from the counters at the moment. I am so disappointed by the focus-group domination of the mainstream fragrance market. I have liked Lancome make up and one or two of their perfumes – even though I can’t wear it, I respect Paris, and I love the straight up original O de Lancome (and still chortle about the idea of naming a ‘fume ‘Oui’ just for its snarkability- “oh how lovely darling, you smell of Oui!”) Now Lavvy Est Bell? Lavvyest Belle? Something to do with the lav anyway. (US chums – short for lavatory and a very coarse way of saying ‘toilet’.) Or Chav? Chavviest Belle?

    And I have always thought of YSL as ‘my’ perfumer, because it was the only mainstream high-end that sold perfumes that didn’t smell of flowers. I struggled to find perfumes I could wear for years – I am not a floral girl, but I love to smell alluring and I didn’t want to smell of the Body Shop’s Dewberry when on a date. And then I found YSL. Starting with Rive Gauche, which I wore in my late teens and early twenties (and which still makes men of a certain generation go weak at the knees), then Opium, which is still one of my Top Ten and which I stocked up on when I heard about the disastrous reformulation; then Nu, the blissful incense that I still think is one of the most beautifully balanced you can find. Not forgetting the amazing Kouros, the scent of young men when I was a young woman – for me, it’s sex in a bottle, complete with snuggly dry down. *sigh*

    So I am deeply disappointed to hear that this is another blah piece of marketing-led uninspired mundanity. I know YSL is not what it was when Yves was alive, but still… how quickly have they stripped out all the wealth and beauty from his legacy? Excuse me, I think I need to go have a glass of wine and mourn the death of a once-great brand.

    • Ha! Lavvy Est Bell! That’s classic, and I’m not surprised that it was you who noticed it LOL.

      I totally get where your coming from here. YSL are such a bold brand, from Opium to Nu and Rive Gauche to Kouros, they just don’t do things like anyone else and that’s why Manifesto is so, well “blah”. It could have been from anybody.

      Enjoy your wine…

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