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”  and “the manifesto of femininity” . Is it really as daring as it seems?
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  via osmoz.com.  via yslbeauty.co.uk. Video via yslparfums on YouTube.