“Black, white and nude are my essential colors. Each time I start a collection, I start with these colors; they are the elemental colors we refer to from the beginning.”
– Narciso Rodriguez
Scent often presents itself to me in colours. I am not for one second claiming that I am a possessor of any form of Synesthesia, but like most people I’m sure, I often assign a shade or hue to a particular perfume or ingredient. For example, Frederic Malle’s Portrait of a Lady is the most shocking, ruby-like red, whereas 4160 Tuesdays’ Urara’s Tokyo Cafe comes out of the bottle in strands of fuchsia pink and dark green. Of course, a perfume’s packaging has an impact, leading one to think of a specific colour, and despite the way one’s mind may think they smell, it’s impossible to see a fragrance such as Mugler’s Angel as any other colour other than blue.
On some occasions the colour of a perfume’s packaging perfectly matches the shade of the smell it contains. This aesthetic and olfactory synchronicity can add to the overall experience of a fragrance, joining together the tactile and the ephemeral to make something that is ultimately more enjoyable. NARCISO, the latest fragrance from American fashion designer, Narciso Rodriguez is one such fragrance and it marries a bottle and a fragrance of white, nude and black to create an immersive olfactory experience that, even in its flesh tones, is distinctly colourful.
NARCISO, which takes its name from the designer and the Greek myth of Narcissus, was created by perfumer, Aurelien Guichard (Chinatown, Eros & Petit Fracas) and intends to celebrate “a woman’s powers of seduction with the utmost luxury”. It follows Narciso Rogriguez for Her as the brand’s second pillar fragrance for women and seeing as for Her is already considered as a modern classic, NARCISO has some big shoes to fill. NARCISO may be pale in colour, but does it pale in comparison to Rodriguez’s popular flagship fragrance? Only time will tell.
“I wanted to create an extremely sexy fragrance that would turn a man’s head.”
– Narciso Rodriguez
Vetiver, White Musk, Amber, Cedar, Gardenia and Bulgarian Rose
How Does it Smell?
NARCISO exists as a partnership between white musk and an imagined gardenia accord. Together they create a whiteout effect that can only be described as milky, thickening over time to become creamy and plush. In the initial stages, the fragrance unloads a barrage of bright light, almost akin to the sudden influx of morning light one gets from sharply drawing back the curtains. Surprisingly, there is hardly any citrus notes up top to create this shimmering effect, which seems to be achieved solely through the use of complex and multi-faceted musks.
In the heart, NARCISO sweetens to a bouquet of sugar-coated rose and gardenia blooms. The rose feels almost gourmand, whereas the gardenia feels cool and green. Both appear to be abstract and artificial, presenting themselves more as an artist’s impression of the flowers rather than a photorealistic rendition of a bouquet. The gardenia in particular, is far removed from the flower found in nature. Guichard has chosen to amplify the fleshy, green and sugary tones leaving little room for the funky facets of blue cheese and mushrooms that are the signature of the gardenia. Usually this would be a point of complaint as I, and many other white floral lovers, want their gardenias as photorealistic as possible, but in NARCISO this sterile interpretation of the flower is not only appropriate, its also quite stunning.
The base belongs to the musk that sits at NARCISO’s core. As the fragrance develops, vetiver and cedar join the party in measured doses, both adding a more angular feel to the luscious musk. Perhaps the most noticeable change as NARCISO dries down, is the shift in volume. The fragrance is relatively subtle for the majority of its development, but in the latter stages it becomes much more of a skin scent that radiates quietly from the body, leaving a soft, but pleasing stream of vanilla-like musk and crystalline amber that is as clear and unfussy as one would expect from Narciso Rodriguez.
As with all things ‘Narciso Rogriguez’, NARCISO is impeccably tailored. It has the feeling of a sparse white room, a Manhattan apartment perhaps, filled with glossy cubes of expensive furniture. Simplicity and clarity are the key themes, and as is always the case with such purity, things may seem effortless on the surface, but underneath that clear veneer there is complex work is taking place. Such simplicity takes hard work and NARCISO is a great example of a casual fragrance filled with beauty, intelligence and elegance. I’m not sure that it will be as much of a cult success as Rodriguez’s eponymous perfume (despite its solid composition, NARCISO isn’t distinct), but it most certainly is a worthy, and thematically sound addition to the brand’s fragrance wardrobe.
NARCISO is available in 30ml (£39), 50ml (£58) and 90ml (£69) Eau de Parfum. A Musc Oil (£66) and Body Lotion (£30) are also available.
Samples, notes, quotes and images via Narciso Rodriguez.