Criticise Paco Rabanne all you want, but you can never say that they don’t have a knack for tapping into the zeitgeist. Their fragrance launches are a perfect example of how marketing drives the success of a modern perfume, with irresistible packaging and expensive advertising campaigns drawing the consumer in. Take 1 Million for instance – a perfectly decent woody amber fragrance that most likely wouldn’t have had the phenomenal success it has if it weren’t packaged inside a faux piece of gold bullion and marketed with a club-culture inspired ad that tapped into the image and money-obsessed nature of modern youth. They are anything, if not clever.
Their latest launch for women, ‘Olympēa‘, which arrives as the feminine counterpart to 2013’s Invictus, comes with all of the trappings of a typical Paco Rabanne launch right from the show-stopping bottle shaped like a laurel crown to the high-budget visuals, but the scent itself appears to have a bit more depth than one would usually expect. Created by perfumers Anne Flipo, Dominique Ropion and Loc Dong, Olympēa is described as the “fragrance of a modern day goddess” and a “statuesque idol of conquest and victory”. That is quite the description, I must say, and in truth, the fragrance is more intimate and cuddly than the concept would lead one to expect, but that’s not to say that Olympēa is without interest, in fact, it’s really quite intriguing.
“The fragrance of a modern day goddess, Paco Rabanne Olympea Eau de Parfum makes a statement of strength, power and seduction. Between myth and reality is where you’ll find Olympēa, a statuesque idol of conquest and victory. Her fragrance is just as commanding as she is, featuring a legend-inspiring salted vanilla accord that elevates her above the clouds.”
– Paco Rabanne
Top: Green Mandarin, Ginger Lily and Hydroponic Jasmine
Heart: Salted Vanilla
Base: Sandalwood and Ambergris
How Does it Smell?
Olympēa opens cool and juicy. Up top there is a lot of fresh, photorealistic fruit and underripe green flowers with thick and creamy white blooms. Most notably though, Olympēa boasts a savoury undercurrent of sea salt and hazelnut. This salty, nutty quality is surprisingly cool and off-kilter, providing a stark contrast to the warm florals and velvety notes of vanilla and sandalwood that surround it. The whole thing is instantly reminiscent of Thierry Mugler’s Womanity however, Olympēa’s approach is definitely more subtle, coming across as a lot more palatable and less unusual, and certainly less likely to scare the horses.
If I may take a slight, fragrant sidebar for a moment to talk about Womanity. It is interesting to see that, much like Mugler’s flagship icon, Angel, 2011’s ode to fig-shortbread-scoffing mermaids of the deep is already becoming somewhat of a trendsetter. In the few short years since its launch we have started to see this odd pairing of milky fruit and salty, marine biscuits filtering into the mainstream of perfumery. Calvin Klein’s Reveal (Jean-March Chaillan & Bruno Jovanovic; 2014) put this accord to good use in a warm, woody setting and Jo Malone’s Wood Sage & Sea Salt (Christine Nagel; 2014) crafted it into something wistful and nostalgic by enveloping it in caramel. Now we have Olympēa, which adds hazelnut (the brand is curiously using the term ‘filbertone floral’ for this very reason) and patchouli to the mix. Whilst none of these three fragrances are as odd and challenging as the Mugler, it just goes to show how the brand still has the ability to inspire and set trends, even at this late stage in the game. Anyway, back to Olympēa…
The interesting qualities of our statuesque goddess don’t manage to hold strong all the way through until the dry down, which is a creamy, and cosy blend of sandalwood, vanilla and patchouli, with just a mere hint of salty sea spray. At this point, one is led to remember that this is a mainstream fragrance, albeit a well-executed one, and the novelty cannot last forever. That said, the base doesn’t feel like a cop out and it has enough depth and warmth to satisfy, it’s just a little bit of a shame that it feels somewhat ordinary in comparison to the intrigue of the first half.
Olympēa is easily the best thing Paco Rabanne has done in a while. Of course 1 Million and Lady Million are perfectly decent, and there is a reason for their success, but that’s not necessarily down to the quality or artistry of the juice. Olympēa has substance as well and style, and it manages to beautifully balance the warm fruit and florals with the cool nutty and salty facets. The result is a warm and creamy floral with complex saline nuances, giving an impressive ‘Womanity at Sunset’ vibe (or ‘Womanity at the Hairdressers’ due to its blend of saltiness and shampoo-esque flowers). Colour me impressed, and whilst I may not be trotting out to the shops to buy a bottle (I’m content with my Womanity) I certainly won’t mind smelling this ubiquitously in the wild.
Olympēa is available in 30ml (£40), 50ml (£54) and 80ml (£70) Eau de Parfum.
Sample, notes, quotes and image 2 via Escentual. Image 1 via theperfumeshop.com.