This post is inspired by Chanel’s Misia, a fragrance named after Misia Sert, the godmother of the Ballets Russes and Coco Chanel’s greatest friend. Smelling Misia properly for the first time over the weekend I was struck by how cosmetic it was, in the sense that it was strikingly evocative of blushes, powders and lipsticks, giving the impression of a gigantic cast of impeccably made-up performers about to burst onto the stage. My mind wondered, as it does, and I got to thinking about other fragrances in the Lipstick League. So here we are with ‘Spritz Me, Kiss Me! – a roundup of five lipstick-esque fragrances.
Lipsticks and fragrances go together like bacon and eggs, it’s true. Every perfume lover will tell you their story of how the smell of their mother’s goodnight kiss was peppered by the lipstick, blush and perfume that she wore, forming a core scented memory that would last far into adulthood. Cosmetics and their distinct smells – odours of violet power, rose blush and waxy lipsticks – have permeated the world of perfume and perfumers have attempted to capture these smells in liquid form so that those precious memories of childhood can be replayed with each and every spritz. Here is my top five.
You could put Misia in a lineup of twenty other fragrances, sniff it blind and know that it is a Chanel fragrance. It’s almost so Chanel that it hurts. Misia is perfumer Olivier Polge’s first fragrance for Chanel and it takes inspiration from Misia Sert, the lifelong friend of Coco Chanel and famous patron of the arts. The fragrance is a performance piece of iris, rose, violet and leather that contrasts. On the one hand it is as red as they come (a shade of Chanel Rouge, FYI), flying out of the bottle in a mist that can only be seen as the boldest shade of ruby red, whilst on the other hand it is soft and delicate, hinting at powder-covered bodies waiting in the wings. The sense of performance is palpable with Misia. It speaks of moments of anticipation, those moments where the orchestra is tuning up and the dancers are putting on their faces. All one has to do is breath it in and wait for the word ‘action’.
Ralf Schwieger’s Lipstick Rose for Frederic Malle is the quintessential lipstick-inspired fragrance and as its name would suggest, it’s the most realistic. Lipstick Rose has lots of rose (standard) and violet (also standard) but where it sets itself apart from other cosmetic scents is the fact that it perfectly captures the waxy texture of lipstick. Remarkably, this take on lipsticks also has a strong undercurrent of spice (something immortelle-like for sure) and musks, not only hinting at the rouge coloured lips, but also the warm breath emanating from between them as a kiss is planted. Lipstick Rose is a burgundy delight that never fails to produce an olfactory photograph of old school lipsticks.
Guerlain can always be relied upon to do something wonderfully trashy. Now, please don’t get me wrong here because I mean trashy in the best sense of the word. Trashy is a good thing around these here parts and nobody captures the ‘t’ word better than Guerlain. French Kiss is cherry pink lipgloss and it’s amazing. It opens with fluorescent red berries before smoothly transitioning to a glossy floral accord that smells like rose-scented violet-coloured jelly. The base is as Guerlain-esque as they come, with wispy musks, heliotrope and iris creating a velvety air of cosmetic beauty. If this is how they kiss in France, then I say pucker up!
Out of the four perfumes in the Papillon Artisan Perfumes collection, Angélique is most definitely the grower. It’s also the most unique (all four are fantastic though). Angélique presents the familiarly powdery and grey tones of orris in a warmer and more fruitier setting. It’s milky, with a chewy apricot feel to it and to my nose, it’s representative of those more contemporary cosmetic colours that populate the market: the nudes. Angelique isn’t a bright red lip or a harshly contoured cheek, instead it’s a peach coloured blush with undertones of earth and skin. I’m glad that Angélique calls to me now because it’s so naturally beautiful and soft that it’s impossible not to fall in love with it. Anyway, what can be better than going nude?
Finally we have Putain des Palaces, and my friends, this one is pure filth. It is electric violet lipstick applied amidst a mushroom cloud of rouge and next to a pile of unclean underwear. It’s a perfume that speaks not only of the ritual of preparing for a night out, but also the acts of debauchery that such preparation inevitably leads to. Etat Libre d’Orange’s Hotel Slut is a classic blend of rose and violet, all sweet and sexy, that is vamped up by animalic leather and a savoury rice powder, which replaces iris to create quite the modern mix. If I were to wear lipstick, Putain des Palaces would be my shade of purple. That may say more about me than you care to know, but hey, sharing is caring.
Images are my own. Sample of Misia via Chanel. Other samples sourced myself