A few years back, Frederic Malle announced a capsule collection of fragrances that would sit just outside his main line, taking inspiration from a different source: those people that M. Malle admires deeply. Unlike most capsule collections, ‘par Frederic Malle’ launched only with one scent and it has taken a good few years for another fragrance to follow in the series. It seems that Frederic Malle’s painstakingly focused approach applies not only to his scents but to those he chooses to collaborate with. His first collaboration was with the Belgian designer, Dries Van Noten, a man known for his cerebral couture, and now Malle follows Dries with yet another designer, one who is on the other end of the fashion spectrum – this time Frederic Malle has collaborated with the incomparable designer Alber Elbaz (formerly of Lanvin).
It was admiration that led Frederic Malle to Alber Elbaz and through Malle’s wife’s love of his clothes these two wonderful minds were brought together. The collaboration is one of mutual respect and feels very organically grown yet and it pairs three creatives with who respect, above all, quality, artistry and beauty. Those creative men are Frederic Malle, Alber Elbaz and Dominique Ropion and the result of their trio of awesomeness is Superstitious (yes, I also think of the Stevie Wonder song whenever I hear the name, don’t worry) – a fragrance that feels entirely new yet wholeheartedly classic at the same time.
The scent itself started its life as a work in progress – a grand aldehydic floral with a “classic architecture” worked on by Malle and Ropion for more than a year. Alber Elbaz was introduced to the fragrance (after Malle reportedly had to convince Ropion to “give up his fragrance”), fell in love and then worked with the perfumer to bring it to completion. The rest, as they say, is history. The parallels between couture and fragrance are drawn quite strongly with Superstitious and Malle says that the scent was created in the manner that old fragrances were, with the perfumer working in isolation before presenting it to the client, who then requests it to be tailored to their needs, just like a piece of couture. The result? The most special of collaborations.
Turkish Rose Oil
How Does it Smell?
To be honest, when I saw the words ‘aldehydic floral’ in the press release I was sold on Superstitious, even before I’d sniffed it. On first sniff it’s easy to see the classic inspiration in the scent, but the aldehydic impression is less Chanel Nº5 and more of an Arpége-esque sheen. In tandem with this, Superstitious crackles further with the peppery notes of rose and spices, making for a vibrant, fizzy and downright intriguing opening that doesn’t even hint at the full-blown orgy of floral goodness that is shortly unleashed. Buckle up because it’s quite the ride…
At the heart of Superstitious there is a stonkingly huge jasmine note and boy, is it indolic. There’s a really carnal aspect to this jasmine that smells leathery and like hot skin. It also presents a nuance of melting plastic as it develops. What’s really fascinating though is how there is a clash between the filthy and the pristine, with the indolic feel of the jasmine (the dirty) tussling with the sparklingly sterile nature of the aldehydes (the clean) to create a stark contrast that is ever moving but always dark and dirty. It’s enough to make you hot under the collar. Who am I kidding, this scent doesn’t bother with collars, nor clothes. Well maybe there’s a specific kind of collar it might wear…
The vetiver really comes through in the base and it’s quite a lovely surprise. The earthy, almost sour quality of the vetiver blends in with the indolic facets of the jasmine whilst the softness of sandalwood breezes into to glide the fragrance into a plush finish. The whole thing feels dark and dreamy. Whist it may be softer in the base, Superstitious never gives up its naked wrestle between Mr Clean and Mr Filth and there’s a definite human warmth to things in the base – a breathy hotness that serves as an echo of the indolic aria that dominates so much of Superstitious’ composition. It is, from top to bottom (pun intended) a fascinating experience.
Some perfumes sell sex and don’t deliver it whilst others promise nothing carnal, but serve up sex in a spritz. Superstitious is most definitely the latter – a sexual surprise. It’s sexy, I’m just going to put it out there and whilst it may appear as a composed aldehydic floral (and a rather grand one at that) it’s really a filthy beast underneath. Superstitious wears a Lanvin tuxedo but underneath he also sports pierced nipples and a leather jock. I feel like it’s just the thing Malle needed in his collection – a truly symphonic floral with a classic feel and it’s easily the most glamorous scent in the lineup, regardless of whether you’re a guy or a gal. Also: that bottle! Isn’t it to die for with that golden Alber Elbaz-penned eye? So yes, Superstitious is a hit and if you were hoping that it was horrible so you didn’t have to go out and buy yourself a bottle, I’m sorry, it’s magnificent.
Superstitious Alber Elbaz par Frederic Malle is available in 50ml (£158) and 100ml (£230) Eau de Parfum.
Sample, notes and quotes via Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle. Images are my own.