Comme des Garçons are real innovators when it comes to the olfactory arts. They’ve created some of the most unique and daring mainstream fragrances on the market and within their more niche lines have explored single notes of themes with the painstaking focus of a curator. They are a brand that does not lend itself to trends or marketing influence, they simply make beautiful and intriguing things. Much in the same that Rei Kawakubo plays with the form in her fashion, Comme des Garçons aims to subvert structure in their olfactory output too, always with fascinating results.
For their latest launch, Comme des Garçons are exploring “destruction, construction and creation” by taking inspiration from one of the most ubiquitous materials on earth: concrete. Named after the material, Concrete the fragrance aims to bring new contrasts to the idea of a material that is known for its solid composition, demolishing all preconceptions. So if you’re expecting something rocky, hard and brutalist in this fragrance, you may want to think again…
Before we get on to the scent itself it’s impossible not to pay homage to the awesomeness of the bottle, which is actually coated in concrete. That’s right, actual concrete! This gives a satisfying heft to the signature pebble design but also a really surprising softness that is tactile and pleasant. I love it and what’s more, it comes covered in bubblewrap to protect it, hinting at the fact that there may just be a hidden fragility to this usually hard and robust material. Genius.
Sandalwood, Rose Oxide & CDG Spice Signature
How Does it Smell?
Concrete is immediately recognisable as a sandalwood fragrance. It opens rather boldly with nutty, cream sandalwood accented by a flash of black pepper, almost as a nod to the brand’s previous launch (the remarkable Blackpepper). There is a dryness to the top notes that doesn’t carry through into the heart and base, whilst a touch of nutty sweetness purveys throughout the entirety of the fragrance. I get just a tiny hint of something mineral-esque in the opening, but the idea of this scent is not to create an olfactory interpretation of concrete, instead it showcases the contrasts in texture found within the material’s composition – a crackle of dirt (pepper) against soft sand (sandalwood).
The glue that holds the spice and the sandalwood together is rose, or more specifically an artificial rose oxide. This material tends to sit on the fresh green geranium side of rose, which does sort of appear in a flash during the opening, but in reality the rose aspect of Concrete is much warmer. To my nose, Concrete’s heart of rose oxide has a strong spicy facet, channeling the clove nature of eugenol, playing into the hands of the other materials with an auburn warmth that feels almost cuddly.
In the base, Concrete feels furthest from its namesake. There is no solid feeling or texture that is rubble-like, rocky and hard. Instead the base celebrates the softest and most supple aspects of sandalwood, presenting dry woods cushioned by a texture that is sponge-like and creamy. It almost feels as if one could rub it between the fingers and turn it to a fine pulp. The lactonic and nutty nuances really take hold in the dry down, cementing Concrete (pun fully intended) as something much more tactile than the name would suggest.
Last year I thought it would be difficult for Comme des Garçons to top the magnificent Blackpepper, but that’s exactly what they’ve done with Concrete. This urban take on sandalwood presents such a fascinating contrast between the hard and the smooth, as well as blurring the lines between its top billing materials: rose and sandalwood. Before Concrete I would have probably said that I’m not that fussed about sandalwood (rose is another matter of course) but now I feel like I need to explore the note more. Concrete achieves what it sets out to do, which is to challenge preconceptions and deconstruct ideas we may have about certain materials. It does an amazing job of this whilst smelling pretty damn cool at the same time. It’s a hit.
And now for the vlog! I’ve talked about Concrete in my latest YouTube video, which you can find below! Enjoy.
Concrete is available in 80ml Eau de Parfum for £115. Concrete will be exclusive to Selfridges until 25 September 2017.
Sample, notes and quotes via Comme des Garçons. Images are my own.