– Glamour and Grit –
The exciting thing about Amouage is that one never knows where Creative Director Christopher Chong is going to take the brand next. His artistic vision is like no other’s and with his creations for Amouage he brings in concepts abstract to olfaction – notions such as death and gender identity – and crafts them into fragrant forms. The results are fascinating and it would be safe to say that nobody makes perfume quite like Amouage and Christopher Chong. These are rich, complex and sometimes challenging compositions that not everyone will love, and therein lies their strength. So yes, I’m always fascinated to see where Amouage goes next.
Well that ‘next’ turns out to be a time-travelling epic to 1970s New York City, the city and time in which Christopher Chong grew up. Arriving in the Lower East Side in the mid 1970s, the sights, sounds and scents of New York have clearly had a formative impact on the Creative Director, who this year brings us Imitation, a new duo of fragrances that represent the “subcultures of an iconic era”. With Imitation Man and Imitation Woman, whose names are inspired by Andy Warhol and his imitative art, Chong takes us on an olfactory odyssey of glamour and grit, evoking “audacious freedom” through the smooth velvet of the masculine and infamous nights out at Studio 54 in the women’s. They make for quite the pair, I tell you.
I was lucky enough to be invited to New York City to join Amouage for the launch of Imitation Man and Woman, with a wonderful opportunity to explore Christopher Chong’s neighbourhood on the Lower East Side (it’s THE place to stay in NY if you’re going, trust me). I was also lucky enough to spend some time with Christopher for an interview, which I will publish tomorrow. But for now, let’s get our heads and noses around the latest olfactory coupling from Amouage – Imitation.
Top: Rose, Ylang Ylang, Orange Blossom and Jasmine
Heart: Blackcurrant Buds, Aldehydes and Liqourice
Base: Incense, Sandalwood and Patchouli
How Does it Smell?
Imitation Woman makes an impact, let’s get that straight right off the bat. The first spritz unveils a beautifully tart and neon blackcurrant note that evokes the hedonistic excess of fragrances such as Dior’s Poison. The blackcurrant is sharp and juicy, with animalic undertones (specifically that hissy, urinous facet often found in cassis), but also a lush verdancy that has a poisonous, bitter vibe. Accompanying the blackcurrant buds is a big cloud that rains with sharp drops of aldehydes. This adds a crispness, but also a silvery mist that evokes the excess of the 1970s and ’80s. It has a bit of a Serge Lutens La Myrrhe vibe, if you’re familiar with the scent, but Imitation feels much more dangerous. Imitation Woman seems to show both the beauty and darkness of the time, creating an olfactory representation of the glamour – the models, the hair, the fashion – but also adding an unsettling element that suggests that perhaps all this excess has a perilous side to it too.
Underneath the glittering lights of the opening is a strong floral section, packed with jasmine, rose, orange blossom and ylang ylang, all of which blend together to create a sensual warmth. Most of the flowers are imperceptible however, because they bloom behind a vast curtain of patchouli, a material that feels interwoven with the beads of aldehyde in the opening for extra sparkle. The patchouli here is sharp and cutting with a dryness that evokes the angular, standoffish nature of a supermodel. Incense provides a link of cold smoke that brings everything together, but for the most part Imitation Woman feels like an essay in the collision of three main chords – blackcurrant, aldehydes and patchouli.
Imitation Woman is my kind of scent – it’s big and brassy with a luminous, showy sensibility. I love the retro glamour in this one – it really does transport one to Studio 54, where the air was filled with bombastic perfume, hairspray and lord knows what else. It presents beauty and eleganza, but it also has a harshness that suggests that the attractive veneer is not all that it may seem. It’s brave to launch a gigantic aldehydic floral in 2018 but Amouage is a house unfussed by trends, preferring to tell fascinating stories through olfaction and believe me, Imitation Woman has quite some tales to tell.
Top: Cedrat, Nutmeg and Black Pepper
Heart: Turkish Rose, Orris and Violet
Base: Myrrh, Leather, Vetiver, Patchouli and Castoreum
How Does it Smell?
As is often the case with Amouage’s duos, the masculine and feminine share little in common from an olfactory perspective, so whilst Imitation Woman comes dressed in electric Bob Mackie, Imitation Man opts for more casual attire. His tastes are for softer fabrics and muted colours, making for a contrast rather than a clone. Imitation Man relies heavily on cedrat in the opening, juxtaposing the sparkling citrus fruit against a grainy black pepper for vibrancy, announcing itself with a dazzling coolness. It doesn’t quite fizz, but there is a liveliness in the opening that quickly dissipates to make room for the wave of smoothness that follows.
At its core, Imitation Man is all about powder. It boasts a beautifully plush and cooling iris note, but also a vegetal violet. Leather joins the fray to take things into a more suede-like territory but it lacks the warmth and meatiness that brings associations with real leather. Like Imitation Woman, there’s an aloof, cold nuance to the fragrance that represents unobtainable beauty – one can experience it, but there’s a distance that prevents a sense of ever really getting to know it. That said, things do eventually warm up in the base, with a dab of sweet myrrh and the roughness of patchouli, but for the most part, Imitation Man wants to be know as soft and icy, making for a scent of contradictions.
I’ll admit that I find Imitation Man less impactful than Imitation Woman but I do think it’s incredibly handsome. To my nose it’s a perfectly affable take on suede and powder, which is always welcome in a masculine fragrance. It takes the ideas so clearly seen in fragrances like Dior Homme and extends them into something more vivid and complex. There’s a drier sensibility, a darker sense of contrast, and a more pronounced element of spice than in its contemporaries. Imitation Man feels luxurious and excellently put together, it just lacks the energy and excitement found in its feminine counterpart and whilst it evokes the waves of softness found in big, theatrical drapes, Imitation Man lacks the buzz and excitement of the big apple.
Swing by tomorrow for an exclusive interview with Amouage Creative Director, Christopher Chong!
Imitation Man and Woman are available in 50ml and 100ml Eau de Parfum.
Samples, notes and quotes via Amouage. Images are my own. Amouage invited me to the NYC launch of Imitation, for which they covered the cost of my flights, hotel and breakfasts. During my stay I provided coverage of the trip, including the launch, on my social media accounts. The thoughts contained within this review are my own and are not swayed by the benefits received on my trip. Amouage did not have any input in to the content of this review.