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I was having a conversation with a good friend the other day and the subject of our musings was that when it comes to fragrance, CHANEL is rarely bad. One can accuse them of being commercial at times, and on the very rare occasion, they can even be guilty of being bland, but bad? Never! There is an inherent quality to CHANEL fragrances – a fastidious commitment to a luxurious house signature achieved through an obsessive dedication to the very best ingredients, both natural and synthetic – that means everything they make is undeniably wearable and pleasant.

CHANEL has created a great many wonderful fragrances (I don’t need to list them – you know what they are) and the ones I adore the most are within their capsule collection ‘LES EXCLUSIFS DE CHANEL’. In this collection, CHANEL goes inwards and draws inspiration from its history, creating perfumes of house significance, with reference points in the fabrics, addresses, and muses, found deep within the CHANEL archives. In my view, LES EXCLUSIFS DE CHANEL, is the brand at its most experimental (by CHANEL standards, of course) where a subtle boldness and an effortless wearability come together in harmony.

It has been two years since CHANEL last added a fragrance to LES EXCLUSIFS (the subversive feminine twist on a fougère that was the remarkable BOY) and I for one, have been waiting very patiently. The new fragrance is 1957 and it celebrates Coco Chanel’s relationship with America – a country where the couturier made her fortune. The name of the fragrance is an amalgam of reference points. 1957 was the year that Coco Chanel was awarded the Neiman Marcus Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion. 19 is Chanel’s birthday and 57 is the address of the CHANEL boutique on New York’s East 57th Street – the largest CHANEL boutique in America. 1957 is all of these things and an olfactory ode to the country that cemented the success of CHANEL.

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The concept behind Carat, Cartier’s latest feminine launch, is really beautiful. Cartier’s perfumer Mathilde Laurent was inspired by the light of diamonds, specifically how a beam of brilliant light hits the precious stone and is refracted into a full spectrum of colour. With this inspiration she chose to create a floral rainbow – a composition of seven flowers, each of which has been chosen to represent each colour of the rainbow. Isn’t that beautiful? So beautiful, in fact, that I’m not going to say anything more about the fragrance before I jump into the review, simply because nothing could sum it up better.

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Recently when I reviewed ALIEN MAN, I moaned about how it did not smell like a ‘MUGLER’ and how I thought that was a very bad thing. Today I am reviewing Mystic Aromatic, the latest (and tenth) edition to Les Exceptions, an exclusive line of fragrances from MUGLER, and in this review I will say that it does not smell like a MUGLER and remark how I feel that is a good thing. I am a wave of contradictions, Dear Reader, I know. But do read on and you will soon understand why these contradictions are aptly applied.

Mystic Aromatic is described by MUGLER as presenting “an intense aromatic freshness contrasted by hot, bewitching notes”. As with the other fragrances in Les Exceptions, this one too seeks to subvert a familiar genre with an interesting olfactory twist, in this case taking the green aromatic family and injecting it with an unexpected ambery warmth. The result is yet another contradiction from MUGLER, where warm meets cold, fresh meets dense, masculine meets feminine, and green meets gold. Once again, MUGLER proves that it has the ability to surprise…

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MUGLER have finally launched the highly-anticipated ALIEN MAN – a masculine counterpart to their blockbuster feminine ALIEN (launched in 2005) and their first male pillar since B*MEN in 2004. As you know, I’m a massive MUGLER fan so I have wasted no time in putting together some words in my weekly Escentual column to give you all of the details. So, if you want to know what ALIEN MAN smells like then all you need to do is click here and you’ll be taken on a little bit of a space voyage through this brand new scent.

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– 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.