Comme des Garçons don’t do things like normal perfume brands, which isn’t surprising when one thinks that they don’t do fashion quite like anyone else either. Their fragrances are often abstract and amorphous, taking inspiration from unusual places such as ink and calligraphy. They do things differently, using notes like gunpowder and cutting-edge materials to play with the form of perfumery, much in the same way that Rei Kawakubo has done with her fashion.
The brand’s latest launch is Concrete a fragrance all about deconstruction, construction and creation. It comes housed in a glass bottle coated with a thin layer of concrete (with no two bottles the same) but it does not smell like the material from which it takes its name. The idea of Concrete is to subvert expectations and play with texture. It’s a fragrance that leads the wearer on a journey – an adventure of unpredictable structures.
Top: Cumin, Cardamom and Clove
Heart: Rose Oxyde and Jasmine Sambac
Base: Sandalwood, Cedar Wood and Musk
How Does it Smell?
Concrete opens with a crackle of spice. Initially, it has shades of last year’s Blackpepper, shimmering with a fresh, mineral-like dose of pepper that feels grey and silvery. This blends nicely with the rose oxide, which possesses a fresher, greener character of rose, which allows for Concrete to create an initial impression that is light and airy – not quite what one would expect from a perfume named after a hard, gritty material, that’s for sure.
The rosier aspects of the rose feel more prominent in the heart and they very much fall into the category of a warm oriental rose. Many rose notes can be jammy, fruity and floral, but this one plays with facets of spice. The clove-like warmth of eugenol hints at carnations whilst creating a feel that is decidedly auburn – a vibe that is intensified by the addition of cinnamon. The impression is of dry, rich soil, but still not concrete.
The most surprising aspect of Concrete is its softness. Where one expects a texture that is solid and heavy from Concrete, the fragrance delivers only smoothness. The base is a gorgeously nutty blend of sandalwood and cedarwood, with musk and jasmine as supporting acts that provide lift, and just a touch of floralcy to cut through the spice and warmth. Contrasts-a-plenty.
In the case of Concrete, nothing is as it seems. It does not smell like concrete, it’s true, but it does smell intriguing in the way that all Comme des Garçons fragrances are. This is an unusual take on sandalwood that is tactile, smooth and contrasting. It possesses both richness and transparency, presenting a creamy sandalwood with a mineral freshness, and a rosy warmth. If real concrete smelled like this then sign me up for a job in the construction industry because I need to sniff this stuff every day!