I’ve talked before about perfume brands having a ‘house style’ in the sense that they carry an olfactory theme (or themes) throughout each of their fragrances. This creates a signature that is instantly recognisable and allows one to identify a fragrance as part of the house oeuvre. For Prada, for example, the thread that creates the house style and ties each scent together is iris, but it’s not just iris, it’s iris and benzoin, and a range of subtle other ingredients that make each of these scents undeniably ‘Prada’. In the case of Narciso Rodriguez the cohesive element of the American fashion designer’s fragrant wardrobe is musk, but not just musk, musk and a wide array of flowers.
The Narciso Rodriguez style is intimate and chic. He’s a designer that embraces a muted colour pallet, creating fragrances that are elegant in an effortless way, without unnecessary bells or whistles. The collection is extensive, comprising of three pillar fragrances which have spawned a number of flankers over the years – each of them brilliant. In this piece I’m going to take you on a whistle-stop tour of the Narciso Rodriguez fragrance collection, stopping at four of the brand’s most iconic fragrances to showcase just why this collection is one of the very best available in the designer arena.
There is only one place to start when talking about the Narciso Rodriguez fragrance collection and that is with Narciso Rodriguez for her – the fragrance that birthed the designer’s fragrant output and defined an entirely new olfactive genre: the modern chypre. for her is a fragrance of tension, where rose, musk and patchouli pull each other in a different direction, creating a fragrance that is more than each of these things individually. It is the silkiest, softest and most voluptuous fragrance – a scent that makes one think of nude skin and it’s a signature that Narciso Rodriguez has extended and explored within the rest of his collection. At Narciso Rodriguez, all fragrant roads start with for her and boy what a journey do they take you on.
Musk plays as pivotal a role in Narciso Rodriguez for him as it does in its feminine counterpart however, these two fragrances could not be further apart in tone if the tried. Where for her evokes soft pink satin, for him presents the idea of wool in grey and earth tones. It’s a fragrance built on musk and violet leaf, creating a soft greyness that is as intimate as for her, and unlike many masculine fragrances, it isn’t afraid to embrace femininity. Narciso Rodriguez for him is a fragrance for the sensitive, brooding man. It’s an earthy, grainy musk with hints of green violet leaf and mushrooms, creating the impression of a male ballet dancer clad head to toe in grey jersey. The shapes he makes with his body articulate the softness of the fragrance.
NARCISO uses musk and floral notes to create a fragrance that shares a style with Narciso Rodriguez’s other fragrances, but this time the scent is captured in monochrome. It smells like a holographic gardenia displayed in the centre of a giant, white and otherwise empty space. The air is musk. The walls a lactonic lacquer, smooth and blindingly bright. NARCISO is expansive but also simplistic, creating a tension between minimalism and maximalism. It’s a fragrance that radiates from the skin – it really is an aura that surrounds you, and whilst it sets a similar tone as for her, it does so in a way that is completely devoid of colour. NARCISO is an absolute masterpiece.
Like many brands in the mainstream, Narciso Rodriguez is not averse to the odd flanker to two (or ten) but where many others cynically place a completely unrelated juice in a similar bottle, Narciso Rodriguez ensures that each flanker is an extension of the original. One great example of this is NARCISO Poudrée, a flanker that largely channels the expansive art-gallery floral musk of the original except with one difference: make-up powder. NARCISO Poudrée takes NARCISO’s blank canvas and applies Jackson Pollock streaks of makeup powder in blush tones to it. It’s soft, luxurious and abstract, with a more playful air than any of the other fragrances in the collection. NARCISO Poudrée wears close to the skin like a dusting of face powder or silk lingerie, inviting curious noses to come closer.