Wednesday, November 4, 2009

L'Eau D'Issey pour Homme, or, the Problem with Popularity.

L'Eau D'Issey pour Homme was the last bottle of perfume I bought before I started becoming interested in perfume. This gives hint as to what it really is: the perfume for men who don't think to much about perfume. It is fresh, zesty, and with its strange combination of yuzu and sandalwood, quite unique.

My reason's for buying a bottle though had nothing to do with the smell. In fact, even when purchasing it I still hadn't warmed to the smell - it was too fresh and too zesty, like it was beckoning on insecurely for humid afternoon. My reasons for buying a bottle then, were very very stupid: it was because of the brand. At the time I was really into the work of a designer by the name of Tokujin Yoshioka. I loved his amazing chairs which communicated a real playful elegance and wit, but at the same time maintained a kind odd humility: it was as if the chairs themselves didn't know their own genius (this was, I should note, before I found and sat on one, and found it to possess a terrible texture and a generally over-bearing presence in real life). But Yoshioka was the young fledgling designer working under Miyake's wing, and I got into Miyake's curatorial design work for that. His watches collection in particular is very fun (though bounces between the stupid and the beautiful, depending on the watch). Feeling I trusted Miyake's judgment, I gambled on the bet that I would eventually warm to his perfume.

I did for a while. I really liked the fact that it didn't smell like I had imagined male fragrances to smell, but at the same time still smelt masculine. There was a real Japanese masculinity to it, a type of iki-masculinity - kind of dandy-ish but androgynous rather than feminine. The handsome young Japanese men you see on variety shows, extroverted and elfin and adored by women. And this last point is important.

Wear Issey Miyake and you will probably hear in female whispers around you "Someone's wearing Issey...". They then may ask you if it's you. You say "Yes.". They say:
"I love Issey Miyake, I had an ex who wore it..."
Or maybe it's their current partner. Mention the fact that you wear L'Eau D'Issey pour Homme and, far more so than any other fragrance, women will gush over both how much they adore it, and how they probably have had someone in their life who also wears it (without excaggerating, if the 5 women I've conversed with about Issey Miyake, all have had more or less this reply). Which tells you two things:
1. Women love Issey Miyake.
2. Probably because of this, men over-wear Issey Miyake.

I had no idea of Issey Miyake's reputation for either of these points when I bought it - had I known I probably wouldn't have laid down the cash. But it proved a very interesting investment as the experience of wearing the fragrance taught me something very important about fragrance: It does not pay to be popular.

This is why: Issey Miyake will never be You. Or they will be You, but not only You. If you were to walk down the street wearing Issey and passed someone who got a whiff - they would smell it, and more so than any other perfume, think of someone else - not You. Smell and memory tends to work on a first come, first served basis - the first person who wore lots of Issey will then claim the smell, and you may in fact become this person for one or two people - but for the vast majority you won't be: you will be their ex who once called them fat then locked himself in the bathroom for 2 hours for reasons they're still unaware of, you will be their brother that once sat on their bed crying after his lies about sleeping with Laura Bradley caught up with him in the most painful way, you will be their boyfriend that loves going into work everyday solely for the reason that he can stand and stare at the bikini-girl posters from Zoo magazine plastered on the storeroom wall. But you won't be You.

In fact it is so over-used it becomes a kind of fog. I smelt it on three men tonight just walking through the store. Eventually that Yuzu-Sandalwood combination becomes this general feeling of man: the zesty smell really blends badly with BO as well, so it generates a kind of lazy, "Was working, came home and stunk, sprayed something on over it to hide it", Lynx-effect male mentality. It becomes a man, undoubtedly, but a nameless, faceless man, existing somewhere in the general area of society. And maybe this works for you - maybe all you want in a fragrance is something that lets people know you are a man - any man. But you should want more, because without this fog, a good fragrance communicates so much more. Absinthe by Nasomatto, for example, communicates an earthy yet temperamental genius - a faulty person for sure, but someone whose pure world view is so profound you couldn't really doubt them. Antico Caruso by Profumum is a tremendously succesful man who has never forgotten his roots - he still has Sunday dinner with his family each week, and doesn't show off his wealth, as he is completely comfortable with his position in life. L'homme Sage by Divine speaks of such tremendous sensitivity, such awareness of the senses, that there is no way they can be anything less than a divine lover.

In the face of so many other fragrances, why settle for something that just says "man"? A nameless group, sweaty shirts and gelled hair, annoying you because they took their drinks onto the dance floor. You deserve better.

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