venussansfurs 07/03/21 05:19
LOUBIWORLD by Christian Louboutin: Perfumery Disneyland or Macabre Circus?
Christian Louboutin is a symbol. And it's always interesting when signs and symbols are involved.
It's not without fear that I approached the display with the new perfume collection from the brand, because that symbol has always provoked a reaction in me that ran the gamut from mild irony to harsh sarcasm. My inner punk was engaged in a silent fistfight with my inner old regime Tory for the right to splatter some venom on that epitome of bourgeois chic that has become synonymous with overt luxury consumption and, let's be honest, a sign of one's not particularly refined taste.
Then I saw the flacons... smelled their contents... and then the punk and the Tory laughed out loud for a long time, bending in half and slapping each other on the back, like the notorious lion and unicorn (see below). The epitome of bourgeois chic turned out to be a sheer piece of fun.
Humor, lightness, and cheerful kitsch save this project from pathos, which could have easily ruined it if it were the only aesthetic vector employed. An all-too-serious attitude towards thy self is, after all, the biggest sin of the middle class in all of the latter's denominations.
In the promotional video for the collection, Mr. Louboutin collaborates with the Good Witch, brewing his own fragrant concoctions. The imagery vividly reminds us of Willy Wonka, his chocolate factory, and his tiny oompa-loompas, thus suggesting several amusing ideas:
- all of it is a fairytale, a game, a fantasy world, where pleasure and surprizes await you;
- our trade here is dreams: tell us what's yours, and we'll find a flacon with a magic potion that's right for you;
- behind any gingerbread house, there is a secret meaning or some hidden agenda: come on in, children - the wood-burning oven is red hot! (Once upon a time, there lived Baba Yaga, who was the kindest of the kind and a legendary beauty, too!)
It is clear to anyone who used to read a lot of fairy tales in their childhood (and, better yet, in adulthood!) that the more enticing, the more candy-like the picture, the more dangerous forces are behind it. This highly implied feeling of "there must be something wrong here!" transforms the seven ruby bottles from Louboutin into a slightly macabre traveling circus. Make them bigger in size, and you get seven attraction booths, which can hide anything from bearded women to magicians who saw up the audience into pieces and then put them back together.
Let's stroll through this funfair and find out what's the catch along the way!
* * *
First and foremost, the flacons for the series are truly awesome. Lacquered in carmine red on the inside, the bottles are shaped as faceted gems, featuring intricate sculptural faux sterling silver caps and containing a deviant amount of perfume (90 ml.) These are veritable toys for the now grown and seriously upwardly mobile children. Each of them promises a certain concoction (a very fitting word that simultaneously means brew, mixture, fiction, and make-believe) that will not just make you bigger or smaller as it did in Alice's case but will almost literally open the door to a magical garden, where secret desires grow.
Seven is the number of Venus, with self-indulgence and indolence being her vices. Red is the color of seduction; even McDonald's knows that.
What if these fun fetishes are hinting at seven deadly sins?
Let's test our hypothesis.
Is that gluttony?
The cap looks like a pineapple. Perfumer: Nicolas Beaulieu.
In the flacon, you will actually find no pineapple at all, no, but a trendy, sweet, bubbly rose in a glass of Kir Royale mixed from one part blackcurrant Crème de Cassis and three parts of brut champagne. Extremely invigorating, as Jeeves said to Wooster the morning they met.
Very cheerful, life-affirming, and awakening a thirst for adventure, most closely associated with the joys of the flesh. Moreover, this is not some banal physical hedonism, but something along the lines of "I've got to escape to Paris right away to have a glass, and not just anywhere, but certainly at La Maison Rose on Montmartre." If the owners are not there, it does not matter - I'll settle for the outdoor seating area: the evening promises to be warm.
The composition, like all the others in this collection, is masterfully executed: only a couple of perfectly pure colors painted on in an impeccably smooth way and beautifully framed to boot.
The best thing about Loubifunk is that it is a chypre. A modern, reduced to "fruit on top, patchouli on the bottom" version, yes, yet, nevertheless, a chypre. That structure suits roses in general - they immediately become more mature, heftier, and more regal — while the overall 'champagne' mood does not let them sink to crusty old school mode.
Is that envy?
The cap looks like a globe that is trampled by the brand's signature red sole stiletto. Perfumer: Marie Salamagne.
Christian Louboutin invented his famous red sole in 1993. He always wanted to make Couture - high status, luxurious eveningwear - and therefore, he put women on 5-inch stiletto heels and up. However, the three-dimensional incarnations of his sketches lacked... energy. Then, according to the company's legend, the couturier grabbed a bottle of red nail polish from his assistant, painted the sole of his shoe with it, and that was it! Since then, black stilettos with his signature red soles have become the ultimate fashion fetish.
This fragrance is about a boozy but at the same time very palatial vanilla, worthy of Madame du Barry. Sweet resins surround it, and against their background, it seems bitter and austere. From the flacon, it smells strongly of cardamom, but on the skin, it turns into incense; smoky, but not pure and heavy enough for church - this one was rather used to fumigate the boudoir in Baroque fashion.
It is spicy, dark, and formal - the best court portrait of vanilla that I have encountered in the past year.
Is that wrath?
The cap looks like an Egyptian obelisk with a crocodile wrapped around it. Perfumer: Daphne Bugey.
This is a nice, salty, slightly swampy sandalwood—a wonderful balance of sweetish and salty tastes. It is very corporeal, soothing, suede-like, indistinguishable in color from human skin; on it, like a golden light reflex, lies a barely discernible, very rarefied warm myrrh. The further into the sandalwood, the more it becomes similar to cypress with its more pronounced tone of coniferous resins; the same sweet-sour-salty smell is obtained if you pick a small cypress twig and rub it between your fingers.
If that's wrath, then it must be very dispassionate, as if you were devoured whole by a stone statue of Sobek - one big bite, and you are gone! All that remains is the serene sun and the sand-colored cat languorous from the heat - a cat that was not in the least saddened by the whole incident.
Is that pride?
The cap looks like an imperial crown. Perfumer: Christophe Raynaud.
At first glance, it is very similar to the Crocodile one: sandalwood again has the solo. However, here it has brighter resinous and even fruity overtones, and literally a minute later this whole palette is erased by a powerful leather note; tarry, dark and even annoyingly rough ... only to, after such a spectacular grand jeté, quickly dance away into the background, again releasing the rest of the ensemble into the forefront.
I would say the interesting part of the fragrance doesn't last long enough, and the one that sounds almost throughout the entire run, i.e., sandalwood + leather + incense, is noble but boring. Above and around it, patchouli grows gradually but lavishly. This is good; it makes the smell more comfortable and loose, like old velvet. It has a kind of old-school chic... but it seems that the fragrance is sleeping, not living - and it does not see anything particularly interesting in its dream.
This is suitable for gentlemen who do not want to smell of anything too original.
Is that Lust?
The cap is shaped as a pouty skull in a tiara of roses, complete with heart-shaped eye sockets and other natural holes. Perfumer: Christophe Raynaud.
This is a white floral hit, no miss. Ylang-ylang is in a loving embrace with tuberose under a jasmine veil and reclining on cashmeran pillows. The round, glossy razors of its white petals are tinged with green apple, with a sweet, cool-matinal spirit yet with a hot, even slightly feverish undertone - looks like Spanish Fly was used by our cavorting lovers... or at least a dash of various peppers. The creamy, cosmetic, nearly edible tones of the white flowers are incredibly comfortable. It's not a dessert, but it's very yummy.
This is banal and beautiful at the same time. Gradually, the fragrance becomes fresher and greener, as if the lyrical hero suddenly comes to the edge of a pool shaded by tree branches and gets a whiff of fresh water.
Is that avarice?
The cap looks like a lion's bust, wearing pearls and a turban on its head. Perfumer: Daphne Bugey.
The king of all animals is the dream of languid lionesses. I smell raspberry-colored suede in golden saffron powder, scented with rose oil. The spices are pungent but enchanting, adding aggressiveness to the profile. Dry, rough, courageous. Ambery, but not heavy, not overpowering. The rose is extremely iridescent in the red part of the spectrum - from pink to rusty-purple - although the main tone is perceived by me as orange-red with crimson reflexes. The lion is lying on its back, its paws raised, purring in a deep, drunken manner, as if it had licked some valerian root.
The further you go, the more this composition plunges into sweet-herbal undertone territory, evoking not a pharmacy, but ... a gourmet restaurant, where people go to satisfy their imagination, not their hunger. This part of the smell is so attractive that you really want to taste it.
Perhaps the most original scent of the entire collection and definitely my personal favorite.
Is that sloth?
The cap is shaped liked a Maneki cat, armed with a lipstick and a couple of bottles. Perfumer: Daphne Bugey.
Another rose, girly and flirty, with strawberries, raspberries, and red currant jelly. It seems that the smell was made for a child; it is so round, good-natured, and armor-piercingly optimistic - a veritable happiness pill. It's the first day of vacation, and you can forget all about school, as if there never was any, nor will there ever be.
The rose first turns her right cheek to us - nice, smiling and killer sweet, then her left one - more sour and cocky, but this is still no hooliganism, merely some adorable whims - she pouts her lips and shoots us a look, without ever getting out of her cozy, slightly woody nest. Let them serve everything right here!
This is the infantile, porcelain doll beauty of Marylin Monroe. Why go for drama when there is romantic comedy?
* * *
Alas, the investigation has found no catch in LOUBIWORLD. Not a single witch was hiding in the gingerbread house or suffered at the hands of children, while the potential macabre circus turned out to be a charity fair, where ladies from the community sell lipstick and painted fans. No vice, no temptation... and all the sins -well, as usual, they are committed behind the closed doors of the mansions on Rue de Rivoli.
But is that so bad?
The brand has managed to release an extremely confident commercial collection featuring beautiful, vivid fragrances ... which could easily have been lost in the almost daily flood of new arrivals were it not for the iconic name and the flashy, funny, memorable trinket flacons. The assortment is diverse enough for any buyer to find at least one favorite, despite the fact that Loubiworld is not marked by some ultra-special artistic ingenuity.
It is harmoniously assembled, it's a win-win, it is likable - what more could one want?
Alex (Sane-Witch) Osipov Columnist
Osipov was born in Moscow in 1975. With a degree in history, Alex now translates fiction and philosophy books and teaches the history of European culture. He is also an actor at two Moscow theatres assuming the role of Artistic Director at one of them. Alex started writing about perfumery in 2005. After his first visit to the British shores, he tries to spend all his spare time there. Confirmed Edwardian.
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