Kenzo Power by Kenzo, which rhymes with Kenzo Flower no doubt for harmonizing branding purposes, is destined to be the masculine counterpart to their best-seller feminine scent created by Alberto Morillas in 2000. Like its predecessor, the upcoming Power to be launched in August 2008, takes as source of inspiration the imagined scent of a flower.
In the case of Kenzo Flower what served as support for poetic license was a scentless red poppy dear to the heart of designer Kenzo; in the case of Kenzo Power the fictionalized floral reference dissolves further into the vagueness of a non-entity just described as an "imaginary flower".
Olivier Polge is the perfumer behind Kenzo Power. He is also the creator of Dior Homme, Guerlain Cuir Beluga, Dior Pure Poison, Victor & Rolf Flowerbomb, among others.
Masculines Are Hot
The new Kenzo Power, beyond the in-house reference, appears to be part of new trendy generation of floral compositions for men that were recently reintroduced with some fanfare by Jean Paul Gaultier with Fleur du Mâle (Flower of the Male), a masculine scent centering on orange blossom created by Francis Kurkdjian. If floral notes never really took the exit door of men's fragrances following the prim flowery 19th century filled with gentlemen sporting flowers in their buttonholes and scented with rose at their barber shops, they could be showcased more or less, and as recently experienced, readily flaunted for their modern metrosexual connotations rather than hid as sub-virile. Thus contemporary dandies have pointedly been invited to reconsider their options......
The new fragrance can also be seen to be part of a prolific crop of mainstream masculine perfumes that will be hitting the store shelves this fall. The men's fragrance market has seen some real blockbusters such as Acqua di Gio, Terre d'Hermès, Sean John Unforgivable, Beckham Instinct. It is therefore not surprising to see brands developing their men's portfolios. This fall 2008 expect a new Dior Homme Sport fronted by Jude Law, Cartier Roadster, Armani Emporium Diamonds for Men, Guerlain Homme, Paco Rabanne 1 Million, Porsche Design The Essence, Jennifer Lopez Deseo for Men, Tim McGraw McGraw, and more. An optimistic tendency to follow a women's launch by a men's is apparent. The new Kenzo, olfactorily speaking, seems to have affinities with three modern men's scents: Jean Paul Gaultier Fleur du Mâle, Dior Homme (also by Olivier Polge) and Juicy Couture Dirty English. That is to say that Kenzo Power appears anchored within a market context and stands to some extent as an answer to other masculines which have revealed a certain level of chemistry with consumers. One is struck by the level of professionalism that went into Kenzo Power more than anything else. It seems to leave little room for idiosyncrasies although personal touches are apparent. In other words, it offers the virtue of following certain trends, synthetizing them, rather than opening new avenues of exploration. This awareness of the context is perhaps what restrains Kenzo Power but it is a nice woody musky ambery perfume with a floral-veil like element. Like Dirty English it offers an overdose of musk, an intensity-note that would have been more striking had it not been already experienced with the Juicy Couture masculine. All things considered, it should be pleasing to those who do not seek out novelty at all cost and are not following each new launch as a possible step in a new creative direction, that is to say, the vast majority of potential buyers.
Mental Exercise: Switching Bottles
After a while it struck us that the jus would probably appear more original were it bottled in a more classically designed flacon. As it is the modern feel and remarkable design of the revisited metallic Sake bottle by Kenya Hara, the inventor of the "Muji" concept, seems to take away some from the woody ambery classical beauty of the scent that we feel is closer to the representation of a quatuor of chord instruments playing in a library at Oxford among old leather-bound volumes. The bottle is actually made of glass coated with a stainless-steel-paint coat and is quite striking. It also is meant to "highlight(s) the power of tranquility as opposed to noise".
But indulging in this mental exercise allows one to better grasp the discreet variations introduced within a conservative paradigm. A new, better perceived quality of subdued intensity develops then and indeed, more insistent floralcy. These traits are charming, elegant and subtly coquettish.
The Hara bottle is reflective nevertheless of a fusion element found in the scent as a soft note of rice alcohol seems to be present suggesting the aroma arising from wet sake bamboo cups. It also corresponds well to the relative spareness of the composition through the Muji notion of simplicity and a certain neutral aesthetic.
Kenzo Power: Trendy Masculinity By Way of Muji
A light green tea note floats about the flacon's nozzle; Kenzo Power starts with a burst of citrus (bergamot) and cool green spices (coriander, cardamom) already foreshadowed by a darkly glowing musky-ambery accord which quickly becomes more prominent. A touch of orris is also already felt emerging from the base of the scent, which will become more apparent in the woody drydown which smells very much of orris and violet. The latter of course reminds you that perfumer Olivier Polge made a notable iris-scent contribution with Dior Homme.
The musk, which is dirty - frankly evocative of a crotch for a time - and amber are treated in an overdose mode offering a pungent character with an undertone of sweet iris making you think of the nether regions of the human body delicately talcum-powdered with orris powder. The musk-woody-ambery accord seem to be enriched with cumin and Immortelle and has a little bit of a savory taste to it. The general musky-ambery impression is reminiscent of Dirty English minus the iris and except that it is less malt-scotch-like and peaty.
It seems that the "imaginary flower" accord is more classically abstract than imported from planet Mars. In fact it is reminiscent of mineral-powdery-amber-floral impressions in feminine scents. It lets out also a scent of orange blossom that is reminiscent of Jean Paul Gaultier Fleur du Mâle but also of another Olivier Polge's creation, Dior Pure Poison.
There is a slight boozy overtone which we thought at first smelled like cognac and then sake (rice alcohol), but it is not mentioned in the notes description. At some point the dominant sensations are boozy-floral-musky with a touch of 18th century wig powder. The perfume loses its powdery facet and becomes more resinous-ambery, vinous in its feel, with a soft chestnut purée nuance. The dark ambery secondary nuances of the perfume also go in the direction of coffee, a coca-cola lollipop, and caramel. The amber is highlighted by a high citrus note that lifts the composition. Power seems also to have an undercurrent of pungent animalic leather that might be linked to the musk accord.
The drydown is softly powdery and woody, very much reminiscent of the iris-violet in Sonia Rykiel for Women, Not for Men. There is also a lineage link with Gucci Pour Homme although it is less immediately apparent than in Dirty English. It offers good lasting power and medium depth.
Muji As Explanation
Kenzo Power is "in" more than original, which does not prevent it from smelling good and seductive if you can overcome the sentiment that it is a fundamentally "recycled" composition. On a more sociological level, it might just be in tune with Muji aesthetics and ideas of neutrality and recycling, which nevertheless aim to avoid dullness. As Hazel Clark writes, "Muji clothes are sensible, but not boring, austere but not dull." It should interest people who like to follow fashion and feel that they are part of the Zeitgeist rather than stand out with more forceful scents; Muji advocates self-effacement. The irony of course in this case is that this anti-label movement serves the Kenzo brand.
Kenzo Power adds a touch of youth-culture to the idea of a conservative cologne fit for everyday life in the work environment, preferably a liberal office environment in this case. Sometimes, you just need to blend in, but not to the point of being confused with a gray wall.
Spicy citrus top: Bergamot, coriander, cardamom.
Abstract floral heart: rose, jasmine, freesia.
Woody amber base: tolu balsam, cedar wood and labdanum.
Eau de Toilette 60 ml/2 oz $55 US / $69 CAD
Eau de Toilette 125 ml/4.25 oz $75 US / $96 CAD
Eau de Toilette 750 ml/25.5 oz $300 US
Deodorant roll-on 75 ml/2.5 oz $22 US / $29 CAD
Kenzo Power will debut exclusively at Bloomingdale's in August 2008
For a review of another Kenzo perfume recently launched, see Kenzo Vintage, a unisex scent with a very interesting textural effect.
Image and information via Kenzo press