•• Paul Smith Extreme for Women (2002) •• Fresh As Green Tomato, Dusky As L'Heure Bleue {Perfume Review}



Paul Smith Extreme for Women was launched in 2002 as part of a masculine and feminine duo and as a follow-up to British fashion designer Paul Smith's debut scents in 2000, Paul Smith Women and Men. They were meant to prolong the two first by making these even more accessible to a wider audience. The style that was sought was "classic-with-a-twist", to reflect Paul Smith's fashion approach. The bottles were thus designed by architect Sophie Hicks to reflect that image; the glass cap unexpectedly unscrews as for a splash bottle; one side of the flacon wears multicolored stripes, wavy for the women's, vertical for the men's but the shapes are very basic.

Extreme for Women was composed by Antoine Maisondieu of Givaudan and is a priori described as a floral woody musky perfume.

The Woodsy Twist 

Wood notes in feminine fragrances are still perceived as innovative in 2008 (see Estée Lauder Sensuous) as they are relatively less employed, in a prominent fashion that is. Féminité du Bois (Femininity of Wood) (1992) by Shiseido created by Serge Lutens, Christopher Sheldrake and Pierre Bourdon made a statement out of this foray into woody feminine notes for a creation that was sold as mainstream yet felt very different from it.

Usually, when woody notes are used in the feminine context, they are for their warmth, sensuality and roundness. What Maisondieu did was to offer a double-distancing twist on this idea since he created a green sappy tonality for the woods in Extreme for Women. It might be a distant echo of the genre of feminine mossy perfumes. The term "woody" is by the way subject to interpretation and is used not just for literal wood notes like cedar wood or sandal wood but also for patchouli or even violet or iris in certain cases.

In Extreme, there is a violetnote, there are also "blackcurrant branches" in the heart, together with more classic cedar and sandalwood in the base......

Slowly Into The Summer Night 

The departure of the composition seems to indicate that the perfume will go in the direction of a slightly generic powdery floral oriental (because it evokes Kenzo Flower) albeit with an interesting tinge of woody olive brine right from the beginning, but soon a lovely, fresh and crisp counterpoint emerges. It is green in a farmers' market sense, being akin to the sensation of inhaling the aromas of vine tomato stems and leaves. The fragrance is fresh like a vegetable rather than air or water. It is also grassy and sweet at times recalling Gap Grass.

The scent develops then a lovely rosey woody impression as crisp as a stone-hard apple. Secondary nuances of Japanese rubber gum and pencil shavings bring a modern, less naturalistic edge. The freshness in Extreme for Women is particular and well-worth experiencing. Antoine Maisondieu managed to write poetry with a few simple means and despite constraints put on the economics of a mainstream perfume destined to be popular. Yet Extreme for Women manages to be both lovely and evocative.

What is remarkable in this jus is how the atmosphere of the perfume succeeds in being utterly summery, quiet and peaceful as if your were gazing across a golden field in June at the end of the afternoon until your eyes were stopped and rested on the edge of a wood slowly dissolving into the dusk; it bespeaks of the stillness of time suspended between day and night called l'heure bleue (blue hour) in French, but without smelling like the Guerlain classic or so it seems at first. A little jolt of realization however runs through your mind later on as the list of notes tells you otherwise; you then see that the heart of the fragrance is based on a heliotrope-violet-blackcurrant branches accord which affirms olfactory kinship with Guerlain L'Heure Bleue (1912), excepted for the blackcurrant branches. Jacques Guerlain wanted to translate that privileged moment of existential magic with the powderiness and mauve hues of heliotrope and iris.The violet note in Extreme for Women is not derivative of iris (they are often closely associated), but green, forest-y, and still peppery. And so it is as if L'Heure Bleue were reflected in a an extremely long and dwindling gallery of mirrors where the last mirrors in the perspective color the perfume differently and make it much smaller, yet still authentically relate to its original object, in spirit. As if a simple soul had seen the beauty of a L'Heure Bleue that would smell of green tomato and a quietly ending summer day in the countryside.

Top notes: Italian madarin, blackcurrant, freesia; heart notes: heliotrope, violet, blackcurrant branches; base notes: amber, musk, sandalwood, cedar. 

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