Perfume Notes: top: pink peppercorn, mandarin essence; heart: osmanthus absolute, rose leaves, honey; base: Indonesian patchouli, cistus (vegetal amber), benzoin, tonka.
Hypnôse Senses is the latest flanker to the original Hypnôse by Lancôme created by perfumers Annick Ménardo and Thierry Wasser and launched in 2005. This time three women perfumers Christine Nagel, Nathalie Feisthauer and Ursual Wandel worked together to produce a fragrance that is subtly original and the olfactory equivalent to my nose of traces of lipstick and cosmetics left on a linen napkin: almost vanishing yet very sensual and present. The advertising campaign resting in part on a dedicated website puts the accent on Daria Werbowy's skin (she modeled for the original Hypnôse), an imagery that takes on a fuller meaning upon smelling the perfume.
Women will perhaps complain that the ad is particularly objectifying as Werbowy's body gets cut out in seven "sensual spots" drawing a map of desire that is only too predictable and essentially meant to satiate the male gaze even if mediated by a female one, which is curious considering that women are the prime targets of the ad (see Vivez l'expérience Senses). One can only complain that this ad is terribly and even caricaturally classic in its implicit subservience to masculine desire, unless you would be gay or post-lib. However, like lipstick and a good perfume, one can simply enjoy putting those on as gestures of self-cultivation and not care about someone looking up your thighs or down your cleavage for reassurance that this is a worthy scent.
Lancôme, via Pauline Zanoni the director of fragrance creation, insisted on the chypre lineage of Hypnôse Senses advancing the idea that through this affiliation the perfume was asserting once more the core tradition of the house which has been carried out by great chypres like Magie Noire (1978) (cf. Cosmoty.de). As far as chypre-perfume labeling goes, Hypnôse Senses is very soft and as close as can be to a full-fledged skin scent while using some of the neo-classic chypre ingredients: citrus, cistus, patchouli...
How It Smells
Hypnôse Senses offers a passing conventional amber-y and musky opening with a facet of clean, raspy soapy musk which in this case I do not find off-putting as it has the effect of a bit of enlivening horseradish sauce, minus the gourmand connotation. Soon the initial discreet resinous undertone (benzoin) becomes more prominent unconventionally blending with a subtle tropical creamy-fruity accord. The perfume very quickly feels like a velvety Skin Scent with two capital letters as it sinks in and creates an aura of sensuality rather than starts playing on effects of projection. Retrospectively and considering the chypre affiliation, it could be pointed out that this is atypical of a chypré effect which relies more than with other families of scents on sillage. The room-test however (going back into a room where the perfume is left to evolve) reveals that the osmanthus absolute has a marked diffusive presence, more than when smelling the perfume up-close. The blend feels both woody (cedary pencil shavings in particular) and subtly creamy-tropical with a hint of juicy pineapple slice reminiscent both of Dole canned fruits and the original Hypnôse. It brings to my mind at this point a more pastel, softer vision of Carmen Miranda balancing a fruit basket headgear. Imagine my pleasant shock when the next day as I was doing some research on a beauty topic I happened on the personal website of Evelyn Lauder (Estée Lauder's daughter-in-law) who as it turns out is also a photographer and has made a portrait of a head vase of Carmen Miranda with flowers all done in soft pastel-like shades and bathed in ambery light (see picture above).
The osmanthus with its apricot-y then olivine nuances adds a further layer of complexity and indescribable suavity to the perfume. The sensation is very abstract despite some brief glimpses into half-sketched naturalistic references: the pineaple, the tropical blanc-manger, the osmanthus, the green olives etc. Manifestly, Hypnôse Senses wishes to be as close as possible to the feeling of a second skin, appearing to disappear in what looks like an illusionist's act of making itself be forgotten. Yet the scent becomes omnipresent in an extraordinarily depersonalized manner. It leaves hints, like the little white stones cast by Tom Thumb in the midst of the forest. It is not a trail or sillage per se but an ensemble of clues that manifest a presence. A dotty trail if you will made of moments of forgetting and remembrance not of a specific perfume but of an arresting, indefinable scent.
The fragrance's ability to shed its personality to the point of making itself be completely forgotten is uncanny. But then its presence is just as great as its personality seems unassuming. As Hypnôse Senses becomes your skin you start thinking about other things and doing other things, waiting to be able to say something about its longevity, perhaps. Maybe it will just have disappeared for good. Suddenly, hours later, you catch a whiff of something smelling like an ideal random blend of scents that accidentally stayed on your skin after different products were used on it, say, soap, cream, detergents, what not - you cannot recall, but promise yourself to investigate, later. The curious thing is that you absolutely are not made to recall that you sprayed on some Hypnôse Senses. It is gone from your mind, but not from your skin. It feels like a punch of realization in the stomach to me later on, when I realize the mental perceptual game the perfume is playing.
Hypnôse Senses is a perfume that does not smell like a perfume. It just smells like you with remnants of your scented, busy day. The composition completely subverts the idea that a fragrance ought to have a strong, statement-like presence and be distinctive in a definable way in the hope of catching your attention and signing your presence. Yet each time, as the perfume disappears from the plane of your consciousness, it manages to leave clues on the back of your hand, on your clothing that say in different tones of voices how exquisite it smells.
After all, the advertising might not be women's-lib-approved but the fragrance that was created by three women is particularly feminine. It enhances the woman who wears it without imposing an ideal-type on her. It just smells so very good each time that you pick up one of the scented pebbles it leaves behind, it is uncanny.