Armani Idole d'Armani (2009) {Perfume Review}

Mata Hari dancing in the library of the Musée Guimet, 1905 © Guimet archives -- I picked this picture because Idole d'Armani has this girly, playful layer added to the more mysterious, more mature feminine layer of oakmoss: the idol is in a light, playful mood.

Idole d'Armani is a nice diversion from the musky florals and fruity florals that one has come slowly to accept as the smell of the Zeitgeist. Feminine shelves in perfumeries are by default now catering to the abstraction that are young women's tastes as defined by the invisible masters of fragrance fashion who tell them what will make them happy even before they can have a clear idea of what indeed would make them content perfume-wise. It is only normal that such an overwhelming favorable bias would exist for women in their late teens and early twenties as although not the richest consumers they are the ones most engaged in the dating game. They are also the most fickle too as there exists no inhibition anymore for this generation to the regular exploring of perfumery aisles rather than the settling down for a sig scent as the expression does not go for a "signature scent". Although that could have been a nice perky shorthand via SMS in contradiction though with the general ethos of hyper fast communication and up-to-the-minute version of reality. Imagine a daily message on Twitter saying "still wearing my sig scent today & meaning to do so until the day I croak." Somehow it does not sound eventful enough or in tune with a world in which a fragrance infatuation can live under 24 hours and global warming is referred to regularly to point to a future that is all about instability...

The ad features actress Kasia Smutniak

The gold cap is meant to mimick a gold bar. The bottle wants to be both feminine (round shape) and strong (the ribbed sides).

It is therefore interesting and a little paradoxical to see an old ideal at work and to hear Giorgio Armani aiming for the classic holy grail of perfume-makers: to create the signature perfume of countless numbers of women who would be so enamored with the qualities of a fragrance that they would have no choice left but to act counter to their deepest nature and become, at long last, faithful. La donna è mobile and this is a bit irking to Giorgio Armani. The designer has candidly expressed his disappointment in that dratted lightness of being that women display when attracted to perfumes. Men on the other hand love their old shoes and shredded tee-shirts as well as their old colognes. A vague scent of Freudian theory of libido seems to emerge from these observations.

Idole d'Armani is, as it turns out, is a sociologically interesting and fine-smelling attempt to conciliate the olfactory codes of fast and fickle love and slow and enduring one in the sphere of perfumes. It is on the one hand something all-too familiar, fruity-floral, and something less conventional in this day and age, a return to the grand tradition of feminine perfumes with oakmoss, like a hybrid between two generations of women. Armani thought that one of the issues facing the female fragrance purchasers today is that their femininity is not celebrated enough by the surge of unisex fragrances. Being much more at ease with the male psyche, the designer pointed out that "Maybe it's because I'm a man and I know what men like. [They] like fragrances that [make them] feel like a man." In his view, a successful women's fragrance therefore needs to offer the same psychological benefit. Yet, you still need to please all these girls, as well as the inner girls in women of all ages since girlhood is now for all seasons. See Betsey Johnson, a 67 year old girl. Women used to wear oakmoss, girlz wear pink fruits.

A good point, which is to Armani's advantage in my view is that they have resorted to an adapted vintage feel. Instead of proposing to you to wear a musty old fur coat, you are proposed a fur coat made with new, clean materials yet diffusing the same attractive warmth albeit in a lighter, less medievalish manner. The bear hug of oakmoss has lightened up, yet manages to retain a certain cavernous charm and a surprisingly assertive character in this summer of 2009 where Idole d'Armani is standing next to Cacharel Scarlett and Boss Orange with about the same clientèle in mind and where a perfume called The Empress, L'Impératrice by D & G smells like a big, huge fluorescent peach. Si Lolita is destined to Lolitas obviously and although I have it at hand I have been delaying discovering it. I am still admiring the bottle and afraid I might be disappointed by its contents.

Idole d'Armani was composed by Bruno Jovanovic of IFF. The scent is said to be a spicy floral and it is, but it is more interesting to me as a twist on oakmoss-based scents. I hesitate to say chypre because although it pulls out elements out of the chypre genre, it does not smell exactly like one of those neo-chypres as it also has elements of the veil scent (light, enveloping musk), the watery scent (the juiciness, a watery accord in the base), but with oakmoss to add character. Official notes are: Sicilian clementine, ginger, juicy pear, Indian davana in the top; absolute of saffron, Egyptian jasmine, loukhoum rose; benzoin, patchouli and vetiver in the base.   

On an initial take, the beginning of the development of the fragrance seems very standard with its marked fruity-floral impression that is sweet, juicy, and with a noticeable and continued nuance of nail polish which reminds me a bit of Jean Paul Gaultier Classique's opening. The polish facet might be a form of floral indole or aldehyde or it might be added as a hip note like in the upcoming Parisienne, also for young women, which has a vinyle note. Jovanovic has recently shown his avant-gardist talent by creating a perfume for the fashion show Incredible Fashion & Fragrances! at ENSAD called Parfum H2010 with notes of old vinyle record, yellowed paper, and a chemical leathery note. As soon as I smelled this stage which came across first as a rather pedestrian juciy fruity-floral accord, I thought that this was meant for the crowd in their twenties. I in fact mentally discarded the scent as a trend victim. A couple of hours later having fortunately left the perfume to be, I suddenly discover an entirely different climate with a much more marked personality: it smells distinctively of oakmoss, has depth and is spicy and peppery.

The composition turns out to be warm, feminine, sophisticated -- without being precious -- casually elegant. The perfume is very easy to wear and it is sensually pleasing to do so. Next to many of the current offerings, it is simply better, with more of those extra vibrations one expects from a good fragrance. After discovering the contemporary oakmoss base rendered with the help of patchouli, vetiver and sandalwood, the composition takes on a new meaning. A second layering of the perfume allows the initial fruits to benefit from the deeper base letting the dark fruity davana stand out better. The fruits become less juicy and more stewed in quality. In the heart, the classic rose-saffron accord is made a bit tarter than usual while keeping a jammy pâte-de-fruit facet. The so-called loukhoum rose feels "rahat", mellow, comfortable but not literally gourmand as in edible. As the stewed fruit aspect blooms overtime, a peach/apricot facet becomes more prominent.

I have to say that the perfume reminds me strongly of Shiloh by Hors La Monde composed by Michel Roudnitska except that there is not a big citrus explosion in the beginning and the incensey note is much more understated (benzoin). The oakmoss-y base offers a similar texture of being slightly sugary, watery and light. The vanilla here is tuned down at a minimum. It does not have the oniric quality found in Shiloh which I find quite mesmerizing but is closely related in structure. Shiloh incidentally is also given as a "spicy floral."

All in all a nice, surprise light oakmoss perfume discovery from the shelves of a mainstream perfumery.
In its aim to be an ode to femininity, Idole d'Armani manages to straddle the atmospheres of both girly and womanly with a certain wit, and charm, definitely. To me it presents this quality of being eminently adoptable and wearable in all sorts of different situations without sacrificing its personality to blandness. I think it is called being versatile. A versatile oakmoss perfume is a welcome addition as it means oakmoss is here to stay in spite of the angst expressed by users of old-school chypres. I never doubted that perfumers would adapt to new constraints or would at the very least continue to enchant us by strumming alternative notes.


Kasia Smutniak and Giorgio Armani

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12 Comments | Leave a comment

  1. Can't wait to try now. Thanks for the review.


    • I think it could be quite easily be worn by a man. Thanks for the discussion you brought up around Angelina Jolie. Wanted to add after re-reading an article in WWD that Armani said before they announced her coming on board that they were developing another feminine fragrance for 2010.

      Chant Wagner
  2. Definitely not to be worn by a man. It is feminine but a unique feminine not in your face but more subtle and meaningful.

    Paul Smith
  3. Definitely too fruity. The pear pops out on me and stays. I would call it girlish, but I haven't tried to smell any of the "trendy" girlish scents in so long that I can't compare.

  4. I was immediately struck by the intensity of this scent. I a great amount of consideration (and a couple "experimentations") I purchased this perfume for myself. Needless to say, it ranks right up there with Creed's "Original Vetiver" in the number of compliments I receive. Although it is a bit sweet, I find after wearing it for a while and (as crass as this may sound) sweating a bit, the scent begins to meld with my body's chemistry and is extremely delightful. Don't let the bottle or marketing material fool you; this could certainly be used by both women and men.


    • What a great idea!

      Chant Wagner
  5. After reading your review, I ordered it. I had just showered when it arrived, and I couldn't wait! As with all new fragrances I was cautious and conservative, although this smells good enough to drink. I put on a the TINIEST droplet, shared between back of one hand (which I carefully touched with the back of the other), and back of my neck, under my hair.
    How big can a perfume get? I'm thinking the butter, in the fridge, could be tasting of Idolde.
    It's been about seven hours, and it's still going strong.
    Idolde may last (on me)through a bath. I've washed my hands a few times, and it's still right there.
    I'm a little concerned about going out. People may be swooning in my wake, and birds may fall from the sky.
    I think I should stick with edt in Idolde.

    • Lol, your evocative review made me laugh! Such is the power of perfume! I did not get such a power house sillage from the scent, I think, but did notice that it is a very diffusive scent. I can't remember exactly if a sample broke or if the bottle itself wafted incessantly, but I remember deciding I needed to move out anything Idole-related from the room where it was because I could only smell it.

      I'm glad you are pleased with your purchase, notwithstanding.

      It's become a dilemma to many: to perfume oneself indoors or outdoors? It's like hesitating to blast your radio at home versus outside carried on your shoulder.

      Chant Wagner
  6. This woman at my work wears this and it is the only perfume I have smelled west of the Atlantic that doesn't smell like a sailor's crotch (or what I imagine they smell like); getting some for my wife.

    James P

    • Well, this is as good a recommendation as any: Does-not-smell-like-a-sailor's-scrotch!

      Armani might think it's a bit of a risqué advertising, but as long as you buy their perfume, I'm sure they won't mind :)

      It's true that it is very easy to wear, in a good, casual way. And it's still feminine.

      Chant Wagner
  7. Why is this fragrance no longer made? I purchased it at one of those little discounted fragrance stores again last year when Macy's told me that it was no longer being made but it didn't smell the same as when I bought it at Macy's.
    Do we have any idea why Armani decided to no longer make it?

    • Usually brands discontinue fragrances because they don't sell well enough or because there are problems with ingredients regulations. When a perfume sells very well however, they usually find a way to give it a second life. Few brands are purists, like Guerlain who discontinued the extrait for Après l'Ondée because it just couldn't be the same.

      Chant Wagner

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