Kate Moss Vintage (2009): Smells Familiar & Not Just Because It Makes Me Think of a Gibson-Girl Plate {Perfume Review} {Celebrity Fragrance}

Vintage-kate-Moss-bottle.jpgKate Moss Vintage is the most recent launch by the Kate Moss franchise after Kate (2007), Velvet Hour (2008) and Kate Moss Summer Time (2009), just introduced in September. It is billed as a "fruity-floral oriental" and...shock!...was created by perfumer Olivier Polge of IFF who, as it turns out, was hired to play the role of the invisible man because just about anyone with good plagiaristic skills could have performed the job.

The problem with calling attention to perfumers is that they do have their personalities and preferences but they often have to self-efface in order to be good listeners, to celebrities for example. In this case however I find that a threshold was crossed into the realm of odious copying. Honestly, if a perfumer cannot resist at his or her own level in the process of fragrance-making, they might just as well be replaced by robots and electronic noses.

Note are: pink peppercorn, white freesia, mandarin, heliotrope, jasmine, almond blossom, tonka bean, vanilla and musk.


The main inspiration for the scent is Kate Moss's self-confessed love for anything vintage, except she quipped, for old men. If I were to find a time period and a style that encapsulates this brand of vintage olfactory form, I would have to say that it makes me think of a Gibson-Girl plate most, not even a photography, due to the sketch-like aspect of the perfume. 

Vintage by Kate Moss opens on both a very powdery and fruity accord (mandarin) which seeks to be slightly innovative, with a woodsy and almond-y undertone. The composition readily smells familiar besides the Johnson and Johnson baby powder accord which dominates, but I can't quite put my finger on it at first.

I had to go on a little meditation retreat to reflect upon this puzzling sensation.

The result:

To me it evokes the olfactory ambiances of the following powdery scents: Teint de Neige by Lorenzo Villoresi...I Profumi di Firenze Talco Delicato...Hypnotic Poison by Dior...L'Instant Magic by Guerlain...Eurêka! It actually smells very, very close to Guerlain Lights of Champs Elysées (2006) with its plummy cherry-wood accord underlining a comforting powdery heliotropin. It is a simplified version of it using the main ideas from it. A travel exclusive, the perfume is not widely known and hence apparently safe for shameless plundering...

gibson girls.jpg

For the moment being I do not see any twist added to this composition and in fact there isn't as the perfume slowly -- well rather quickly in fact -- dies down. It was cheaply made and soon the scent lasts but in a very linear form.

A Tonka bean note emerges more independently in the drydown as the scent evolves from powdery to creamy and oh-so slightly resinous and sticky.


Going back to the premise of the scent - vintage fashion and vintage style in general - it seems that someone thought that the best shortcut to take in this case would be to tap into the retro persona of heliotrope, a popular odor in the Art Nouveau period. They then turned to baby talcum powder, a popular smell- to-scent note in the 20th century with nostalgic inflections which was first introduced in 1893 as Johnson Toilet Baby Powder. Finally they chose to take a copy-and-paste approach to a Guerlain reworking of one of their own signature accords. Indeed, Lights of Champs Elysées is one of those Guerlain fragrances that play a riff on one of their own classics and here pays homage to L'Heure Bleue. We know that Kate Moss loves l'Heure Bleue, so it all makes sense, somehow.

I have also ordered a bottle of Velvet Hour to get to the bottom of this. So now I am thinking that what I had speculated upon, the possibility of a Guerlain L'Heure Bleue quote, might verify itself for that one too.

I would consider Vintage by Kate Moss to be the poor man's version of a classic and a long good bye to one's baby memories rather than any serious take on the idea of a vintage fragrance. Where is the humor? Where is the style? Where are the ideas?

Vintage by Kate Moss thus cannot be admired for its innovative spirit and risk-taking but to be fair, the perfume manages to resolve itself into a nice-smelling skin scent with a gentle puff of powder and cherry intonations of wood (a bit olive-like) and flower and even a discreet trace of burnt wood and incense-y smoke which could come from the vanilla. There is a salty floral-musk effect too. I seem to catch a discreetly fresh aniseed note that would bring us back to IPdF Talco Delicato. The longer, slightly sticky musky-ambery drydown is also reminiscent of the whale amber in Ambre Gris by Balmain. If the smokiness had been pushed, it could have been cataloged as an honest twist on a standard, but here I have to conclude that the people who developed Vintage By Kate Moss cut their costs all too obviously by benefiting from the efforts of someone's else's R & D department.

Note that it does not smell like the retro powdery opera that Ombre Rose by Jean Charles Brosseau is, which is a relief given the crowded borrowings to be found in this scent. On the other hand, it does remind me of another scent yet, Gap Velvet Bloom, complete with the citrusy-musky facet in the drydown.

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6 Comments | Leave a comment

  1. And you were expecting what? This is a Coty masstige after all, not an uber-niche fragrance. As a pleasant powdery floral it succeeds - any disappointment on your part is of your own construct, I fear. Why expect silk from a sow's ear? And why must every new launch be innovative, ground-breaking and risk-taking? You want humor, style and ideas? Why would you look to Kate Moss for such things?

    The day I smelled it, there were many other fragrances on the table, both niche and mainstream, and almost without exception, the people I was with - all industry professionals - were drawn to Vintage precisely for the reasons you have written about it with disdain; it smells powdery and nostalgic, it doesn't require three days of meditation to figure it out and it's reminiscent of several other fragrances, all of which have pleasant associations.

    I'm sorry you didn't enjoy Vintage, but equally, I don't think it deserved the savaging you gave it.

    • Are you saying, in essence, that the professionals were attracted to a perfume that you describe as a sow's ear? Isn't there a contradiction in the terms? Is your position to defend mediocrity?

      I was expecting a more qualitative product, not an uber-niche production. There are uber-niche products that also have quality issues. I don't think it quite succeeds as "a pleasant powdery floral" as you say because it is too cheap-smelling and thins down quickly instead of drying down, which is not the same thing. I have no preconceptions about a perfume being subpar just because it is masstige (don't sell it then and try desperately to make money out of it by selling an image and a name) nor do I expect every perfume to be groundbreaking in case I gave this impression. A perfume ought ot be good in its own category.

      Are you implying that the masstige category is the most vulnerable one to qualitative criteria, as opposed to mass perfumes? I was going to say that Coty Exclamation or Windsong are examples of something more qualitative despite their mass distribution.

      If you look around you will see that I appreciated Britney Spears Circus Fantasy, JLo's scents and more. There are scents from BBW, Yankee Candle etc that I think are well balanced. I could do a series on masstige scents to bring out the ones I think are good so your umbrella characterization is one I reject.

      I am not surprised that people could or would be attracted to this scent for the reason you describe since the baby powder accord in it was put for that purpose of evoking tender memories. You can also use Johnson and Johnson baby powder or turn to a scent like Demeter Baby Powder.

      Incidentally, your comment gives me an opportunity to add that I found a brand of paper toilet that smells like Vintage, it's called L'Extra Long Regina so it's obviously a base that has wider industrial application just like you can find dish washing liquid reproducing the main accord of Dolce & Gabbanna Light Blue. I observe and I report. Why wouldn't people know about these things? The professionals you mention are not known for being publicly critical or outspoken. In fact, the general ethos is to say nice things at all cost. But if they were attracted to the scent like you seem to have observed then it shows that the base is there for a very effective reason and that professionals are more uncritical than one imagined.

      I will probably do a post on powdery scents. I feel I have to inform my readers, that is all.

      Finally, I did not "savage" Vintage, I did say that it was a "nice skin scent," (as a simple, linear scent in the drydown which should be called "simply cherry poudre" and sold in a rollerball) I tried to balance my comments but it's true that the conclusion tilts in the negative direction. I can only provide my sincere and honest take on it and you have added yours.

      Chant Wagner
  2. Well, I must agree both of you.... Personally, I like Vintage a lot, but I wouldn't compare it with Guerlains or the classics while Vintage will lost in this comparison anyway. On the other hand I don't know any celeb perfumes being really unique, expensive-smelling or having a beautiful sillage or drying down. Most of them are a bit cheap smelling and definetely made for he mass, they are often reminiscent of others from the classics, but it's just OK if you know what to expect from them.
    In this chategory I think Vintage is very nice , it's fresh, powdery but has it's depth which is no way comparable with a quality of e.g. L'Heure Bleu, of course. However, if I would choose a cheaper fragrance for everyday wearing I would give a chance to Vintage


    • Yes, I think that Vintage as a simple linear scent works, but I don't think it's one of the better celebs perfumes. In fact to me it epitomizes the celebrity perfume mostly based on image rather than bottle contents.

      JLo Glow has one of the best drydowns I have ever smelled technically speaking even if the accord is not what you would call complex on the surface.

      I don't know, I think that some mass celebs perfumes like Diamonds by Liz Taylor can smell expensive.

      Chant Wagner
  3. I adore perfumes, particularly those not mass marketed (with the exception of Stella McCartney's Peony in Two and Chanel no. 5). I dislike most celebrity perfumes as I find them too sweet and sickly or lacking in subtlety. I did find Marie's review of this a little pretentious - sorry Marie but show me humour in a perfume please! Back to Vintage - I was pleasantly surprised by this, it is not going to be my favourite but it has a nice musky salty floral scent rather than the 'girlish' scents around. I love Tiempe Passate and - though it doesn't compare in terms of depth - Vintage nods towards this womanly perfume. Great value for an everyday 'snuggly' type of perfume.

    • Thanks for chiming in. Re-reading the review to see if I had exaggerated, I'd pull out the part on innovation and risk-taking since I was thinking more of my expectations of Olivier Polge and also Kate Moss than of the mass-marketed perfume itself.

      I would like to point out that there are much better celebrity fragrances and that a celebrity fragrance is not necessarily a ticket to perfume hell or rather purgatory. Last year, Natori by Natori and Queen by Queen Latifah were certainly not lazy celeb scents. Here actually it's less lazy than mechanical, robotic.

      As for humor, I think I thought this compo lacked humor itself which might be a lifesaver when confronted with a bad budget. Having said that, I've been looking at real mass-marketed fragrances in France the ones that would be sold at Walmart or CVS or Duane Reade in the US and have come up with some intriguing facts as to what mass means.

      By the way, I don't think that Peony in Two and Chanel No5 are considered mass-market, they are in the prestige market.

      And to conclude, I still think that Kate Moss could have expected better from her creative team and from herself :)

      Chant Wagner

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