Gucci Guilty is the new perfume by Italian fashion label Gucci (see here and here.) When the fragrance officially launches in the fall, Evan Rachel Wood will be fully featured to embody the scent and the aspirations of her cohort. Gucci Guilty forms with Gucci by Gucci and Flora a series of recent mainstream feminine launches by the house. Artistic director Frida Giannini does not leave as strong a mark on the perfumes she supervises as Tom Ford did (this is why he has Tom Ford Beauty), but she seems to have a pretty good idea of what kind of femininity (and masculinity with James Franco) she finds desirable.
This is the coherent theme I see running throughout the recent Gucci women's fragrances: there is a quest to capture the woman of today without forcing her into a mold but rather approaching her from different angles. The brand without being uninspired is not interested in being ahead of the curve but rather in being sensitive to the Zeitgeist.
Gucci by Gucci exemplified a neo-chypre approach and hence is probably the one with the most gravitas out of the three due to its chypre lineage, a brainier genre in essence due to the fact that it is the genre which originally would have been the furthest away from instinctive regressive tastes: bitter, dry, and unsweetened. Flora seems to be more for young girls with its emphasis on an insouciant style of fruity-florals. Gucci Guilty seems less young-lady than Gucci by Gucci and more bachelorette on the prowl to me. The very coded language of its composition where nothing really surprising emerges despite a geranium note used it seems for a hint of fougère freshness which might subliminally convey the idea of toughness Giannini saw in Evan Wood, suggests playfulness and serious urbane sexiness.
It is therefore really not about art here but about lifestyle, a concept I would like to defend in perfumery but will only broach upon here. Gucci Guilty can be seen as a fairly convincing finishing touch for the pretty woman of 2010 who will even be able to use the sleek bottle as a purse mirror to retouch her lips. The fragrance's spokesperson Rachel Evan Wood is 23 and was selected as Frida Giannini made explicit to reach her age group as well as to project an image of sexiness. It is all clearly premeditated.
Notes: mandarin, pink pepper, peach, lilac, geranium, amber and patchouli...
How It Smells
As the eau de toilette reveals itself, there are woodsy, dry notes which float above the surface of the scent indicating that the scent will not be just a flirt but soon give way to the main sensation: a tart and jammy fruity opening - mandarin and orange notes I have noticed can be used to great effect for this kind of glazed, crystallized and syrupy-in-a-good-way fruity impression. Here the tart and sweet jammy accord reminds me with its berry accents and slightly candied amber of Flowerbomb. Overall, the scent's personality is feminine, soft, discreet - with a hidden intensity - and sexy.
If you pay attention, there is a discreet cool powdery undercurrent as well as a green note; I would not have thought of geranium and lilac at this point for being responsible for this nuanced effect but their officially listed presence explains this cool, green suggestion.
I recognize in the jus of Gucci Guilty the same aromachemical, name unknown, which is to be found in Narciso Rodriguez for Her, Her Iridescent Fragrance. It smells like the oily, indolic scent of wisteria in full bloom and must have been added here to compose the lilac note which can be considered a cousin, scent-wise, of wisteria. I personally love this oily-spill of a note and find it intoxicating in nature. Its perfumery equivalent is pretty adequate here and realistic.
But then, the lilac note momentarily disentangles itself from the rugby scrum of perfume notes, and it is lovely, delicate, pale mauve and green too.
The main impression of the scent at this point is that of warm stewed fruits. The geranium note plays a non-conspicuous yet interesting role bringing an almost invisible current of green, nearly minty freshness. It actually creates for me a closeted fougère effect.
Gucci Guilty offers a floral accord which is not afraid of developing an element of putridity, a smell akin to that of stagnant waters, but in a very good way. This aspect sexualizes the scent, making it more erotic. It smells a little bad, just enough to intoxicate according to the laws of nature by evoking overripe flowers dripping with vegetal pheromones in the summer.
The drydown reveals the patchouli-rose accord that signs Gucci by Gucci but mingling with this lilac-wisteria accord and more woods it seems.
I cannot help but think like for Lady Million by Paco Rabanne, that there is an osmanthus-like sensation to the point of suggesting a genre rather than an accord.
Like for so many so-called "designer perfumes", blended aesthetics are preferred over a punchy headline in a scent that would pull one or two notes to the front at a time to make a forceful statement.
I decide on a last round of testings of Guilty to be okay with spraying some Datura Noir by Serge Lutens on my right hand to have a different aesthetic for reference and see how the so-called "niche" scent feels next to the so-called "designer" one.
Smelling Datura Noir, a fragrance which makes me think conceptually of a cross between L'Heure Bleue de Guerlain and Poison de Dior, both designer perfumes, yet itself a perfume belonging to the more exclusive world of niche, and proving it by exaggerating some of the heavier traits of these two perfumes, I note that it never makes Guilty look or smell bad. If anything it makes me perceive better the subtle, floating aesthetics of Gucci Guilty, what perfumer Dominique Ropion explaining his composition L'Echappée Belle by Eau Jeune, which is distributed through popular channels like Félix Leclerc in France, defines as the more "nuanced" aesthetics of compositions meant for the mass-market. But intrinsically, he insists, his approach to both Frédéric Malle and Eau Jeune is as demanding, even proposing the idea that largely distributed fragrances might in fact have something of an edge over niche ones in terms of their perceived beauty and richness. I personally have to add that when I realized that a mass-marketed scent I bought cost in fact the same as an Exclusif by Chanel by the liter (price tags offer a price-per-liter information), only it was conveniently bottled in a small size, my blinders fell to the floor of the hypermarché.
Indefinite, hard-to-pinpoint smells, one can be certain of that, can bring as much ecstasy and delight than a very precise olfactory impression. If you stop thinking about bottled fragrance but instead go back to your experience of capturing an indefinite exquisite smell in the air as you walk by a flower meadow, say, you are de facto applauding the indefinite blended aesthetics that mother nature knows how to do so well. For those who seek a state of Scenthood, it might even create a more diffuse, mystical experience of communion with the invisible world of aromas through a sense of bathing in perfume rather than objectifying the different facets of a fragrance.
Indefinite can also be translated as "abstract." Such a perfume smells of nothing you can really identify in nature. But it creates an olfactory presence. If we are to believe the textbook success case of No.5 by Chanel, abstraction and the impossibility to point to just one flower is not an impediment to popularity although in this case, there have been reports of negative results in blind olfactory testings. The abstraction of No.5 might be the indefinite canvas on which Chanel can best project their icons. Even No.19 is less abstract with its iris and galbanum accord.
To go back to Gucci Guilty, the blended aesthetics continue to unfold their program. This does not mean that the blend is completely seamless. In this case, the peachy, vanillic, ambery and rosy mélange lets out a sharp tonality which is the scent of times: white musks of the washing-cycle persuasion. But when you step back from the notes, say, several centimeters above them, the blended effect in the air is rich, rather vibrant; it does not smell of anything precise but it is like a sweet fruity potion of prune-y sexiness that could be the abstract rendering of a cornucopia horn: the fruits seem to tumble down from it; there is some confusion, yet the ensemble view is harmonious.
Smelling Datura Noir again, I see how in a blind test people might think it is more maladroitly composed because there are notes that jut, stick out. The surface of the perfume is a bit uneven, a bit out of balance - on purpose. It flirts more with the limits of our tolerance to a sense of harmony-vs-disharmony.
Gucci Guilty on the other hand is harmonious like a circle. Perfumers and connoisseurs alike use the term "round" to characterize the successfully mastered sensation of a round perfume body, which is in principle generous and full. The circle is obviously the shape of reference for classically blended perfumes. Niche perfumes which are so and not just in name are more deconstructivist and tempted to break loose from the circle, which still, as I find out smelling Datura Noir one last time for this review, uses it as the idol to be brought down but is encompassed by it.
The name "Guilty" seemed to prepare us for a perfume with a slight air of revolt, a sinner who was not afraid to make a public confession. In reality the message of the scent is au contraire to instill a certain spirit of laissez-faire. The jus itself does in no way play with overdose or asymmetry. Marilyn Manson's makeup, which was copied in my view albeit rendered in a milder version for the ad featuring his girlfriend, has more chances of putting you ill at ease than what's contained in Gucci Guilty. Since signs cannot be eluded, there might be a little bit of Manson adding some sulfur to the scent, outside of the bottle. The jus itself is just a bit more sexual than what might be expected on average in the reign of clean. It's all about Lifestyle, so you'll have to live with the scent and report on your adventures.
Note: the book in the pictures is an advice book which is in all honesty a bit dumb but relatively fun and has a good number of anecdotes on the great sirens of history. Sadly, the book is still at the level where it says that Coco Chanel blended her perfumes herself, No.5 in particular. The representation of the book constitutes in no way a reading recommendation. If you are interested in archetypes however, it might interest you.