Marc Jacobs Lola (2009): Femme-Fatale Accord for a Real-Life Screen Siren {Perfume Review & Musings}


Lola by Marc Jacobs, we were told when it was set to come out last year, is a more smoldering Daisy. The different flacons containing the perfume look fab; they are putting frilly back into fashion.

When the bottles seem to have sucked all the energy out of the creative team, you can usually hear a rumor of suspicion arising that the jus inside is bound to have been trimmed of its best ingredients. All you can hope for in this economy where real perfumes are dead and faux-shampoos abound, is to get a luxury version of a hair rinse - some might say. But, surprise! This is counting without the extremely skilled perfumer who created the fragrance Lola, Calice Becker, the author also of J'Adore by Dior and many others (see here).

Her style, from what I have seen of it, can attain perfection from a technical point of view, and although she seems to refute the term, appear neo-classical in its capacity to balance out almost any jus into a curvy formula which leaves no room at the seams. As for herself, she prefers to talk of an assemblage of moods - and I agree with this characterization for this perfume, as I find it very atmospheric when you discover it for the first time, especially. Her style is also commercial in the best professional sense of the term in that she seems to be able to juggle successfully marketing and aesthetic concerns instead of being weighed down by tensions inherent to her profession. She co-created the scent with perfumer Yann Vasnier. Fragrance consultant Anne Gottlieb is also credited for the job.

Calice Becker said about the main idea for the perfume,

"I was inspired to create a feeling to reflect the color violet, a very saturated, rich, warm color of femininity. I wanted the perfume to convey the same intensity and vibrancy of this jewel-like violet which is fun, sexy yet elegant. Just like Lola," ...


The fragrance opens on dark, fruity nuances distantly inspired by Poison by Dior followed by a very cedary rose (dry pencil shavings) which goes on to develop as a round, lush and tart rose accord, with a rhubarb nuance. Official notes are in fact ruby red grapefruit, fuschia peony and geranium to explain this tart, transparent quality, which counterbalances the fuller feel of the scent.

The perfume is warmed up by vanilla and becomes very soft, like angel skin. The rose is not that naturalistic or dominant, but rather blended in and abstractly present. The fragrance turns into an ambery-musky rose composition which seems seamless, with just a discreet touch of floral rubbery dissonance, like the indispensable dose of discordance, however minute, needed to avoid being dull, prim and proper.

I am reminded at this point of a nuance found in the Belle de Nuit accord of Cascade by Chopard to signal the powerful scent of night blooming flowers. Peppery nuances continue to pull Lola away from the realm of the simply pretty.

Nuances of tropical floral corruption underlie the progression of Lola. It is really much more of a dark, nocturnal and somewhat dissolute floral than one could have expected from the communication surrounding the fragrance, because, honestly, who would have really expected that they were going to put out a genuine femme-fatale scent? Filed originally mentally under marketing bollocks when I saw Karlie Kloss impersonating a vampy Lolita, I personally anticipated nothing like this construction of a nocturnal atmosphere (I do not perceive it as violet.)

Lola indeed is a bit duplicitous. Behind the initial fresh rose-peony accord, there is the revelation in its own due course of another flower which smells like a dangerously seductive orchid offering hints of decay and artificiality (the faint rubber nuance.) Smelling deeper, I see that that the woody and ripe scent of pear d'Anjou is playing a crucial role in conveying a sense of intensity and depth rather than it being here for freshness and juiciness. The subtle creaminess makes me think of magnolia - and perhaps after a while of the woody-magnolia of L'Instant by Guerlain, a bit.

The development of the perfume is slow and deliberate, contributing to this feeling of a siren's scent which evokes a woman's presence, which is sinuous and a bit predator-like.

Lola was presented as the sultrier side of Daisy. The latter is pretty dead sexy, especially in its drydown stage, but also cleaner and is nowhere as magnetic as Lola. The slow development of the fragrance forces you to pay close attention to the moves of this woman like you would watch a boa constrictor make its moves.


I envisioned a sassy cabaret girl at most, with perhaps a note of playfulness thrown in. What I discover is a real-woman's presence and a real, serious sense of seduction. As I try to envision more precisely who this person could be that would embody for me the atmosphere of this scent, I think not of Anouk Aimée in Jacques Demy's movie Lola, but rather of Angelica Huston playing Morticia in the Addams Family, with her deliberately cultivated slow diction and ominous suavity (May I add that I had thought of her before I recently announced the new Morticia's Nails by Essie?)

One can sense however some market constraints in that the perfume could be more lasting at that even level of intensity it is capable of conveying. The perfume tends to lose steam after a while. But the trip it makes you take around this imagining of a fascinating feminine presence was so real and authentic that you want to spray on again to relive it.

This may actually only serve to highlight Becker's skill as a commercial perfumer: evoking not only intensity but creating the desire for intensity and inviting you to go back to the source as you need to quench your thirst. It could only help with sales.

It is one of the most cinematic perfume I have experienced so far. I realize that nearly every moment of this perfume could be translated into a movie still. It is like replaying over and over the same long, drawn out scene of the entrance of a fascinating creature, see her evolve and get closer to her prey.

In a way, I am reminded of the commercial for J'Adore by Dior featuring Charlize Theron coming back to her apartment and walking through a long corridor while undressing. It is as if Lola by Marc Jacobs were the tropical version of that scene. It makes you heart race a bit faster as the perfume makes you live a more intense moment and manages so well to convey the proximity of danger.

Perfumer Calice Becker captured something quite intangible, feminine seduction with a capital letter. I don't know if I should praise more the Lola woman archetype in motion, or Calice Becker at work, who has such insights into human nature that she managed to paint this psychologically perfect perfume portrait of a seductress.

Lola does not just smell good like so many other fragrances, it lives, breathes softly and looks into your eyes while betraying the shadow of a Mona Lisa smile. If it smells of shampoo, a bit, it is wafting from the nape of the neck of a femme fatale.

Fragrance notes: pink peppercorn, pear d'anjou, ruby red grapefruit / fuschia peony, rose, geranium / vanilla, tonka bean, musk.

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