S by Shakira is the debut fragrance of the bilingual Spanish-English Colombian singer whom virtually everyone must have heard by now interpreting "Waka Waka," the anthem for the FIFA 2010. It was announced as early as 2008 that Shakira would be developing her own scent with Puig Beauty and Fashion Group as part of the celebrity-fragrance trend...
The artist is known for her involvement with charitable work and in particular for her Barefoot Foundation / Fundacion Pies Descalzos. The institution springs from an early childhood memory of having been confronted with children's destitution at a time when her parents wanted to assuage her own anxieties about the family's financial downturn - at 8 she was invited to witness the much more distressful condition of abandoned children living on the street and sniffing glue...
Shakira has taken her fragrance developing project to heart, reportedly working in close collaboration with Puig perfumers Elizabeth Vidal and Rosendau Mateu as well as Firmenich perfumer Olivier Cresp over a period of 3 years, visiting Barcelona where the scent was developed and communicating through hundreds of emails. As inspirational as she can be in other areas of her life, she wanted to continue to be with S. She thus emphasized to People that,
"The type of women who feel a connection with this fragrance would be independent and strong, but also a woman with a great capacity to love and a strong sense of who they are. It's for a woman who believes in herself,"
She also took the opportunity to stress what her beauty philosophy is,
"My feeling is that personal care and beauty should be effortless and accessible for everyone," Shakira said in a statement. "When you give someone a fragrance, you're giving them something of yourself. It's a gift of your essence."
Puig underlines the fact that S is simple - "it isn't complicated or contrived" they say - reflecting Shakira's personality most of all. I would add that I was surprised by another S-word that I'd apply to the perfume: subtle. It is a very interesting type of subtlety as it is made to express itself in spite of an unpretentious and mass-market-oriented perfume grammar. It is "personal and unique" in a very under-the-surface way, rather than overtly.
"Like one of my songs, I wanted S by Shakira to tell a story, and to be something personal and unique. A perfume has to really reflect something inside you, make you connect with it in an emotional way,"
Fragrance notes: bright Indian Sambac jasmine, sandalwood, Oriental dream accord, benzoin, amber, and vanilla, fresh woods.
The composition rests on 3 favorite smells of Shakira's (rather than compositions): jasmine, sandalwood and an Oriental, Eastern accord, the latter apparently as a homage paid to her Lebanese heritage and love of belly-dancing.
S opens on a jasmine and vanillic cookies accord which prolongs itself into a meringue note. The perfume then takes on a much muskier facet which feels quite pungent, salty and on the sharp side as it mingles with the light yet quite present floral indoles. There is a nice balance between the floral indoles, the sweaty and sexy yet clean musk, and the gourmand touch.
In some unforeseen manner, the fragrance, as I perceive it, appears to be blooming in the interstices of the composition as if poetic flowers sprouted in the spaces left open by a constraining architecture or a gilt cage.
Let me underline at this point, that I was taken aback when I learned after finding this image by just smelling the fragrance that there is actually a video called "She Wolf" in which Shakira is seen writhing around in a golden cage (I haven't watched it yet as I am saving the viewing for after the review.)
S is surprisingly subtle and downright appealing and pleasant where I perhaps expected it to be an indifferent job. The perfume does play with mass, simple tastes of the musky white-floral-meringue variety but offers a sensitive and even scarily intelligent version of these. The resinous base notes turn the composition into a light oriental or "fresh oriental" as Puig specify. The perfume is undeniably well constructed. Puig mentions the "delicate" character of S and one has to agree. This aspect is not fortuitous and is actually all the more striking since this subtle, light and delicate personality is expressed with a common vocabulary of perfume notes. Its subtle facet I realized afterwards is the "delicate" aspect of the singer's personality. It's like hearing immaterial angels' voices singing a well-known pop tune.
The strength-and-delicacy duality alluded to by Puig I was well able to perceive "blind" and in particular with the spontaneous imaging of a cage letting flowers grow in the open spaces between the bars. It is no doubt a symbol of disempowerment / empowerment for the singer. If only for that subliminal olfactive imaging experience, I will forgive the lack of Mysore sandalwood.
Front photo credit: Busacca