Reb'l Fleur is the debut signature perfume by R & B idol, Rihanna. Judging by the press the launch is getting, her fame is working like an opening on great top notes. You can read more about the initial hints here. First off and to satisfy curious inquiring minds, Reb'l Fleur is much more wearable than you might imagine it to be thinking about the rebelliousness theme: this is no shrinking violet, but it is not shocking either (what fragrances are shocking nowadays, anyway?). Second, despite the name, it is not so much floral as fruity although like for other stage queens who have developed sig scents lately, tuberose is the flower of choice to express the XXL feminine personality, the kind that takes up a lot of room. Reb'l Fleur was baptized after the nickname that Rihanna's grandmother calls the singer. Rihanna said,
"I believe a woman should dare to be different - willing to live her life for herself and not for other people," "This fragrance is about my passion for individuality - being expressive and empowering, yes, but also emotional and intriguing. I promise you Reb'l Fleur will not be easily forgotten."
She more recently told People that she wanted a perfume that said "Rihanna was here" and that she was aiming for a subtle and lingering signature...
The perfume was composed by noses Caroline Sabas and Marypierre Julien of Givaudan and developed with Parlux, which also takes care of the Jessica Simpson's and Paris Hilton's portfolios.
It takes quite a few tries to "get" Reb'l Fleur, a paradoxical experience since at first, the perfume appears to be pretty obvious. The suprise here comes with the progressive realization that it is a chypre composition, a fact which is at first masked by toned-down Muglerian Angel-like rich, near-edible oriental accents and fruity, rosy punch-like notes evoking a sunny and beachy atmosphere. Once you let all the tinsel aspects of the fragrance fall on the wayside - like the Christmas trees found on the sidewalks in January - then you start smelling a more sophisticated structure which is that of a classic peachy chypre with an austere mossy base.
Just like Rihanna may lead you on a red herring trail with her neon-raspberry-dyed hair, showy behavior and mega-wattage stage-diva persona, the perfume finally lets through a much more subtle personality, one which is even classical in a sense, more like the Fleur (flower) part in her affectionate petit nom "Rebelle Fleur."
The fragrance may seem almost bipolar with its juxtaposition of garisher notes on a harder-to-detect discreet aroma of classicism. But it offers this very positive, intangible quality in perfumery, which is that the more you smell the perfume (on skin, please), the more you like it and appreciate it, discovering each time new hidden nuances and qualities.
The first part may well send you the message that if you don't identify with a girly, flaming red singer, then there isn't much left for you to smell. But if you persist, then there is an anchoring of the scent which is extremely classic, light, restrained, lady-like and soft. You start with a color-saturated Hawaiian shirt and you end up almost with a convent sister's shirt, starched and clean as she is taking a walk by the breezy sea.
Fragrance notes: red berries, purple plums, juicy, ripe peaches / Hawaiian hibiscus flower, violet, tuberose, coconut water / vanilla, patchouli, amber, musk.
How The Scent Evolves
Re-smelling Reb'l Fleur, I realize that the familiar sense of signature that escapes initially from the cap is none other than that of Angel, but more tropical and coconutty. This signature is rather subtle because the first time around the perfume made me think rather of another fragrance composed by Caroline Sabas, Nicole Miller Eau de Parfum, which I intended to review but have put off doing so, in part because I wanted to see if I would still be wowed after time had elapsed. It had struck me as a variation on Mitsouko by Guerlain - like a coppery, burnished variation on it - and I find in Reb'l Fleur a similar interest in studying the classic. The perfume is officially offered as a "fruity chypre."
Reb'l Fleur opens on a juicy, fruity and fleshy peach, one which has a slight nuance of whiteness to it, a hint of counterbalacing blandness that nuances the fruity exhuberance of the sunnier yellow peach. The fragrance then softens, suggesting the texture of both a woman's skin and a peach's skin. The more I smell the fragrance, the more I am struck by the subtlety of the skin scent accord, and its deliciousness. Upon a first try, the composition felt heavily laden with amber but now feels equally balanced with the fruity and citrusy notes as you perceive the subtler notes better.
The peach accord or "note", in the sense of a dominant accord, is truly nuanced, exploring some of its more floral, pêche de vigne / vine peach inflections. The Ethyl Maltol, burnt caramel and patchouli of Thierry Mugler Angel and its popular descendant Aquolina Pink Sugar are here, interlocking with the peach, but you tend to forget about the quotes as it's been completely internalized and ironed-out, the mark of classic.
Another fruit note, a coconut one, plays a prominent role in the orchestration of the juice. it adds a tropical flavor to the perfume. It is very much perceptible from the start, at first contributing mainly to the texture of the scent by creating the illusion of a thick, heavy nectar-like sensation only lightened up by more sparkling, juicier effects. If tuberose is mentioned and perceptible, it seems overtaken at first by an usual-suspect, companion molecule, aldehyde C18, which smells of coconut. Nevertheless, an Amarige-like tuberose wafts by, but softer, saltier and more ambery. Later on, it's the purple violet that charms, almost leathery, a bit grassy, seemingly resting on warm sands.
Reb'l Fleur recalls for one part some of the style of the indulgent tropical long drinks that the Escada perfumes have appropriated as their signature, only softer and woodier. A realistic, sun-dried, crystallized mango note recalling Filipino treats is also contributing to the fruity mix and tropical atmosphere.
Where one can detect another noteworthy twist is the capacity of the coconut accord to evolve from creamy coconut fat to watery toddy, suggesting two contrasting facets of a coconut. A salty edge also offers a savory coconutty smell and is probably there as part of a salty skin nuance; the perfume can be quite enveloping and skin-scent like.
The fragrance, at one level, oscillates between a gourmand and a more feminine, lighter and more watery, almost marine coconut scent. As citruses mingle with vanilla in an airier fashion, one is reminded that the perfume is offered as a fruity chypre. The discreet oakmossy accents, when they become apparent, lift all remaining doubts. You are indeed inside the bottle of a chypré fragrance which eschews the neo-chypre reference in this case as it manages quite to the contrary to reproduce some of the antiquarian accents of old-shcool chypres, that is their scent of dried, dusty mosses growing by the sea with their salty, marine aromas (as if they were the prototypal ancestors of marine fragrances.) Mingling with the coconut flesh and water, it feels like you are watching Barbados beaches from the island of Chypre - to paraphrase a political pop culture reference about two disjointed worlds claiming a familiar relationship - while the fragrance is given an unexpected twist, something like the creation of a beachy chypre or the meeting of laid-back with ladylike.
Rihanna wanted her perfume to evoke not only Barbados actually but also New York City and Los Angeles, a mix of cool and relaxed with urban. The fruity mix and the chypre structure seem to be the translation of this desire. The singer said she saw Reb'l Fleur as being “like high heels with a short, flirty dress,” The bottle shaped in the form of a heel brings the point further home. Chypres have always been the scent of sophistication and the short dress turns out to be inspired by Caribbean beach fashion.