Karleidoscope is the brain-child of Karl Lagerfeld whose composition was entrusted to perfumer Christophe Raynaud of Givaudan who has already created fragrances in the, let's face it, celebrity genre with Céline Dion, Antonio Banderas and Halle Berry. Karl Lagerfeld has slowly but surely evolved in the public's consciousness from fashion designer status to a celebrity one and is on his way to becoming a pop icon. Karleidoscope is an ode to the Kaiser's many facets although he is pretending that it is dedicated to his idea of a woman. Hence, the powdery violet idea. But the perfume is not what you would expect a classic powdery violet scent to smell like.The designer said that violet was elected because,
"For me, violet represents all the facets of a woman. It is the quintessential kaleidoscopic flower."....
Notes: violet leaves, angelica seeds, neroli, violet, heliotrope, freesia, patchouli, benzoin, tonka bean.
The opening of the eau de parfum is iris-y more than violet-y, with a dash of sweetness, all this foiled in a light ambery body. What comes next seems to take the perfume all too quickly to a heavily white musky and powdery base, but this course is interrupted as the musks seem to morph into aldehydes. Could this be a nod to Chanel No.5? Then it feels like the harshness is going to translate as green galbanum, but the impression is soon reined in. Is this another whimsical nod to Chanel No.19? A citrusy-violet nuance is dominant but with an oily, sesame-oil-like background. A blond hay-like nuance appears. The powder is absolutely minimalist in the end.
It is not clear exactly what they wanted to do with the composition at this point, but if one had to associate it with anything Karl-Lagerfeld, it would make one think of a rapid fashion sketch drawn on the corner of a table in a hurried bout of inspiration. Next, it would embody the manner in which Karl Lagerfeld does not take himself seriously. The style master has a way now in his autumn-winter years of surfing on his own popularity and iconic image, which is several steps removed from any preoccupation with making total sense. He seems thus to have been involved in a branding game for the past few years and seems to be very amused by all the hoopla he can create around his "patte" or signature apposed nearly everywhere. At the FIAC, he was there like Kilroy because he had designed the booth for Galerie Gmurzynska for the exhibition "Rebels" curated by Isabelle Bscher. At the supermarket, his silhouette made me twirl a pink-bubblegum KL Diet Coke bottle in my hand and decide if it would be fun or not to put a rose in it. I prefer zero Coke and if I must, Coke Zero. Next, if you told me that he had just designed a book cover for Dostoïevsky's Crime and Punishment, I would say, "Did he manage to put his silhouette as the i's in there?" This logo fury of his evokes less Holly-Golightly a preoccupation with mortality as a race against time to leave his mark.
The packaging for the flacon demonstrates the designer's love of borderline nonsense. There is a kaleidoscope. This is a perfect symbol for the extremely pliable talent of Lagerfeld, for his "touche à tout", versatile persona. The lower cap is cut so as to present KL's silhouette in the shape of a key hole; incidentally, he is about to launch a makeup collection at Sephora in which the eye-shadows reproduce his famous silhouette. Then, there is a vinaigrette sponge, like a 19th century black paper cut-out silhouette. If the sponge is there for perfumery sake and not just for play sake, then one can assume you can spray the scent onto the sponge and tuck it somewhere convenient like inside your bra or your locket to waft of the scent. The brand suggests to carry it as a lucky charm in your bag or to let it diffuse fragrance on your dresser.
As the scent further mellows down, a note of peppery freesia surfaces which pushes the perfume more in the consistent direction of a transparent fragrance with a fondness for light, fresh, and simple notes. Again, one can relate something in there to the known persona of the fashion designer. His fondness for wearing an uniform rather than bothering to reinvent his image each and every day betrays a taste for simplicity and perhaps better said, a need for simplicity in the whirlwind creative universe he lives in.
Like this, his new signature perfume is ultra streamlined. And just like he is famous also for having been a successful dieter thanks in part to his reliance on Coca-Cola Light, for which he recently designed the pink-ribboned metallic bottles I mentioned above, Karleidoscope is also a waif of a scent. You can indulge in it and it never feels heavy. People who are looking for meaty perfumes should turn to his earlier period. Lagerfeld used to design plush orientals, but this is about the new, thinner Kaiser with a taste for skinny pants signed by Hedi Slimane, for which he sacrificed his love of eating chocolate but not of tasting them. His advice? Just put the chocolate in your mouth, chew it and spit it out again like a tastevin. Who needs to swallow chocolate anymore? Extra calories are to be stricken out into oblivion. The perfume did not have to be as feathery as his dieting choices, but it is. In a way, the perfume then is made to participate into the process of rendering the Karl-Lagerfeld image even more iconic. It is also part of a larger trend of lighter perfumes, but this one is something else.
In the end, and from the perspective of the history of Karl Lagerfeld perfumes, this is the other end of the spectrum of what the designer has done for perfume so far. The original Chloé was a loud, generous and expansive tuberose pseudo-soliflore. Karl Lagerfeld the perfume is ambery and almost syrupy, and almost sticky. His Kapsule collection started feeling much more wan. Now is the new embodiment of his new predilection for guilt-free fragrance textures.
Influenced, no doubt, by the concept which gave birth to Coca-Cola Light, Karleidoscope smells like a diet perfume thanks to a pale rose-violet-iris accord and timid yet quite delectable freesia note with a sheerly sweet tonka bean. All the notes have been stripped down of their usual molecular weight. You can wear it even if you're on an empty stomach or just want to be because you are pregnant. You can smell the perfume over and over and it points consistently towards a 0-calorie ideal world. It beats L'Eau by Serge Lutens in terms of being a perfume suggesting the absence of scent and even the waner still Cologne du Parfumeur by Guerlain.