Tommy Girl by Tommy Hilfiger was launched in 1996 and was created by perfumer Calice Becker. Re-smelling it today - now - is perceiving the fragrance in a completely different light. Tommy Girl in the formulation bought ca. the earlier 2000s smells like something my grand-mother could have worn. We know what happened.
When I first experienced it consciously, I was struck by its radiance, its freshness and its diffusive power. But smelling it at the end of 2011 is coming nose to nose with a conspicuous oakmoss accord, that you did not notice in the era which predates IFRA regulations about politically correct oakmoss dosages...
Calice Becker said not too long ago, but I can't recall where, that using the same dosages of oakmoss as in the recent past would be condemning new launches to smelling dated.
As the author of Tommy Girl (1996), the tea fragrance for the youthful masses inspired by the more niche Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert by Bulgari (1993) signed by Jean-Claude Ellena (at least initially, when it started out as a boutique exclusive), she would have had to come to terms with the same problem in relatively "older" launches, especially those epitomizing youthful scents and young skin. When I say "older" it's relative to the high-speed rate of fragrance launches in the industry, which as I said in the past, is mimicking more and more the insane rhythms of the fashion industry where you can say without smiling almost, "It's so 2011!" at the end of the annum.
Michael Edwards just announced that there were at least about 1200 new launches in 2011.
Now I couldn't agree more with her realistic statement as I'm rediscovering her formerly unambiguously fresh, brisk, bracing opus, which now smells like an old-school Parisian perfume rescued from the trunk of a World War II G. I.. It smells, strangely enough, that dated despite the still-crisp-looking flacon.
Where did the new American freshness and cleanliness go?
Our noses have already become used to new olfactory norms.The fifth sense being the subtle one, even minute changes in doses can shape our standard expectations.
And with freshness, it seems that we are headed towards more and more freshness, and that there is no going-back.
But the nose being such an adaptive instrument, it could theoretically go back, slowly and progressively, provided fine perfumery works hand in hand with functional perfumery, from where our most common olfactory cues come from. But that is not going to happen any time soon despite the new laundry detergent as Oriental composition, the note of luxury of the category. Oud however as the newly established somber note in the palette of the perfumer will make sure we keep our deep-notes sensitivity abreast.
I'm sure that since I bought the bottle of Tommy Girl perfume, the composition must have been reformulated to meet the new standards of freshness. But the fact remains that perfumes age, not only materially, but culturally, and apparently, very fast at that when wide-ranging changes are introduced in our environment.
Who knew Tommy Girl would one day smell, not like the 1990s, but the 1940s? Something more akin to La Fuite des Heures. Or is it that the most gracile, airy and fragilely luminous notes are condemned to disappear more surely than the heavy, base notes? One day, we might look back at the past mostly through the base notes of perfumes. This is why conservation work and adaptive reformulation work are necessary. Today, I also smelled Dana 20 Carats (1933) from an old flacon, with only the remaining base notes in it: it smelled exactly like Estée Lauder Youth-Dew (1953), 20 years prior to its launch, hinting at the existence of a well-known old base.