Carolina Herrera 212 Sexy (2004): Darn Sexy - With a Note on Rude vs. Polite Perfumes {Perfume Review & Musings} {Perfume Images & Ads}

carolina_herrera_212_sexy_bottle.jpg212 Sexy by Carolina Herrera was released in 2004 as a sequel to the original 212 (1998) and 212 On Ice (2000). Like the other perfumes in the franchise, it pays homage to New York City with its name referring to the city's telephone area code. Aimed by thinking honchos at the 25-30 year-old demographic group, it suggests the dating scene and even dating paraphernalia in less than subtle, sledge-hammer-like touches.

The adverts in particular are monuments of heavy-handedness when it comes to allusive imagery, plus they are fugly, all of them, and curiously so (see after the jump)...


The Personality of a Designer Perfume: Politeness vs. Rudeness

The fragrance was composed by perfumer Alberto Morillas (see bio), who is a master at capturing the right moods for the designer section of the market. Meant to sublimate femininity and accompany women in their daily existence, designer perfumes are often more like beauty accessories than cumbersome (for you, but not for art itself) olfactory sculptures displayed on your arms for which you might feel the need to apologize when it takes up extra space in a room where other selves than yours are going on about their busy activities.

If you can imagine the perfume speaking up and saying "please," or smile apologetically, then you know you are in the polite territory of designer fragrances.

To create a sexy and polite perfume, you can already tell, will require psychological tension and acumen.

If you sense on the other hand that the perfume would not hesitate to be a bit rude, then we are more in the frankly-my-dear-I-don't-give-a-damn territory,  which is in principle the niche territory carved out by authorial perfumery. Yes to rudeness, but in small doses.

Their common point? They all want to be worn and make money. But there are shades of meaning and strategies to be applied judiciously to appeal to the right perfume-wearer.

Perfume will always be the art of nuance, be it olfactory or social. And even when it comes to the devising of prices.

Perfume Notes: mandarin, tangerine, bergamot, spicy pink peppercorn / geranium, gardenia, floral petals / cotton candy, vanilla, sandalwood, white 212 musk.


A Sexy, Subdued Skin Scent

On the scale of politeness vs. rudeness, 212 Sexy is probably in the top 20% of polite perfumes. While it aims to send a sexual signal - I personally find it sexy and this is how in fact I remembered it and why I purchased it - it does so in a very clean, all-American way. It is not literally clean as in sudsy clean, but morally clean, as an ideal. There is a hint of spiciness. The sandalwood does its magic as one of the sexiest notes of perfumery in our book. I find it has an extraordinary affinity to skin and turns it into a vixenish skin-rubbed-with-spices effect. It's both a bride's and a courtesan's ritual. The sandalwood note smells a tad synthetic in the opening but pretty soon mellows down to a more comfortable level.

There is a chocolatey nuance to the scent which is not surprising given the presence of cotton candy and vanilla. It suggests more the olfactory range of a chocolatey patchouli than that of a gourmand accord.

212 Sexy is an Oriental woody floral composition with a splintered wood nuance, as if we were smelling freshly bruised wood.

The other noticeable facet in the fragrance is the mellowness of the gardenia heart which is freshened up, made to be slightly distorted and a bit greener thanks to the aromatic geranium note. Gardenia is one of the notes par excellence of American perfumery, so we know where we are dwelling here.

If you like perfumes which are barely above the level of a softly-spoken voice on the skin and are quietly sexy, this is one to try out. The white musk never plays out as a shower-clean accord as the soft ambery-musky Oriental accord supersedes it. It seems to be used more as powdery effect for the sandalwood. The main tonalities of the perfume come across as being chestnut brown, woody, creamy, and floral. The perfume is lasting once it melds with the skin.

While we said that it aims to be both sexy and polite -well, except in the ads, which are rude and curiously meat-markety, and "technical" looking - we might have to use an expletive in the end as this really does smell darn sexy!

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