Luna Rossa is the latest masculine fragrance by Prada which will be launched from September 22, 2012. The scent is named after the sailing boat belonging to the house which regularly participates in the prestigious America's Cup.
We shalll concentrate here on the olfactory review of the scent, its meaning, and go back later to the visual advertising campaign and perhaps some more concrete olfactive details on the creative and technical process as the release gets closer. In other words, we are taking poetic license to do things in reverse order. For the house of Prada, the cologne is,
"Looking to the values of extreme sailing as a starting point for new ideas, Prada's new masculine fragrance evolved from the pursuit of excellence. Taking the esteemed Luna Rossa name as its own, it is a scent with a reverence for the natural world and a passion for innovation."...
Composed by perfumer Daniela Andrier of Givaudan, Luna Rossa may appear at first like a let-down. The opening is unsurprisingly - or rather surprisingly given it's Andrier - generic, being both aquatic and woody with some dusty cedar wood underpinnings. Who hasn't smelled this accord in the dozens of men's fragrance bottles trying to play it safe to the male consumer? While you can well think in a spurt of generosity that, granted, this would smell good on a handsome man, the perfumery accord itself initially is no more than a rehash, it seems, of codified modern masculine notes of perfumery in the lineage of Acqua di Gio whose success ensured it was followed by a host of unduly conservative men's colognes. Drenched-woods inflections have become stereotypical rather than classic.
After several minutes and as the fragrance progresses a new finesse however appears. A lifebuoy has been thrown to perfumistas. There is something here evoking the quiet whisper of dusty roses. It introduces a more complex dimension to Luna Rossa. There are also soft vegetaly accents in the range of green angelica, clary sage and papyrus/blond woods, which add softness to the composition whose main note is lavender but so reworked it does not feel much like lavender on a conscious level. This evolution assuages your fears that perfumer Daniela Andrier caved in to commercial pressures all of a sudden. The nose usually has an aesthetic conscience and has been developing a unique style of perfumery by collaborating with Prada on the Infusion series.
Now then, you can start perceiving her invisible signature. As we mentioned it before, Andrier has been working for several years on refining her perfumery accords so as to enable them to feel both present and quasi impalpable. This is different from saying that her perfumes are ethereal, which is a sensation more often encountered. In her recent Prada No.11 Cuir Styrax, this aesthetic choice is illustrated very well. To us, it is with Infusion de Vétiver that there seems to have appeared a systematic orientation, although it really debuted with the Infusion series which was compared by the nose early on to traces left on humid sand.
Luna Rossa is thus remarkably sub-sonic. It evidently betrays a great mastery of this style of fragrance-making at this point. It is a proposition which differs from the minimalist one one can smell in the works of perfumers like Jean-Claude Ellena and Olivia Giacobetti. With Daniela Andrier there this sense of a progressive process of desincarnation over time, not so much the sensation of looking at a constant and synchronic effect of transparency.
It makes you think in terms of analogy of the process of kneading dough. The more you knead the paste, the thinner it gets. What started looking like a brute object, a ball of matter, is being worked out to the maximum of its material resistance to the point where you envision the extremely flattened dough acquiring transparency. It is only at this point that there is something of a watercolor texturing which surfaces, but it is more abstract and it is one which has been been pushed further to a point of fading. It is not just more of the classical aquarelle-like transparency.
We get a sense that Andrier is fascinated by that critical fading point, the passage from something into nothingness.
As perfumery is, technically speaking, the art and the mastery of the evaporation rate of aromatic molecules, it is understandable that perfumers would be fascinated by the tenuous frontier lying between material aromatic existence and disappearance into non-existence. It is that vanishing point where a perfume fades out into non-existence which is evoked for much longer that we are supposed to smell it normally, as it has become turned into a figure of style.
Andrier with her perfumery seems to express the fact that instead of falling into a consenting victim mode and assent to the inevitable conclusion one anticipates - the disappearance of the work of the perfumer save for within the memories of the wearers and in writing - using and modulating that foregone conclusion is to ascribe it existential meaning. Originally, a degree of concern for superlative elegance probably motivated that approach as well.
Playing with perfumery materials, refining them to the extreme makes you feel you the person smelling like you are living poised on the edge of a cliff. There is the danger of falling into emptiness. This is where we see a confluence of ideas between the danger found in the disappearance of notes in perfumery - How far to go? How controlled should it be? - and the dangers of sailing during a highly competitive race at sea, doing extreme sports, being on the cusp of capsizing while striving against the elements.
In perfumery like in sailing, there is the risk of being overwhelmed by the elements. What is extreme lives near death. It is a way for the perfumer of harnessing a core challenge and instead of creating a fragrance which is symphonic, boisterous and noisy to fight off as long as possible its own pre-programmed disappearance, it instead surfs on the wave of this movement, accompanying it, illustrating it, accepting it, turning frailty into personal style and strength.
The house writes that "The strength and freshness of the elements is evoked by the interpretation of classic notes in novel forms" We couldn't agree more with the last part of that statement, which we underlined. Luna Rossa is about very self-conscious and pliable design. In a way, it is about the triumph of the will of the perfumer, hoping not to call too ambiguously to memory the infamous documentary by Leni Riefenstahl (Triumph des Willens) about Nazi Germany's worship of a deadly brand of willfulness and voluntarism, although it's certainly always good to remember certain perversions to set a sense of limits and not to be lured in by the void.
Notes: Lavender absolute, bitter orange, clary sage, spearmint nanah, Ambroxan, Ambrette absolute.