Clinique Wrappings (1990): Fresh as in a Double Entendre {Perfume Review & Musings}


Wrappings by Clinique was launched in 1990 at the cusp of a decade which has come to be seen as characterized by the dominance of clean fragrances. It was indeed the new sensation in town, right after the aggressive, over-opulent, unrestrained trails of the 1980s: Diva, Ysatis, Poison, Giorgio, Gianni Versace, Obsession, they were queueing up to deliver punch-in-the-nose olfactory sensations...

In reality, scents were not that regimented under one aesthetic school, and eclectism continued to prevail. Consider for instance the once near-smothering quality of Venezia by Laura Biagiotti (1992).

It remains true however that a new tonality was created which came to define the era both because you could smell it on every street corner - like for Sunflowers by Elizabeth Arden (1993) - and because you noticed these new smells which evoked a very stubborn sense of freshness - like for Sunflowers by Elizabeth Arden. We've said before that while Nine West Skinscent for Her by Aramis (1990) is considered like the perfume which opened the water gates to flood the perfume counters, there was also another precursor, the little-known composition by Edmond Roudnitska, Ocean Rain for Men by Mario Valentino which debuted in 1990. The nose had been actually working on aquatic accords for a while.

When you smell Wrappings today, issued in 1990, you can tell that it belongs to the cohort of clean perfumes of the 90s. In the debate about perfumery being more an art or an artisanal craft, let us not forget that it is also an industry and that obviously, novel molecules and accords imitating water and transparency were encouraged to appear in the palette of perfumers and from then on into your bottles of perfume. It is not surprising therefore that in Wrappings you can find a tenuous thread linking it up to the Melonal and more, in Le Parfum de Thérèse by Frédéric Malle. The latter, composed by Edmond Roudnitska reportedly in the 1950s as a personal, custom-made perfume for his wife Thérèse, shows the perfumer's interest in exploring both aquatic and juicy tonalities, like a bridge between the fruits he was keen on (Femme de Rochas), with more water added. With Wrappings created by perfumer Elie Roger of Firmenich - the author of the beautiful, honeyed chypre Knowing by Estée Lauder - we get cleanliness but also character, and sensuality. That note of sensuality is quite modern and so might have been added afterwards. Long-time wearers of the perfume can tell us if they've noticed anything new.

These are some of the pages in the olfactory storybook that you can smell underneath the advertizing story. In the ad stories, Wrappings was compared to sea air but also to an abstract, ideal form of underwear. In 1991, they wrote,

"And while you're here, slip into Wrappings - the chemise of fragrance designed to enfold skin, hair, clothes in white flowers, green herbs, a gust of sea air. Pure and simply Clinique Wrappings."

Elsewhere, they said that it was the missing link between your clothes and your skin. This was the sartorial side of "clean". You were supposed to smell like clean skin, clean clothes - aside from wafting of clean air and clean water.

Wrappings though is not just clean. It bridges old-school and new-school perfumery perhaps best felt in the de facto ozonic moss accord. If you read the list of notes in Ocean Rain*, they are quite similar to those of Wrappings. The former presents a hybrid sense of old-school moss and new freshness.

The Clinique perfume opens on very soapy, bubbly, green and aromatic facets, with fresh resins. It smells like pine-scented bubble bath, except it is more complex and more exaggerated in this composition than in Badedas. The fragrance asserts a sense of harmony which is idiosyncratic; it makes things work when you could have come across a brutal medley of piney, citrusy and aldehydic notes. It is a pretty raw opening. It is dissonant. It frankly doesn't give a damn. It imposes itself more than it charms.

The very bubbly-bath accord followed by incredibly green, grassy, fresh and citrusy notes mellows down but certainly not right away. The citrus note is high-pitched and long-lasting, with a definite citronella nuance. Wrappings was the second perfume by Clinique and one conceived of as a fresher exploration going beyond Aromatics Elixir to present more freshness.There is an undefinable sensation. The white florals are not very vivid, but rather constructed thanks in part to that oily white floral molecule, a type of indole smelling a bit of sesame oil.

After a while the perfume develops a melon-y undertone at the same time that it warms up and mellows down.

The drydown is exceptionally dry; if you want an antidote to sweet perfumes which are such a mainstay of today's olfactory culture, you can turn to this complex yet Zeitgeist-y 90s fragrance which balances out personal insolence with fashion sense. Susan Irvine sees it as a feminine fougère (lavender, herbs) while Michael Edwards classifies it as a fresh marine perfume, grade 1, the kind which is described as representing "the most effervescent fragrances in the family." It invites to my mind comparisons to a chypre such as Cabochard by Grès (1959) which if not de facto a marine perfume was in fact inspired by a walk by the seaside, so has that element to it. Every time you smell a non-sweet fragrance, you get this impression that the perfume's least concern is to please. If it doesn't sweet-talk, or barely, ot just enough to add contrast, it does make an impression thanks to the hefty doses, again, of aromatic, citrusy and aldehydic notes. The surprise for the nose is to uncover in the very final stage of the long drydown, a note of Eyptian musk which is meant to make you simply smell good, discreetly so, as in a skin scent.

As Jo Malone are preparing to launch a collection of four perfumes inspired by the rain in London, we might not only wear Wrappings because it smells good, a bit defiant, and is out for a limited-time during the holidays like each year before it retreats back to the memories of the 90s, but also because marine and aquatic perfumes still continue to fascinate. While often decried in the perfumista community for being wan and bland, the genre of aquatic perfumes is on a symbolic level as elemental as water, and therefore is bound to be part of the olfactory landscape again and again now that they've been put firmly on the map. And incidentally, Wrappings is not wan - it is really "fresh" as in a double entendre: it is both refreshing and insolent. It demonstrates the fact that an aquatic composition can and will deliver strong, even controversial sensations.

Wrappings notes: aldehydes, artemisia, lavender, green notes and nutmeg flower / middle notes are cyclamen, carnation, orris root, jasmine, hiacynth and rose / base notes are leather, patchouli, musk, oakmoss, cedar and sea notes.

*Ocean Rain notes: green notes, bergamot, lemon, lavender, artemisia and basil/ marine notes, rose, thyme, fir and cyclamen / cedar, moss, amber, leather and olibanum.

You can also read Les Fleurs du Guildo & Jicky by Guerlain: An Early, 19th Century Precursor of Marine Scents & a Reexamination of Jicky's Gender & Fresh Factor.

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