GIRL is the debut perfume of Pharrell Williams + Comme des Garçons. It has been highly anticipated since last spring as this promised to be the meeting of two creative forces. If one thing was near certain, this was going be a scent exploding with personality and embellished with a good dollop of quirkiness...
You already imagined Williams confiding in Comme des Garçons about a childhood memory with a very weird olfactory angle that he had kept in a back room of his memory to resurface for an occasion just like this one.
If we had to simplify for you the concept of Pharrell Williams + Comme des Garçons GIRL on paper - digital paper that is - it is that it smells like a Japanese fougère having met a vanillic heliotrope and leathery styrax in its travels, and which furthermore stumbled upon the scent of curb beloved by the brand. Anything that has to do with garage smells, that is a part of the by now "natural" palette of the brand. What was once futuristic feels traditional within the brand universe of reference.
Your mind then shifts back to Pharrell Williams, the man behind the scent and to his global musical hit, Happy. Of course, this makes sense. The vague scent of petrichor on asphalt redolent of it is a perfect olfactory showcasing for illlustrating all the happy dancing feet in the streets of L.A. featured in the 24 hour video, an idea reportedly, ahem, borrowed without referencing it from the « Girl Walk // All Day » video from 2011 by Anne Marsen.
Elle France and other medias reported about the issue asking in French"Is this plagiarism?". Pharrell Williams' camp answered that no one among them had ever watched the video. You judge. After watching the reel (check below), I think that someone must have watched the Marsen performance. There are just too many coincidences. So unless someone else before Anne Marsen came up with the idea, she is the originator, by the looks of it.
SPIN Magazine Article: http://www.spin.com/articles/pharrell-happy-looks-like-girl-walk-all-day-video-interview
Here's what she has to say:
"I'm happy for the message of ~dancing makes you happy~ to be spreading around the world in such a big way these days.
Girl Walk isn't just about "dancing makes you happy". It's about shit happens, you go through highs and lows, and you can still pick yourself up and make the decision to dance.
Check out the message of Girl Walk // All Day here: http://girlwalkallday.com
After this parenthesis on an important topic related to this perfume review perhaps most meaningfully as it pertains to the question of first creativity, we can add that the Eau de Parfum evokes a Japanese fougère because it smells at first both like a powdery men's fougère - Lalique Homme by Maurice Roucel comes to mind as well as Brut by Fabergé - but mixed with Japanese woodlands, and in particular the scent of Hinoki, another trademark note of the house.
CDG never mentions a fougère. For them it's "a woody fragrance whose construction is complex and delicately elaborated,"
A vanillic, almondy sensation of both heliotrope and tonka bean however break the mold a bit - notwithstanding the classic coumarin reference - while a graphite-like smell conjures up the urban landscape. The powdery sweetness could be that of a mochi pastry covered in shiso leaves but somehow it resists that cultural assimilation evoking more the cherry-pie plant.
The perfume wears rather close to the body being less than loud. This fact also changes perspectives on the composition which normally could be heavier and fuller-bodied but ends up smelling purposefully, it seems, thin.
Meanwhile, nuances of spicy and sappy shiso leaves bring their clean and green Oriental feel but always wrapped in almondy sweetness, which prevents it from smelling only Made in Japan. In fact it's written Made in France all over the fragrance packaging. There is also doughiness which could come from orris root.
The drydown brings out the spent powder nuance more. Amazingreen by Comme des Garçons was an ode to the scent of firearms and this recalls it. It then shifts little gears in the direction of the scent of a hot ironed shirt.
John Galliano was so enamored with that smell that he built his debut eau de parfum around that idea to remind him of the couture workshops. The Pharrell opus is designed "for girls and boys" which lets you imagine that gender boundaries might have been constructed around two gendered scents of burning material: gunpowder and a hot iron. It's like an ironic representation of Ken and Barbie as soldier and housekeeper in a perfume bottle, which judging from the art on the bottle signed by KAWS is exactly playing in that realm of thinking.
GIRL smells perhaps a bit too much like a predictable Comme des Garçons composition notwithstanding the fact that it's more sensual a work than expected. A sense of adaptation is there, of compromise but not of deep research into Pharrell's personality. What are his own preferences, you may wonder, if you already know the house codes. This is a mix of ready-made CDG house accords by perfumer Antoine Lie of Takasago and the irruption of Pharrel Williams onto the scene of fame with a great song filled with feel-good hormones - and how do you translate all that? Williams - who is a noted dandy and a fan of CDG fashion - would probably want to wear something that bears the house signature with great pleasure and respect. You expected however more in-depth research into the singer's background bringing his aura to a perfume especially if it is a house with creative credentials like this one.
The perfume is a minimalist Japanese ambience fougère with an urban edge. It is unisex admittedly because they say so. It leans however more in the direction of boys than girls or else the girls are quite tomboyish. Where it departs from the closet-fougère idea, which is not mentioned by the brand, is in its skin scent sillage which is definitely sensual and easily adoptable. It is in the longer drydown that GIRL reveals its sexy, skin-scent nature. Like the song itself, it's a happy sillage. You're just mildly exulting to smell your own skin, magnified thanks to the art of perfumery - and the help of sensual woods with a hint of milk.
Top notes: neroli, lavender, white pepper / heart notes: styrax and violet / vetiver, patchouli, cedarwood and sandalwood.
Rating: 3 out of 5