Kenzo World (2016) // Doing the Cultural Splits {Perfume Review & Musings}


Kenzo World (2016) // Doing the Cultural Splits {Perfume Review & Musings}

Kenzo Parfums' latest major fragrance launch, Kenzo World, can be viewed as an olfactory incursion into how different worlds can meet and meld. Sometimes, varied universes collide and instead of exploding into a ball of fire, burst instead into an extrovert, patchwork-y bouquet of multiculturalism made up of sea-raft debris, jasmine, pickled peony buds and milky ambergris chews. Yes, this is really how it smells, from a certain angle.

Francis Kurkdjian signs the composition with artistic acolytes Carol Lim and Humberto Leon. Their inspiration appears to be Kenzo, nature, culture, food - but also a perfumery pioneer, Womanity by Thierry Mugler, which dared launch for the first time into a savory-sweet caviar-and-milky-fig split. You could see it as a grand-écart accord, with quite a bit of cultural tension due to newness...


Kenzo World perfume opens on a salty peony impression; it is more precisely the sensation of smelling fresh peony blooms put to macerate in a cedarwood barrel filled with brine and ambergris. This quirky smell appears to be the main accord around which the composition pivots.

Secondary nuances of raspy musks and vanilla are there to dress up the core olfactory signature of World, whose main goal seems to be to cultivate eccentricity of style.

The TV commercial by Spike Jonze confirms this intention: it showcases a wild and grotesque choreography by Ryan Heffington ( Sia "Chandelier") performed by Margaret Qualley. Her dance is eye-popping offering the attributes of an exerting mental and ambulatory tour de force: it is impressively physical, primal, expressive, unininhibited, frenetic, demented, possessed - and to sum it up, dishevelly creative. The dance explores a register of human feelings which seems inspired by the divine destructive energy of goddess Kali - eyes too are part of dancing in Indian choreography - but also the grotesque of medieval gargoils, court buffoons and Hugolian street monsters. The primal aspect of the dance can be seen as a reference to the Kenzo gorilla figure, in part; it meshes with the drums of the original track by Sam Spiegel & Ape Drums feat. Assassin "Mutant Brain".

Meanwhile, if Kenzo World eau de parfum is weird, or wyrd as we underlined previously, it is not as relentlessly out-there and savage as the commercial; but it is on the outlandish side.

The salty, floral peony accord floating in brine and ambergris is accentuated with an almost neon-like raspberry note, while a milky white caramel accord - we're thinking White Rabbit brand - finally drowns all the psychological asperities of the composition in a gentle, sweet milk bath. You can perceive a star anise nuance, which together with the smell of White Rabbit caramels, feels like looking at Chinatown through a whimsical looking-glass; star anise is one of the most typical aromas of Chinese cuisine, if you had to guess blind-folded.


This first perfume launch under the artistic direction of Lim and Leon turns out to be a conceptual work. The composition focuses on quirkiness. It manages to smell slightly odd, but also strangely appealing. It remains a fairly linear scent work, which stops smelling different from the time it has said what it meant to say. After hitting your nostrils with improbable notes, Kenzo World caramels its way down to the smell of your sweet, milky, jasminey skin, with a hint of tart fruitiness, a speck of powder and a whiff of aromatic spice.

It is the interplay of milky white caramel, spicy star anise, jasmine and Ambroxan in which the volumes of the notes modulate differently in the drydown which confers a sense of evolution to the perfume. But the means are very economical. There are no new additions. It is just a matter of bringing out some nuances better, in a variegated manner in the long drydown. It is a bit like presenting the same object to the sun; it shines where the sun hits as you turn it around.

The fragrance composition is concept-oriented / intellectual and sensual /addictive. It snags your attention, but then also simply smells really good and warm on skin.

Fragrance notes officially divulged are: peony, fruity jasmines and Ambroxan.

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