Armani Privé Cuir Amethyste, 2005. Perfumer Michel Almairac.
Criticism of Cuir Amethyste appears to have taken two routes. 1) It’s luxurious and lush and I love it. 2) It’s synthetic and cheap and I don’t like it. I’ll take one from column A and one from column B. It does have a roughness that suggests that the details weren’t as important as both the distinctiveness and in-your-faceness. And from the flower to the fruit to the leather/vinyl/plastic notes (the “cuir”, I guess) there is chemical twang that most would call instinctively call synthetic. The topnotes of CA always give me the same gestalt: grape/violet/ink. A sort of Bois de Violette on meth.
So, yes, from column A I’ll take the chemo-freak factor, but from column B I’ll take the, “I like it!”
What’s compelling though is the disjointed narrative it gives you. The stages of CA over time don’t line up. The topnotes shouldn’t logically lead to the heartnotes, and you end up in a drydown that leaves you wondering how you got there. Most notes last from start to finish—sweet yet juiceless fruit; powdery, woody floral; plastic-ink.—but the tone is all over the map. The topnotes are high-pitched yet dense, the heart is powdery and resinous-sweet, the base is fairly woody but with some of that inky sweetness remaining. Moving from one phase to the next is less confusing than just nonsensical. Any moment of the fragrance can be likeable, but to the wearer, who’s there for the whole ride, in feels incorrect. Not distressing or off-putting, just objectively incorrect like a misspelling.
But wrong can be more fun than right, so I’m coming down in favor of incorrectness. Is it that the perfumer tried for leather and then got ink? Is it that Armani just had to have “cuir” in the title? Was Almairac looking for that cool inky effect as in Comme des Garcons 2 Woman? (If so, he got it.) Since so many perfumes get it right I take it that leather isn’t a terribly difficult note to achieve in perfumery. So I choose to believe that the perfumer was aiming for a fun, fake, fantasy leather along the lines of Etat Libre’s Vierges et Toreros or Parfumerie Generale’s Psychotrope.
This perfume should be presented as a well-executed oddball. Cuir Amethyste is more of a fun perfume than serious one and seems out of place in the Armani world of grim luxury. The name, the packaging, the imagery all suggest numb sparsity, high fashion’s proxy for serenity. Put this stuff in something like Juicy Couture’s spangle bottle, call it, “Violet Vinyl”, charge ¼ the price and it’d sell like mad.