Perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux
Follow-ups to fist time successes are notoriously difficult and Badgley Mischka appear to have tried to recreate the win by following a similar strategy to the original Badgley Mischka by Badgley Mischka. The original perfume was a syrupy fruitchouli released in 2006. While the genre may have been generic, the perfume was not. It dressed up a shady fruitchouli fragrance not with the intent to make it make it more acceptable, but to make it better than any others. It included layers of rot and booze that were more potent than any simple fruity sweetness. It smelled terrific and was a clever commentary on a genre that was considered hackneyed by the time of its release.
Badgley Mischka’s sophomore offering, Fleurs de Nuit, suggests jasmine and its sweet-sweaty atmosphere. Even more, the name implies night-blooming jasmine, the vampire of fragrant plants with a narcotic miasma of flowers and flesh. Unfortunately, having built expectation into its name, Fleurs de Nuit defeats itself. Without the requisite seamy side, and with the addition of a half can of cling peaches, Fleurs de Nuit is both loud and vague, like someone who gestures madly to get your attention, and once she has it, forgets what she meant to say. It’s not that Fleurs de Nuit isn’t pretty. It’s a simple, clean sweet, fruity jasmine with no sharp edges and no distortion. It simply doesn’t stand out either on its own or in comparison to other fruity florals.
The original Badgely Mischka gave buyers a category they thought they knew and then pulled out the rug from under them. Fleurs de Nuit takes the first part of the equation, using an easily recognizable category, here a sweet fruity floral, but neglects the other half—the twist, the subversion. Aiming for the center of the market, but with nothing new to add to it, Fleurs de Nuit comes off as both generic and derivative. I’m not so much disappointed in the perfume itself as I am surprised and perplexed. Given the smarts and audacity of the first release, why follow up with a such a timid strategy? The answer, and the fun, really, lies in the next flaw in the strategy.
Fleurs de Nuit apparently tries to win buyers with the dual strategy of the generic (larger potential market share) and the derivative (the herd instinct.) The herd instinct, perfected in men’s fragrance and marketing, relies on the principle of safe buying, which is to say that buyers will want to try something that they identify as different from what they have, yet the distinction is so slight as to be indistinguishable to most others. It’s the daring mocha caramel 3-shot decaf trenta latte with 1 % no foam drinker one day branching out and trying the same WITH foam.
Here’s the derivation: To my nose, Fleurs de Nuit smells like an undisguised attempt to make the jasmine version of Juicy Couture’s tuberose. Juicy Couture by Juicy Couture stripped the tuberose note of its dark side and paired it with a sweet, plastic musk sheen. Where Juicy Couture’s acetone muskiness shellacs the tuberose so that we see it through a prism, Fleurs de Nuit coats its rinsed-clean flower with a sugary fruitiness and winds up a large scale blur. In drydown, Juicy Couture hangs together solidly. In Fleurs de Nuit, although there is a slight reference to the original Badgely Mischka’s fruity ‘flavor’, it’s a superficial allusion. Fleurs de Nuit skips anything like the original’s brandy/ammonia decay, and the drydown is a fairly quick jump from blurred to bland.
I don’t like to berate a perfume. In this case, though, the perfume is so formulaic, and the strategy of diving to the bottom of the middle of the pack is…what? Miscalculated? Cynical? A counterintuitive attempt to manage high expectations? For high-end frock makers to want to compete head-to-head a maker of garish track suits and diamante accessories, at least symbolically through their perfumes, is baffling. The follow-through from perfume to packaging is consistent, though. I’ve always thought that the original Badgely Mischka bottle was an example of unintended kitsch, but Fleurs de Nuit tops it, making the Juicy Couture spangly bottle seem like a spectacle of good taste.