Helmut Lang Cuiron, 2014

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Perfumer Françoise Caron.

I don’t know the original Cuiron, but the consensus is that the new version is very close to the original. Not 100%, but the shape and the intent are the same. Cuiron’s reissue was hotly awaited but following the curse-of-threes in perfume releases it was somewhat overshadowed by its siblings Helmut Lang EDP and EDC.

The timing of the reissue was awkward. As a 2014 version of a 2002 perfume, it’s neither new nor vintage, so it arrives with two strikes against it. One, it’s a reformulation and, two, even if the restoration is flawless, it’s not old enough to be retro, just out of fashion.

I imagine that even when it was first released Cuiron was neither fish nor fowl. Ostensibly leather but actually more woody than anything else. Largely synthetic but not unapologetically so like many other millennial niche perfumes (eg. Comme des Garçons, l’Artisan Parfumeurs, Etat Libre d’Orange). Minimal but a little fussy. From the perspective of 2014 the neither/nor bit is magnified, giving Cuiron a house-of-mirrors quality that makes it seem endlessly referential.

To wit: Cuiron shares the hissy, gasoline topnotes of a few power-masculines that preceded it, namely Hermès Bel Ami and Dior Fahrenheit. Even Chanel Antaeus for that matter. It manages to find the neutral territory between the plush of Knize Ten and the starkness of ELDO Rien. Cuiron’s synth-woodiness narrowly misses the over-reliance on Iso-E Super that many of the era fell prey to, yet it hints at the freeze-dried hollowness of the norlimbanol beasts that would follow. Cuiron’s shiny, metallic topnotes are oddly reminiscent of Guerlain Coriolan, linking it to the generation of lost masculines like Paco Rabanne Ténéré, Givenchy Insensé and Jacomo Anthracite. It’s freaky how many other perfumes Cuiron brings to mind.

It’s arguable that Cuiron lacks individuality or identity. It’s not as specific as some other leather perfumes but it fits the straightforwardness of the Lang aesthetic. For those attuned to the quiet detail of the brand’s signature minimalism Cuiron was probably fairly loud but it was less bombastic than the power-fragrances and brassy fougères that preceded it.

The reissued Cuiron doesn’t suffer from reformulation, but expectation gets the better of it. The original edition gathered a cult following, especially after it was discontinued. In 2002 Cuiron would have been the star of a rising niche wave. In 2014 Cuiron faced more competition and a more informed perfume consumer. It will be interesting to see how Cuiron survives in this new setting.


Image, Helmut Lang boot.

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