Parfums MDCI Invasion Barbare, 2005

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(image Jenny Shimizu)

Perfumer Stéphanie Bakouche, 2007

I’m all for dismissing gender in perfume. Or at least fucking with it. It’s been noted that men and women relate differently to their fragrances if they wear only one (“The One”). For women it’s The Signature Perfume. For men it’s merely Old Faithful. The implication is that women are notable for their desire to be noticed while men are simply creatures of habit. That women want a screamer like Dior Poison and men will wear only [insert brand] eau de cologne. This set of assumptions is both limiting and false. Still, Old Faithful points to the odd circumstances that can lead to some outstanding men’s fragrances. (See The Masculine Chypre.)

There are loads of women’s perfumes that I can imagine as The One. The Man’s One has a complicated set of goals to fulfill. It needs to meet the needs of the male ego. It must balance individuality with group affiliation and the need to be noticed with the inability to ask for help. It must balance the complications and fragility of masculinity on the fulcrum of beauty. (See Masculine Fragrances for Men.)

The relationship of The One to beauty is complex for men. The fragrance must be attractive from all angles yet not imply femininity or homosexuality. And despite my vocabulary, it must never be referred to as either perfume or beautiful. (Cologne and handsome will suffice.) Its beauty must be recognized instantaneously yet appreciated over the course of years.

Invasion Barbare’s apparent simplicity belies it’s beauty. It alludes to other genres, the fougère, the oriental, even the woody floral, but smells original. Its grapefruit and bergamot notes harmonize with lavender and give lift. The cedar and violet leaf notes add a pitched, quietly hissy quality. A daily-wear perfume in addition to its other tasks, must also be comfortable, a quality typically associated with warmth and a roundedness. Invasion Barbare nixes this expectation and stays crisp 12 hours later.

An odd aromatherapeutic property of lavender is that it is both stimulating and sedative. Invasion Barbare functions similarly and suits all the tones and moods of a day. It is graceful. Is there really any other criterion for a perfume you’d wear every day?

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