Tag Archives: Barney’s

Fragrant Night Out 2010

The scene at DKNY’s Madison Avenue store

For the second year in a row, I turned the much-hyped Fashion’s Night Out into my own Fragrant Night out. My night was a mix of hitting up some of the crowded boutiques, Bergdorf, Henri Bendel, Gucci and DKNY and sampling some of the fragrances retailing at the better men’s department stores. I must say, as opposed to last year, the staff at the fragrance counters I visited was very helpful. I was even surprised by the offering of samples. At Bergdorf, I was given a sample of Duc De Vervins and at Barney’s I was given samples of YSL’s La Nuit De L’Homme and Costume National’s Scent.

Last year I sampled quite a few of scents, this year however, not so many. There really wasn’t that much out there that I hadn’t seen or smelled already.

My first stop of the night was Bergdorf and it was bananas. Thank God for the men’s store which was a bit calmer but just about shoulder to shoulder. Upon entering, I was greeted by guys playing air hockey and ping-pong. I ran into one of Esquire Magazine’s style arbiters Josh Peskowitz who made me want to own some clay-colored pants. Tom Ford was scheduled to make an appearance and sign the bottles from his collection but I dipped before that scene ensued. I did sample Champaca from his private collection and it left a lasting impression all night. The wine and cognac top notes don’t open boozy at all. In fact, I never felt I was sniffing alcohol. It does, however, have a floral sweetness reminiscent of Le Labo’s Rose 31. As the night wore on, the similarities grew but Champaca didn’t contain that B.O. undertone I detect in Rose 31. I shall own this one-day but for now, the similarities make it feel like a redundant purchase. That being said, it was one of the best of the night.

After stopping in at Gucci, which had a line that wrapped around the corner, I shuffled my way into Henri Bendel, as I wanted to smell Histoires de Parfum’s Défilé New York. Apparently only 150 bottles were created and the scent pays homage to Fashion’s Night Out. As exciting as that maybe, what peaked my interest were its base notes ingredients, which included chocolate and coffee. An added and unexpected treat was the appearance of the brand’s founder Gerald Ghislain. He was super sweet and explained the scent’s influences which he said included the early morning smells of Bryant Park (where Fashion Week was previously held) and editors showing up with their coffee as they waited for the shows to begin. As someone who’s experienced Fashion Week firsthand, I found that story very intriguing.

Overall my fragrant night out was a lot of fun. Défilé was the most original scent I sampled all night. The way fresh-cut grass, bergamont, Rhubarb, chocolate and coffee all play together makes this an incredible scent. I fought the immediate urge to purchase it as I thought I could double back, but I should have known better. After making my way over to DKNY (they know how to throw a party) and having a few cocktails, my plan took a detour down to Soho where I ended the night. As Jesse Jackson would say, “Keep hope alive.” I’ll be calling Henri Bendel to see if Défilé is still available.


The Man In Mandarina Duck

The Italian luggage company Mandarina Duck, whose spicy citrus men’s fragrance Pure Black was released last year, may not be familiar to American audiences—even less so for men. The company started in 1977 when two young Italians decided to make traditional leather luggage more colorful. The firm has had a few stops and starts in the American market, but has a much stronger presence in Europe and Asia, with about 80 flagship stores worldwide.

That lack of name recognition probably made Mandarina Duck’s previous men’s fragrance, called simply Man, a tough sell when it launched in 2006. Between that and the bright orange packaging, a candid Mandarina Duck representative admitted to me, Man didn’t quite catch on. It was a light and summery scent with fruity-sweet orange, grapefruit and peach notes that, like its colorful bottle, may have seemed less than masculine to the American nose. Despite that, Man is still in stores.

Pure Black, the company’s second scent, didn’t exactly abandon the original concept—the fragrance is still orange-based (and created by the same perfumer, Nathalie Lorson), and the bottle is shaped the same—but the masculinity factor is amped up a bit. “We realized we had focused too much on the Mandarina Duck brand with Man,” a company rep told fashion and fragrance editors at a publicity event at Barney’s, pointing to the clear and orange bottle. “Pure Black focuses on what men want.”

That’s true, but there’s a disconnect between the Pure Black name and the citrusy fragrance. It starts out with bergamot and tangerine, spiced with pepper, and warms to orange blossom and tonka bean, finally drying down with cedar, sandalwood and vanilla. When I sprayed it on a card, I wasn’t impressed; on the skin it’s much better. Used sparingly, it’s a nice warm-weather scent: orange notes provide some of the freshness of lemon but linger longer. Vanilla softens the citrus edge. I prefer the fresh top notes to the basenotes, which smell a little less adventurous, a little more ordinary to me.

For a great orange-based fragrance, one that keeps up the momentum after the top notes, I prefer Frederic Malle’s Bigarade concentrée. It’s warmed with a similar cedar note, but softened by subtle rose, and the orange lasts longer. It too needs to be worn sparingly.

With Pure Black, I’m reminded of how much the success of men’s fragrances are subject to sensitive marketing: a sleek black bottle will always reassure a guy, and woody-spicy basenotes will seldom offend. But after that, it’s up to the brand, its distribution, and, probably, magazine ads. For those of us who review and collect fragrances, such crowd pleasers are a dime a dozen.

Just the same, Pure Black (which typically retails for about $70) does what it does well, and I’d recommend it to any guy who needs to move beyond those usual crowd pleasers without venturing too far into the more expensive and exotic fragrances that aren’t marketed to either men or women. —Harry Sheff