Perfume isn’t just a pretty smell, it’s a manifesto. Spray it on in the morning, and it gives you your marching orders. “Be a blancmange!” isn’t much of an inspirational directive, so if you’re looking to embody something stirring, you’ll stay away from, say, Prada Candy or Serge Lutens Bois Vanille.
You could keep it all business with a light, bright number like Tom Ford Neroli Portofino or Dior Eau Savage, both confident colognes. Or metamorphose into something non-human with the help of Comme des Garçons Eau de Parfum, a comforting blend of pale musk, chlorinated plastic, and packing tape. (It grows on you, trust me.)
But what’s putting a tiger in my tank these days is Rose Noir from Swedish indie line Byredo. Rose Noir’s manifesto is: “Girl, it’s 1978. Jerry Hall and Grace Jones are waiting for you in the limo – quick! Shimmy into that jersey Halston and buzz your sweet ass over to Studio 54!
Rose Noir is an “for adults only” perfume that conjures mirror ball hedonism and 70s Interview magazine elegance, complete with bugle-beaded gowns and sticky maraschino cherry-glossed lips. It’s a sharp, spicy chypre, of the kind with which disco Amazons ritually anointed themselves before stepping into the gladiatorial ring of the light-up dance floor.
It harkens back to a time when perfumes were haughty, bitchy, breathtaking: signaling authority and control and sex. Not today’s self-abasing, apologetic “office fragrances”, or “friendly” white laundry musks.
Rose Noir’s opening is a dissonant twang between fizzy grapefruit and winey rose. The rose is dry but green, staying fresh when things start to get sweaty, which they always will if you’re doing it right.
The big pull for me is the hustle between the green rose and the dirty moss, less “flower”, more “power”. It’s dark and smart, with a few reckless ideas in its head. Rose Noir isn’t a still life; it’s not a hologram. It’s an atmosphere, a desire. It’s a manifesto.