I don't quite understand the big perfumes of the 1980s. At heart, they carried a mixed message. They are unavoidable: large, loud, instantly recognizable, distressingly unmistakable. They are written in bold print and are meant to stand out. The problem is that they were also used as identifiers to signal inclusion in a group, or rather, to announce the wearer’s identification as a type. They are tribal. So while their use of olfactory dynamics makes them all about standing out, the intention of their use is all about signaling affiliation, not distinction.
As with Dior Poison (1985) and YSL Opium (1977), even 30 years after the fact, we refer not so much to the perfume Giorgio (1981) as to the type of woman who wore it. The perfume was part of the package: big hair, shoulder pads, geometric make up. Aspiration. Grandiosity. Remember this was the era of a television show called Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.
The Perfume itself is remarkable for its superlative qualities: volume, radioactive sillage, endurance, unwarranted certitude. It could more aptly have been called No Exit. It captured the quality of bigger-is-better that defined the 1980s. It is legendary: it was the first scent-strip ever used in a magazine. It is mythical: Giorgio was banned from restaurants. It surpassed even its high wattage rivals. Where Cacharel Loulou (1987) was boisterous, YSL Opium was smothering, and Dior Poison was simply too loud, Giorgio was crass.
Vintage bottles are easy to find. It was mass-produced for decades and made from aromachemicals with industrial half-lives. It is the plastic of perfumery. It can't be recycled, and it will never degrade.
Absolutely worth sniffing, even if just for the history lesson.
Giorgio stands beside Opium as an iconic scent whose commercial success set a dominant trend in 1980s perfumery. If Opium begat the modern outsized spicy amber orientals, Giorgio was the mother of all monster tuberoses. In Opium’s wake came Cinnabar, Coco, and any number of lesser imitators, while Giorgio was followed by Amarige, Ysatis and, more distantly, Michael. Opium and Giorgio each had a classic predecessor, too. In Opium’s case it was Shalimar, in Giorgio’s it was Fracas, and both of the later scents “updated” their respective themes in the same manner. Both added weight, opacity, and elaborate ornament to their genre templates, then employed modern aromachemicals to increase sheer power and projection. The results were perfumes that simply could not be ignored, but that ironically grew dated in a manner that their august ancestors have not. The difference is akin to that between Renaissance and Mannerist painting. A Titian Madonna is ageless in its poise, while Parmagianini’s exaggerated proportions seem bizarre, or even awkward, by comparison.
That said, Giorgio, again like Opium, is arguably superior to most of its progeny. Granted that Ysatis, with its slightly more modest and balanced proportions, may be easier to wear, but Giorgio’s take-no-prisoners approach is ultimately the more striking. What does it actually smell like? An enormous (and admittedly very slightly chemical) indolic tuberose/white flower accord that’s sweetened by fruit notes and anchored by sweet, powdery vanilla, amber, and powerful musks. You can smell it standing upwind by yards and it lasts forever. Should you smell it? Yes. Your understanding of perfume history will benefit. Should you wear it? Depends on just how brave you’re feeling.
15th June, 2014 (last edited: 14th June, 2014)
I ordered a super-cheap sample of Giorgio almost as a joke, but was fairly shocked when I really liked it.
It's a complex floral smell, a perfectly executed mix of realistic orange blossom, which gives it a subtle touch of fruit, with tuberose humming in the background, giving it some heady richness. It plays out over soapy musks, which are quite sweet without smelling at all gourmand (perhaps there's some neroli in there sweetening everything and extending the citrus quality). There's orange on top, and something green deep in the mix (perhaps some chypre ingredients quietly adding depth?), but the real stars are the orange blossom and tuberose over the sweet soap. Despite the sweetness, Giorgio never smells cheap, and never smells like candy (except for a minute or so at first spray when I swear it smells like Pez)
I should add that, having grown up in the 80's, this scent does have a familiarity to me. Smelling it again was like hearing an old song I hadn't heard in years but remembered the words to, so there's a bit of happy nostalgia. That being said, despite Giorgio's popularity, the high school cafeterias and malls of my youth reeked of Poison, not this. Giorgio was for ladies, not the girls I was surrounded with.
In my top 5. I love this, would wear it more as an afternoon perfume rather than morning.
I used to smell this on my aunty as a little girl and thought it was beautiful. I don't know if it just my chemistry but it smells like cut grass and cat pee on my skin, and I have to wash myself over and over again to get it off.
I love smelling it on other people, but god help anyone who sprays it on me.