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Zealot Crusader

Avon Mad Men - A Masculine Fragrance History Pt 5: The Carnival Bizarre

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Avon perfume as a whole took a dive in the 1990's as their ultimate game plan of focusing on cosmetics went into effect and their perfume profits came from owning a small portfolio of designer brands. Obviously, there were generations of women that would buy nothing but Avon perfume, so there was still a reason to not give it up entirely, but the men's lines were really little more than an afterthought, with Avon treating entire lines with the same lack of attention they once gave their prolific array of campy novelty gift decanters in the 1970's. It felt like the inmates were running the asylum in regards to compositions, and whoever was being tasked with creating the male counterpart to whatever line was next up for release could have submitted nearly anything, and sometimes did.

Almost all masculines were just counterparts to feminines at this point, with very few exclusive releases, which is honestly the way it should have been anyway at this stage since that's what the competition was onto, but there was often zero synergy with the feminine version of X or Y, and these releases felt very much "just because". What few men's exclusives did exist were pretty bizarre anyway, and what compositions not going through the motions just seemed born of a "try anything" level of desperation. Packaging also became woefully cheap and lackluster with most things, further cementing the image of Avon fragrances (particularly masculines), being the very bottom of the barrel. Only the survivng legacy fragrances like Wild Country (1967) and Black Suede (1980) held any real respect with perfumistos and serious enthusiasts.

Not only was Avon taking total shots in the dark with composition, but also lagged sorely behind in packaging by 1990. Pour bottles remained the only option for many new scents upon introduction, with the generic 3oz "pill bottle" spray re-issue, misaligned sticker label, and it's flimsy plastic cap often being the only way to eventually get a vaporizer/natural spray of something. Avon was also still using cologne concentrations in the market when most mainstream houses shifted to eau de toilette. In hindsight this was probably done for economic purposes, but since most men were accustomed to the strength of EdT, this gave the false impression that Avon was watered down, when it was really just a failure to progress with the times.

The sheer volume of output on a global scale forbids me from really touching upon a lot of masculines from this period, since Avon also had vastly specialized it's selections on a regional level to boot, sometimes releasing things in just one market, or discontinuing something in one place only to re-introduce it elsewhere, sometimes under a different name. This practice would continue into modern times, and Avon still does this in a much smaller degree even now. Rather than name all the obtuse strangeness coming out of Avon during what can be considered their nadir for masculine scents, I'll just list the few noteworthy ones.

Avon at least started the decade strong with Everafter for Men (1990), a rosy and romantic aromatic chypre that seemed to follow vaguely in the masculine floral revival of the late 80's and early 90's, but on an Avon budget. It's quite nice and seems like a slight retooling of Cordovan (1982), but with less aromatics. Avon also expanded their Musk line into a series of flankers, with a marine, woods, fire, and green version. Mesmerize for Men was the next big hit in 1992, and was a smooth oriental fougère that cashed in on the style of higher-level semi-oriental masculines that Chanel, Puig, and Tiffanny were doing. Mesmerize would be the only 90's masuline line to survive past the decade, joining Wild Country and Black Suede as part of Avon's perennial line.

A "Pro" series of sport fragrances saw release, as did Avon's first legitimate aquatic called Seazone in 1994, plus another really lovely men's oriental fougère hybrid in Starring for Men (1997), that felt almost niche in design. There was plenty of embarrassing stuff too, like the "working man's cologne" Granite (1990), the Eternity-meets-Cool Water uberclone called Triumph (1995), the way-too-nineties Maxx for Men (1996), and the Curve for Men-meets-Plumeria Far Away for Men (1998), and Tempest (1999), which looked like it borrowed it's marketing from Nerf.

Luckily, things are always darkest right before they see the light, and the company's first female CEO in the form of one Andrea Jung, would take the reigns from failing management and breathe new life into the company, including it's much-neglected men's segment. Avon would make some of it's most original, creative, and high-quality masculine scents since the late 60's through early 70's, and although this expansion would prove to be an overreach (landing them in more financial peril than gain), the legacy of products would be the best the company had seen in decades.

Unfortunately, this "upward and outward" business model would cost Avon much of it's legacy fan base, as Jung axed the re-issue of all their classic fragrances outside the perennial sellers, meaning the mid-90's would be the final time anyone could buy a new bottle of greats like Windjammer (1968), Öland (1970), or Tai Winds (1972) as part of Avon's "Classics" series. On to the next one!

Updated 4th May 2018 at 03:31 AM by Zealot Crusader

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Door to Door Drugstore: Avon Products

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