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Sartorial demonstrates the difficulty of story-telling in perfume. Penhaligonís own press, and a number of reviews propose that Sartorial paints a picture of the British bespoke tailorís shop in the 21st century. Take apart a well know reference, reinterpret it with a contemporary smirk, change the context---classic postmodernism. The equation of tailorís shop with fougŤre is understandable. The late 19th century was the era of the fern and the Victorian gentlemanís tailor. Then to fuse the fougŤre with scents one might find in a tailorís workroom is a more tenuous step. To my mind the story of the tailorís shop is a bit of schtick. It also serves to create an expectation that canít help but be frustrated.
Perfume can conjure and it can evoke, two words Iíve read about Sartorial. But it simply canít tell over the lengths of paragraphs the same narrative to each person who wears it. Truthfully, marketing department, full paragraphs arenít needed. In this case the fiction is told with very few words. Simply to mention a British bespoke tailorís shop ties together fantasy, aspiration and fetish in a few short words. But then to tell us about the cloth, the cabinetry, the wax, the threadÖ Oy gevalt. Itís like Ralph Lauren / GQ porn from the 1980s.
All the above would matter less if the fragrance told me its own actual story, or took me a on bit of a journey. But I find Sartorial an unpleasant fragrance. The starch-and-steam-iron-like note up top can be an attempt to elicit the image of a steam iron in use, but it smells out of place and metallically flat in its floral/spicy setting. As Sartorial progresses the sweet overlap of notes of patchouli, waxy honey, and caramelized lavender (all long-lasting) turn it into a bland gourmand-like fragrance. Pardon my blunt, rather lacking description, but I donít get much more from Sartorial. Iím a great fan of Bertrand Duchaufour, but to me, Sartorial is the latest cut of the emperorís clothes.
The fragrances of Etat Libre díOrange share the conceit of fantasy-narrative, but their approach of story or hint of portraiture are more successful than Sartorialís full-blown Victorian fantasy. (To be fair, ELdOís laughably pretentious, simply bad text is far worse than Penhaligonís here. Enough so that maybe itís easier to dismiss.) But Tom of Finland gives you a loaded, iconic image and a fragrance. Rossy de Palma gives you an actor and a fragrance. The rest is up to you and the perfume.
Please measure the above with the fact that the fantasy that Sartorial wants to give you, that of a 21st century world of people who frequent tailors, has no appeal for me. Maybe if it did I might enjoy Sartorial. Who knows?
06 January, 2011 (Last Edited: 24 July, 2012)