Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
The story of the Helmut Lang fashion house is a testament to the transience of fashion. During the minimalist phase of the mid 1990s, Helmut Lang’s severe, deconstructed pieces were among the most coveted, showered with awards and recognition. Yet, fast forward to 2000, and the future for Helmut Lang no longer looks promising—the house has been sold, the designer is losing more and more of his rights, the popularity of his designs is starting to wane. This same year, the house introduced a line of fragrances, starting with the he/she duo Eau de Cologne and Eau de Parfum created by perfumer Maurice Roucel and then offering Cuiron composed by Françoise Caron. Even though the line was discontinued shortly after Helmut Lang left his own house, Eau de Cologne and Cuiron have managed to achieved an almost cult status. By smelling them one can understand why. …
Although marketed towards men, Eau de Cologne fits perfectly into the androgynous Helmut Lang aesthetic, which is nevertheless not devoid of seductive quality. It marries the minimalist, edgy quality of Helmut Lang’s fashions with the lush and sensual fingerprint characterizing Maurice Roucel’s fragrances. The warm skin sensation conjured by the rich, plush musks is underscored with the sumptuous layer of soft vanilla and almond redolent heliotrope. The sweetness has a subtle quality—a honeyed quality of sun warmed hay, rather than a sugary rush of vanilla toffee. At the same time, the deconstructed and austere appeal of Helmut Lang is alluded to by the herbaceous notes, their fresh and assertive character cutting through the languid richness.
As a classical fougère, Eau de Cologne breaks conventions. It fashions the quintessential fougère aspects—the freshness of citrus, the herbal richness of geranium and lavender, the complexity of oakmoss and the sweetness of coumarin into an unexpectedly striking collage, which hints as much at the Belle Époque allure of Jicky as at the virile strength of classical masculine fougère. It is a fragrance that would suit a black suit as much as it would an ivory chiffon gown.
Eau de Cologne includes notes of lavender, bitter orange leaves, armoise, rosemary, jasmine, lily of the valley, rose, cedarwood, patchouli, sandalwood, musk, vanilla. The Helmut Lang fragrances are available from various online discounters.
Photo: Helmut Lang parfums 2000 ad campaign directed by marc atlan, from Design Boom.