Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
I used to be much more philosophical about celebrity fragrances, thinking that while uninteresting, they are no worse than many others. However, as time goes on, I find myself considering celebrity scents as perfumery junk food, which makes young perfume wearers (to whom these scents are marketed) get used to the idea of a fragrance smelling of cotton candy, sugary fruit and cloying caramel. In fact, as I see more jejune, sugary scents being marketed to women in their 30s and up, I know that it is simply an extension of the same trend in other areas of the market. While I will talk of Rihanna here as my most recent unexciting celebrity fragrance example, the same thing can be said about Beyoncé Heat, Katy Perry Purr and many others. It is just that Reb’l Fleur was launched this month and I happened to get a sample at Macy’s.
Reb’l Fleur was created for the Barbadian pop star Rihanna and its name comes from “Rebel Flower,” a nickname Rihanna’s grandmother gave to her as a child. Rebellious it is not, however. Reb’l Fleur threads the same ground as virtually all other celebrity fragrances marketed towards the teen to mid 20s market. There is a big plum and strawberry note, which manages to be simultaneously milky and sharp. Then there is the ubiquitous generic floral accord. The creamy, coconut notes give it a dense, opaque quality. The sensation of the mossy-woody notes paired with the equally ubiquitous cotton candy is somewhat softened by the lavish helpings of musk and vanilla. All of the elements are simply too familiar. It reminds me of nothing in particular, yet it smells like everything else out there. There is an element of Chanel Coco Mademoiselle and Narciso Rodriguez for Her, a hint of Vivienne Westwood Libertine, a whisper of Kylie Minogue Darling…
Of course, Reb’l Fleur’s lack of excitement has nothing to do with the gourmand, sweet notes themselves, because a perfume is much more than a sum of its part. Thierry Mugler Angel is a high-volume gourmand with rich layers of chocolate, caramel, candy apples and other patisserie delights. However, it is bold, dramatic, with a fantastic character, which does not fail to impress even today, almost two decades since its launch and hundreds of imitations later.
On the other hand, there is nothing impressive in the celebrity market today. There is simply one dull, unoriginal fragrance launch after another, in which the scent itself is probably the cheapest part of the whole package. Part of it has to do with the fact that the teenage market is very conservative in their preferences and would rather follow the trend, rather than try to break new ground. In other words, “If Jessica smells like an explosion at the cotton candy factory, I want to smell that way too.” This in itself is not a problem. The problem is that for the younger generation of perfume wearers there is not enough choice outside of these predictable, sticky sweet juices. For now I am waiting to see what Lady Gaga comes out with. She reportedly asked for a fragrance that smells of blood and semen…
Rihanna Reb’l Fleur (fragrance family: fruity chypre, mossy woods) includes notes of red berries, peach, plum, coconut water, hibiscus, tuberose, violet, patchouli, amber, musk and vanilla. It is available at Macy’s.
Sample: my own acquisition