Rihanna Reb’l Fleur : Perfume Review and More on Celebrity Fragrances

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Rihanna-rebl-fleur

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

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33 Comments

  • Scent Hive: Too bad, I actually really like the name :-) February 3, 2011 at 12:37am Reply

  • hongkongmom: Life is so tough nowadays…guess the youngsters need a lot of extra sweetness to keep up with the challenges in their way! I’lle keep sniffin this gorgeous attar and close my blinkers to poor reb”l February 3, 2011 at 12:41am Reply

  • Olfactoria: It is quite all right for teenagers to want to fit in, to want to smell like an idealized person (or version of themselves that they aspire to), it is part of any normal development. BUT: Why the heck does this conformity has to smell like a candy cotton explosion as you so succinctly put it, V? Why can’t teenagers smell all alike but good? Why do the tastes of young people have to be corrupted from the start? Why is it that mainstream is equal to low quality? It could be possible to retain some standards, in literature (Hey, Mrs Meyer!), when it comes to food (McDonalds is not healthy and good, whatever they tell try to tell us, it is convenient and that is its only redeeming quality) as well as in perfume. It is just a question of putting it out there. It should be the responsibility of those who make perfume, to introduce young people to the art of appreciating it, not the other way around, letting focus groups in malls decide what will sell the most bottles in under three months that then are replaced by the next almost identical one.
    It is all a question of money, I know that, but that does not mean I have to like it one bit. Sorry for the rant, your post spoke to me in a way that unleashed a lot of pent up feeling, apparently ;)
    And btw, the only alternative to fruity bliss is blood and semen? My God, I must be getting old! February 3, 2011 at 3:53am Reply

  • Victoria: The name is really cute, and so is the backstory. Although I preferred just Rebel Flower. February 3, 2011 at 8:39am Reply

  • Victoria: :) Attar sounds really good, especially on a cold day like today. February 3, 2011 at 8:41am Reply

  • Carla: We just moved back to the US, and I’m afraid I’m feeling rather negative about the tastes of my fellow countrymen. Food, perfume, even kitchen utensils (in primary colors) seem marketed as toys. Where are the grown-ups? Also – I think Angel is almost two decades old, not one. Didn’t it come out in the early 1990’s? February 3, 2011 at 8:47am Reply

  • Victoria: B, you hit the nail on the head in every single sentence. It is definitely the same issue that I have with this trend. These cloying, vulgar fragrances (as with few exceptions they tend to be) is really what is going to shape the taste of the new generation of perfume wearers. What would they want to wear when they grow older? Probably not much different from what they are wearing now.
    In fact, it is the same issue that I have with the processed food industry and its standardization of taste.

    Also, these perfumes are not that inexpensive. Yet, I never fail to be amazed how cheap some of these blends smell. February 3, 2011 at 8:50am Reply

  • Victoria: Carla, you are right about Angel. It is me who is still in 2000. :) it came out in 1993.
    You are so right about kitchen utensils!! We recently went shopping for some new things, and the sea of pinks and light blues and neon green took me by surprise. I had difficulty finding a mixer in black. I was told that pink is the most popular color. :) February 3, 2011 at 8:54am Reply

  • Bulldoggirl: When I was a teenager in the late 70s/early 80s, there were a few fragrances marketed to a youthful crowd (Love’s Baby Soft, the brilliant Babe), but when you went to a proper department store, more sophisticated scents ruled. So my girlfriends and I also grew up wearing Youth Dew, Eau de Givenchy, Calandre, and Lauren. Those olfactory experiences of course inform tastes today. So you make a good point about “taste.” If these celebrity and celebrity-like confections form the basis for so many young peoples’ scent aesthetics, what happens when they grow up, and more importantly, how will the perfume market respond as a result? February 3, 2011 at 10:50am Reply

  • Bulldoggirl: I meant to say: “of course inform MY tastes today.” February 3, 2011 at 10:51am Reply

  • dee: To respond to both B., and V.,

    I think that this perfume trend, the candy-coated-hooker (! yes, I just said that!) is representative of an overall trend with women—though I can really only comment on American woman—refusing to age gracefully. Our culture is obsessed with youth, to the point that mature women still refer to themselves as “girls” and dress and act like girls. Emotional development has come to a stand-still for so many women, that they seem to think that hair-dye, candy-flavored perfume, and apparel fit only for women under 20, will trick observers into thinking that they are younger than they are.

    This whole trend offends me, because I believe in the nobility of the mature woman—a fine, and easily recognizable example is the actress Helen Mirren. I’d bet you my February perfume budget that she does NOT smell like cotton-candy. And she is stunning; I aspire to be such a woman. February 3, 2011 at 11:23am Reply

  • MK: Ahhh, so Lady Gaga was the nose behind Secretions Magnifiques then!

    ;)

    Interesting post – I’m still in my early 20s, and I’ve noticed that a lot of people my age tend to stick to “safe” fragrances. I don’t see what’s particularly safe about cotton candy and synthetic fresh/citrus top notes, but they’ve become the focus group favourites for whatever reason. February 3, 2011 at 11:57am Reply

  • patuxxa: For some strange reason – mostly, I liked the story behind the name – I kind of expected this to be at least a pleasing tropical floral. Alas, plum + strawberry = big no no for me!

    I will hold some hope for Gaga, though when I read “semen and blood” I thought, like all perfume addicts, “Secretions Magnifiques!!!” And somehow I don’t imagine Coty putting something like that on the market. Strangely enough, I kind of like the metallic tang of blood and think it might give an interesting edge to a scent. But it would take a great perfumer to pull that off… February 3, 2011 at 12:38pm Reply

  • Victoria: I agree with this, and the successful fragrances like Vera Wang Princess, Marc Jacobs Daisy, Nina Ricci Nina definitely tap into the allure of the “eternal girlishness.” You are definitely right.
    My qualm is also that these candy-flavored, blunt and unrefined fragrance affect the taste and the perfume trends in general. Even if I can avoid Rihanna and Britney Spears and their candy floss, I cannot avoid it altogether. It is everywhere. Of course, there are always the niche houses whose reason for existence is to go against these mainstream trends. Or at least, it should be. :) February 3, 2011 at 1:08pm Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you for your comment, because I was also thinking about the youthful trends of that time. Love’s Baby Soft is a good example, because to me it captures really well the delicate, girly prettiness that none of the fragrances marketed towards teens today do. And it is a nice, well-made fragrance.

    “Those olfactory experiences of course inform my tastes today.” Exactly! I agree that those early experiences are crucial. February 3, 2011 at 1:17pm Reply

  • Victoria: It made sense either way, actually! :) February 3, 2011 at 1:18pm Reply

  • Victoria: LOL! She could have been their spokesperson, but I think that she is too mainstream for Etat Libre d’Orange. :)

    I think that the focus groups are a very good way to judge whether something is likable or not. I guess, candy is likable! :) It is difficult to shape a new trend through a focus group. Angel was not market tasted. In fact, it was not a big success at first. At all! Clarins put a lot of efforts to maintain its brand and then it took off. Few companies are ready to do this today. February 3, 2011 at 1:20pm Reply

  • Victoria: I like the story, I think that it is very cute. The fragrance itself is ok, and as I wear it, the combination of creamy fruit and florals does give a tropical flower effect. Maybe, you will enjoy it much more than I did.

    If Lady Gaga truly wanted a smell of blood and semen in her fragrance, she should have gone with a more niche house. On the other hand, Coty has lots of resources and works with the best perfumers, but they tend to stay rather safe in their launches.

    A coppery-metallic smell of blood is an interesting concept, however. I think that ELdO does have one scent evoking blood, but I have not smelled it. February 3, 2011 at 1:25pm Reply

  • ambrox: It is in the end all about the profit.
    “But these commonplace scents are expected to make for uncommonly good sales — Parlux, the company behind Reb’l Fleur (and Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson’s fragrances) expects the scent to ultimately peak at $50 million in retail sales.” I found it on styleite.
    As long as they make money, they will be launched.
    Still, it is refreshing to read a well-reasoned argument against this trend. February 3, 2011 at 2:46pm Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you! It is a valid point, and you are definitely right. It is ultimately about the money and about whether these perfumes get sold. Seems like the trend is waning a bit among the consumers though, according to the latest sales figures I have seen on celebrity scents overall. February 3, 2011 at 3:07pm Reply

  • Marina: The other day I counted 4 Rihanna’s songs on my ipod…just a tidbit of useless info for ya :) I don’t think the 4 songs put me into the target group for this scent anyway. February 3, 2011 at 3:12pm Reply

  • Marina: 6 Beyonce…1 Usher…3 Kate Perry and even 1 Ke$ha…oy! February 3, 2011 at 3:13pm Reply

  • Victoria: Hey, nothing wrong with Rihanna’s songs! :)

    Ok, for the record, I do like some celebrity scents, when they are good! My favorites so far are SJP Lovely (even though it is close to Narciso Rodriguez for Her, I find it much easier to wear and softer), SJP Covet, Sean John Unforgivable for Men. Oh, and Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds. And Catherine Deneuve! Incidentally, SJP and Sean John are the two celebrities that invested the most time into their fragrance projects, rather than just handed the reins over the fragrance development teams. February 3, 2011 at 3:22pm Reply

  • Victoria: And I even got to listen to a Lady Gaga impersonator thanks to T. :) February 3, 2011 at 3:24pm Reply

  • Margi Macdonald: With two teenage daughters, a few overly fruity-floral, cloying, banal scents have come through our home. I suspect that like any other component of the marketing machine which so tightly controls the image of each celebrity, their fragrances must represent their respective branding. Banal pop star + banal music = banal scent.
    In the end, I started buying SJP Lovely for my girls. To my aromatherapist’s nose, it’s quite respectable, and far less offensive than the others. February 3, 2011 at 4:29pm Reply

  • Marina: Adding Tilda Swinton Like This to the list! February 3, 2011 at 5:17pm Reply

  • Marina: LOL! Like daughter, like mother February 3, 2011 at 5:17pm Reply

  • Victoria: YES!! I recently tried this fragrance and absolutely fell in love with it. It was you who pushed me over the edge. February 3, 2011 at 5:24pm Reply

  • Victoria: Margi, cannot agree more with you. I would also much rather smell Lovely (or Covet, although I can see why that fragrance might be polarizing.) February 3, 2011 at 5:27pm Reply

  • Victoria: Well, my mom now wears Tubereuse Criminelle and Dzing!, so it is a two way exchange between a mother and a daughter. :) February 3, 2011 at 5:29pm Reply

  • Eric Brandon: This has the second-worst bottle I’ve ever tried to hold (Prada’s original is first. Try spraying that with one hand).

    I was almost enthusiastic about this first time I sprayed it on a tester strip. I can’t remember what it reminded me of but I THINK it was Dzongkha. Then I sniffed it again seconds later and got that intense dark-ish fruit smell and I threw the tester away. February 6, 2011 at 3:34am Reply

  • Victoria: I agree, the bottle is not designed that well and is not comfortable to use. It does look striking though given the shape.
    It gets very sweet on my skin, beyond cloying even. February 6, 2011 at 9:24am Reply

  • Ra: Perfumery junk food… Couldn’t be described better. May 10, 2014 at 10:01am Reply

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