Maison Martin Margiela Untitled : Fragrance Review

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Pointe2

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

In ballet, the dancer’s foot has the same delicacy and sensitivity that in other art forms is reserved for the hands. The light touch of a ballerina’s satin wrapped toes can express a wide range of emotions, and this effect, underscored by a remarkably steely strength, gives classical dance its unique flavor. When I first discovered Maison Martin Margiela’s debut fragrance, Untitled, its graceful treatment of woods and incense made me immediately draw the dance analogy. While traditionally one envisions these notes as dark and opulent counterpoints to the more evanescent floral and green touches, in Untitled the roles are reversed.

Created by perfumer Daniela Andrier, Untitled fits within her body of work (Prada Infusion d’Iris, Armani Privé Pierre de Lune, Guerlain Angélique Noire,) which is marked by refinement and luminosity. The initial bitter layer of galbanum provides an exuberant prelude, with the effect progressing from verdant and vegetal to leafy and spicy. As the composition dries down, a twist of orange lends a delicious brightness, softening the green explosion of galbanum to a shimmer. Built on an accord of woods and incense, Untitled nevertheless treats these notes as exquisitely radiant. Their polished transparency serves as a perfect counterpoint to the opulent green chords.

Such deconstruction and the resulting play of effects is appropriate for Maison Martin Margiela as it is renowned for its avant-garde approach to fashion. Yet, Untitled does not strike me as an overly cerebral and challenging composition. It has a sophisticated aura that would suit both men and women, especially those preferring woody compositions that eschew typical masculine/feminine rules. I love the fragrance through all of its stages: the vibrant green opening, the delicate pas de deux of cedarwood and incense and the silky caress of musk. Ultimately, I find wearing Untitled to give me the kind of pleasure I associate with a cool spring breeze tangling my hair or a dance movement leaving me slightly lightheaded.

Martin Margiela Untitled includes notes of galbanum, boxwood, jasmine, lentiscus resinoid, incense, bitter orange, cedar and Serenolide musk. Available from Saks5thAvenue, Neiman Marcus and other retailers; 30ml ($80), 50ml ($100) and 75ml ($140) of Eau de Parfum.

Sample: my own acquisition

Image credit: pointe shoes, wiki commons, some rights reserved.

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15 Comments

  • Nathan Branch: Victoria — Out of my entire collection, “Untitled” is the only one my partner has raided from my cupboard. It’s surprisingly creative and yet easily wearable at the same time. May 31, 2011 at 4:50am Reply

  • Victoria: I agree! I find it very interesting, with such a beautifully rendered green note. It smells like spring to me. The moment I put it on, I feel so uplifted.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 31, 2011 at 9:18am Reply

  • Suzanna: The galbanum grabbed my attention from the first spritz, although it was the mention of incense that initially made me seek this one out. It is very smoothly rendered despite the bracing galbanum. And the drydown should be a textbook case on creating a wonderful finish in this era of heavy-handed regulation.

    This frag gives me hope for modern perfumery. May 31, 2011 at 10:12am Reply

  • Victoria: I love the drydown, which is delicate, but distinctive. Its sillage is actually quite impressive too. All in all, one of my favorites from 2010.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 31, 2011 at 10:36am Reply

  • Uella: I’m a huge Maison Martin Margiela fan, as a matter of fact I bought a short dress last week. This fashion brand is more often than not about deconstruction, asymetry yet wearable for the most part, everything is made in Italy and fabrics are high quality. The fragrance was a disappointment to me because it felt disconnected from Martin Margiela’s sartorial signature. May 31, 2011 at 11:20am Reply

  • dleep: On payday, a sample of this will be mine! Thanks for the review. May 31, 2011 at 12:01pm Reply

  • Victoria: I also love their fashion aesthetic. Somehow though, Untitled made sense to me within it. May 31, 2011 at 12:34pm Reply

  • Victoria: Definitely worth trying, especially if you love green notes. It is also perfect for the summer–effervescent and bright. May 31, 2011 at 12:34pm Reply

  • nstephens@beachcroft.com: I am so pleased you liked this and wrote about it so beautifully. Some people seemed disappointed that it was not more avant garde given the MMM aesthetic but I looked at it purely from a scent point of view and loved all its stages. The galbanum opening reminds me of a vintage bottle of 19 parfum I have and my mother’s bottle (many many years ago) of Vent Vert, obvious I know. And then a whisper of jasmine before the incense and musk kick in. Really lovely. Thank you. Nicola May 31, 2011 at 12:41pm Reply

  • Victoria: I am glad that you mentioned No 19 and Vent Vert, because I also saw the same connection. It is one of the few fragrances, along with those two, that presents galbanum in all of its bright green glory. And yet, it manages to be silky, weightless, not rough at all.

    All in all, a high-quality, interesting fragrance with a great character. It lasts, has a great sillage and touches me on an emotional level too. So, I am happy. :) May 31, 2011 at 12:45pm Reply

  • carmencanada: I was actually one of the disgruntled commenters Nicola mentions. I would have loved the scent for Prada — to me this is the Prada that never was, and much more interesting that the tuberose and vetiver the very gifted Andrier did for the house, it seems to me.

    I still think MMM could have gone for a more radical approach. Martin Margiela himself had a patchouli scent made up in a very limited edition at some point, and so probably didn’t really extend the way he transferred several of the gestures of contemporary art to fashion into any rethinking of perfumery.
    But of course, by the time Untitled came out he had left MMM, which is now owned by Diesel, so something more commercially palatable was in order.
    Not dissing Untitled in and of itself, mind you: it’s absolutely lovely, and well deserving of the love it gets. May 31, 2011 at 6:38pm Reply

  • Victoria: I would have agreed even more with you, had I not fallen completely for this scent.

    On the other hand, if MMM goes for the next fragrance, I will be expecting something bold and edgy. Not sure if that's the direction they are willing to take, but one can hope…
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 31, 2011 at 6:48pm Reply

  • March: I don’t know anything about their clothes, but the fragrance has turned out to be great fun, and one of the few recent releases I kind of want a bottle of, especially right now in the heat. I wore it on a trip recently and it was just the thing. It’s zesty and unobtrusive enough to be a good travel scent. May 31, 2011 at 8:39pm Reply

  • Victoria: Travel scent! Oh, thank you for an idea, March. I'm definitely going to take a decant on my upcoming trip. I also think that it is just perfect in the heat (she says as she is melting–our A/C broke down.)
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 31, 2011 at 9:06pm Reply

  • Neal Enterprises, LLC: What a wonderful analogy. August 1, 2011 at 9:37am Reply

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