Yves Saint Laurent Manifesto : Fragrance Review

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Take Thierry Mugler Angel and dilute it with sheer, lemony jasmine till all you have left are the pastel colored outlines of the original gourmand patchouli. Shake it up, label Yves Saint Laurent, and you have Manifesto! I complained that Lancôme La Vie Est Belle is unexciting, but next to Manifesto it’s downright avant-garde.

My qualm with Manifesto is not that it’s a bad perfume, but that it doesn’t have much character. Smell it once, smell it ten times, I guarantee that you won’t remember it. Of course, not every single fragrance needs to make a statement–mild, unobtrusive blends do have their place, but Manifesto could be inside any bottle: the latest celebrity launch, Escada, Calvin Klein, Coty, Avon or even Bath and Body Works. It’s not entirely clear what makes this perfume Yves Saint Laurent. It doesn’t have the bravura of Opium nor the voluptuous beauty of Paris. It lacks the sensuality of Cinéma or the moodiness of Nu. It smells trendy, like a scent you’ve noticed  many times before at the mall or inside a crowded subway car–a cotton candy laced patchouli, with a soft blur of flowers.

Like most big launches, I think that this must have started with a great idea before it was market tested to death. The top notes are sweet and citrusy, but the elegant way in which the tart berries play up against bergamot is very pretty. Perfumer Loc Dong, who worked on Manifesto with Anne Flipo, is known for his masterful fruity accords, and here you get a glimpse of his deft hand.

The floral notes are also pretty, with the green rose harmoniously woven into the soft jasmine. This lasts but for a brief moment before Manifesto hits the caramelized sugar layer. The delicate floral accords vanish, and the drydown lingers as a nutty-woody cloud of mild patchouli, toasted almonds and vanilla. Manifesto has modest tenacity when compared to most gourmand patchouli fragrances, and a couple of hours later it becomes even softer and mellower.

Manifesto is not without its merits–it’s an understated perfume that won’t make your co-workers file demands for a “fragrance-free” environment. You, however, can do better. If you like gourmand patchouli, Chanel Coco Noir is a more elegant and refined option, and Guerlain Shalimar Parfum Initial is a playful, chic variation. Or go for Prada Eau de Parfum, which smells like chocolate and mossy roots.  If you feel like a sheer fruity patchouli that could easily transition from day to evening, try Chanel Coco Mademoiselle body oil.

 

Yves Saint Laurent Manifesto includes notes of green leaves, bergamot, black currant, jasmine, lily of the valley, cedar, sandalwood, vanilla, and tonka bean. Available from major department stores.

Sample: my own acquisition

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63 Comments

  • Barbara: I love the ad and the bottle, but another fruitchouli? I’ve had enough of those. August 20, 2012 at 9:40am Reply

    • Victoria: I feel the same way about these gourmand patchoulis today. Well, scratch that! I’ve been feeling this way for several years now! August 20, 2012 at 10:09am Reply

      • Barbara: LOL! I can’t believe I went through 2 bottles of Angel 10 years ago. Maybe that’s why I can’t take sweet patchouli anymore. August 20, 2012 at 10:14am Reply

        • Victoria: :) I still like Angel, and I have a small bottle of it. It’s such a striking perfume, and even smelling it now after years of being exposed to the clones, I find it great. But I don’t wear it much, preferring something less sweet like Chanel Coromandel, Lolita Lempicka or Prada. August 20, 2012 at 10:27am Reply

  • Marie: Just got your email newsletter and saw this perfume mentioned. I smelled Manifesto last week and was at a loss for how to describe this. Diluted is right!

    Speaking of patchouli perfumes, have you tried Reminiscence Elixir de Patchouli and Eau de Patchouli? They sound awesome. August 20, 2012 at 9:54am Reply

    • Victoria: I smelled Patchouli a couple of years ago, and I really liked it. It’s an earthy patchouli, with a pleasant spicy note. I haven’t tried its variations, but I’m curious about them.

      Manifesto is surprisingly pale, considering that it’s meant as a statement perfume. I love the ad though. August 20, 2012 at 10:11am Reply

    • Nikki: They are great perfumes. Patchouli, the original, is especially good. I asked a flight attendant years ago in the South of France what she was wearing as it smelled like a classic Guerlain but it was Patchouli. I bought some for my friend and she loves it so much, she sprays a little in her room and it seems to really settle the air and relax everybody. Great stuff! I don’t wear it myself, I prefer Mauboussin for my Patchouli fix. August 20, 2012 at 10:47am Reply

      • Victoria: Which Mauboussin, Nikki?

        Patchouli is so complex that a nice quality oil can be worn on its own (without smelling like a headshop!) But when a fragrance is well-blended and frames patchouli nicely, it becomes so nuanced and multifaceted. I used to love L’Artisan Patchouli, which had a big dollop of star anise, but it has been discontinued of years. August 20, 2012 at 10:57am Reply

        • Nikki: the original Mauboussin from 2001. love it! August 20, 2012 at 3:16pm Reply

          • Victoria: Ah, thank you! I love that one too. August 20, 2012 at 4:13pm Reply

  • Jillie: Oh, what a shame. Another clone, really. Strikes me as odd, too, that they should call it “Manifesto” as wasn’t all that long ago that there was a perfume with Isabella Rossellini fronting it by the same name – and better suited to my taste, as it was quite fresh and laced with basil! I suppose it has been discontinued, but it isn’t that hard to find still. August 20, 2012 at 10:23am Reply

    • Victoria: Ah, that’s a good reminder, Jillie! Manifesto by Isabelle Rossellini was wonderful, and one of the truly basil rich scents. You could almost envision the sun warmed leaves ready to be minced for pesto. I see bottles at discounters and on Ebay time to time.
      This is nothing like it! Fruity-citrusy at first, then caramelized sugar-cotton candy sweet, then nutty-milky. And then it just fizzles out. August 20, 2012 at 10:30am Reply

    • Elena: I remember that! I think it must have come out in 1999 or so. I can’t think of what it smelled like, but I remember liking it. August 20, 2012 at 10:30am Reply

      • Victoria: And it had ad with Isabella laughing, which was very memorable. Unlike most ads today, it also fit the perfume nicely–a jazzy, happy fragrance. August 20, 2012 at 10:35am Reply

  • Elena: Agreed, Barbara. The picture is gorgeous, as is the bottle. Too bad! And Victoria, I ended up trying the Le Labo Patchouli 24 that you had recommended, speaking of “real” patchoulis. I opened it up to sniff, and immediately thought it was way too smoky. I got a little on my hand though, and then kept wondering what that lovely smell was! I don’t think I’d ever end up with a bottle, but it is fascinating and really quite gorgeous in small amounts. For me, it was really easy to put on too much though. August 20, 2012 at 10:26am Reply

    • Victoria: I love purple, and I love the combination of her paint covered hands with that elegantly made up face. Very striking.

      Patchouli 24 is a sillage monster, I agree, and it’s easy to overapply. At first, I wasn’t sure what I thought, but over time it really grew on me. So, if you have your sample, just keep it on hand. In the winter, it might just be perfect. I love how it wafts from under heavy wool layers on a cool, snowy day. August 20, 2012 at 10:33am Reply

      • Elena: I will do that. It may be just the thing when it gets cold. I doubt it was meant to be worn in hot, humid New England in August… :) August 20, 2012 at 10:37am Reply

        • Victoria: The very thought of wearing it on a hot day makes me a bit lightheaded, Elena! You’re a brave, brave woman. :)
          Yes, definitely save it for those first days when you see your breath in the air and crystalline shards of ice on the grass. August 20, 2012 at 10:55am Reply

  • Nikki: I was just watching a show about YSL’s appartment in Paris, such beauty and splendor which made me want to have a part of this extraordinary taste he had; however, I will only buy either vintage clothes or the perfumes he co-created, i.e. Y, Kouros, Opium, Paris…after he sold the business in 2002, nothing good came out of it and this new perfume seems to be an example. Such a shame. August 20, 2012 at 10:37am Reply

    • Victoria: But did you hear that the fashion line will no longer be called Yves Saint Laurent (the name will be retained for cosmetics and perfume though)? They announced that they are going to rename it “Saint Laurent” in order “to update the image.” Can’t imagine anything more disastrous. August 20, 2012 at 10:53am Reply

      • Carlos: I read an article in Vogue, It said that once Hedi Slimane took over from Stefano Pilati as the new creative director, he decided to relaunch the label. I have no comment on this but expletives, so I’ll leave it at that. August 20, 2012 at 11:02am Reply

      • Daisy: They already did it! It looks so . . . outlet mall.

        That’s terribly insulting, isn’t it? August 20, 2012 at 11:06am Reply

        • Daisy: I love outlet malls too, but Yves deserves better. August 20, 2012 at 11:07am Reply

          • Victoria: I hear you! I never bought any clothes from YSL (too expensive), but I loved Pilati’s designs. August 20, 2012 at 11:14am Reply

        • Victoria: Saint John! That’s what I keep thinking… But can you imagine the expense of reediting and refashioning the whole house?? I can’t imagine that removing Yves suddenly makes YSL more updated. August 20, 2012 at 11:12am Reply

          • Daisy: It’s ridiculous. Really ridiculous. Everyone is still going to call it YSL, and apparently it is keeping the YSL logo. I passed the store in Soho that they are still working on.

            I fear that it looks like an Abercrombie. August 20, 2012 at 11:20am Reply

            • Victoria: Wow, wouldn’t it be confusing then? I really don’t get it. In some cases, the thing that fashion houses do are strange, but this is downright ridiculous. August 20, 2012 at 12:47pm Reply

        • smellslikeroses: Daisy, that’s what went through my head when i first saw it. August 20, 2012 at 3:27pm Reply

          • Daisy: If we’re lucky, maybe they will have shirtless YSL models in black Speedos outside of the store as it pumps a/c and waves of Manifesto onto the sidewalk :-) August 20, 2012 at 4:58pm Reply

            • Victoria: I read this comment in the morning today and started laughing out loud at the mental image you’ve conjured. So, thank you for a nice start to my day! :) August 21, 2012 at 7:41am Reply

              • Daisy: You’re welcome :-)

                What girl doesn’t need a man black Speedos to start her day? ;-) August 21, 2012 at 4:36pm Reply

    • Carla: I thought the perfumes Tom Ford did for YSL were very good – Rive Gauche for men and updated for women, Nu. August 21, 2012 at 2:11pm Reply

      • Victoria: And M7, which is really the first oud fragrance from a big house. August 21, 2012 at 2:48pm Reply

        • Carla: Yes, he really set off that trend! Though didn’t it bomb commercially? August 21, 2012 at 8:59pm Reply

  • Carlos: Nothing exciting, I guess. The only YSL thing I bought was their relaunched M7. People on Basenotes complained that it was too thin but it’s ok by me, I couldn’t wear the original. August 20, 2012 at 11:04am Reply

    • Victoria: I also complained that it was too thin, but I can see how it might be easier to wear. All in all, it’s still an interesting and memorable perfume. Manifesto is neither. August 20, 2012 at 11:11am Reply

  • Daisy: When I read the first line, I thought, “Oh no!”

    I saw the ad and had high hopes. Jessica Chastain, the purple dripping gloves, a name like Manifesto.

    Disappointing to hear it’s a snooze! Well-constructed or not, it sounds like it had so much potential to be so much more. August 20, 2012 at 11:10am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, it had all of the great components, but YSL decided to treat the perfume as an afterthought. Just fill the bottle with whatever tests well… Of course, I’m picking on YSL in this case, but this applies to pretty much all big brands. August 20, 2012 at 11:16am Reply

  • Anna Minis: I feel like Konsulin Buddenbrook wearing patchouli. I am quite sure she did not perfume herself, the patchouli came probably out of her clothes (against moths), but still I feel like Konsulin Buddenbrook. My favourite pure patchouli-smell is Patchouly Etro. And I am addicted to Borneo 1834. August 20, 2012 at 11:19am Reply

    • Victoria: You make me want to read Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks with this mention. It’s been on my list for a long time…
      Etro’s is another excellent patchouli, with a delicious nutty note. And Borneo 1834 is a Lutensian classic! August 20, 2012 at 12:46pm Reply

    • Nikki: how fun, the Buddenbrooks! The patchouli came from the Jamawar shawls imported fom India, all the rage since Josephine…there was a German movie made with Armin Mueller Stahl playing the patriarch. I adore him; I met him at the Berlin Film Festival in 2006 and he is the nicest, most modest person! August 20, 2012 at 3:21pm Reply

      • Victoria: How lucky! That must have been a fascinating encounter. August 20, 2012 at 4:13pm Reply

  • Nancy A.: YSL has become so commercial and uninspired. I guess you can’t win them all based on today’s review. L’oreal has purchased just about everything including YSL
    and they’re creating fragrances that cannot hold up to the past. The only patchouli that I would even consider to plunk down $$ is L’Artisan’s Patchouli Patch. August 20, 2012 at 1:32pm Reply

    • Victoria: Nancy, you know, i completely mixed up L’Artisan Sandalwood (which is discontinued) with Patchouli Patch (which is still available). I have a bottle of it, and I agree, it’s fantastic. The star anise and osmanthus really frame patchouli beautifully. Another great Bertrand Duchaufour perfume. August 20, 2012 at 2:59pm Reply

  • smellslikeroses: Man, that’s so disappointing! These big launches are depressing me. They all smell identical and then they have gazillion flankers that are even more boring. August 20, 2012 at 3:26pm Reply

    • Victoria: You’ve summed up the state of the industry nicely! :) August 20, 2012 at 4:14pm Reply

  • Lisa: As soon as you mentioned “Angel,” I knew that Manifesto would not be the fragrance for me. :( As many people have pointed out, there’s a lack of uniqueness to the most recent batch of large commercial releases, and it’s a pattern that I’ve noticed for the past few years. It makes me wonder about where, exactly, the craft of perfume-making is headed … August 20, 2012 at 4:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: Whenever I read perfumer interview even from as far as twenty years ago, they always point out the decline in quality as the perfume business grows. Very depressing.

      I don’t even mind twists on Angel–Lolita Lempicka is one, but what a great perfume!–but predictable, “I’ve smelled them before” perfumes are just too frustrating. August 21, 2012 at 7:37am Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: Sounds uninspired. The house of YSL hasn’t really found its way again since the Maestro retired…. Tom Ford did a good job of putting his own stamp on things, including that lovely fragance, Nu, but neither he nor his successors have managed to recapture the exhilaration of YSL in the day- the capes, the Spanish ruffles, the Russian dresses, the rich gypsy brocades… this was fashion art and fantasy combined. A friend gave me a copy of the catalog of theMet show on YSL, one of the last that Diania Vreeland oversaw, at it was stupefyingly beautiful. I am a huge fan of vintage clothes, and I am frantically saving my pennies for a YSL Russian collection opera cape….. there goes my book advance! The original scents were part of the mystique: Rive Gauche didn’t smell “perfumy”- it smelled fresh and adventurous and youthful and exciting (the revised version doesn’t, though) Opium was lush, daring, sexy, decadent and extravagant and Paris was heady and intoxicating. None of the new versions or new releases come close. August 20, 2012 at 6:03pm Reply

    • Nikki: you are very lucky, there is a black YSL velvet cape on e-bay right now! the catalogue sounds great, i want one…i have the big book about their appartment in Paris before Pierre Berge auctioned off all art, and the photos are incredible, such a personal ambience with all his wheat everywhere. the movie about their relationship is a must-see. August 20, 2012 at 10:03pm Reply

    • Victoria: In the past, Yves Saint Laurent himself was involved in fragrance creation. He wouldn’t necessarily pick out mods, but he had a say. I doubt that even Tom Ford has smelled any of the fragrances he has been making, although I love his aesthetic. It’s distinctive. It doesn’t necessarily speak to me–I don’t see myself wearing Tom Ford’s designs, but I can admire them.

      Now, the fragrance is just perfumery by numbers at YSL, and this is what shows through in this launch. August 21, 2012 at 7:50am Reply

  • Ariadne: Such a shame what has happened to the YSL brand. I believe one of his muses is La Deneuve. I agree with Lynn, think I need some of those ’70’s left bank boots and the wool coat to the knees to begin my autumn ’12.
    Manifesto??? Who wants to be such a bore to write THAT? Stick with poetry and love letters.
    And what the heck is wrong with differentiating yourself or your products that are unique??!! We are so done with candied perfumes, save the sugar for depiliation!
    It IS edifying to read of another side of patchouli though. I always thought patchouli was used as a useless foil to disguise the scent of a recently ignited “spleef”. Now am reading how it can bolster my beloved roses! August 20, 2012 at 8:08pm Reply

    • Victoria: A, patchouli is a wonderful note, and it has so much character. You can make it into a dessert a la Angel or you can make it into sexy, sultry number like Voleur de Roses by L’Artisan or Agent Provocateur. L’Artisan Patchouli Patch is mostly patchouli, but it doesn’t smell musty or boring. On the other hand, it’s elegant and quirky. August 21, 2012 at 7:52am Reply

  • eminere: I think that bottle is seriously tacky. August 21, 2012 at 8:52am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m not crazy about the purple faceted detail. This sort of thing has to be really well-executed not to look cheap. I like the hourglass shape though. August 21, 2012 at 9:04am Reply

  • Carla: I like the bottle. At least it’s a bit original. Unlike the juice, another fruitchouli! August 21, 2012 at 2:05pm Reply

  • Kristina K: I really like the bottle! I’m sucker for beautiful bottles :D November 8, 2012 at 9:12am Reply

  • C: I tried this yesterday and thought I liked it, but you all have shaved a layer off my enthusiasmn… I really like vanilla/jasmine/bergamot together! I liked the old (cheap) Coty Dark Vanilla (gone). So I have been making due with EL Sensuous, Avon Tomorrow, Prada…. OK, but not EXACTLY what I want. I like Angel (the original, because the anise is so suprizing, I guess, not the floral re-releases). Tressor… too floral and not enough peach. I like the Trish McAvoy with black berry, so OK with fruit, but not enthusiastic about most floral scents and no greens please. The exception would probably be a rose note, by itself, but no hyacynth, gardenia, “white flowers.” Gardenias in the garden are special but not in my perfume. Also like Sandalwood. If you have any ideas for me, they would be appreciated. (I feel like the mac ‘n cheese kid talking to the great chefs about dinner, but humor me.) March 23, 2013 at 9:08am Reply

    • Victoria: Not at all! :) That’s a great and varied selection (and at any rate, one can’t survive on foie gras and caviar alone!) You should revisit Manifesto and see if it fills the gap in your wardrobe. Sometimes it’s hard to figure that at first sniff. If you like the idea of jasmine and vanilla, how about Dior Hypnotic Poison, Givenchy Organza (they occasionally have jasmine dominated limited editions), Armani Code? They have some of the warmth you seem to like in perfumes. Aqua Allegoria Ylang & Vanille by Guerlain is another great combination of jasmine-like notes and vanilla. March 23, 2013 at 10:06am Reply

      • C: thanks… I will give the Armani a try. I do like Organza Indesance, which I think they stopped making and then brought back… I think I do not like Hypnotic Poison, but do not recall why, so I will try that again. I really do like the Manifesto. Feel bad that others find it so bland, but to me it is unique. Hope it is a copacetic body chemistry and not a dull nose! April 10, 2013 at 10:51pm Reply

  • C: OOPS… I like Angel (the original, because the anise is so suprizing, I guess, not the floral re-releases) Meant to say “Lolita Lempika” with the anise, but also only like the original, not the 3 floral re-releases… March 23, 2013 at 9:26am Reply

  • patriciaC: “Lancôme La Vie Est Belle is unexciting, but next to Manifesto it’s downright avant-garde” Funny you said that i tryed both the same day, MEH- was my reaction to manifesto. I think if they would have bumped-up one of the notes it may have been better. But what do i know. August 22, 2013 at 7:13am Reply

    • Victoria: It could have been so much better! It’s not a bad perfume, but it smells like so many other things out there that it’s hard to remember it. August 22, 2013 at 9:32am Reply

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