I encountered Tom Ford’s White Suede quite early in my perfume journey, when I was searching for other lily of the valley fragrances because I had been so disappointed in the current eau de parfum formulation of Diorissimo (I have since learned that the EDP is an entirely new creation by Francois Demachy, and the EDT is closer to what I remember). White Suede‘s notes are listed as: rose, saffron, thyme, mate tea, olibanum, lily-of-the-valley, amber, suede and sandalwood. Fragrantica’s readers list lily of the valley among the top three strongest notes, so I had to try it. Shout-out here to a lovely sales associate at Neiman Marcus, who patiently showed me a number of LOTV fragrances and gave me a generous sample of White Suede. I have found that the two department stores that are unfailingly helpful with samples are Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. When I buy fragrance from a general retailer as opposed to online, or at a specialty boutique, it’s usually at one of those stores.
White Suede jumps right out with a strong but soft suede note. I don’t smell thyme at all, which is supposed to be one of the top notes, but I do smell a hint of the tea note that is also supposed to be part of the opening. But White Suede was never meant to be primarily herbal or floral: it was part of the “White Musk Collection”, more focused on a lighter, cleaner musk than Tom Ford’s earlier scents. And yes, musk moves to center stage pretty quickly in the fragrance’s progression on my skin.
As that happens, a green undertone also emerges, which I think is meant to be the lily of the valley, but I doubt I would identify it as such if I weren’t looking for it. That’s not to say I dislike White Suede; actually, I like it quite a bit. I tried amping it up by layering it with a more strongly muguet-centric fragrance, Woods of Windsor’s soliflore Lily of the Valley, which was quite nice; they played well together. I think the reason White Suede doesn’t hit my nose as “lily of the valley” on its own is that traditionally (and in real life), muguet has a lemony aspect to it, and that is completely absent from White Suede. Muguet can also have a soapy tone to it (or maybe we associate soap with muguet because that fragrance note is so widely used in soap and bath products). Since clean white musks also have a certain soapiness, which many of us smell as akin to laundry, there’s a relationship there which White Suede seems to exploit.
White Suede is definitely a unisex fragrance, and it’s quite nice. It is also quite expensive, and I wouldn’t characterize it as a “muguet” fragrance despite the impressions of Fragrantica readers, so if your heart is set on a true lily of the valley scent, there are better and cheaper options, including some high-end choices from Dior, Hermes, and other luxury houses. It does have enough kinship with lily of the valley to layer nicely with a more traditional muguet floral, so if you like suede, musk, and muguet, give that a try and let us know what you think!
Featured image: Dolce & Gabbana white suede gloves