Today’s Advent SOTD is Helmut Lang, by the fashion house Helmut Lang, in eau de parfum. I assume this is the 2014 reissue of the 2000 release and cult classic, by Maurice Roucel. Not to worry, perfumistas! A Vogue editor for whom the original was a signature scent has written that to her nose, it is identical to the 2000 version. She also includes the important information that the reissue was overseen by the original perfumer, M. Roucel, which is reassuring. She calls it “sweet, powdery, strangely appealing”, and I agree. Its notes include: Lavender, Rosemary and Cotton candy (top); Heliotrope, Jasmine, Lily-of-the-Valley and Rose (middle); Vanilla, Sandalwood, Cedar and Patchouli (base). The list for the 2014 reissue does not include cotton candy or vanilla, and it adds artemisia and orange flower. Like many other commenters, I definitely still smell vanilla, listed or not, but it’s possible that accord is evoked by the combination of lavender and heliotrope with sandalwood and other notes.
Claire at the blog Take One Thing Off also liked the 2014 eau de parfum; in her review, she wrote about how it reminded her of the scent of her young children at bathtime and bedtime: softly floral, powdery, lightly musky like towels on clean skin and hair. She accurately described how irresistible to a parent is the smell of their own little ones — I’m sure that’s an evolutionary trick played on us to make sure we keep feeding the little imps, and don’t throttle them in our lowest moments of stress! Believe it or not, I actually found a photo that shows a rosemary called “Baby PJ”, for its small stature and light blue flowers, with a figurine of Cicely Mary Barker‘s Lavender Fairy:
One cannot imagine a picture or scent memory that contrasts more with the signature style of Helmut Lang‘s fashions, which has been described thus:
“Quintessential minimalism” springs to mind when thinking of Helmut Lang, the namesake label of Austrian designer Helmut Lang. He is arguably one of the most influential designers of the last three decades (although Lang himself retired from fashion in 2005 to fully focus on his art career,) and his legacy still resonates across runways today. The iconic designer pioneered minimalism in the ’90s with his sharp-cut tailoring and androgynous, utilitarian pieces adorned with bondage straps and harnesses.
The only aspect of this aesthetic that aligns with the fragrance is that the fragrance itself is meant to be completely unisex, and I think it succeeds. It opens with a dominant note, to my nose, of artemisia that is soon overtaken by lavender, supported by rosemary; the heliotrope quickly joins them and lends that powdery facet to the scent.
As it dries down, Helmut Lang becomes even softer and more floral, but the lavender is still central, which I think makes it more unisex and more traditionally wearable by men (though I firmly believe men and women should wear whatever scent they like!). In fact, at this stage it reminds me of the ultimate amber fougère, originally created for men but soon adopted by women: Guerlain’s Jicky. They share many notes, from lavender to vanilla, and they convey the same aura of both comfort and simple elegance. It’s as if your stylish husband had taken off his suit jacket and tie, and was on his knees by the bathtub helping to bathe your children in his shirtsleeves. Mothers, you KNOW how irresistible that would be!
The sandalwood emerges, a very soft and subtle sandalwood. Although musk isn’t listed as a note or accord, many commenters feel it is central to this fragrance and compare Helmut Lang to another Roucel creation of the early 2000s, Editions Frederic Malle’s Musc Ravageur. Most find this one softer, though, less aggressively musky.
All in all, I’m really taken with Helmut Lang. I think I may have a Scentbird decant of it in my stash, and I’ll now look it out, given how appealing the sample has proven to be. Have you tried any of the reissued fragrances from Helmut Lang?