Scent Sample Sunday: SJP Covet

Scent Sample Sunday: SJP Covet

I find that the fragrances I choose to wear are highly influenced by the season and the weather. This year, in my part of the US, September and even the start of October felt more like late August. Temperatures were still in the 90s almost daily, and the humidity was high in spite of near-drought conditions and lack of rain. Finally, in the past week, fall arrived. Leaves are changing color and night temperatures are in the 40s. We even turned on the heat this week, though we don’t need it during the day, when the sun still warms the air into the balmy 70s. We haven’t had the weather we usually enjoy here in October, which resembles the “Indian summer” one sees in September in the Northeast, but it is pleasant. And we finally got lots of rain, which the trees desperately needed.

What fragrances work with this oddball weather and transitional season? One could do worse than Sarah Jessica Parker’s Covet, an oddball fragrance that combines apparently disparate notes like lemon, lavender, and chocolate. Wearable by both women and men, it combines a summery freshness with aromatic lavender, over a hum of dark cocoa.

On first application, Covet displays its lemon opening notes very clearly. Some commenters dislike the opening, comparing it to lemon floor cleaner and other functional sprays. I do see what they mean, though it doesn’t hit my nose as sharply as it seems to hit theirs. Luckily, the cocoa quickly starts making itself felt, and lavender arrives shortly after that. The lemon is persistent, but it does fade into the background after about 45 minutes or so on my skin. In the middle phase, to my nose the most prominent note is lavender. I can’t say that I sense any of the listed floral notes (honeysuckle, magnolia, and lily of the valley), which would have matched it more closely to my perceptions of spring. The cocoa is still faintly present and warms up the lavender. In the dry down, moving into base notes, Covet becomes more herbal and its warmth is woody rather than chocolatey, with an undertone of musk. Longevity is good but not extraordinary.

Covet was launched in 2007, after the huge success of Lovely, the first SJP fragrance. It has been discontinued as far as I can tell, though it is still widely available at bargain prices online. In line with its odd composition, the ad campaign for it is truly weird, portraying Sarah Jessica Parker in a ball gown, kicking in a plate glass window at night to get to a bottle of the fragrance and being taken away in handcuffs by Parisian gendarmes. “I had to have it”, she declares to the camera, with a somewhat demented expression on her face.

I find Covet to be a unisex fragrance, leaning neither traditionally feminine or masculine. Do I “have to have it”? No, but I’m glad to have a small bottle, because the fragrance is interesting. It’s a transition between the mainstream prettiness of Lovely (which is indeed lovely, though not groundbreaking) and the much more daring SJP Stash. Covet is much more quirky than Lovely, but Stash is in a category of its own among celebrity scents. As many commenters have noted, if Stash came with a niche label and price tag, it would hold its own among today’s niche fragrances.

Covet turns out to be a good fit with the transitional season and weather we’re having now. Soon enough, I will want more traditional fall fragrance notes, like amber, vanilla, spices. What are your favorite fall fragrances and notes? Have you tried Covet?

May Muguet Marathon: Something Blue

May Muguet Marathon: Something Blue

Although I really enjoy niche perfumes, and some pricey lines like Hermes, Chanel, Penhaligons, Jo Malone, etc., it’s wonderful to find and be able to recommend an affordable but pleasing fragrance — a bargain beauty, if you will. Oscar de la Renta’s Something Blue is one such beauty. It is readily available at discount stores and online for less than $20 for 100 ml, sometimes in a set with body lotion. Its name comes from the tradition of a bride wearing “something old, something new; something borrowed, something blue” on her wedding day, for good luck. The fragrance is meant to suggest exactly that: a sunny day smiling down on a beautiful young woman dressed in white.

Ad and bottle for Something Blue fragrance by Oscar de la Renta, with model in wedding dress

Oscar de la Renta’s Something Blue; image from http://www.oscardelarenta.com

The bottle, by the way, is very pretty and appealing. It has a nice weight in the hand, and the blue marblized cap is a delicate shade of sky blue with wisps of white across it like light clouds. The silver band around the neck, with the designer’s name, is meant to look like a wedding band, and it’s a nice touch. Something Blue was launched in 2013, the year before M. de la Renta died, and there are some delightful photos of him at its launch party:

Oscar+de+la+Renta+Something+Blue+Launches+z8vbBq8rPbEl

Designer Oscar de la Renta with his new fragrance

What does it smell like? The opening is based on notes of linden blossom, neroli, bergamot and mandarin. The mandarin offers sweetness, while the bergamot adds some tart greenness; this young lady is tender but spirited. Linden blossom and neroli evoke sunshine and summertime; not summertime at the beach, but a summertime garden wedding. More floral notes arrive, including lily of the valley (a traditional wedding bouquet flower), stephanotis (another bouquet favorite), and narcissus, with a touch of litchi to keep things sweet.  Of those notes, lily of the valley is most prominent, but this is not a muguet soliflore. The linden blossom continues to waft through the heart stage of the fragrance, and there is a nice balance between those two flowers.

The few fruity notes here are very well deployed to lift and sweeten the fragrance without being too sugary. The citruses provide the airiness and sunshine at the start to set the overall impression, while the litchi keeps the heart stage more sweet and less green than it might otherwise have been. I wouldn’t call this a “fruity floral”, it is mostly a light floral, but the fruit notes are important supporting players in Something Blue; they have been used masterfully, which is no surprise since the perfumers who created it were Ann Gottlieb and Frank Voelkl of Firmenich. There is no sense of “white flower” bomb, despite the presence of stephanotis and narcissus.

The final stage includes base notes of musk, vanilla, ambrette seed, ambergris and cashmere wood (which I assume means Cashmeran, especially as that base note seems to outlast the others after several hours). It is soft and warm, like glowing skin or the late afternoon’s golden sun. Here is the clever part: the progression of Something Blue emulates the unfolding of a summer garden wedding. The sunny, summery opening notes set the stage: the garden. The entrance of the lily of the valley and stephanotis notes evokes the entrance of the bride, bearing her bouquet of pure, white, virginal flowers. The gradual drydown to the warm golden notes of the base gives the impression of a late afternoon in the same garden, after the vows have been spoken, the ceremony performed, the refreshments had, the dances danced, the bride and groom departed for their honeymoon. Perhaps this is the hour when the few family members lingering can take a peaceful stroll through the garden, having said goodbye to their guests — it isn’t yet sunset, but the slanting rays of golden sun tell us that the day’s festivities are happily concluded, and it is time for quiet.

I have given a bottle of Something Blue to a young friend as one of her gifts at her bridal shower. She later told me that she did indeed wear it on her wedding day, and she likes it so much that she’s on her second or third bottle! A beauty indeed — both bride and fragrance.

Have you tried any of the many fragrances from Oscar de la Renta? What did you think?  I also like another fragrance from his house that features lily of the valley: Live in Love. Do you have any favorites from his brand?