When perfumer Serge Lutens announced in 2010 he was launching a new fragrance which he termed an ‘anti-fragrance’, I went into a Google-ing frenzy wanting to find out more about the release, the story behind it and where I could smell it. When I finally got my hands on a tester it did not live up to my expectations. Perhaps it was because I already had been introduced to Outrageous! which came into my possession on a holiday to New York in 2008. At the time I already had a couple of Frederic Malle’s in my collection and I was pleasantly surprised to learn during a visit to Barney’s New York that he had collaborated with the iconic department store to create a scent only available from the Barney’s Co-Op stores throughout the United States. Outrageous! was created by Sophia Grojsman. America’s most prolific female perfumer Grojsman is responsible for Lancome’s Tresor, Yves Saint Laurent’s Paris and Calvin Klein’s Eternity to name a few. She is also the nose behind a 20th century perfume revolution. When she began her career it was common for perfumes to be composed from many sub-compounds often containing over one hundred ingredients. Grojsman’s approach was to reject these sub-compounds instead replacing them with much simpler accords she created herself. “Why should a rose be so complicated?” It was these minimalist approaches that lead her away from the industry standard of the time in which a perfume went through stages of change, developing top, middle and base notes. Instead she moved towards a linear approach allowing the perfume to bare its soul within the first seconds of application. Frederic Malle created his brand by gathering who he considered to be the best noses in perfumery, allowing them free artistic reign to create a scent. I’m sure it was no coincidence he chose Sophia Grojsman to create a scent for Barney’s, an institution in American retailing. If you compare the most well known of French perfumes with their American counterparts the difference in culture is certainly obvious. In Chandler Burr’s book, The Emperor of Scent, perfume critic Luca Turin recalls a conversation he had with perfumer and creator of Hermes Caleche, Guy Robert. The perfumer asked if he had smelt a particular perfume molecule. Turin replied “no”, and asked Robert to describe it. He paused and considered this gravely. His response was, ‘ca sent la femme qui se neglige’, “it smells of a woman that neglects herself”. While French perfume has a long history of employing the use of civet and musk, best described as fecal in smell. American perfume is about sterility, cleanliness and purity. Something Americans are obsessed with if you have ever used one of their public restrooms. Some may discount Grojsman’s creation as a misuse of perfumer’s alcohol but I see it more as an ode to a tradition in American perfumery. If you love to smell clean but don’t want to smell of lemons, look no further!
Although Outrageous! can be described by referencing traditional perfume notes such as neroli, citrus, white musk and aldehydes, it is much more accurate to describe it by the imagery it is able to create in the mind of the wearer. I can’t think of one other perfume I have which is best described by ideas instead of the ingredients that make up the formula. Outrageous! smells of fresh laundry, spring rain that has been collected in a plastic bucket. It smells of fluorescent light. Frederic Malle commented that he wanted to create something for Barney’s that evokes a sense of androgyny, super sexy, like a good pair of jeans.
This is a scent for those who don’t want a scent. It is rebellious in that it does not smell like ‘perfume’. It would fit perfectly the man that is happy in his jeans and tee shirt (how all-American!). He is clean cut but definitely not simple, and if he is, it’s because his less than simple girlfriend has been shopping at Barney’s and stopped by the Frederic Malle counter.
Francis Kurkdjian Aqua Universalis, Serge Luten L’Eau, Kenzo Air Pour Homme, Chanel Eau De Cologne, Guerlain Cologne Du Parfumeur, Etro Pegaso, Escentric Molecules Escentric 1. Comme Des Garcons Odeur 53.
Perfumer: Sophia Grojsman (IFF)
Bottle designer: Frederic Malle
Release date: 2007
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Woods