In 1970 the house of Kenzo was founded in Paris by Japanese fashion design graduate Takada Kenzo. He was one of the first Japanese designers to make the move from Tokyo to Paris. His store, Jungle Jap surprised the fashion scene with its celebration of different cultures, embracing of colour and originality. Kenzo Parfums was created in 1987 and in 1993 the house of Kenzo became part of a growing portfolio of Moet Henessey Louis Vuitton (LVMH) brands. Kenzo perfumes have always embodied the Japanese aesthetic. Airy incense notes, silky kimono-like florals, humble woods and a sense of process in the way the notes unfold. There is always a sense of austerity in the Japanese approach to design. Their perfumes are never loud or arrogant, they are polite, organized and neatly balanced. Kenzo Air (2003), conceived for Kenzo by master perfumer Maurice Roucel, is an exploration of space. On a crisp autumn morning it would be nice to discharge the bottle, lie down in the grass, stare into the blue sky and allow the scented particles to fall slowly down and meet you on earth. The perfume’s scent mingling with that of earth and wet grass. I love this sense of Zen and tranquility Kenzo fragrances have the ability to bring out in me. With the flood of Cool Waters that have over run the market these past fifteen years, I hope Kenzo continue doing what they do well as the market trends towards less transparent male scents. Artist Laura de Santillana designed the sculpted packaging that houses the scent. The outer bottle references a window view into the sky. Although the scent was sold in 30ml, 50ml and 90ml, the outer casing had the same dimensions across all three sizes. Only the interior blue lining that holds the perfumed liquid changed dimensions. In the 90ml bottle, one sees the vision of blue sky much larger through the bottle’s window like casing in comparison to the smaller 30ml size. Sadly Kenzo Air was discontinued only a few years after it was launched.
This is a review for the eau de toilette. I have sampled the intense version that was launched two years after the original. However the beauty of Kenzo Air lies in the top and heart notes. While Kenzo Air Intense succeeds in providing wearers with a more intense fragrance that is longer lasting, it does this by turning up the volume of the heavier molecules; vetiver, amber, musk and an addition of cumin. As a result it looses the sense of weightlessness and air that is found in the original bottle. Kenzo Air is like a poolside cocktail ordered on a holiday beach resort. Crisp bergamot notes mingle with tropical fruit and green florals. The combination of licorice and vetiver is an absolute winner. Anise and angelica add complexity to the formula. As the fragrance drys down, Haitian vetiver, transparent woods and musk provide a subtle sillage for the remainder of your day.
Many criticize Kenzo Air for its lack of power and sillage. This is true, the fragrance’s relative impact and odour life are not strong. But for me this is its strength and not a weakness. Like a Sophia Coppola film, Kenzo Air plays on silence, requesting the wearer to feel instead of being a mere passenger or passive observer. Kenzo Air is not ostentatious, it is subtle, suiting someone who wears fragrance for themselves, not as a personal advertisement to others. Kenzo describes this fragrance as one that encourages men to discover their inner child. It is not ultra masculine in the way it is constructed and will even appeal to a female wearer. It is fresh, adolescent and meditative. A good choice for architects and graphic designers.
Perfumer: Maurice Roucel
Bottle designer: Laura de Santillana, Philippe Dapsanse
Release date: 2003
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Woods