Friday, November 23, 2007

The Case of the Lost Leather- Kenneth Cole New York

Among the many things, big and small, I've learned from my mother, there's the rule that every perfume has its use. While spending nearly 30 years being loyal to her signature scent, she would still occasionally receive gifts of perfume from well-meaning but truly misguided friends and family members. I remember bottles of Azzaro 9, Montana and several Charlies (hey, it was the 70s and early 80s!). My mom would never just let them take up space in the back of her closet, nor would she re-gift them. Instead, she'd make the bottles earn their keep.

Ever the practical homemaker, she'd take advantage of the high alcohol content and use the perfumes for cleaning and disinfecting household items like phone receivers and light switches. The result was that the phones in our house usually smelled disturbingly like some of my teachers, but I guess I should be thankful my mom never dared to use Maja for this purpose.

Now, my wonderful cleaning lady would look at me like I've grown a second head if I'd replace the Caldrea and Mrs. Meyer's cleaner and wipes with something even more frou-frou. But what I do with those neglected bottles and unwanted samples (the ones I don't even think are worth the effort to list for selling and swapping) is use them in my lamp rings to scent the house.

A couple of months ago I was digging in the reject pile and came up with a big sample of Kenneth Cole's first fragrance (also known as Kenneth Cole New York). I probably had the vial since the perfume was first launched in 2002, and while it waited patiently at the bottom of the drawer, Kenneth Cole managed to come up with several other scents and discontinue the original one in the round bronze bottle. I was gave any of these perfumes more than a casual sniff and was largely unimpressed with them. None smelled bad, they just seemed uninteresting, uninspired and mostly, like something created to please a focus group of young interns. They all seem to exist within the safe inoffensive and impersonal boundaries, with no pretense to be soul-stirring or even remembered.

Soon after I poured most of the vial's content into the ring and turned on the light I became aware of a very pleasing scent wafting in the air. I was also surprised to like the way my fingertips smelled from handling the sample. The rest of the juice went on my wrist and I was quite happy with the spicy and warm results. Happy enough to go online, learn that while KCNY was officially a goner, it's available from every online discounter and it was dirt cheap. I placed an order.

The rumour about it being a leather scent has made me very curious. I hoped that once I have enough of the perfume to spray, the leather would appear and make it even more interesting. Once the bottle arrived I began to seriously test it. Alas, the stars have never again aligned in favor of this scent, and whatever it was that I found intriguing enough that first time, hasn't appeared again. The notes are (supposedly. Couldn't find anything official) mandarin, black currant, white cardamom, jasmine, cinnamon bark, red mahogany and leather. What I've been getting consistently is a sweet citrus and jasmine blend that smells very synthetic and gets stronger and almost shrill, until it somewhat calms down and softens, but remains high-pitched until late in the dry-down. When the jasmine finally leaves I'm left with a sweet and spicy citrus infused wood, quite pleasant in that inoffensive way that gets perfume classified as "recommended for office wear".

Try as I might, I never get the promised leather. Once the annoying notes are gone, there's absolutely nothing memorable or interesting in this scent. It's not horrible, but the synthetic jasmine makes the opening and the middle smell cheap, which means I'm not likely to want it on my skin.

Back to the lamp ring it goes.


  1. Cleaning phones: That's for sure a cool perfume use! I imagine calling Mr. Macho while smelling a flower explosion ...hehehehe

  2. I have a quite similar experience with Kenneth Cole's Black. I find something I like in it once in a while and then when I retest I am immersed in a world of generic fluff. What's worse, some of the samples smell different than the rest. What gives?

  3. Actually you and your mother are both very inventive!! Brownie points for that.
    Lovely suggestion to use unwanted things in lamp rings.

  4. Andy- I'm sure Mr. Macho would appreciate a phone smelling of Fracas ;)

    Divina- I'm glad to see I'm not the only one with Kenneth Cole issues. It doesn't bode well for the brand, though.

    Helg- I'm glad you liked my idea. Just imagine the lamp rings in houses of people with a perfume habit like ours...


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