I had no expectations from Balenciaga's second major fragrance release in their second incarnation as part of Coty. True, I do like the first Balenciaga Paris and the two IFF perfumers who created Florabotanica, Olivier Polge and Jean-Christophe Herault add quite a bit of prestige, but there many red flags around this Balenciaga release. First, the powers that be stated clearly that they were aiming for a different customer this time. From WWD, June 2012:
"For the new project, executives from fragrance licensee Coty Inc. asked him [Balenciaga lead designer at the time Nicolas Ghesquière] to pick out part of his Balenciaga fashion and have a young consumer in mind. "
It was obvious that quite a bit of money was spent on stuff around the perfume but not necessarily on the juice: a beautiful and expensive looking new bottle (very different than Balenciaga Paris and its flankers), a gorgeous ad campaign. Most concerning of all was the choice of the face of Florabotanica, Kristen Stewart. How much budget, vision, and quality could have been left for the juice? Then came the numerous interviews Stewart gave around that time (about a month before the big scandal) that made it clear where she stands on perfume and why she supposedly "likes" this one:
“On a base level, the reason you want to wear a fragrance is because you want to smell attractive. That in itself is a pretty mature idea, especially considering the teenager I was. I was never the one wearing my mom’s perfume and trying to be sexy. I was like hanging out with my brothers and doing the opposite of that. I’m very lucky that I like the fragrance, because I would have done anything with [Balenciaga designer Nicolas Ghesquière] and I’m a terrible liar.”And even better--
“There is something natural about it. It’s very alive. I think that as a young person wearing it — considering that I’ve never worn a scent — it kind of puts you on this level of, like, ‘Whoa, check me out.’ ”Like, whoa, indeed.
Where were we? Oh, zero expectations. So I already knew that it's a young, light, utterly synthetic, and of the fresh variety. Oh, yes, and floral. And it is, all of the above, for sure. But for all that, Florabotanica is also very well done for this genre, and I have to admit that if a bottle were to magically appear around here I might not pass it to my niece right away. It's... nice.
I smell Florabotanica and can tell that whatever stands for the floral notes in the fragrance is as real as the flowers printed on the box (a Ghesquière for Balenciaga design). There's a very sheer and greenish rose, a leafy cool feel (the caladium leaves from the official note list is a poisonous ornamental plant, not something that's used in perfumery or that I'm certain has an actual scent). The rose is slightly sweet, devoid of fruity facets or anything sour, and wears nicely on my skin. There's a phase in the dry-down that Florabotanica becomes extremely soapy. It's a nice soap and utterly impersonal, which can be a problem or a very desirable thing, depending on your mood and time of the year.
Florabotanica has a phenomenal tenacity. While the sillage is minimal and as inoffensive as it gets, even the smallest drop clings to the skin past washing and showers. The late dry-down is less soapy and more about a mild ambery rose that leans towards a fairly expensive laundry musk. While eventually I'd probably pass the imaginary bottle to my niece I still might wear Florabotanica a time or three just to make sure that I'm utterly over it.
Notes: mint, carnation, hybrid rose, caladium leaves, amber and vetiver.
Balenciaga Florabotanica ($95, 1.7oz EDP) is available from select department stores.
Images: WWD, Harper's Bazaar