Sunday, October 13, 2013

Calvin Klein- Obsession

I'd recognize Obsession anywhere. I bet that you would, too. Calvin Klein's direct offspring of Opium was everywhere during my formative years as a perfume-wearer. Not just the perfume itself, a blockbuster and ball-buster if there ever was one, but also the iconic imagery featuring a barely-legal Kate Moss. It's easy to forget that Moss wasn't the original face of Obsession: born in 1974, Kate Moss was only eleven when Calvin Klein launched the perfume. We were both too young to wear Obsession in the 1980s. I don't know about Kate, but I made up for it with a vengeance during the early-to-mid 1990s.

I no longer wear Obsession and haven't in years. I keep a small amount of the parfum for reference, but I've shed so much of my old self in the years since that Obsession no longer fits. It's not a rational thing, obviously, as I wear massive ambery orientals on a regular basis, and my views on beastly animalic perfumes is "Yes, please" and "Can I get some more". Seriously, I just spent a day in Youth Dew circa the Eisenhower administration, so you know it's not Calvin, it's me.

Beyond the imagery, beyond my days in Business School, beyond every memory of every other girl and woman who wore this perfume when I did, Calvin Klein's Obsession is a beautiful fragrance. It starts almost innocently with orange, slightly green and bitter citrus rinds, and a puddingy vanilla. The custard is also supported by a creamy sandalwood, and I sort of see (or smell) why some people get the idea of chocolate. Then there are spices, and lots of them. If Opium is the Cinnamon Queen, Obsession does the same thing with coriander and perhaps also cinnamon and allspice, immersing them in more vanilla, powder and amber.

The dry-down is all vanilla, incense, and- at least in parfum- a nice helping of civet. That's where the unbelievable sex appeal comes from. Obsession is as provocative as Tabu, with or without Kate Moss. It's no wonder that for my generation Obsession was part of the date night ritual. Dousing oneself in its rich and dark goodness, we were  testing our own boundaries and asserting ourselves. The perfume's aggressive sillage and projection left no room for anyone else's personal space, but who cared? It was a declaration of intention and independence. It made us feel beautiful.

Notes: mandarin orange, vanilla, peach, basil, bergamot , lemon, spices, coriander, sandalwood, orange blossom, jasmine, oakmoss, cedar,  rose,  amber, musk, civet, vanilla, vetiver and incense.

The watered-down reformulation of Obsession is available anywhere mainstream perfumes are sold. There's more sugar and less backbone nowadays, and the longevity has shockingly diminished (who would have thought?). Yet Obsession is still as recognizable as ever, for better and for worse.


  1. Thank you for this! For those of us who love to read your descriptions of perfumes we can't access, a review of a more mainstream perfume helps to "norm" things for us. This would be a great series for some ours newbies to get oriented with the world of perfumes outside of the mall and Ulta.

  2. I'm no perfume expert, but I love reading your reviews, and this one in particular was wonderful.

  3. I didn't wear this before the 90's, either, because it wasn't available in Finland until then. But I did smell it in the late 80's: there was a "paper sample" (don't know the correct term for those things inside magazines) in Mademoiselle magazine and I kept sniffing at it obsessively. Warm, spicy, animalic Oriental, I enjoyed very much wearing it.

  4. This was my signature scent back in the day. I fell in love with it the moment I first tried it and went through many bottles. I haven't worn it in a long time either but I still love it and the memories associated with the time I wore it. The vintage Obsession has so much depth. I love all warm, incensey, spicy, vanillic and animalic fragrances to this day, my favorites. I love reading your reviews Gaia, thank you!

  5. Loved Obsession when it first came out (yes, I was old enough--just--to wear the original), and I still love it; am fortunate to have a vintage bottle. Wish I still had my first bottle (like the one in the last ad above). Understand what you mean about growing beyond certain fragrances, but I'm glad I've never lost my love for ambery Orientals like Obsession, Opium and Youth Dew.

  6. I've only tried Obsession once, maybe two years ago while browsing about at Kohl's or somewhere like that. I thought of it as more like CK's take on Shalimar, with the citrusy top giving way to the vanillic base. But unfortunately the version I tried had a Play-doh note that I wasn't digging so much, and something plasticky in it too. I'm tempted to track down some vintage and try it out. I didn't get Shalimar until I tried vintage, so maybe Obession will be that way for me too.

  7. I wore Obsession in the late 80s when I was in college and dating a particular boy; now every time I smell it I am reminded of him and a rather painful breakup. For some strange reason, Coromandel reminds me so much of it that I passed on my decant to my daughter, and every time she wears it the memories arise again! I loved Obsession back then, it was the first sexy scent I wore, a contrast to the L'Air du Temps that had been my constant companion.

  8. My best friend wore Obsession in the 80s so I never did, but I have a bottle from the 90s that I enjoy wearing occasionally in the winter. It stands up well to heavy layers of clothing and smells divine in the cold. Thanks for your appreciative review; many perfume lovers tend to look down their nose at Obsession, but the notes and warm sillage are better than some pricier niche offerings today, at least at the vintage level.

  9. I love and used to wear Obession by CK, I always viewed it as a baby sister to the original Calvin by Calvin Klein (more of a spicy amber with the addition of carnation). Both were lovely, but nuclear in strength.


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