Estee Lauder has a venerable fragrance legacy.
Let’s imagine three people reading that sentence. One is in her early 20s. She buys perfume once or twice a year, from the selection at her local mall. She is surprised by this statement, because she can’t imagine that the likes of Pleasures or Beyond Paradise make a strong legacy. The second reader landed on this review because she wants to go buy a new perfume and she just wants something that smells good. To her, Estee Lauder’s legacy is completely irrelevant. The last reader is a woman in her early 40s. Her aunt wore Youth Dew, and so did every woman in her church. She is thinking that I’ve stated the obvious.
In just those three pretend readers, we can almost encapsulate the standing of Estee Lauder’s perfumes past and present, and the moment the company apparently wanted to create with their new release. They are describing Modern Muse (created by Harry Fremont) as their first major perfume launch since 2003. ”This is the most important fragrance moment we’ve had in a decade,” president Jane Hurtzmerk Hurdis is quoted as saying. (1)
The company has actually launched several new perfumes since 2003. Fragrantica shows all three Private Collection fragrances being launched between 2007 and 2009, Sensuous and Brazil Dream in 2008, Wood Mystique and Adventurous in 2011, and Amber Mystique in 2013. This is not even counting the flankers. Recalling the marketing push for Sensuous and its flankers (remember that Sensuous Nude video?), and two campaigns for the Private Collection fragrances (when they launched, and again when Aerin Lauder launched her capsule collection and they were advertised with that), I am hard pressed to understand how Modern Muse can rationally be considered more “major” than the others, so I am forced to conclude they just want to play on the fragrance’s name to get the media to talk about it as (and thus consumers to see it as) a worthy continuation of a venerable legacy.
So I will take it on their terms and ask: Is Modern Muse a worthy continuation of Estee Lauder’s venerable fragrance legacy?
Yes, because of the nature of that legacy.
While several Estee Lauder creations are considered classics and many are very well made, the brand is not known as a particularly innovative fragrance house. It is known as a savvy business. Take Youth Dew, the bath oil and fragrance that were the foundation of the company’s business. Barbara of Yesterday’s Perfume notes that Michael Edwards sees a similarity with Tabu (which pre-dates Youth Dew significantly). Many of their recent fragrances are also successful reworkings or plays on fragrance themes that had already been done when the Estee Lauder ‘version’ hit the market. Amber Mystique and Wood Mystique, for example, are Estee Lauder’s forays into the Middle Eastern market, and both naturally feature oud, but done in a very Estee way. (And yes, they smell good.) Where Estee Lauder excels is in taking ideas and adjusting them or updating them as needed to make them successful to a very broad market.
This is exactly what Modern Muse is. It’s an update of Narciso Rodriguez For Her. If you can imagine For Her layered over clean jasmine sambac and peony, you can perfectly imagine what Modern Muse smells like, and you can ignore the note list. It’s a musk fragrance. Tempering the musks with these two very fresh and very “natural” smelling floral accords takes Modern Muse another step away from the chypre structure that inspired For Her, further into “pretty and feminine” territory. The fact that it is a musk fragrance ensures that it smells modern and distinctive next to the other mainstream offerings, but making it softer and more floral has made it less audacious than the slightly polarizing For Her. I won’t be at all surprised if there is a big, big market for Modern Muse. Only history will tell if either of them will be remembered.
For a review of Estee Lauder Modern Muse, see Persolaise.
Image courtesy BeautyScene.net.