Friday, November 09, 2007

When Fir Met Fig

Quiet*, originally uploaded by imapix.

What happens when Italian fashion designers creates a Canadian-inspired perfume? Perhaps a polite Italian perfume?… Or maybe a combination of fig and fir, which is precisely what I find in this new perfume, which can be found only in Milano or Canada’s Holt Renfrew. For a change, a scent that lives up to both its image and packaging – woods and wetness.

To be more precise, the fir is not so important here as the vetiver. Don't expect fir needles either, I suspect the part used was the bark, and even this was notquite recognizable. Even the cedar note is not as dominant as the vetiver is. And while vetiver is, in fact, a root, it has distinctively woody presence, particularly when its cool and clean notes are played up a bit as in this fragrance.

DSquared2 is a perfect balance between wetness and woodiness. The two things that are in abundance in Canada, for sure. The wetness comes from a number of sources – namely violet, mimosa and cassie, which together create a somewhat fuzzy, but very wet opening – without feeling the list “aquatic”. Cedar, vetiver and sheer vanilla notes (vanilla CO2 comes to mind) underneath with a clean yet sensual wood accord.

Surprisingly, He Wood has a distinct “boutique” feel to it without feeling overly done or pretentious. It simultaneously reminds me of a few scents that I’m very fond of: Philosykos (fig and cedar), Mimosa pour Moi (mimosa and vanilla), Verte Violette (violet and a hint of vanilla) and Vetiver Extraordinaire. The idea of combining together all these elements is brilliant and very refreshing without smelling even the list like a male fragrance cliché. Plus, I must admit that the idea of getting these four fragrances for the price of one appeals to me on a certain practical level (it will make my accountant happy, for one thing, and save me some space too)...

Canada rarely appears in the way of inspiring perfumes. Although plenty of scents are inspired by travel, Canada just isn’t considered exotic enough to be considered for olfactory inspiration. This is not to say that Canada does not have any olfactory contribution to the world of perfume in the way of notes: many if not most of the coniferous notes are a by-product of the logging industry (one of the world’s – and Canada’s – largest). Fir, spruce, juniper - you name it; Canada pretty much got it all...

Perhaps this is because there are so very few Canadian perfumers (only three that I can think of at the moment – and one of them residing outside of Canada; if you know of more, please let me know). Or maybe it’s just because of Canada’s famously growing fragrance bans. Heck, even Elle Canada’s list of fragrances pales in comparison to lists recommended by other magazines. FYI: last time I checked there were merely two (2!) fragrances on their shopping guide (if you care to know, these were Betsy Johnson and Elizabeth Arden's Mediterranean) And they seem to be OK with that too…

In the case of DSquared2 He Wood, the Canadian inspiration may not come as much of a surprise. DSquared2 belongs to Ontario-born twins Dan and Dean Caten. Apparently, even their store in Milano has fake snow and Canadiana in doses that won't embarrass a tourist shop on Robson Strasse all over it.

The perfumer is Daphne Bugey, Firmenich (Daphne is also the creator of Kenzo Amour and Le Labo’s Bergamote 22, Le Labo Neroli 36 and Rose 31), and the notes, as one can gather from the packaging (and the sample card) are strangely divided into Air (White Fir, Vegetal Amber and Musk), Water (Violet Leaves, Violet Blossoms and an Aquatic Note) and finally – Wood (Vetiver and Cedarwood), which are the theme of the fragrance. While fig may not be listed, it definitely felt thoroughly throughout the composition, even if it might be an olfactory illusion...

According to OsMoz, these divide into the fragrance pyramid as follows:

Top note: Violet Leaves, Violet Blossoms, Aquatic Note

Middle note: Vetiver, Cedarwood

Base note: White Fir, vegetal Amber, Musk

He Wood is available at Holt Renfrew in Canada in the following sizes and formulations: Eau de Toilette 30, 50 and 100 ml / 1, 1.7 and 3.4 oz ; Moisturizing After Shave Balm 100 ml / 3.4 oz. Ladies may not need the aftershave, but could enjoy the scent just as much if not better than men. In fact, DSquared2 garnered a far more animated response from myself than from my perfume-loving brother. While I'm ready to take the plunge at one of those wood-framed bottles, he stated he wouldn't wear it often, even if it was handed to him as a gift. I guess he won't be getting any for Christmas... We ladies are quite known for our fondness of vetiver, eh?

Images of bottles courtesy of

Verte Fig on Foodista

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