After 25 years in the business, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there’s not much else that François Nars hasn’t accomplished. He’s had a successful career as a makeup artist in the high fashion world, started a brand and created mononymous bestsellers like Orgasm, Laguna and Schiap, sold his brand to the Shiseido group, bought the private island Motu Tane – but fragrance, as it turns out, was one frontier untested.
Enter Audacious, the brand’s debut signature perfume created with the expertise of perfumer Olivia Giacobetti. Nars’ key inspiration for the scent was his home in the French Polynesian island of Tahiti. Nothing new there, considering that much of the brand pays tribute to the fantasy of exotic islander luxury. The Monoï body oils best exemplify that through their smells, led primarily by the intoxicating headiness of tiare blossom (a Tahitian variety of gardenia), ylang-ylang and frangipani.
Yet Nars is also a sexy brand, and you’ll see that in the sleek campaigns – photographed often by the founder himself – and in provocative shade names like Deep Throat. It’s also a vital facet of Francois Nars’ work as an artist with fashion designers like Marc Jacobs and photographers like Steven Meisel – both of whom are regular collaborators.
That thus explains the duality expressed in Audacious, which folds shadowy glamour and sun-washed warmth together into a scent that embraces its contradictions. Credit must be given here to Giacobetti, whose work as a perfumer is marked by a tremendous ability to capture both the fidelity and emotion of the ingredients she uses. The most famous work of hers that you likely know is Diptyque’s Philosykos, which is perhaps the contemporary benchmark of fig perfumes.
In Audacious, Giacobetti responded to Nars’ intersecting interests of fashion and beauty. The result is contrast, albeit a soft one, embodied. The fragrance can be broadly classified as a woody floral, but the particular strand of its florals is not saccharine sweetness but heavy and enveloping. That floral accord combines tiare flowers, ylang-ylang and frangipani – good news if you are already a fan of the brand’s Monoï oils and candles. In the opening of the scent, you get the sense, however, that these florals are hidden by a featherlight veil of incense and cedar. That very elegantly tempers the solar exuberance of the floral notes, introducing a touch of mystery and hauteur.
The perfume also uses white musk as a base and sandalwood as a heart note. These ingredients tend to have facets of sweetness to them, which begin to emerge as the first impressions of floral smokiness wear down into a more muted mix. The sweetness is, thankfully, the elegant and dark kind, which bolsters the fragrance’s structure and gives it mystery as its projection grows closer to the skin.
Audacious is, however, a fairly pricey perfume. It retails at SGD250 for a 50ml bottle, which sits fairly high on the range of designer perfumes but fair on the niche range. What you’ll be paying for is a beautifully rendered imagination of contrasts: purity and provocation, light and dark. If you enjoy warm, sunny florals, there are plenty of alternatives that go for much less. Nuxe’s Prodigieux perfume is a straightforward and lovely example, although you may have to order online since the brand’s Singaporean distributor has ceased to carry the brand (shame!). For more complexity, perhaps Love Story by Chloé or Jour d’Hermes Absolu, both of which are voluptuously sweet and sensual.
If you are, like myself and many others I’m certain, a follower and fan of François Nars’ work, then you might find this debut a spot on representation of the brand’s ethos and spirit. The unique Nars quality of straddling contradictions is present, from Giacobetti’s creation down to the bottle design by Fabien Baron.
Audacious retails for SGD250 for 50ml, available at the NARS 391 boutique at Ngee Ann City Shopping Centre.