One Thousand Scents

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Laugh Out Loud: Thierry Mugler Angel

Yesterday I wrote about a friend whose response to a fragrance was giddy laughter. I've had that response only once--at least only once in public.

In 1992, the fragrance that everyone was talking about was Angel. Naturally, I was desperate to sample it, and on a trip to Toronto, I got my chance. I sprayed some on a blotter strip, took a whiff, and immediately begin to laugh (not too loudly, I hope). Every time I took another sniff, I had to laugh again, at the sheer audacity of the thing. I was delighted that someone would dare to make something so strange and inventive; of course I had to buy it immediately.

Resolutely flowerless, Angel consists almost entirely of food notes: designer Thierry Mugler had been looking for a scent that reminded him of childhood smells, and the fragrance is saturated with chocolate, vanilla, caramel, and honey, with a dose of patchouli to keep it from smelling like a candy store (and to provide, according to perfumer Olivier Cresp, a note reminiscent of the sawdust at the circus).

It may be easy to forget just how absolutely novel Angel was when it was new. A hundred clones followed in its path (and most of them, like Todd Oldham's delightful eponymous scent, vanished), but at the time it was unique and polarizing. Everyone seemed to have an opinion on it, and everyone seemed to either love it or hate it. It's potent stuff, and hard to wear discreetly: I took to mixing small amounts with unscented shower gel so I could have a dose of the stuff (a dose! like some strange medicine) without choking everyone in the vicinity. Eventually even that got to be too much for me; I'm fickle and I tire of most scents in a year or three. I gave the remainder of the bottle to a friend who has the brassy, outsized personality to wear it with impunity, and she still loves and wears the scent. (Years later I also gave her my part-bottle of the men's version, A*Men: but that is a story for another day.)

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