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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Comme des Garcons Series 6: Synthetic

By Tom

As you are all aware, CdeG is the maker of interestingly weird clothing and intriguingly odd fragrances. They have started to open "Guerrilla" stores in various places, the latest here in Los Angeles, steps from my office in downtown Los Angeles. The stores are only open for a year, selling some items at a discount. Being one of the cool, in the know people (well, I heard about it on KCRW, does that count? No? K.) I was of course there about thirty seconds after the place opened. Not being a cool, wealthy person, about the only thing I could justify even thinking about purchasing were perfumes. There are of course Guerrilla Store inspired scents, but Columbina summed them up brilliantly so I will attempt to cover another range..

I had been given a sample of the Synthetic Soda in one of the first packages I ever ordered from a decanter on eBay: I honestly don't remember if it was Nancy or Patty or who it was. I remember liking the fragrance immediately and then completely forgetting about it when something shiny was dangled in my general direction. I was pleased to retry and to sample the rest of the series.

Dry Clean should have sent me running for the hills, with it's notes (via LuckyScent) of ozone, aldehydes, and nail polish but it doesn't. It's not really ozonic, it's not really dryer sheets and it's not really what you would think of when you think of "fresh". It's somewhat the scent of a really nice wool suit that has just come from a good cleaner: freshened wool, wooden coat hangers, a slightly plasticky smell of the cleaner bag and a slight whiff of cedar closets. I suppose you could get the same effect just wearing a garment bag, but it would be churlish to point that out, and rather missing the point. These are different, dammit, and if you want to be a stick-in-the-mud and expect linear progression and conventional beauty then you are just the sort of staid old Grundy that expects to wear shirts with two sleeves, one on either side of the chest.

I kid because I love...

Skai starts off sweet, with a note of frankly-fake grapefruit before settling into a leather note that's more Cordoba than Cordovan. If you've ever gotten into a hot car with vinyl seats you'll know that particularly compelling smell. There is a later coal tar note, keeping the J G Ballard portion of the program going. If ever there was a fragrance to release your inner Grace Jones, then this is it. I'm hearing "Warm Leatherette" in my head as I type..

Garage is one that thankfully doesn't try to be too literal in expressing it's name; there's leather, a light whiff of kerosene (but not nearly as much as in the opening of Tubereuse Criminelle) and a certain oiliness to it that makes me think of a very clean mechanic after a day of work. Oddly, this is an extremely light fragrance, one of the cleanest fragrances using those notes I've ever run across. There seems to be nothing musky about it at all, which would be the expected base, or at least the one that I'd expect. But really, there are so many other scents out there that do the expected, it's nice to smell one that refuses to..

Tar doesn't refuse to. Now you all know that both Columbina and I loves us some tarry scents. Fatty Kolnisch Juchten? Check. Smoky Patchouli 24? Sign me up! Where Tar goes with it is to the track: Le Labo is all about the NoLiTa meets Grasse uber-coolness. KJ is a Tatar prince ripping blackened fatted meat fresh from the campfire. Tar is a NASCAR hottie: tarmac, tires, seat belts and sweat. Dario Franchitti after a hard race. Yum.

Soda was the one that I first tried and liked very much. I'm a sucker for lime in fragrance and this one is so fizzy with aldehydes that you would half expect to wake up with a hangover from it. Of course, the limes are far more like the ones that are inhabiting Roses Lime Juice than anything that recently came from a tree, but that's sort of the point. The frank insincerity of the lime notes are perfect- this is the synthetic series after all. There's also musk in there, but it's also quite amusingly synthetic. Think robot musk. Like the rest of them there isn't a lot of progression, sillage or conventional prettiness in any of these. If you can get behind that, then you will enjoy the heck out of them. If not I think they will leave you very cold.

LuckyScent carries these at $65 for 75 mls in the slightly off-putting packaging, which looks a bit like face cleanser or bug spray. I do have a concern about plastic packaging changing the scents, but since these are so aggressively synthetic, perhaps the concern is unfounded.

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Blogger Dusan said...

This was fun to read! Having only tried Man 2 eons ago (can't remember much except that I found it different at the time), I suppose I'm still sort of a CdG virgin, though not in the once bitten, twice shy kinda way.
You've made all these sound compelling, but I feel that it's Tar that has my name on it. That said, I should check out the rest of the line as well...
Thanks for the brill-as-always writing, T-boy! :)

11:37 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great summaries. Now, I think I'd prefer a NASCAR hottie to all of these...

4:09 AM EDT  
Blogger Martin said...

dusan: CdG 2 Man might be one of their most straightforward scents so far, so I hope you are in for a big surpise if you continue to discover their fragrances!

The Synthetics: I've only tried two of them, but then I also own the two I've tried, Tar and Skai.
I had an intense love for Skai, but now everytime I sniff the bottles, it wears me out right away. It has started to disgust me for some reason. Very sad.
Tar on the other hand was one I had trouble with to begin with, but now can't get enough of. It is much cleaner than the name implies, leaving me with a silky smooth sensation. Amazing indeed...

Great reviews Tom!

5:29 AM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

Have to say I really enjoy wearing Tar, Skai and Soda in the summer. Am not sure why I don't reach for them in winter, but I don't. I think they're a lot of fun for the price and a lot more wearable than people might think.

10:47 AM EDT  
Blogger Erin said...

It sounds like you kinda liked ALL of these. Hmmm. I never see them around. They're not discontinued, right? CdG discontinued my beloved Calamus, I think. They're nutters. Your description and a review on Luckyscent (comparing it to that stony, tonic quality in mineral water) makes me want to try Soda. Hey, and I've just confirmed something I've noticed for a while: most of the fragrances I love get a 3.7 on MUA. CdG #2 (although this is ranked twice, not 2Man either), Calamus, Kyoto, Rhubarb... all 3.7 I shall ignore Avignon since it doesn't fit my system. :)

11:17 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Tar is a good one, but do check out the rest of the line as well..

11:24 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I think we could all use a little NASCAR hottie once in a while

11:24 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I didn't expect to like these as much as I did; I expect to get a lot of wear out of them come summer

11:26 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


as you know, our winters here aren't exactly Arctic, but I think I will enjoy these more in the summer as well.

11:26 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I idd like all of these! Weird, eh? Of course I think the fact that they are $29 at the Guerilla store helped a lot...

11:28 AM EDT  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

I really need to try ALL of these again, and Skai I've never tried at all. So far, Soda might be my favorite of the rest, if only the lime fizz part would last longer.

12:03 PM EDT  
Blogger Erin said...

Tom, that makes me want to cry. $29?! You know how much they charge for Original or #2 or incense and red series at the only place they sell CdG here? $125 Canadian. For any of them. (I buy from Luckyscent or discounters.) CdG scents are not reasonably priced gems here...

12:08 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I would love to read your thoughts about these..

12:26 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


That's the price at the Guerilla store. Which means going down a rather scrofulous alley in downtown LA to get to the store. Of course I am more than willing to..

Perhaps they'll have a Canadian Guerilla store opening? Can't think why not..

I did read a thread that the Perfume House in Portland has them for this price and will ship for $7

12:31 PM EDT  
Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

Oh my god......This was so much fun to read but now I have hives. I am sometimes way too tradtional for my own good :) I do however truly love the smell of hot tar so maybe that one might work!
Thanks for an excellent chuckle Tom!

1:03 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


you are most welcome; sometimes giving someone a chuckle is it's own best reward!

1:06 PM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

It was probably Lisa. I think she's had all the CdG's forever, and I've never even smelled these! Must rectify immediately. I *want* that tar. :)

1:40 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


You're right, I think it was Lisa.

I think the Tar is you!

1:48 PM EDT  

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