– a review of Parfums Mugler Mugler Cologne
You might be one of those people, the ones who love to trail complex, intriguing stories in their wake, the ones who leave an imprint in the atmosphere – of their presence, their essence, their plans or their purpose. If you’re reading these words, you very likely are.
In which case, read on.
But what if you’re not? What if you’re oblivious to perfume as anything but a toiletry item, elevated somewhere above the level of soap, yet below the appalling and intricate, complex-smelling perfume-y stuff? Something you’ve used since you were a teenager because it came with the territory of Growing Up and was considered a prerequisite for polite human interaction? Plus, the bottle was a birthday present from Aunt Joan or Uncle George (we all know it was Aunt Joan), it was free and wth. A shame to just let it evaporate, right? It’s not like you go out of your way to seek that stuff out, and it arrives without fail on every birthday, and.
If you’re that reader, read on.
Then again, maybe you belong in that box titled “All and/or Neither Of The Above”. The So Frazzled and Frantic All My Effs Have Left box. The ain’t nobody got time for that box. The this-is-my-life-with-a-snooze-button-and-now-I-have ten-minutes-for-everything-on-a-!§12346?!-Monday category. On those mornings, you can hope for nothing more than a mindless miasma, just enough to simultaneously camouflage any leftover weekend sins, advertise yourself as a substantive individual of the human race, and pull you through your quotidian purgatory as painlessly as possible.
Is that your box? Read on.
Maybe you’re a guy, a gal or a garden-variety alien trying to assimilate as seamlessly as possible into the general population. And maybe, just maybe, you want to get out the door with minimum fuss and maximum efficiency, so you are clear and focused enough to work for far more important causes and effects. Like changing the world, one of several or simply your own.
Maybe most of the time, perfume, personal scent, or any kind of olfactory experience isn’t something you want to be reminded of in your waking hours, you just want it to be there somewhere, a low, subsonic hum in the background frequency of You, just to say you are, you were, you do and you did.
On some sub-molecular, subconscious level of existence, we humans need to smell of something. No matter whatever our skin chemistry may cook up on our behalf, in this super-sanitized, anti-perspirised, squeaky-clean twenty-first century (at least in my part of the world), that something is usually soap.
Soap is the universal bottom layer to which we add all our other variables; the qualities of our water with its own variations on local minerals and trace metals, physical activity, diet, ambient temperature and humidity, the time of year. Add to that the scent of our laundry soaps and dryer sheets, fabric softeners or fresh air, hair products, and finally, lotions and potions, colognes, eaus and extraits. Then, of course, there’s the cherry on top of it all – your very mood.
All told, there lies the sum total of your “mindless miasma” – at least five different layers of differently scented products that all have their complicated contributions to your fragrant baseline on top of ambience, skin chemistry and mindset, all of which add their odiferous two cents.
Then again, maybe you have somehow by might and by right Marie Kondo-ed your life. Every single pencil in your possession has its proper place. Your entire wardrobe fits into an overnight bag, and your mental processes are the perceived realities of Sartre’s Being and Nothingness in action. You really cannot believe how much simpler your life became since you hyper-streamlined and revised both your life and your material testament, and in so doing discovered midcentury moderns, the work of the Bauhaus studios or Hans Wegner and the clothes of Helmut Lang. Life itself – messy, chaotic, whirligig primeval life – has been reduced to baseline essence, distillate and purity of line.
But perfume? Soap would be more efficient, less expensive and effusive.
Should you by chance or design be that person, I have news for you. And it comes from a most unexpected source.
Say what you will about the perfumes of Mugler – but each and every one of them is a supremely singular creature. The overwhelming majority of mainstream designer releases may be conjured and attuned via marketing committee with an eye towards the trend-o-meter, but not chez Mugler, who have marched to the beat of their unique drum since the release of their groundbreaking, trend-setting Angel in 1992. Angel somehow fit the brand aesthetic of Thierry Mugler, a space-age Brutalist monochrome exercise in super-human Hyper-Baroque, wide-shouldered, wasp-waisted Glamazon/Master of the Universe perfectly in keeping with the fashions that made his name. Loathe it or love it, you can’t possibly mistake it for anything at all else. A’men – another Mugler release of 1996 – was another game changer with its own agenda and DNA. Alien turned a perfumery trope on its head, kicked it sideways from above and gave us Intergalactic Jasmine Audaciousness in many permutations, and again – at least to my addled mind – there were no contradictions between the statement, the brand or the perfume. Womanity came along in 2010 and again upset the perfume world’s apple cart by giving us not fruitchouli, caffeine or intergalactic jasmine, but a salty, juicy fig, leaves – and a truckload of puns – included.
Not to mention, those bottles, people! Mugler has hands-down the coolest bottle designs this side of Agonist and Kosta Boda limited editions. At least, I think so.
Soap! Luxury soap – we’re still well within the confines of aspirational luxury here – but soap, nevertheless.
Personally, I adore it when a brand upsends our expectations of their releases. Soap is not at all what any perfumista would expect from a brand like Mugler. Having said that. simplicity has its own appeal in these trying times. Hence the success of Marie Kondo and her acolytes.
Mugler Cologne is from top to bottom yet another perfumery trope – indeed, one of the oldest – turned sideways and drop-kicked into an imagined twenty-second century. You’ll find everything present and accounted for, because there’s precious little to account for: a bergamot so incandescent, fluorescent bitter-green it’s borderline lime, a truckload of very high grade neroli that hangs on for dear life for the duration, and white musk, to add a little searing white, impeccably laundered skin chemistry-enhancing edge to the neroli. Some have claimed vetiver – indeed, a striking similarity to Creed’s Original Vetiver which arrived five years later- but never having tried any Creeds, I’m unable to comment.
That’s it. That’s all.
To some, it could be a massive snooze fest, soapy, green, hyper-simplistic and utterly unisex. To others, this could be a Marie Kondo of Planet Perfume – just smell good and get on, never mind through – with your day. So you have the sang-froid to take over the world.
It would be a paradox to claim that androids would ever wear perfume, that exercise in superfluity. But this is something the Maschinenmensch of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis would wear, or perhaps Star Trek’s Borg Queen, for maximum efficiency with a minimum of fuss before taking over the Alpha Quadrant and assimilating us one and all.
Should that be more hyper-baroque space-age imagination than even you can handle, look at Mugler Cologne another way.
Think of it as an interstellar Clean Machine, a time capsule from a future so blinding, bright, so immaculate we’re all wearing shades.
Resistance is futile!
Notes: bergamot, neroli, white musk.
Mugler Cologne can be had at many online perfumery locations for a bargain. Which it is.
Photo of Brigitte Helms in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1925), Photoshop manipulations, my own.