If we're in the realm of tea leaves, crystal balls and kismet, let me put my tarot cards on the table straight away: I don't see these two scents in my future. The output of the house of Amouage often strikes a powerful chord with my perfume preferences, but both Fate Woman and Fate Man represent a rare case of me being left bemused by a new release from the brand.
Both of them certainly score high marks for distinctiveness. In recent years, Creative Director Christopher Chong hasn't shied away from the sorts of bizarre notes which wouldn't be out of place at Etat Libre D'Orange (see Opus V and Interlude Woman) and his refusal to toe an overtly commercial line is to be applauded. In keeping with his carefully constructed aesthetic, there's nothing safe about the Fate duo: both perfumes are large, bold and utterly unafraid of the limelight. But they also come across as more than a little adversarial, as though they're so intent on drawing attention to themselves, that they wouldn't mind resorting to a spot of underhand nastiness.
Dorothée Piot's Woman is probably the less accessible of the two. Although it opens with an attractive, powdery, rose-incense accord, it quickly introduces what I just couldn't stop seeing as a furniture polish note (synthetic woods?) which grows and grows in stature until it dominates the whole. The absinthe facet is difficult to cope with too: fuzzy, bitter and unsmiling, it combines with the woodiness to strike a decidedly standoffish pose.
Absinthe also creates problems in Karine Vinchon's Man. Here, its acrid characteristics rest uncomfortably next to the various evocations of burning. The spices, woods and resins (lots of pepper and incense) are joined in the furnace by molten plastic and all manner of frightening potions. The resulting conflagration is undoubtedly intriguing, but it's also quite challenging to wear, calling to mind haute couture creations which provoke endless fascination when viewed on a mannequin and total incomprehension when draped on a living, moving body.
In a market which sees the release of hundreds of perfumes each year, it's probably sensible to take a page out of the Mugler scent manual and aim for consumer polarisation: make something which a few people will adore, rather than something which many people will merely like. Fate Woman and Man have the potential to elicit strong, extreme reactions, so perhaps they'll both find their fans before too long. Personally, I couldn't quite figure out a way of enjoying them, despite several attempts. I thought I was getting somewhere when I latched on to the press release's assertion that they mark the closure of the first 'cycle' of Chong's Amouage work - I fancied I could detect hints of ideas from his previous scents - but even this approach didn't feel entirely satisfying. In the end, I had to conclude that the perfumes' argumentative harshness - their abrasive melange of conflicting ideas - just didn't allow me to discern what they may have been trying to say. For now, I've put my samples away. But I remain open-minded... so who knows, perhaps my words at the start of this review will turn out to be wrong and maybe one day, my path will once again cross that of the two Fates.
[Review based on samples of eau de parfum provided by Amouage in 2013.]