Friday, 9 December 2016

Persolaise Review: Sideshow from Gri Gri (Anaïs Biguine; 2016)

The soundbites
If Sideshow were a sculpture, it would be David Cerny's floating hand.
If it were an item of clothing, it would be a little girl's pink party dress, made out of gleaming vinyl.
If it were a mood, it would be defiance.

The review
The issue of political correctness rarely comes up in perfume discussions. Granted, it appears with heart-sinking regularity when the subject is perfume advertising - is it really so difficult to break away from dubious images of twig-thin, pre-pubescent women? - but it's a rarity when the matter at hand is the actual concept behind a fragrance. When it does raise its impish head, it serves to prove just how provocative a medium perfume can be, crystallising social norms and forcing us to question assumptions we too easily take for granted.

Such were the thoughts on my mind when I tried Sideshow from Gri Gri, the latest scent in a collection created and launched by Anaïs Biguine, the force behind Jardins D'Ecrivains and Les Cocottes De Paris. The obligatory concept for this particular range is tattoos - probably as interesting a theme as any of the others being pounced upon these days. And, as you might have guessed, in Sideshow it's expressed as a presentation of Victorian freak circuses, complete with their anatomical oddities, their social outcasts and, of course, their line-up of convention-defying, let-us-point-and-stare, tattoo-covered individuals. How you feel about this idea is a question you can raise amongst friends whilst dipping your wholemeal pitta into some organic hummus. But it certainly highlights that we'd never be confronted with such a concept by the mainstream, and probably not by most indie brands either. So, if nothing else, Biguine deserves credit for bravery.

But the praise shouldn't stop there, because Sideshow isn't just an attention-grabbing story. For once, the narrative is followed through into the composition, which sees a bizarre, unsettling cough-syrup-and-bubblegum note running parallel to one of the most fecal leathers I've encountered for some considerable time. The former is a Barbie doll as designed by Tim Burton. The latter is a scarecrow enjoying a paddle in a cesspit. The two don't quite gel - which does raise questions about the ultimate success of the composition - but then maybe they're not meant to. Perhaps the whole point being made here is about incongruity: the notion that no matter how much our liberal values force us to nod and smile, some things just don't fit together. So is Sideshow a perfume for those who feel marginalised? If it is, this world of Brexit, Trump and splintered societies seems like a ripe setting for its entrance.

[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Gri Gri in 2016.]


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