Consider me won over. When I first began to explore Comme Des Garçons’ new Concrete - housed in a suitably industrial-looking, scratch-prone version of the familiar pebble bottle - I couldn't help feeling a tiny bit let down. Its opening excited me: a grey, humid, liquid-splattered-on-powder evocation of the ubiquitous building material. And its sweet facet provided a welcome contrast, like berries squashed against granite. But then it all seemed to turn rather pedestrian. Was the promising start leading to nothing more than a tame vanilla? Was the sandalwood mentioned in the press notes going to appear as a mere suggestion of synthetic dryness? Was the triumph of last year’s Blackpepper not to be repeated?
Pushing my worries to one side, I continued to smell it and wear it, as is my duty. And then it hit me: pedestrian is the point. After all, what is the material most often beneath our feet when we're being pedestrians? As a feature of our modern landscapes, concrete is both irredeemably ugly and largely invisible. Indeed, I dare say that most of the time, we don't even notice its presence. It rams its way into our consciousness only when permitted to take a somewhat unusual form. The rest of the time it's just… well, the stuff over which we walk.
That is precisely how this olfactory rendition of Concrete operates. After its prologue of weirdness, it retreats into the background, as though intent on blending into its surroundings. But every now and then, it presents an unexpected interlude, like, for instance, a sense of wetness, akin to a muddy puddle on a busy urban intersection. Then an over-chemical floral note pops up, not unlike the bizarre test-tube-dwelling petals of Sécrétions Magnifiques. And that sweet facet keeps reappearing too, in increasingly disturbing ways, like some giant raspberry mousse oozing down the side of the Empire State Building. But stare at them too hard, and all these oddities vanish, reverting to the smooth, unending surface of a pavement. And that's why, ultimately, I was won over, because not once did Concrete allow me to think that I'd worked it out. It kept pulling me along, teasing me to take one step after another, forcing me to persist with one of the most intriguing scented strolls upon which I've embarked this year.
[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Comme Des Garçons in 2017]