Biographerfume – En Voyage Perfumes, Frida (2015)

When I first encountered Frida Kahlo’s paintings I must have been in my early teens. The intention of showing her own carnal suffering as if through a magnifying glass combined with Mexican symbolism, I could admire her for, but only at a distance, to me it was, and to a great extent still is, just too much. Something about those surrealistic folklore self portraits which seemed to want to eat you alive repulsed me, which I am sure, was at least partly intentional and very effective for my part.

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All the more reason for me to actually admire people who are able to embrace all that is Frida Kahlo, and even more so, actually pay tribute to her through their own work.

Shelley Waddington of En Voyage Perfumes has done just that. With Frida Kahlo as her muse and inspiration, she has created a perfume which does that amazing thing of paying tribute to ALL things Frida, not sugar-coating her into a Mexican souvenir. As with Frida’s paintings, let’s say, I wasn’t quite prepared…

For the most, whenever perfumers name their perfumes for famous people or fictional characters, it becomes a bit glossed over take Misia (and Kafkaesque view on that) or my own issue with Carmen, I’m quite sure there are many more to name and shame. But not ‘Frida’ the perfume.

My first impression of the perfume was to flinch exactly as I would have done with a Frida Kahlo painting; too much info in a slightly obscene way. But please don’t let that deter you because this perfume is a true tribute and absolutely worth the full exploration.

Something has a weird smell like decaying fruits and flowers,  sweet and sour a bit camphor like. It’s such a powerful image which I have rarely sniffed before, extremely vivid and massively brave in a perfume world trying to sell everything through pleasant unobtrusive top notes. To me it is jaw-dropping how exact the opening of ‘Frida’ mimics my feelings for her work, and I’m pretty sure whether you love or dislike Frida Kahlo’s work, you’ll feel that way too.

The top notes relax after a short while and a fruity-hibiscus blend paves the way for a rather gorgeous non-rubbery tuberose. From this stage on the perfume becomes much softer in projection and even tuberoseophobes need not worry, as this is a creamy and sensual tuberose, which warms and blooms on the skin and makes me think of tropical holidays.

The dry down stays even closer to the skin and feels incredibly intimate, musks, tobacco and amber notes blend to a feel of warm bodies and hair, animalic cosy without being dirty.

All in all, I can see how this sounds; decaying fruit, tuberose and animalic, but truly that is only a ‘word’ problem. Frida the perfume is masterfully made; it’s strong-willed and fiery and after the first blast, a gorgeous soft tuberose centered perfume. The overall feel is that of a fruity, creamy tuberose with a warm skin dry down, and yes with a start that makes you sit up and take notice, but with a muse like that I wouldn’t want it any different.

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Sample was send to me from En Voyage, feat pic is mine.

18 thoughts on “Biographerfume – En Voyage Perfumes, Frida (2015)

  1. Wow! This is an amazing review Asali! 🙂
    I can completely understand what you meant and now I’m eager to try the perfume.
    I also happen to think Shelley does masterful work so all the more reasons to try this.

    • Thank you Ines 😀 Yes, I’m really very excited about Shelley’s perfumes too, and am so happy that you understand what I am trying to convey. It really is massively difficult to say how masterful and wearable you find something, when it isn’t conventionally beautiful, and part of the beauty is it’s courage to be different.

  2. Stunning review, Asali and what an amazing feature picture. You have totally captured Frida.

    Shelley also kindly sent me a sample of this. The opening is so pungent it made me think of her self-portraits with plants and I’ve also used the word “vivid” in my review. I’m tuberose-phobic and I was fine with that main note in Frida. The natural absolute is really smooth and non-heady. The base is soft and warm and I even get a whiff of tobacco smoke. I agree that Shelley has done an outstanding job of encapsulating the whole, complicated woman.

    The paintings you’ve used are so raw, they aren’t easy to look at. It’s shocking when you think that Frida once said she didn’t see her paintings as surreal because they were her reality. I admire her so much.

    • Dear Tara, yes that quote stuck out to me too, although of course, a quote like that is perhaps to some extend also part of the way she made her ‘brand’, to talk modern terms. The same way I feel that the more easy palatable paintngs of hers are only partly Frida, and that those ‘raw’ once are more the real deal, the ones that hide behind those colourful folkloristic ones.
      I truly love the fact that Shelley was inspired by Frida to make a perfume truly worthy of her, rather than just sticking a tack on after the completing of a formular, and it shows.
      Thank you for your kind words, I can’t wait to hear how you will describe it.

  3. Asali, echoing Tara and Ines, this is a powerful review. Similar to you, I find many of Frida Kahlo’s artworks difficult, i.e., not something I really wish to view, but of course their painful aspect is the very point of them. While I could never say that she is a favorite artist of mine, I absolutely love Salma Hayek’s portrayal of Frida – and that film is one of my favorites and makes me feel a very keen admiration for FK as an both an artist and a woman.

    Your review definitely tells me that the perfume Shelley created is well-matched to Frida. Now I’m curious, though: is it a perfume that you personally would enjoy wearing, since the notes in the beginning of it are quite difficult, and given your obstacles with tuberose? (That’s the only thing I couldn’t tell from your review – I know you admire it, but is it wearable for you?)

    • I think we feel very similar on Frida Kahlo then; impossible not to admire and yet, preferably at a safe distance.
      As to wearing Frida the perfume, it’s a tough question because I think it’s a marvelous perfume which challenges you but is still immensely wearable. The tuberose is not a problem at all, and I think this perfume behaves execptionally well on me, compared to some write-ups I’ve seen which comment on the indoles. I would wear it, and I wouldn’t. I think at the moment I simply have too many other perfumes that I’d reach for first, and also it’s more a question of not being my perfect perfume-match, rather than it being wearable or not.

  4. What a great review, Asali! Your words truly captured the core of Frida. “Tropical holiday” was exactly what I thought when I tried Frida for the first time but as I tried it for the second time, I couldn’t help but notice more complex side of this fragrance as with probably the personality of Frida Khalo. I think Shelly did a great job bringing this fascinating woman into life through her perfume. 😉

    • Thank you Magpie. I have seen how different peoples reactions are to this perfume, which is really amazing. I am with you in admiring Shelley for the complexity and honest portrait of Frida, and am sure that it will do very well.

  5. I really appreciate this honest and thought-provoking review. To be honest, I find a lot of Frida’s work disconcerting (if not downright scary) – and I’m not sure how I would feel about that in a perfume! You do make it sound compelling though, and the drydown of hibiscus and tuberose sound quite lovely. I’m not sure if I’ll ever give this one a try, but if I do, I’ll definitely think of your review.

    • Hi Sun Mi, thank you 🙂 And another Fridaphobe 😉 What I will say is that apparently this wears differently on just about everybody, some get only tropical holidays, whereas others get that slightly unsettling opening like I did. The rest of the perfume is truly gorgeous though, and I have to say that I find ‘Frida’ very deep and interesting in a way I haven’t smelled in ages…

  6. Although a lot of Frida Kahlo’s work is certainly disturbing, ever since I found out about her a couple of years ago I definitely find her paintings strangely magnetic and appealing. They really make you think, and I would say she is one of the artists I really like. The woman herself seems equally fascinating and my image of her was never ‘raced’ i.e. as a ‘Mexican souvenir’, she is very much a singular individual, beautiful and radiant in an unconventional, compelling way. So it’s admirable how you established her complex, unobtainable soul that isn’t there for anyone else’s national pride. After reading this post, I am truly interested in exploring this highly interesting-sounding and likely unusual perfume, so thanks a lot for sharing!

    • Thank you for sharing your personal view of Frida Kahlo. I think she’s an extremely fascinating woman who calls for strong emotion, something I have a lot of respect for. I sense that Shelley W’s perfumed portrait is so full of love and respect without losing her own artistic integrity. I surely would encourage anyone and perhaps particularly you (if you are so drawn to the life and work of FK) to try it at some point.

  7. I read and enjoyed your review of Frida when you first published it, which perfectly captures the arresting quality of this perfume, and how well it matches Frida’s persona – and garden! Sorry I wasn’t organised enough to comment at the time, plus I wanted to check if I still got that hyperreal vegetal opening that also seems to have been a bit tricky for your nose. I do! It goes a bit softer and into a more floral register after several hours, but the vegetal accord dominates on me. I still think it is a tour de force of a composition by Shelley Waddington, in terms of an olfactory vignette of Friday!

    • No need to apologise what so ever 🙂 It seems that we smell this one very similarly and think equally of it; a masterful and arresting olfactory portrait of Friday/ Frida, by Shelley. It’s funny reading of all the other impressions online, and seing how many ‘merely’ get a tropical feel, you know, I’m not sure I would change if I could, as I find that opening so brave and intriguing.

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