Words by Jenny Pashkova
As the saying goes “everything old is new again”, and nowhere is this more true than in fashion. A wise old man once explained to me the “20 year rule” about how each fashion cycle repeats itself every 20 years. So, for example, the Noughties were einventing the 80s, the 90s were reinventing the 70s, the 80s were reinventing the 60s and so forth. And what is popular now will be popular in 20 years’ time. The feeling of nostalgia from childhood also play a big part, from falling back in love with styles or products that you loved as an adolescent or teenager, but also subconsciously emulating the style of our parents that we looked up to at the same time.
The current shift towards minimalism and soft grunge is a direct nod and reinvention of the 90s love of normcore, as well as the controversial ‘heroin chic’. Coincidentally, both today’s trend and that of the 90s coincide with shifts in global economic circumstances. Or, perhaps, it’s not a coincidence at all. Each generation is driven by a fascination of the era when they actually ‘came of age’.
Fragrance, which can evoke powerful feelings of nostalgia, has been having a cyclical revival of its own. And perhaps no fragrance is more iconic or representative of the 90s than Calvin Klein’s CK One. Exactly 20 years ago, in 1994, Calvin Klein made historical waves when the fashion house unveiled CK One’s groundbreaking bottle. The original black and white images, which were shot by Steven Meisel, ruled the advertising billboards at the time. Featuring 90s cool kids, including poster girl Kate Moss, the fragrance was released at a height of Calvin Klein’s
popularity. It was one of the first modern fragrances marketed to both men and women, targeted at 18-24 year olds. The launch captured the imagination of adolescent youth and was a massive success, selling an impressive $5 million-worth of fragrance in the first 10 days alone (Women’s Wear Daily, 10/7/1994), and just a year later it was the world’s top-selling fragrance. Who from Generation X or Y did not have the androgynous bottle on their bathroom shelf?
The fragrance itself was created by perfumers Alberto Morillas and Harry Fremont, who between them have worked with some of the biggest fashion and perfume houses including Giorgio Armani, Givenchy and Thierry Mugler. The epitome of freshness, the notes include bergamot, lemon, mandarin, cardamom, pineapple, papaya, lily of the valley and it was one of the first fragrances to use the now over-popular green tea accord.
In a bid to recapture the fancy of a new generation, the younger millennials, CK One has unveiled a new 2014 ad, shot by Mario Sorrenti, which stars everyone from Dev Hynes to models Edie Campbell, Ali Michael and Marcel Castenmiller.
While one ageless icon continues to reinvent its wheel, another classic rises from the ashes. Helmut Lang’s cult self-
titled Eau de Parfum and Eau de Cologne are being relaunched in 2014. Following Lang’s departure from the fashion house is 2005, the fragrances were discontinued to the dismay of its loyalist fans. Blogs were created in their honour and memory, before original, hidden or forgotten bottles were exchanged for large sums on ebay. But now, in archetypal minimalist thick-cut glass bottles, the scents are back and live up to their original glory. The fashion house worked with ‘nose’ Maurice Roucel, who created the original classics to reissue the fragrances and ensure that both the Eau de Parfum and Eau de Cologne smell near identical.
The two original fragrances launched with a risqué advertising campaign, with striking typographical posters that featured one-line sentences, each ending with “I smell you on my skin.” (“I walk in. I see you. I watch you. I scan you. I wait for you. I tease you. I breathe you. I smell you on my skin”.) A powerful connotation with sex and pleasure, these fragrances are supposed to ‘evolve on the skin’. Featuring an orgasmic array of notes including lavender, jasmine and rose before drying down to musk and amber. It’s like an aphrodisiac in a bottle.
As part of a perfume story, Helmut Lang is also reissuing its other discontinued cult classic fragrance, Cuiron, at the same time. Created by Françoise Caron in the early Noughties, it was the third scent launched by the fashion house, but its shelf life was short-lived. Cuiron is derived from the French word for ‘leather’, cuir, although it’s fresher then the two originals opening up with bergamot, before revealing a heart of cassia and carrot seed oils and drying down to cedarwood oil and suede. All three fragrances will come in the same 100ml bottle, all three are unisex and all three are available in Europe from October.
It is indeed swings and roundabouts. As we enter the mid-decade of the 2010s, it’s official that our nostalgia is leading us back to our teens and twenties of the 90s. The 90s gave us a lot to love and suddenly it’s cool again.
Special Thanks to Helmut Lang & Calvin Klein Fragrances for all of their help.