Michael by Michael Kors, with an aside on Very Michael Kors and a quick poll

Michael Kors Michael perfumeVery Michael Kors perfume

Michael was the debut fragrance release from Michael Kors. It launched in 2000, and was meant to...

...translate his style philosophy into fragrance. "Glamorous but simple, indulgent but practical," explained Kors. "And chic. That's the word I'm going for no matter what we do." (via Women's Wear Daily, 3/24/2000)

I can't remember when I first smelled Michael, but I know I didn't love it. It was too strong, too sweet, and too floral for my taste, and my feelings about Michael did not change radically after I became more interested in fragrance and my tastes expanded to include the headier white florals.

But I can't even count the number of times over the past 7 years when I've asked someone what they were wearing because they smelled so nice, and the answer was: Michael. It happened again only last week, and I came home and sprayed some on, and then sat, puzzled yet again: I don't like Michael. On me, anyway, and up close. But apparently I like it on most anyone else, and I have to say that several times while wearing it I was struck by that sense you get when you forget that you're even wearing perfume and just notice, for an instant, that something nearby smells good.

Michael was developed by perfumer Laurent Le Guernec, and the notes include freesia, tamarind, Moroccan incense, osmanthus, tuberose, blue orris, arum lily, peony, cashmere woods, musk, and vetiver. The incense and woods temper and warm the tuberose: it doesn't have the sparkle of Robert Piguet Fracas, nor the airy expansiveness of the new Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia by Estee Lauder. It is round and creamy and lush, with hints of mild spice, and while it is very bold unless you apply sparingly (even one spray packs some hefty sillage), I don't find it "loud" in the usual sense. I frequently see it described as sexy, but it doesn't really strike me that way. Frederic Malle Carnal Flower is sexy; to me, Michael is pretty, and feminine, and yes, chic.

Very Michael Kors (shown above right) is a newer limited edition variation on Michael. The notes include citrus, osmanthus, sugar cane, tuberose and black plum. Oddly, the "sugar cane" accord is quite noticeable but the overall effect is considerably less sweet than Michael; this is a lighter, fruitier fragrance. There is a bit more sparkle in the top notes, but the dry down, to my nose, is a duller, flatter, more timid take on Michael — sort of like Michael Lite. If you are a big fan of the original Michael and have tried Very Michael Kors, do comment, I'd love to hear what you think.

Michael Kors Michael is available in Eau de Toilette, Eau de Parfum (the only concentration I have tried), and in lots of matching body products, including Leg Shine and Glimmer Creme. It used to be available in Parfum, but I am not sure that concentration is still in production.

Michael Kors Very Michael Kors is available in 50 ml Eau de Parfum.

The quick poll: is there a fragrance you love on everyone else, but not on you?

Note: first image via Parfum de Pub.

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73 Comments

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I am always smelling Obsession on people and thinking they smell incredible. It's such a flat, old fashioned smell on me, and just screams the 80's to me! But man oh man, it smells great on some people!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I don't have the chemistry to pull off oriental/spicy scents, I just end of smelling like I've got BO problems. (which I don't, for the record LOL!) But I love them on friends. I also have a friend who wears something called Casual that just makes me want to sit in her office all day, but disappears on me.

    Need to try the Michael if it attracts people like perfume moths! :)

  3. Anonymous says:

    That was interesting: yes, Michael (EDP) is very nice from a distance. A bit overwhelming on ones' person maybe.

    The same thing happens to me with Aromatics Elixir in the parfum spray: great on everyone else, because they are a little far away and not so close to my nose…I always compliment it.

    It does pack a punch! (but a very good punch: it's very well constructed)

    The Leg Shine in Michael though is not that great. Kinda sticky and not too well perfumed.

    I like Michael Kors fashion style though: screams uppertown chic.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I've had the same experience with Michael. I'll smell a wonderful whit floral scent on someone, ask what it is, and the answer is often “Michael”! But it's too much for me to wear.

    Angel smells very good on my aunt, but when I try to wear it, it makes me queasy.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Green fig scents like Phylosikos and Prem. Figuier, whilst wonderful on others, are truly unbearable on me. Rose “soliflores” like Fleur de The Rose Bulgarie are amazing on others but, although wearable for me, just feel like I am wearing someone else's clothes that don't suit me at all. :-(

  6. Anonymous says:

    I have mixed feelings about Obsession too…but don't smell it on others these days — must be gone from my part of the world!

  7. Anonymous says:

    I do think it must garner lots of compliments. Worth a try, and it is not at all Oriental.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Leg shine — I am so not-fashionable that I don't even see why you'd want such a thing! And so not-fashionable that I have no idea what MK's fashion style is :-)

  9. Anonymous says:

    Ah, glad I'm not alone! What is also strange is that I never guess what it is to begin with. You'd think I would by now!

  10. Anonymous says:

    *weeps for my poor Philosykos*

  11. Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately, Michael has always been a fragrance that I liked neither on myself nor on anyone else; the tuberose comes off as too sharp and sweet. Just never cared for it, but then again, I don't in general, like tuberose much at all, unless it is done very softly. (I do like the new El Tuberose Gardenia, because of its soft, creamy quality, but I never liked Fracas – sorry, I know that's blasphemy in some perfumista circles!) One that I've found myself constantly liking on other women, but that doesn't work on me at all, is Chance by Chanel. Two women in my office wear it, and it smells different but beautiful on each of them. But on me, it's the only Chanel I don't like.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Two fragrances I loathe on myself/up close but smell good on other women: Ysatis (!) and Jean-Paul Gaultier Fragile. The latter smells expensive and incense-y on them, cheap, crude and oppressive on me; the latter, sickly-articicial on me, fresh and spring-flower-like on them!

  13. Anonymous says:

    On me it starts off great, with incredible power. But then it burns off fast, and I don't smell it anymore. I was in love with this perfume at one time, but now I feel let down. I had to return it.

    One of those star perfumes that burns bright and then just falls…

  14. Anonymous says:

    OK, on the first score, you're not missing out much (supposedly it makes legs seem shiny as if a little tanned; ~a forgiving effect,/concept~ which I am sad to report it does not…).

    On the second score, I suggest you rent the remake of The Thomas Crown affair and watch intently Renee Russo (she's decked in MK from head to toe; perfection!). You'll enjoy it, I am sure.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the great review, Robin.

    There's this phenomenon in statistical research called regression to the mean. It means that successive measurements of the same variable tend to be closer to the mean, in large part because to the extent that there is variability, it HAS to go in that direction. If you scored a 10 the first time, you have to score the same or lower the second time. Anyhoo, all of this is to say that perfume revisions strike me as a case of regression to the mean: they all seem to become more commonplace, less “out there,” a more universally palatable edition of the original. I haven't tried this edition of the Kors scent, but I think I know what to expect based both on your words and on my experience with regression to the mean. :-)

  16. Anonymous says:

    In general, I like rose scents on other people but not on me … for a particular scent, I think Velvet Rope smells amazing on many people I've dragged to AWF (and Bill who owns the store) but on me it morphs into some synth-vanilla nightmare from BBW. I consoled myself with their soy candle in Velvet Rope, which is scenting the bedroom nicely!
    And thanks for reviewing a great scent that wasn't released last week. It's nice to read about something tried and true that's been around a few years.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I have to admit that I don't often notice other people's perfume unless it is very potent. The only real surprises for me have been the original Sonia Rykiel (an enchanting sillage on a good friend of my Mom's) and Lush's Karma (truly baffling). Perhaps it is the patchouli in both that I don't appreciate up close.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Orientals are my favorite scent category and I am quite fond of some 80s opulent scents (Obsession, mentioned above, smells great on me). I love the smell of Opium, both in the bottle and on others, but on me it smells like a cheap car air freshener hanging off the rear view mirror. Ditto Fracas, and Michael, now that you mention it. When tuberose or gardenia are main players, they turn to a Wizard solid on my skin, but well blended in a white floral mix, they're often fine. My best friend wears Michael as her signature scent and it's lovely on her.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I did like that movie! Can't remember the clothes, of course…

  20. Anonymous says:

    Fragile walks a very fine line, I'd agree w/ that. As do all the JPGs.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Chance is an interesting one — I don't like it on me either, and not sure I've ever smelled it on anyone else, though I smell Coco Mademoiselle here & there.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Interesting, it lasts all day on me and then some!

  23. Anonymous says:

    Aha, I see what you mean. But this one strikes me as maybe TOO palatable? At some point, you lose whatever was attractive about the original, right? Interestingly enough, they didn't try to really fruit it up or make it candied for a younger market.

  24. Anonymous says:

    You know, I keep thinking about Velvet Rope myself. I thought it was cool but not me, but I've been wanting a bottle. Sorry to hear that a candle even exists, LOL!

  25. Anonymous says:

    Well, I don't notice much either — but Michael really is diffusive stuff! The only other thing I think I notice frequently is Angel.

    Lush Karma nearly killed me in the store, would be interesting to see how it smelled on someone else, from a distance.

  26. Anonymous says:

    LOL at “Wizard solid”, that is not a recommendation!

  27. Anonymous says:

    My son has decided he loves the smell of moth balls, so I'll have to get him some Kenzo when he is old enough to wear fragrance!

  28. Anonymous says:

    I've been reading this blog religiously for over a year now and I'm just getting around to commenting, so hello!

    My boyfriend's mother bought Lush Karma in both soap and lotion form for me as a gift and it has subsequently stunk up the whole house. I find it quite offensive and I've tried tried TRIED to like it, or even tolerate it, but man alive! It makes me sick in every orifice, and even wafting from down the hall it manages to hurt my feelings a little bit. Will she be offended if she doesn't smell it on me next time I see her? Subsequently, what's a perfumista to DO in a situation like this? I don't have the heart to give it away, but it seems like a waste if I just stick it in many many baggies in the back of my closet, especially since the lotion itself is a pretty effective moisturizer… sigh.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Hello and welcome! That is hard. What does your boyfriend say — does he think she will be offended if you give it away? I honestly don't think people who are easily offended should give fragrance gifts at all; fragrance is just too personal and you can never tell what someone else will like. But I would let him decide — if he says it is ok, get rid of it, otherwise, stick it in baggies until her next visit.

  30. Anonymous says:

    I've found that asking about the lovely scent a stranger is wearing can be a great way to nip any perfumista snobbery I'm developing in the bud, or at least to embarrass myself. The last time this happened to me was waiting in line at the video store next to a pretty young thing who smelled great — her answer: Acqua di Gio.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Yes, exactly! I've asked after D&G Light Blue as well. There is no getting around a really well made fragrance, even if the composition isn't one a “perfumista snob” (and I include myself in that category) thinks of as “worthy of greatness” or whatever. Another one that I've finally come to accept that I really must like more than I want to: Estee Lauder Pleasures.

  32. Anonymous says:

    I don't care for tuberose and gardenia so Michael is not for me. The bottle is innovative though. Jardins de Bagatelle by Guerlain is all white flowers and some readers who like Fracas and EL TG might like it.

    I remember really not liking Private Collection by EL and one day smelled a co-worker who smelled florally feminine and so lovely I had to ask what she was wearing. It was Private Collection! When I wore Obsession that I had received as a gift, the comment was that I smelled like candy. I tried everything to return it to no avail so I had to wear it. Definitely not me! LaPerla was the big buzz a few years back and on me it smells lilke an apothecary.

    On some individuals, Shalimar is powdery and smells incredible but not for me.

    A friend who was perfume expert and I once chased a patron around an art gallery in Paris because she smelled so great. She was wearing pure patchouli which my European parents had always denounced as cheap.

    Conclusion to all this: It's just a mater of personal taste and what actually works on your skintype.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Of course personal tastes rules all :-)

  34. Anonymous says:

    A big fragrance surprise happened to me the other day. I followed a woman up the street and just *had* to know what she was wearing that smelled so amazing. Her answer? Ciara by Revlon! Ya just never know, I guess.
    Angel is one of those frags that smells vile on me, literally makes me nauseous, but I love catching a whiff of it on others. Opium was another one I admired from a distance, but could never wear until recently. Hurrah!
    Robin, you've got me intrigued about the Kors. Doesn't sound like my thing, but I must try it!

  35. Anonymous says:

    Ciara! I must have smelled it some time in my life, but can't remember it at all. Interesting.

    And who knows, maybe you'll love Michael :-)

  36. Anonymous says:

    That is quite funny. My mother wore Ciara in the 1970s, and it's indelibly associated with that era for me. I think it's probably available in drugstores now for $15, but it's been on my mind a lot as one of those “fragrance memories”. It would be fun for someone to review (through a contemporary nose) some of those 70s power frags like Ciara, Charlie, Enjoli, and Halston.

  37. Anonymous says:

    This is a bit of a different take on it, but I'd have to say that I love almost ALL frags better when I smell them on someone else than when I wear them myself. I think it might have to do with that “olfactory fatigue” syndrome where you just don't get the same impact from something that is surrounding you for hours as when you catch a whiff — either slight or powerful — of the sillage that trails behind someone else and you find youself thinking, “What is that divine odor?” Does that make sense?

    All that said, I think there are many scents that I'm happy to catch a whiff of from someone else now and then, or from a distance, but that would be absolutely cloying, oppressive, or downright nauseating if I wore them myself. It's also an art to know how light a touch with which one has to apply certain scents: “Will a tiny dab of this last all day, or do I have to douse myself to make it even last until lunchtime?” Woe unto those who underestimate the punch of certain 1980s fougères.

  38. Anonymous says:

    That would be fun! My favorite aunt wore “Emeraude” and I will always associate that smell with her. She wore it so well.

  39. Anonymous says:

    R, you'd probably not like Ciara at all – it's very sweet (amber, I think?) and a sillage monster. You're right about Michael; I just may love it! Lately I've been intrigued by scents that just a few years ago I wouldn't have given a chance. It's all part of the fun of getting past age 40, me thinks! ;-)

  40. Anonymous says:

    Ah, then Ciara might not be for me. Just as well, it is so hard to test mass market fragrances these days — the testers are always locked up in the drug stores.

  41. Anonymous says:

    That is my take on Angel: I might like it much better if everybody wasn't wearing so very much of it! A tiny dab is plenty :-)

    I know what you mean about getting tired of wearing the same scent all day. That is one reason I prefer lighter things — they disappear mid day and I can wear something else.

  42. Anonymous says:

    Kids go through the wierdest scent likes and dislikes. Something about mothballs intrigued me, too, when I was small, as I recalled suddenly when reading this. Thanks for bringing back a bizarre scent-memory.

  43. Anonymous says:

    They put a teensy little piece of mothball in his clarinet case to keep out the mites that eat the pads (? or something like that) and when he opens the case, he sticks his head in and takes a huge whiff. Whatever fragrance I wear that isn't chocolate based, however, is “disgusting”. HA.

  44. Anonymous says:

    You could always use the “It turns out I'm allergic to something in it” excuse. Not entirely truthful, but quite plausible, given the all-natural ingredients (lots of plant extracts that could cause a reaction). Little white lies were made for boyfriends' mothers, and that one might prevent future well-meaning purchases of body products.

  45. Anonymous says:

    This one I actually find quite offensive. I was working on a project for two weeks where I had to sit next to a women 8 hours a day who wore tons of this. I swear it gave me a migraine and I kept running to tear open the window. I find it gets extremely intrusive and heavy when someone starts to get sweaty during the course of the day. But what can you do in a case like this? Say: “I´m sorry, but could you refrain from wearing that perfume? You smell like a polecat and that makes me nauseous”? Hardly. Just grit your teeth or counterattack with your own scent. ;-)

  46. Anonymous says:

    Tons of *anything* is offensive, and Michael in particular has hefty sillage — a little dab carries quite well, a few sprays is undoubtedly overkill.

  47. Anonymous says:

    Well, I've recently bought a little mini of Michael (while shopping for the island frags on ebay) and have been testing it out for the last couple of days. It's a splash mini so the sillage isn't the monster I think it could be with a spray! So far, so good. Very pleasant – it actually reminds me of dryer sheets that I used to use, (but aren't made anymore) in a good way!

    Every once in a while I'll turn my head while working and get a waft of it and it makes me smile. Don't think I'll need a full bottle anytime soon, but it's a nice little flower to have in my collection. :)

  48. Anonymous says:

    A splash mini is probably perfect, I should get one too.

  49. Anonymous says:

    Oh, wow, I was so the same about Obsession. Michael, however, smelled wonderful on me for about a year.

  50. Anonymous says:

    Until I sprayed Michael in the department store I'd never found a fragrance that once on my skin didn't make me feel slightly nauseas. In fact, within ten minutes of spraying it I can hardly smell it on myself.

    And yet people in the office, clients, women and men I've just been introduced to at parties, friends, old relatives, waiters at restaurants, even strangers on public transport have stopped me to ask what perfume I'm wearing. Men, sometimes embarrassingly so, linger at my neck to breathe it in. And women have asked me to write it down so they can purchase it. It has happened on a weekly basis at least for the last three years and always surprises me.

    Luca Turin gave it a terrible review in her book, “Perfumes: The Guide”, and I myself when sniffing it from the bottle don't love it, and yet the compliments I receive so consistently from such a broad spectrum of people suggest it can only smell lovely.

  51. Anonymous says:

    That's sort of convenient — you can't smell it yourself but everyone thinks you smell great :-)

  52. Anonymous says:

    Reading your first two lines I was thinking “Me too me too me TOO!” The vast majority of perfumes make me feel ill, and/or just smell like something else I've smelled. They're ok in the bottle, on the card, on the salesgirl, (my best friend, my sister, cousin, dog…) but on me turn nasty.

    Then this, which is OK on the card, turns wonderful once it's on! When you say it smells lovely, maybe it's you – people may have tried it and have it turn into Mr. Hyde on them, which is perhaps what happened to Luca Turin.

    So rare to actually find something I can wear! Another one I may have to actually marry is Kelly Caleche by Hermes – tried it? Gorgeous.

    (Incidentally, I'm glad to know there's someone else who has as hard a time with perfume as I do – I thought I was a bit of a freak… most of my friends are constantly finding something they like, try it on, and it's great! They have a dozen perfumes in their collection, I have about four.)

    Kind of off the topic, I met a woman (a saleslady in the perfume department, no less) who I had to consciously stop myself from going in to smell her neck! Guess what it was?

    Poison.

    Dior's Poison. To me, I almost would rather smell ACTUAL poison, complete with skull and crossbones, and I've never met anyone who would contradict me. But on this woman it was stunning.

  53. meekdear says:

    I love Michael. It’s my favorite perfume of all time. Strangely I hate lots of other department store perfumes–they either ended up smelling the same or give me headaches. Michael is pure heaven. I’ve used up 3 big bottles.

    • meekdear says:

      Oh, btw, i hate all Chanel scents. Pity.

    • Robin says:

      Sounds like you’ve got a signature scent :-)

  54. isaisa says:

    Please, Can anybody tell me the difference between Michael, from Michael kors (for women), AND Michael Kors from Michael Kors (for woman) ; is it the same smell? Or is there any difference between both?
    Thank you very much for your answer.

    • Robin says:

      The original fragrance is sometimes called Michael, and sometimes called Michael Kors. There was also a fragrance called Kors.

      • isaisa says:

        Yes, I knew “Kors” also exists.
        ok! thank you very much for your answer, so “Michael kor”s for women, is a tuberose/gardenia fragrance, like was “built” “Michael” (in 2000). Therefore, They are the same fragrance. I understand.
        I have another question: is “Michael Kors” for women very different from “Gardenia passion” from Annick Goutal?

        • Robin says:

          Yes, they’re quite different, but I haven’t smelled the AG recently so probably couldn’t tell you how. You might check out the reviews at MakeupAlley…

          • isaisa says:

            ok, I’ll check out their reviews.thank you so much Robin for your answers, I really feel blessed to be “in touch” with such a perfumes professional….. I wish you a great week end!

          • Robin says:

            Oh, I’m not a professional anything, but thanks!

  55. jonr951 says:

    I have a question for u Robin. I was at Marshalls 2day and they had Michael for men and women. I really want one but have not yet smelled the mens. Have you smelled it? Would you say its better the the womens? Theyre both 20 bucks but the mens is a 2.5oz and the womens is a 1oz. Which one should I get? Thanks. : )

    • Robin says:

      The men’s is a tobacco scent with a little swish of leather in the dry down. I’m not a massive tobacco fan so I’m probably the wrong person to ask…I do think it gets good reviews at Basenotes.

  56. jonr951 says:

    I dont know then? I dont know if i really adore tobacco. I mean i like d&g the one, gucci homme 2, armani code, the dreamer, london, tom ford, vera wang, deseo, & tobacco vanille. They all have tobacco but i have a feeling Michael is a far more straight on tobacco scent. Maybe ill just get both. lol. : D

    • Robin says:

      Oh dear…I probably haven’t smelled it since 2004/2005? I really don’t remember.

  57. jonr951 says:

    O thats ok. Thanks for the tobacco info though. : )

  58. jonr951 says:

    Robin if you had to choose between Michael or Marc Jacobs, which would you prefer? I’m in the mood for a new scent and I am thinking something with tuberose. Thanks! : )

  59. jonr951 says:

    Michael it is! Thanks! : )

  60. Ah Michael, the very first time I wore this fragrance I knew it was ‘The One’ the perfume that would be my signature scent for all eternity.
    I have a marginally higher body temp than normal and perfumes seem to disappear within an hour even degenerate ’90’s clingers’ like Poison, Obsession and (heaven forbid) the beautiful Chanel Gardenia. But Michael, dear, dear Michael…here’s a man who knows how to stay close to a womans skin. Michael lingers from the first application, through a busy workday and well into the night, warming, growing more sophisticated and less punchy as the day progresses.
    If you find Michael to be a little forceful with a full spray then try a little trick I use in Summer – a cotton tip with the tiniest amount of Michael on it pressed to the skin delivers just enough to hint at the fragrance without it being too overpowering.
    Personally though…I say to hell with it, bring on the EDP and a full spray. I guess, to me, a spritz of Michael is like wearing good lingerie no one else may notice you have it on but you feel amazing just knowing you’re wearing it and what more can you really ask from a fragrance?

  61. AirPear says:

    Question!
    A.) What’s the Michael Kors perfume that has a square-ish bottle with diamond/pyramid shapes all over it? Can’t find it anywhere online.

    B.) Have y’all smelled the Forever 21 Perfume ‘Love and Beauty – Gold’‘? To me it smells super similar to the aformentioned MK. It also comes in a cute bottle. A review would be very much appreciated!

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