As I shopped for perfumes in Italy this past autumn, I searched for Dsquared2 He Wood; the fact that He Wood wouldn’t be available in the U.S. till the spring of 2008 made The Search intense — I wanted to smell He Wood before it arrived in the States. On the last day of my trip, I found a bottle of He Wood in a Venetian perfume shop and asked the shop owner if she had any samples of the fragrance. “No.” she said. I asked if there was a tester bottle. Flippantly, she explained: “It’s a new scent, Sir, so, no, no tester has been opened yet! It’s new!” Her “logic” was lost on me, and I left Venice and returned to the U.S. not knowing if He Wood was good, bad or boring.
In December, I discovered that He Wood is available in Canada, so off I went to finally sniff it. Little did I know my shopping experience at a Canadian department store would make my ‘run-in’ with a merchant of Venice seem quaint by comparison.
Upon entering the perfume section of the (not-to-be-named) British Columbia department store, a friend and I stopped to smell a few Frederic Malle scents. As I picked up a bottle of Angéliques sous la pluie, a nearby male sales clerk, his voice frantic, “whispered” to another sales person: “They’re SMELLING the perfumes!” I soon learned that the precious Frederic Malles were NOT to be handled unless a “Malle expert” was standing right next to you: monitoring, advising. (I chuckled.) As I moved to the main perfume counter (that did stock a good range of hard-to-find niche brands), I seemed to be “scolded” every time I dared to pick up a perfume bottle. As I would touch a bottle, a sales person would swoop in and grab the bottle from me, spray the scent on a card, and hand me the card.
When I finally found He Wood, tested it, and decided to buy a bottle, more “fun” ensued — the bottle size I wanted was not on the main floor but in the storage rooms down in the belly of the building. It took some time before one of the many perfume sales people decided to schlep downstairs and get me a 50 ml bottle. As I was paying for my bottle of He Wood, I brushed against a rack of $12.50 quilted-vinyl purses; the woman ringing up my purchase stopped the transaction, went over to the rack of cheap purses and rearranged them and, with annoyance, said: “You moved the purses…they have to be evenly spaced.” (I was no longer chuckling.) Final insult: I was told there were no samples of any of the scents on the perfume counters (“We gave them all away at Christmas!”), a claim I didn’t believe, especially after seeing one drawer opened — revealing scads of sample cards.
I may go into that store again: IF it awards me a prize whereby I’m flown to Paris to meet Francis Kurkdjian who will present me with bottles of all his creations, and sit and chat with me for an afternoon, and then concoct a personalized perfume for me: Eau de Raconteur™.
I’ll dispense with all background info on Dsquared2 and its founders, Dean and Dan Caten, because the Dsquared2 website is pretty thorough. I will say Dean and Dan are from Canada and wanted to evoke a Canadian woodland with their first men’s perfume. He Wood, designed by perfumer Daphne Bugey, is built around an outdoor theme; there’s Air (white fir, musk, vegetal amber), Water (violet leaf, violet flower, transparent aquatic accord) and Wood (vetiver, cedar wood).
The first seconds of He Wood are neither pleasant nor useful, unless you have a wound to attend to, mosquito bites on your arms or, perhaps, a nurse fetish — the first thing I smell is the aroma of: rubbing alcohol. After that nose-tingling blast of isopropyl alcohol wears off, I smell violet leaf, a beautiful violet flower note, mild vetiver and (what I assume to be) the transparent aquatic accord. If you have read many of my reviews, you know I usually hate aquatic notes in scents: marine notes, “waterfall” notes, “raindrop” notes, but the aquatic accord in He Wood is smooth, calming and barely there. I have always loved violet leaf and violet flower notes in fragrances, but those notes usually vanish quickly; He Wood produces a lovely blend of violet leaves and flowers and holds on to that accord for almost the entire life of the fragrance on my skin. He Wood also produces aromas that remind me of mid-stage Dior Fahrenheit, and non-powdery mimosa blossoms.
He Wood does not attempt to create “real” woodland scents in a bottle — there’s no damp moss or raw wood accords, no powerful “green” or “dirt” notes. He Wood’s woodland is dreamlike, impressionistic — all aromas are pale, blurred, and watery. He Wood, no matter its name, is not about pungent wood — the fir accord and cedar wood are barely noticeable on my skin. He Wood provides a new take on “wood” — its smooth, bleached woods float on sweet, cool, lightly flower-scented water.
He Wood does not provide moments of shock or awe; its notes blend together seamlessly. He Wood has excellent lasting power and is great for days when you want to smell good but don’t want others to notice the fragrance you are wearing (unless they get really close); it can easily be worn by women.
DSquared2 He Wood Eau de Toilette is available in 30, 50 and 100 ml Canadian red alder-framed glass bottles; it will be available in the U.S. in spring. (I hope you all have an easier time getting your hands on He Wood than I did.)