Kenzo Unidentified Fragrance Object ~ perfume review

Kenzo UFOKenzo UFOKenzo UFO

Kenzo's fragrance project known as Unidentified Fragrance Object (it's Parfum Objet Non Identifie in French — but we're going to call it UFO) is largely about the bottle: it was designed by Ron Arad, and was featured in retrospective exhibits at the Centre Pompidou in Paris and MOMA in New York (the MOMA show runs through 10/19). Kenzo asked Arad to come up with a "a vehicle for fragrance that breaks with traditional industry codes and evokes sensuality when in contact with the skin". The result, shown above, is made of zamac, a metal alloy, and can be cradled in the palm of the hand (it will not stand vertically).

I have not seen the bottle in person, but I love it in pictures and I love the whole idea of the project: most out-of-the-ordinary fragrance bottles emphasize bling rather than design, and let's face it, most of them cost a fortune. The $188 they're asking for UFO isn't peanuts, but you don't have to mortgage your children for it either. I think we've all agreed that $100 is the new free? So this is only $88 more than free.

Kenzo UFO fragrance bottle assembly

In addition to the bottle, you also get the juice: 40 ml of an Aurelien Guichard creation meant as "an interpretation of the scent of skin":

The perfume is not defined by the traditional olfactory pyramid of top, heart and base notes. Its structure is a balance between a powerful heart, “the marble accord”, and four natural raw ingredients that add facets to the note. The floral notes (orange blossom, Bulgarian rose) add femininity, tenderness and elegance. Frankincense intensifies the pure, mineral character of the lingering notes. Vanilla amplifies intimacy and sensuality.1

That, and the fact that Guichard apparently "delved into memories of his mother sculpting in marble, a contrast between the heat of the sculptor's hands and the coolness of the material"2 is really all you need to know — as described, UFO is a transparent incense-y skin scent, slightly metallic in the top notes, later, more mineral-ish than metallic, with a light, slightly milky sweetness and an almost-velvety finish. You might pick out some of the floral notes if you try, but it doesn't have a floral feel and it's more fun to ignore the notes entirely. It's highly wearable, a great match with the bottle, and I like it very much. You can pretty much ignore the "femininity" in the ad copy too — anyone could wear this, and while it's sheer, the lasting power is excellent.

Kenzo UFO / Unidentified Fragrance Object is a limited edition, and is $188 for 40 ml Eau de Parfum. It can be found at the Kenzo USA website or at Bergdorf Goodman.

1. Via press release from Kenzo.

2. Via LVMH.

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64 Comments

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  1. rickbr says:

    Why do the best commercial fragrances are being launched in limited editions? (amen pure malt, amen pure coffe, allure edition blanche, just to mention a few ones) So cruel!
    Robin, your review indicates that this is one of the cases when the price is really justified by the bottle and the juice inside of it.
    Let us hope that kenzo launches this as a regular fragrance.

    • Robin says:

      I’m guessing the market is too small to justify releasing these scents as part of the regular line…seriously, if Pure Malt, for instance, sold out in days, I’m sure they’d make more of it! But in this case, where you’re mostly paying for the bottle, it makes sense to limit it. I think in this case they did 1000 bottles in France, and 1000 for the US, and possibly more for other areas, I don’t know…it’s still a fair number of bottles.

      On the Mugler Aura, I have no idea! I kind of assumed it was not going to happen, because if it was, would have thought they’d have released it before everybody forgot the movie entirely.

      • rickbr says:

        I agree with you Robin, you’re absolutely right. It’s just too bad, because they’re excelent fragrances.
        Something that wonders me is how did the fragrance market change so drastically during the last 2 years.

        About aura, it was such an interesting project, don’t? A fragrance that could enhance any fragrance. I just think what the possibilities of matching with my favorite fragrance and aura could turn. Maybe, for example, a spicy and a little bit sweet black cashmere? Who knows….

        • Robin says:

          It sounded very interesting, but never got to try any of that set.

          The fragrance industry is a mess. I’d say farther back than 2 years…in 2005, they were already up to 450 mainstream prestige launches, and that’s just too many. I keep hearing the # is down this year, but I’m sure no less busy — I think niche is making up for mainstream in 2009.

  2. rickbr says:

    Talking about unconventional commercial releases, does anybody know if Thierry Mugler abandoned the idea to launch commercially the Aura fragrance?

  3. miss kitty v. says:

    I actually don’t like the bottle at all (it reminds me of a handful of Pringles dipped in pewter), but metallic, mineral-y, milky, incense-y goodness? I’m so there.

    • Robin says:

      Pringles dipped in pewter, LOL! Love it.

    • CynthiaW says:

      Ha – Pringles dipped in pewter actually made me like it more. I had forgotten all about this one – if I don’t write it down, I forget that I want to try something. Now I want it again – but I’m sure not dropping $188 unsniffed.

      • Robin says:

        It made me like it more too :-)

        It is really too bad it isn’t being sold anywhere other than BG where people can smell it.

      • Daisy says:

        I know, this one is calling my name BIG TIME! I really need to not think about it. oops, darn I’m still thinking about it.

        • Robin says:

          Think about something you REALLY can’t afford instead! Like, say, Amouage Attar. Or did you already buy that one, LOL….

          • Daisy says:

            oohhh Attar….nope! not even getting within sniffing distance of that bad boy. It’s bad enough that I’m a complete ho for all the other darn spendy Amouages. If you don’t sniff it, you can’t lament not having it, right? RIGHT?!

        • CynthiaW says:

          Put down your credit cards and back away from the computer slowly, Daisy!

          • Daisy says:

            that’s right….nobody needs to get hurt here….just ease away…
            hahahahaha you all know my weaknesses too well!

          • CynthiaW says:

            But if you do cave in – would you be interested in a split?

            Bwahaha – I’ll even share my van down by the river when we both end up destitute, but fine-smelling.

          • Daisy says:

            HA! it’s a deal, will there be enough room for both our perfume collections?
            You really ARE an enabler-in-training! (I’m so proud!) ;-)

      • mals86 says:

        “$88 more than free”!!!! Yep, OOMPR (Out Of My Price Range).

        • Robin says:

          HA. I don’t have $188 sitting around either, unfortunately.

          • Daisy says:

            did I perchance mention the child who just started college? yup, I’ll never have any money ever again! And to top it off, the french teacher emails that she ordered the wrong textbook! So that $125 french book we bought? WRONG ONE! Now we need to stop at the bookstore and pick up the new one….also $125. sigh….

          • Robin says:

            Ack. My sympathies. I thought college kids were doing everything on Kindle now? And what happened to USED text books?

          • Daisy says:

            oh no, Daddy doesn’t want his princess to have (eeek!) used books!
            I’m hoping to return the first book.
            I haven’t heard anything about using a Kindle…but apparently all papers are now submitted thru Moodle.

          • CynthiaW says:

            I lived for used books – I did check them all to see which one was the best though because I hated it if someone had highlighted too much of the book. Fortunately, I could usually find one that someone apparently never used or didn’t use past the first chapter.

    • vickyjane says:

      I agree, Miss K, it’s a bit too industrial looking for me (it would drive me mad that it doesn’t stand upright too), but the fragrance notes sound intriguing.

      “The scent of skin” however – don’t we all have that already for genuine, old skool free? Wow, looks like I’m actually $100 up!

      • Robin says:

        LOL…but unless your skin smells incense-y, this skin smells better ;-)

        • vickyjane says:

          Dammit! My imaginary $100 just disappeared in a puff of smoke…

        • Daisy says:

          My skin DOES smell incense-y!!! oh wait , that’s the Zagorsk…

  4. Karin says:

    Ha ha!!! You crack me up, Robin. $88 more than $100 is only $88 more than FREE!!!!

    • Robin says:

      LOL…I know, $188 is expensive. But if I *were* going to blow a lot of money on a luxury bottle (as opposed to blowing it on luxury juice), this is what I’d pick.

      And seriously, compare this $188, with a Ron Arad bottle & Aurelien Guichard fragrance, to that wooden APC bottle yesterday w/ 8 ml of some random perfume oil for $265. See? Now it’s almost free. Ha.

      • Rictor07 says:

        If you buy it for the bottle, lets hope its refillable, and that refills are much more affordable.

        • Robin says:

          The APC is refillable, the Kenzo is not. But I’m not buying either.

  5. sharviss says:

    I would dearly love to try this but I think it’s best for my bank account that it’s not available in Canada.

  6. Nina says:

    LOL at “$100 is the new free”. So true. I’d love to have a chance to handle the bottle; Kenzo does do a good bottle, doesn’t he? But the idea of it not being refillable hurts my mean Scottish soul.

    • Robin says:

      I’d love to see it in person too! Yeah, it really ought to be refillable.

  7. lilydale aka Natalie says:

    I’m no bottle fiend, but this one is truly cool, and the notes are floating my boat right up to the high-tide mark. Between this and Havana Vanille, I think a New York sniffing excursion might just be in order!

    • Robin says:

      Exactly — I’m not usually a bottle fiend either, but I’d like to have one of these.

  8. Santemon says:

    “A handful of Pringles dipped in pewter” and a comment on the bottle of the recently reviewed APC Sustain “the love child of a chess piece and a pepper grinder” made me think how interesting (aka freaky) packaging has become and admire with a chuckle the level of wit of NST members!! And don’t get me started on $100 being the new free…. :-)

    • Daisy says:

      Miss Kitty and I should start up our own perfume bottle design team….we’d just look around the kitchen for inspiration! ;-)

      • miss kitty v. says:

        I have a salad strainer that I think we could do wonders with…The fragrance could spray onto you in a sprinkler-like fashion.

        • Daisy says:

          LOL —I like it!

        • vickyjane says:

          Ladies, you should copyright that idea – remember, walls have ears!!!

    • Robin says:

      I think the $100 being the new free thing came from Perfume Posse? I don’t know, but it’s funny!

      • March says:

        I’m going to grab credit for this, I think justifiably… it seems to me that $100+ used to mean something, and $200 was kind of shocking … remember? So if we keep reviewing stuff regularly that’s hitting the $200+ mark, $100 is the new free :-) I have other math skilz too, like decants/samples don’t count toward your fragrance budget.

        • Robin says:

          Absolutely take credit — I thought it was you! But as you know my memory skilz are not so very skilzish.

        • vickyjane says:

          Oooh – excited to hear new official rule about samples/decants not counting! Must inform husband immediately!

  9. Absolute Scentualist says:

    I want to smell this one. And all the descriptives really make me want to just hold that bottle. I love Kenzo and the sheer abstractness of this project. Definitely a decant, though that almost seems wrong somehow given the effort put into such a container.

    • Robin says:

      You know, given that it’s only 40 ml to begin with, wonder if anyone will do decants? You’d have to price them so high it wouldn’t be worth it, I’d think (?)

  10. prism says:

    i’ll wait for the massmarket version LOL

  11. megank4 says:

    Looks like the infinity symbol. If it doesn’t stand upright, I wonder how stores will display it.
    And 100$ certainly isn’t the new “free”. It may be the new regular price for perfumes..

    • Robin says:

      Nobody needs to display it except Bergdorf Goodman — I’m sure they’ll think of something!

  12. AnisaJayne says:

    I love some of the comments above but, you know what, I’m now turning to my favourite perfume blogs to enjoy the wit (here lately, the exchanges between Kitty and Daisy have been particular fun) rather than for ideas about what perfumes to buy.

    I’m wondering, because there are just so many releases of questionable merit, I’m wondering if it might be an idea, each month or so, if our fragrant Robin could do a monthly (or bimonthly) round-up of of the 3 (4, 5?) most noteworthy releases

    • AnisaJayne says:

      … wow that submit button is on a hair-trigger.

      … and because I don’t want to increase her workload, it could be linked to a lazy poll.

      • Robin says:

        It’s a good idea, but given the avalanche of new releases, requires more thought than I might be able to come with! But it really is a good idea, I’ll add it to the list.

        • Daisy says:

          or the worst recent releases—-the blog would be crazy that day!
          We’d all have to keep water bottles next to our computers—snarking can be so dehydrating….

  13. Joe says:

    I think I’d love to try this, but I somehow can’t imagine spending that for 40ml. Cheapskate, remember?

    It would be so nice if they later down the line released the juice in a regular bottle or something. An incensey skin scent sounds very nice, and if you say lasting power is good, that’s a plus.

    • Robin says:

      It would be nice. Not sure it would appeal to Kenzo’s usual market though.

  14. green girl says:

    Umm, you lost me at vanilla. Otherwise, I was right there with you.

    • Robin says:

      It isn’t terribly vanillic, or terribly sweet.

  15. eminere says:

    “I think we’ve all agreed that $100 is the new free? So this is only $88 more than free.”

    Robin your writing is pure genius! Hahahahaha

    • Robin says:

      HA…but March at Perfume Posse is responsible for the concept :-)

  16. HarleyQ says:

    Went to Bergdorf’s today to see this in person — the bottle is as impressive as it is in pictures. It is heavy and smooth and feels good in your hand. No worries about the fact that it won’t stand up — it displays beautifully lying on its side. If you want to get a sense of the juice, by all means try it on skin — on paper it smells like nothing! (at first I thought I was anosmic). I’m still not sure it’s worth $188 but I must admit I am tempted — much more strongly tempted than I am by any of the new Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire (which Bergdorfs also has, BTW, in case anyone doesn’t feel like going to Neiman Marcus).

    • Robin says:

      So glad to hear it’s wonderful in person, thanks!

    • Robin R. says:

      Whoo hoo! I was waiting to see that word. Yes. Anosmic. Thanks, HarleyQ. I’ll be golldarned if I can smell much beyond a smidge of incense, a touch of flowers and a bit of musky something-or-other which I suppose is the famous Marble Accord. There’s a huge hole in this olfactory donut, and I think it’s ME.

      Sigh. Well, I guess that’s $88 (net, subtracting the “free” bit) saved. Do love that bottle, though . . .

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