Maison Martin Margiela Untitled ~ fragrance review

Maison Martin Margiela UntitledMaison Martin Margiela UntitledMaison Martin Margiela Untitled

Untitled, the debut fragrance from the Diesel-owned fashion house Maison Martin Margiela, launched last year. It took its own sweet time getting to the US, and when it finally got here, it was (and so far as I know, still is) exclusive to Saks, which means it has taken me very nearly forever to try it. And now that I have, well, it's quite nice but I am not weeping inconsolably over the lost time. (There, now you needn't read the rest of the review).

The original newsletter from Colette announcing the fragrance noted that it "includes of course the codes of the brand, while cultivating its personality". I know little enough about the codes of the Maison Martin Margiela brand, other than the obvious: they're too hip to pander to the sort of consumers who want things like, say, names on their fragrances; they're fashionably arty; and they do a darned nice minimalist bottle. Vogue helpfully informs me that the "biggest insult to a Maison Martin Margiela runway collection is that it’s wearable."

The perfume, sorry to say, or perhaps, not sorry to say, isn't really much of a fit with all that. It's utterly wearable and there's nothing arty or esoteric about it. Then again, it isn't a blatantly commercial scent from an obscure niche fashion line, à la Viktor & Rolf's Flowerbomb. It's somewhere in between, and any perfumistas who are still wondering what it might smell like would do as well to forget all about Maison Martin Margiela and just concentrate on the fact that Untitled was developed by perfumer Daniela Andrier, and it would not be at all out of place in the Prada Infusion line — Infusion de Galbanum, perhaps.

As with the Infusion line, the notes (galbanum, boxwood, mastic, incense, bitter orange, jasmine, cedar and musk) imply a much stronger fragrance than you'll find upon spraying; this is another "veil of scent" / watercolor sort of thing, done here in pale greens, slightly bitter and stemmy in the opening stages, with something in the mix that smells briefly of cocoa powder. Then it's a light green floral musk, rather indistinct and very clean, and ever-so-slightly nutty. There is some incense, but the whole thing is pretty quiet and close to the skin by the time it appears — I only notice it if I'm paying attention (or if I apply heavily).

As I said above, it's quite nice. I am not sure who it is being marketed to, but it wears like a unisex, and I should think it would work in any weather. I enjoyed wearing it, but I did not wander around with my arm glued to my nose, and I did not find myself thinking about it when I wasn't wearing it. Translation: I'd wear it happily if I had it, and I might even buy it at hefty discount,1 but I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. I'm puzzled by the upcoming Untitled L'Eau — surely this wasn't too heavy for anybody? But I was told in Neiman Marcus that the Eau de Toilette version of Prada's Infusion d'Iris, which I would not have thought necessary, was selling just fine, and perhaps the Untitled L'Eau will find new admirers as well.

Maison Martin Margiela Untitled is available in 30 (?), 50 ($100) and 75 ($140) ml Eau de Parfum. The lasting power is excellent, although as mentioned above, the sillage is fairly minimal after the top notes wear off.

1. I have always thought that the perfect rating system would indicate how low the price would have to drop before I would find the product irresistible if I happened upon it on a shelf at TJ Maxx. There are many fragrances (like this one) that are not on my "to buy" list, but that I'd have trouble resisting at, say, $15.99. But there are many more that I can resist even at that price, which is why I almost never buy perfume at TJ Maxx.

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95 Comments

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  1. Janice says:

    I love your idea for a rating system. I’ve tried Untitled and agree it was perfectly nice, but “Infusion de Galbanum” is not really my thing, so this is one I’d probably pass up even at $15.99.

    In our house (smallish condo), we have a rule that whenever we buy a new piece of furniture, something else has got to go (for fear that otherwise, our living room will start to look like my mother’s with its scary 40-year accumulation of stuff). Along that line, perhaps a better perfume rating system for me at this point would be “Do I like it enough to give up something I already own?”

    • Robin says:

      Oh, that is *really* hard, and would save me tons of $. Ack.

    • Dilana says:

      Or another set of tests, which I use:
      1. Do I have something like this (usually meaning one with the same dominant note)?
      2. If so, is this really appreciably better?
      3. If I don’t already have something like this, is this the one of this type which I really want , or should I keep looking for a really terrific example of this (style, note etc.)?

    • MerrilyRow says:

      At our house, if something new comes in, TWO things have to go out!
      (But they don’t have to be in the same category, TG.)

  2. Dilana says:

    Well that review is the epitome of Damming With Faint Praise.

    The fashion line, from which Mr.Margiela has been detached, did not include a brand name on the label, a relief from “bridge lines” whose only luxurious quality is the logo as the main design feature. However, the “hip” group would recognize the clothing from the unique, and visible, stitching used to sew the no-name label. An “Untitled” fragrance suits this inverse branding perfectly.

    However, I think labeling a fragrance after its lab number, (say No. 5) is even cooler.

    • Robin says:

      I am told faint praise is my specialty, LOL….but this really is well done, and we all need one or two well done but essentially tame fragrances, right? I think I said many of the same things about Guerlain Cologne du 68, and I wear that all the time.

  3. kristinacologne says:

    I tried this some time ago with much anticipation due to the promising sounding notes (galbanum! green!) and was rather disappointed. I found it to be non-dinstinct and harsh at the same time, with an odd synthetic smelling note. Oh well, money saved!

    • Robin says:

      I was really hoping for a big burst of green too…but not there, other than in the top notes, and even then, it has a sort of “watered down” effect, very much in Daniela Andrier’s style. I do like that style, but lately they are all too tame for me. I wonder if the L’Eau, with added citrus & spearmint, will actually turn out to be more appealing?

      • kristinacologne says:

        I agree – to me these scents are “green” in a way someone who never set foot in a forest or smelled freshly cut grass might imagine it. Me, I want GREEN. :-)

        • mals86 says:

          I’m with you on the GREEN. And no, citrus is Not Green in my world.

  4. KRL says:

    Oh, I just tried this the other day, but had so many other things on, I couldn’t get a read on it. Just as you say, tt opened nicely, but then nothing. I’ll try again since I got a sample — maybe something for summer, who knows…

    Meanwhile, I just dowsed myself with Gypsy Water and OJ’s Champaca!

  5. Thanks for this, I’ve been wondering, and forgot to go by Saks when I was in the city.

    Perhaps this is hip, modern and minimalist when compared for Flowerbomb, Pink Sugar, etc.? I always wonder what context the marketers have in mind when they make their claims, and can imagine a crowd for whom this would come as a relief. (The same audience might be so scared of scent that the EDT would make sense.)

    • Robin says:

      Oh, absolutely it is hip, modern and minimalist when compared to much of what is out there…but from the sound of the fashion line, they’re way wackier than hip, modern and minimalist. I mean, look at these:

      http://www.taistoisoisbeau.com/blog/2010/01/03/exclusive-insight-maison-martin-margielas-artisanal-atelier-video/

      I should think the person who wore these clothes would want their fragrance to be as interesting as their clothing? And in this case, it most certainly would not be. You could wear this fragrance to a corporate meeting, or on an airplane, or anywhere, and people would hardly notice it, and if they did they’d probably think it smelled nice.

      • I think the people wearing those clothes probably have a line up of CDG frags on their dresser. ;-)

        Seriously, though, if the ideas (as it almost always is) is to support the line by extending the brand, can see this doing that. Too bad they didn’t go the way of CDG, though. Would have been nice to have a another genuinely edgy but wearable line…

        • Robin says:

          Yes, those scents (most of them) would be a better fit. But you’re also right…most brands need the cash, they can’t afford to be that risky.

      • Rick says:

        Rather than worrying whether my fragrance is as interesting as my clothing, I worry whether my fragrance is more interesting than me. “I find it harder and harder every day to live up to my blue china.” (Oscar Wilde)

        • Robin says:

          LOL!! Yes, most certainly…my fragrance is by far more interesting than I am. And my clothes rarely compete.

        • Laughing as well — and right there with you, R. Especially on the clothes.

        • Marjorie Rose says:

          LOVE that quote! I guess I’m at the stage in life when I’m trying to get the blue china, in hopes of living up to it some day!

  6. moore says:

    Nice bottle! Correspondes to the liquid style. Should it be at Prada’s line?? :)

    • Robin says:

      It would fit nicely in Prada’s line, IMHO. And maybe the fashion lines are not that far apart, style-wise…I don’t pay enough attention to fashion to know.

  7. kb2003 says:

    I attended the launch of Untitled at the NYC Margiela boutique last year at the invitation of a fashion PR friend of mine, and wrote about it on my blog (see my user profile for the link — it was in April ’10). My reaction was much the same as Robin’s, and I agree — is the L’Eau version really necessary? I suspect they’re just trying to keep up a PR and sales drumbeat without putting up a truly new product. But hey, I’m more cynical than most. =]

    • Robin says:

      That’s what flankers are for, no? So it doesn’t take much cynicism ;-)

  8. Abyss says:

    I tried this some time last year and had a similar reaction. I also mentally filed it alongside last year’s Prada and Dityque vetivers for sharing a similar kind of vibe.

    That said, I remember thinking that it would perhaps make a decent, longer lasting (also cheaper?) alternative to Bel Respiro back when LEs were only available in huge bottles.

    • Robin says:

      Ah, now Bel Respiro just shows that you can do a pale, mostly-clean green without it being “tame”. I do wish I had a bottle of Bel Respiro. This one just doesn’t have that much personality.

      • boojum says:

        and with that…. I no longer feel the slightest need to track this down.

  9. RuthW says:

    I laughed so hard at “biggest insult to a Maison Martin Margiela runway collection is that it’s wearable.”
    Ah, it so mundane to just feel attractive and confident in your clothes.
    As for the perfume, it doesn’t sound like my cup of tea.

    • Robin says:

      LOL…my clothes are so basic that “attractive and confident” is kind of an overstatement :-)

      • RuthW says:

        If I like how my jeans are fitting and my shirt doesn’t have a small handprint of food on it somewhere, I feel pretty great!

    • 50_Roses says:

      I must not be artsy or sophisticated enough. I always thought clothes were meant to be worn. Silly me!

  10. london says:

    I tried this in passing somewhere I don’t remember and my memory of it was that it was quite strong and sweet with nuts and cocoa smothering the green and I really didn’t like it. I guess either when you don’t like a note it’s all you smell or I was having an off day or it smells very different on a blotter. I wish I got minimalist green. I would have liked that much better! Anyway, clearly I have to try it again.

    • Robin says:

      The cocoa doesn’t last all that long on me, but I know what you mean: when you hate something, it lasts forever.

  11. Amanda says:

    Thats so weird! Usually perfume disappears on me more than on most, but this is so strong and lasts and lasts on me… anyway we all know I’m a fan so no news there.

    I didn’t even know there was a lighter version of Infusion D’Iris, is it just water then? ;-)

    • Robin says:

      Oh, this is very long lasting on me too.

      I have not tried the Infusion d’Iris EdT on skin, only on paper, and quickly at that. I think it’s brighter & citrusier? And it’s supposed to be more floral (about the iris flower, not the root).

      • Merlin says:

        sorry, posted at the same time! But I think more floral would have a softening effect, though I dont know about more citrus. (And thanks for another fantastic review). By the way, even more off the subject, does eau d’ Hadrien have any lasting power on others?)

        • Robin says:

          Supposedly Hadrien has been reformulated & if that’s true, I can’t speak to the new one. But it never used to last very long on me.

    • Merlin says:

      I find Infusion d’ Iris very sharp on me. I absolutely adore this quality. Its one of the few fragrances I keep catching whiffs of without deliberately smelling the spot of skin I sprayed it on. I’m not very sure how ‘sharp’ relates to ‘strong’, but I can imagine this perfume being softened – though for me that would ruin the whole point. I love the way it has of ‘cutting’ through other stimuli in order to make its way to my nose!

  12. janaroo says:

    I layered the body lotion with the scent and walked around with it a while. I received a few compliments. It kind of smells like one of the Armani Prive scents that I have I don’t remember the name of it so I am still debating on the purchase, maybe just the body lotion

    • Robin says:

      Now I am very curious…maybe Eau de Jade? That’s the closest to a green Armani I can think of.

      • janaroo says:

        The name of the scent that I couldn’t remember yesterday is Armani Prive Vetiver Babylone. Are you familiar with it and do you think it resembles Unlisted?

        • Robin says:

          Oh yes, that’s a nice vetiver…I wouldn’t mind owning it. But there are so many nice vetivers, many of them far cheaper than the Armani!

          And no, Unlisted doesn’t really smell like vetiver except that they’re both green.

          • janaroo says:

            I do own it,and I thought it kind of smelled like Unlisted, but maybe not so much. This might mean I have to buy Unlisted because I do like the way it smells on me. Darn It

  13. anotherperfumeblog says:

    I read a very review of this in Lucky mag a few months back (http://www.luckymag.com/beauty/2011/05/maison-martin-perfume) which left me intrigued but baffled – how well would “greeny fresh” and “smoky wood floor” coexist? Your review clears it all up for me: I do not need this.

    (I feel like I should say I have nothing against Lucky’s beauty writer. In fact, I like her column, but there’s a reason I don’t turn to Lucky for frag reviews!)

    • Robin says:

      Oh, the greeny fresh top notes & the woodier base, that’s true. But it isn’t quite as interesting on me as “smoky wood floor”.

  14. Queen_Cupcake says:

    I won a sample of this last year. There had been a lot of buzz about it being intensely green, so I was eager to try it. On me, sorry to say, it was a very full and very dirty ashtray! Made it difficult to relate to what others were saying about it, but there ya go.

    • Robin says:

      What a shame! But I would probably like it better with dirty ashtray.

  15. Daisy says:

    I remember that Joe A. made an ashtray comment about this too. BUT–I find I quite like it….the cocoa puffs blast arrives in the opening with a tinge of cigarette smoke and only lasts a few minutes. Then the green begins to emerge and I find it reminds me of the smell of freshly shorn privet hedges….not that I’m shearing my hedges all that often but the green does have a slightly juicy , slightly smoky undertone….it’s not sharp at all….which is fine with me; I like my greens with a little softness too. Someone mentioned a likeness to Bel Respiro? yes, I see that. I find it a little more “unusual” than Bel Respiro (which I lurve in summer btw) . Today I’m wearing some PdN Cedrat Intense which is pretty darn citrusy (longest lasting citrus fragrance in the universe) —and when I saw your review on (untitled) (stupid name) I naturally had to spritz some on……it seems I’ve found a really good layering duo! I smell pretty darn good!! :-)

    • Robin says:

      Seriously, I wish I was getting ashtray. I’m getting something much tamer than that.

      Freshly shorn privet hedge: Gobin Daude Sous Le Buis, and boy do I miss that one.

      • Daisy says:

        ooooo that sounds wonderful….probably a good thing that I’ve never sniffed it since it sounds like it’s gone from the universe. Always sad to see the good ones go away. :(

  16. Daisy says:

    Seems I’m the only pro-untitled perfumista here today…that’s okay I still like it! Although I don’t at all see the need for an (untitled) light!

    • thenoseknows says:

      completely Pro-Untitiled Here Daisy!

    • Robin says:

      Hey, I’m not anti! I do like it, I just don’t adore it.

      And betcha most people have not tried it yet.

  17. thenoseknows says:

    OH ROBIN!!! I smelled this at Saks on My Birthday (Apr. 22… Earth Day! as i was wandering to Gucci to Buy Guilty Pour Homme) and thought I MUST WRITE TO YOU about this scent because it utterly confounded me and seduced me in unique and really quite surprising ways…. I had Sprayed Dolce and Gabbana The One for men on one hand (PRAISE BE I never Bought THAT unsmelled… a TRAVESTY on me) and Jo Malone Sakura Blossom on that same arm (Pure LOVE!) and this on the other hand…. i have a good capability of discerning more than 5-7 scents at once so i was vacilating between these (as well as Gucci Guilty Pour Homme) and this just amused me in the most delightfully head scratching way!

    As Verdantly GREEN as the fragrance colour is… you’d expect this to be Stemmy or Grassy/Mossy something GREENER, like the opening of Miss Dior, But it isn’t in fact it’s much more Gentle and fresh to open. almost soapy… I had within about 10 minutes though the oddest sensations from the scent… one minute it smelled of Rotten oversweet Oranges… the next minute it was Warm and Musky, Definitely the Cedar and Musk and Incense showing themselves, and then it was back to Overripe Oranges and the sweetness of Jasmine floating around it… it had as you say a film over it of something slightly… synthetic and plasticy, but that made it even more interesting… by the time 45 minutes had gone by i had fallen deeply in love, fallen out of love, hated it and was back head over heels for it in the worst kind of ways! as it settled in for the long haul it did become somewhat warmer and less fresh but nonetheless interesting… i was hooked and converted! I am now longing for a Bottle of this Curious Juice and am saving pennies for the largest Flacon they make! LOL! I give this a wholehearted Round of applause for simply being audacious in a quiet and interesting way! not many perfumes can say that…

    • Robin says:

      So glad you love it, and a very happy belated birthday! Hope you bought something at Saks that day? The Jo Malone maybe?

      • thenoseknows says:

        Thank You SOOO Much!!!! :-D I bought Gucci Guilty Pour Homme from The Gucci Boutique actually! And Am HEAD OVER HEELS For It!!!! :-)

        • Robin says:

          Oh good! I do love that bottle. (Don’t read Kevin’s review today though!)

  18. mals86 says:

    Well, I have a sample of this on my dresser right.now. thanks to Daisy (thanks, Daisy!)… and I love greens. Wearing DSH Chypre Grass – her duplicate of Jovan Grass – this pm and finding it very very pleasant, so Untitled will have to go a ways to beat that.

    Pretty frequently, I find “green” scents to be too citrusy for me. I want galbanum and basil and grass and leaves and boxwood and moss… forget the citrus. And Bel Respiro was 10 minutes of gorgeous followed by 2 hours of blah, IMO, so we’ll just have to see what is what!

    Thanks for the review, Robin.

    • Robin says:

      Sounds like I need to try the DSH? Is it wonderful or just pleasant?

      • mals86 says:

        It is very pleasant. Her rendition of Coty Chypre blew my doors off, not that it’s easy to wear. The Jovan Grass dupe *is* easy to wear. Very little in the way of florals (maybe a teeny bit of rose?), and no citrus, just a pale green, grassy thing that smells the way I wanted Vent Vert to smell.

        • Daisy says:

          do you think Coty Chypre is hard to wear? or just Dawn’s interpretation?

          • mals86 says:

            Just tried the CC sample you sent me last night – was stunned to find *aldehydes* in the top of it. Huh. It was considerably paler than Dawn’s, which is of course an oil and pretty concentrated. Dawn’s was so fierce and elemental and sort of scary – the CC edt, not so much.

        • annemarie says:

          Thanks for that. I’ve never gone into DSH fragrances. There are so many, I get bewildered. (easily done wiht me, actually.) These days I have to be feeling very confident and certain about a fragrance before I will risk my few, hard-earned perfume dollars.

        • Daisy says:

          sounds like I need to go try Dawn’s dupe of CC…..

  19. Marjorie Rose says:

    Urg! I just have no interest in a “veil of scent,” a scent that can “double as a room spray,” or an “invisible perfume!!!” I love perfume because it smells beautiful, interesting, or transports me in time and place. I’m not trying to be polite and pleasant and cover up my scentlessness in an inoffensive way!!! NOT happy with the current trend! (Not that I want scent that enters the room before me, but PLEASE, why do we have to be so “all or nothing?”)

    • Robin says:

      Well, I don’t think they mean this to double as a room spray!

      • Marjorie Rose says:

        Sorry, not what I intended to imply. I was grouchy, coming back from a Nordstrom’s perfume/beauty event in which nearly every SA tried to sell a scent as “sheer,” or “meant to double as a room or linen spray!” when they weren’t discussing how “fresh and clean” they were! Grrr. . .ok, still grouchy. :(

  20. mals86 says:

    Oh, and meant to say… the “how cheap does it have to get before I buy a bottle?” handicapping system for scents reminds me of the system a college friend had for rating potential dates. It went like this:

    Guy 1, waving at a passing girl: Would you go out with her or not?
    Guy 2, squinting: Uhhhh… let me get a good look… no.
    Guy 1: How many beers would it take?
    Guy 2: She’s not bad. Two.
    Guy 1: How about THAT one?
    Guy 2: NO. And before you ask, it would take a gallon of Everclear, and then I’d pass out instead.

    (Which does sort of beg the question of what my “Everclear” fragrances would be…)

    • Robin says:

      LOL! Excellent.

    • Daisy says:

      I recall hearing some conversations of that sort from my college days…. the funny thing is that many of these guys making bold evaluations –were themselves pretty much undate-able. (irregardless of # of beers consumed)

      • Merlin says:

        These sorts were usually more attractive after they passed out: they always made better conversation when comatose…

        • Daisy says:

          *snort*

          • Merlin says:

            Also, I suspect they choose their scent according to how big the bottle’s b**bs are!

  21. Tama says:

    I was pretty much set to buy this, because it is kind of odd but interesting, (and I don’t find it as boring as any of the Prada Infusions) but I got distracted by By Kilian Cruel Intentions. We are having our sniff in a couple of weeks and are attending a presentation by Kilian, so I thought it would be nice to get a travel set. Anyway, my budget is such that something had to go, and it was the MMM.

    I’d pay $29.99-$34.99 at discount for this one, if not more. I keep waiting for Madame to drop to $24.99, but it is stubbornly at a higher price.

    • Robin says:

      Well, looks like more of you are finding it “odd” … I missed the odd! Although maybe the cocoa is odd.

  22. Tama says:

    Oh, and I found the Infusion d’Iris edt to be a MUCH different scent than the edp. I can’t wear the edp at all – the edt was not lighter, just cleaner and brighter.

  23. donanicola says:

    Nice review. This came out in the UK a year or so ago and I really liked it and intended to buy a bottle but got waylaid by Ninfeo Mio (which I LOVE). I agree that the bottle is a better fit with the MMM aesthetic than the juice which is quite a background kind of scent to me but maybe its quiet coolness (with a lovely soft incense drydown) provides the perfect backdrop to the clothes (I do like the deconstructed white shirts). It is still on my “to buy list” and hope springs eternal that it goes to the discounters soon!

    • Robin says:

      I love Ninfeo Mio too…that one made my buy list.

  24. March says:

    I love your rating scenario! Of course everything here at our TJ Maxx is dreadful — Caesar’s Man, etc.

    I liked MM more than you did (to me it smells like marijuana, a little bit) but didn’t kill myself to get any more once my sample ran out, They are *supposed* to have it at the MMM boutique in NYC, but I never bothered to follow up to find out if that’s true.

    • Robin says:

      Caesar’s Man! Yes, and many others that seem to be made just for TJ Maxx since I do not see them anywhere else, even Walmart.

      Sounds like everyone got some variation on smoke/ashtray/pot but me.

  25. Wordbird says:

    I tried this fragrance last summer, when I was on a green, greener, greenest craving, and was so hopeful about it. On paper, it’s great, on other people’s skins, dandy. On my skin? It smelled like I’d been to the loo and not washed my hands. Honest. I was with 3 other perfumistas at the time and they all agreed it was insanely skanky in a baaaaad way on me. (And I like skank.)
    Try before you buy.

    • Robin says:

      Weird! I seem to be the only one getting clean & pale from this.

      • mals86 says:

        Actually, I just tried this morning and got “pale and clear.” Also, “boring.” I might like it in a room spray, but this is not something I want to waste skin time with.

  26. eminere says:

    The bottle reminds me of a cross between Daisy and Be Delicious.

  27. 1717den says:

    Could you tell me please, where in london can I buy Maison Martin Margiela Untitled.
    Or on-line shop?

    • Robin says:

      Sorry for the very late reply — Selfridges had it, but don’t know if they still do.

  28. malin says:

    This just struck me: it smells just like a Lush store. Standing by the fresh soaps and solid shampoo bars. And I think the scent suits Lush better; it has a certain energy. Nothing minimalistic about it, to me.

    • Robin says:

      Interesting! That’s such a strong smell to me, almost overwhelming — but looks like you’re not the only one who finds MMU strong.

  29. eminere says:

    Smelt this today and I have to disagree that it’s a transparent/watercolour scent – to my nose I don’t think it’s all that sheer, and certainly not approaching the Prada Infusions. I thought it was rather nice and not altogether too “commercial”; it was more interesting than many of the department store offerings. For some reason I smelt leather and oil, though on my friend’s skin the fragrance turned decidedly sweet. Looking forward to trialling it again soon as I managed to score a sample. :)

    • Robin says:

      You’re not alone, obviously, in finding it strong!

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