Yves Saint Laurent Manifesto ~ perfume review

Yves Saint Laurent Manifesto, advert

It's tempting, after smelling Yves Saint Laurent's Manifesto, to ponder what the brief for the perfume might have been, that is, what sort of declaration it is supposed to make. "Say as little as possible so as not to offend anyone"? "Say what everybody else is saying so you won't stand out in the crowd"? And what is with Yves Saint Laurent these days, anyway? Have they got a bad case of the jitters after Elle and Parisienne?1

Manifesto is a sweet but clean floral musk layered over a dusky but likewise clean patchouli base with a dollop of vanilla cream. There are sheer lemon-y berries in the opening and sheer florals in the heart. Manifesto is vaguely reminiscent of Flowerbomb,2 but it's a far milder scent; it mostly keeps its voice at a whisper once the top notes fade. It's not ineptly done — far from it — and it's easy enough to wear, but even in Sephora, where clean, office-friendly fragrances abound, you'd be hard-pressed to find something with less character and originality.3 Luminosity, charm, grace, power and audacity, attributes the brand reportedly felt made Jessica Chastain the perfect face for Manifesto, are pretty much missing in action.

Verdict: Pleasant enough, but no more. As is so often the case, the bottle, which looks reasonably sophisticated in pictures, looks far less so in person.

Jessica Chastain for Yves Saint Laurent Manifesto

Yves Saint Laurent Manifesto was developed by perfumers Anne Flipo and Loc Dong. Notes for the woody floriental fragrance include bergamot, green notes, jasmine, lily of the valley, blackcurrant, cedar, sandalwood, vanilla and tonka bean. It is available in 30, 50 and 90 ml Eau de Parfum.

1. Or, going farther back, Nu (2001) and Cinéma (2004). It's been a really, really long time since Yves Saint Laurent has had a wildly popular feminine pillar. According to Women's Wear Daily (8/17/2012), Yves Saint Laurent hopes Manifesto will become the second Yves Saint Laurent pillar worldwide, the first being 1977's Opium.

2. And of course, Flowerbomb is widely considered to be one of the many spawn of Thierry Mugler Angel.

3. Ok, ok, that's probably not true. There is an awful lot of competition.

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  1. patuxxa says:

    I used to love both YSL the fashion house and YSL the cosmetic and perfume brand. Now I feel both have lost the plot, though in wildly different directions.

    I sprayed Manifesto on my wrist two days ago; I scrubbed it furiously the minute I got home. As usual with fruitchoulis, I can only smell sweet and cloying. I tolerated Parisienne and despised Elle, but this one I simply loathe. And yes, the bottle looks cheap.

    I can’t help but wonder, what happened to Isabella Rossellini’s Manifesto? I hope at least they gave her a boatload of money for the rights to use the name.

    • Robin says:

      I can only assume IR no longer owned the trademark for Manifesto? Or perhaps she never did.

      I liked Parisienne, Elle not so much. Neither, obviously, set the world on fire. I hear Elle is discontinued but have not verified, but was surprised to see you can still buy Cinema online.

      • patuxxa says:

        Cinema was the last YSL I really loved *sigh*

        You can still buy IR Manifesto online but I suspect it’s discontinued stock. Maybe they just let the trademark rights expire and YSL got the name…

  2. eaudemale says:

    I love your reviews guys and it would be great if you could include in them comparisons with other fragrances that smell alike.

  3. lucasai says:

    I kind of didn’t like the bottle. The purple “gem” looks weird in the middle of this hourglass shaped flacon.
    But my mum liked the perfume when she tried it on paper.

    • Robin says:

      I mostly just thought the bottle looked cheap. Especially the cap, but really, even the bottle itself.

      • pyramus says:

        When I first saw a picture of the Manifesto bottle I was impressed with the sheer novelty of it — I’d never seen a bottle that looked as if it were cinched up by an amethyst napkin ring — but once I actually got my hands on it I was disappointed by its second-rate look and feel, which is a shame, because YSL has done some truly amazing bottles: Baby Doll, Paris, Opium, M7, Nu….

        The contents of course are a complete non-entity.

        • Robin says:

          Totally agree. This is way downhill from their best.

  4. behemot says:

    Ugh, completely indistinctive, generic fragrance. Like many others right now. II find the purple accents nice, but they will not save this bland juice :(

  5. maggiecat says:

    I was intrigued by the notes, as it sounds like something I’d like, and I did like Parisienne. I’ll definitely try it and get a sample, but, given that it’s not exactly cheap, I doubt i’ll be adding a full bottle to my collection.

    • Robin says:

      I think Nordstrom has a rollerball for $25 — forgot to include that above, sorry.

  6. Dilana says:

    Gee and I thought Flowerbomb was designed to be pretty neutral and mild.

    • Robin says:

      Flowerbomb is much louder than this…it’s tamer than Angel, but I have never found it to be really sheer. This has little oomph at all after 20 minutes.

  7. egabbert says:

    What a stupid name since “manifesto” suggests a powerfully articulated and even contrarian point of view!

    • Robin says:

      It’s totally wrong for the fragrance. I do think YSL has sort of lost the will to create something bold and different. They tried, sort of, w/ Parisienne I guess. Maybe Hedi Slimane will shake things up.

  8. Nile Goddess says:

    For me Manifesto will be forever tied with Isabella Rosellini, trademark or not.

    The bottle looks … eek, even Avon makes them classier nowadays.

    First tried the fragrance beginning of September when it was launched in Switzerland, and promptly forgot it. I thought it imitated Lancome’s La Vie est Belle, which imitated Flowerbomb, which imitated … who knows. An uninspired move for YSL considering Elle smells like a cheap Midnight Poison.

    There is one new YSL fragrance I really like, and that is Opium Vapeurs de Parfum. It has little in common with the wonderful original Opium, but it’s very well done and I get so many compliments on it.

    • Nile Goddess says:

      Robin, are comments moderated now?

    • Robin says:

      Yes, it’s also related to the Lancome, although it’s far quieter than that one too.

      Agree — bottle looks like they were really on a serious budget.

      (and no more than usual — just the 1st comment is supposed to be moderated. don’t know why yours was held this time)

  9. annemarie says:

    Now this one did strike me as having a certain something, something worth trying again. Some combination of scratchiness of patchouli and stickiness of fruit? Could be my imagination though. Or that something might disappear after two minutes on skin (I’ve only smelled it on paper). I’ll give it another go.

    Did Parisienne not sell well? Did Kate Moss’s writhings not do it for them?

    • Robin says:

      Do try it again!

      I don’t think Parisienne sold to their expectations…if it did, they would not still be searching for the 2nd pillar to stand w/ Opium. Ditto with Elle.

    • debbie says:

      Hi Annemarie, maybe its an Aussie thing as I did’nt hate it either but it did turn into Prada Candy, on my skin, after an hour or two. I will be trying it again.

      • annemarie says:

        Right, I’ll be passing through DJs tomorrow probably, so I’ll give Manifesto a proper test.

  10. Against My Better Judgement… and of course because i particularly LOATHE That Rat Faced Kate Moss… I LIKED Parisienne! Even though i thought it Heresy to toy with Sophia’s Masterpiece that is Paris… I Liked it…

    AND I LIKE THIS! It’s not at all in the same strain as the current bunch of thrown together dreck that has proliferated for nigh on a many year now, there’s a Warm, Sensual Spark to this that intrigues me and Enough of a slightly subverse twist to the notes that make it Interesting and not commonplace, Kinda like the New “Flash” By Jimmy Choo which i think is Amazing!

    This has really catapulted to the near top on my lists of Must Buy’s for my mom… Although am Very Wary of that Bottle… Not a fan….

    • Robin says:

      I liked Parisienne too. This one, you can have it :-)

      Really, they could have invested more in that bottle.

  11. Dina C. says:

    I sniffed Manifesto on blotter paper about two weeks ago at Saks and promptly forgot what it smelled like. It blends in with all the other floral-patchouli-sweet things that are out there right now, and that’s not a category that I like to wear.

    My favorite YSL in the last decade is a flanker to Paris: Paris Jardins Romantiques, a lighter, greener, more spring-like floral. I’m wearing it today.

    • Robin says:

      They did some really nice flankers to Paris over the years — wish they were still doing a different one every year.

  12. Lucy says:

    I have been eagerly waiting for this review. I tried Manifesto at Sephora a few weeks ago and was turned off because it seemed like an Angel wannabe. Whatever is in Angel that makes it a scrubber for me is in this one too, although not with the same sense of urgency. What a shame to waste a bold title like Manifesto and the beautiful face of Jessica Chastain. I can’t picture her wearing this.

    • Robin says:

      Patch + sugar is mostly what they have in common.

  13. ashleyd says:

    I tried this today and I don’t mind it. It’s just sort of sweet and powdery and warm. Maybe because it’s not impressive either way I don’t have a super strong reaction to it? I did buy Pariesinne and ended up hating it, and Angel smells gross on me so this one may be the closest I get. I don’t think I’d buy this though, but if I had a sample kicking around I’d wear it when I was stuck close to other people to not stink anyone out of the office. The ad and the bottle do make me think it’s going to be something spectacular so that is disappointing.

    • Robin says:

      Oh, shame you ended up with a bottle you don’t love — sorry!

  14. basia says:

    I also have been eagerly awaiting this review. After seeing a picture of this bottle and wondering what they were thinking, I was still hoping the juice might be good. Based on your review, I guess not. Will try it if I come across it, but I ‘m not making it a mission anymore!

  15. nozknoz says:

    Finally realized what the bottle reminded me of: there used to be ads for a diet product in which a tape measure snugged in the “waist” of a cylindrical bottle, creating a similar silhouette to the Manifesto bottle. Not a glamorous association, really.

    • annemarie says:

      No, not at all. It’s a pity, because I love the ad. The sight of the hands dipped in purple paint must be fulfilling some remnant four-year-old fantasy in me. And the clash of colour between the paint and Jessica’s hair and lips makes me smile. A pity the perfume is so much less outré than this.

    • Robin says:

      Ha…that sounds vaguely familiar! I can’t remember the product either.

  16. Omega says:

    I was really disappointed with this one.. the bottle and the juice. The name, the bottle all of it sounded nice, then I try it and I am like..a sweet, fruity floral musk..like everything on the mainstream market. Not to sound snobbish, lol..it’s just if I go into Macy’s..I feel like I only need to get one scent..cause it smells like all the others..sweet, bland..candy fluff. Idk. I wore bombs like Poison and still do..I miss the 80’s 90’s and not for the high bangs and lame perms..the juice only!

    • Robin says:

      There were so many fewer launches then — that’s what I miss.

  17. kate says:

    AND – What a dreadful name:( goes with the smell -not good. Sorry YSL you must try harder!!

    • Robin says:

      I don’t mind the name, just not sure it fits here.

  18. Omega says:

    This was my first thought when I first saw the bottle..Gem and the Holograms, then Disney.

    • Lucy says:

      I loved Jem when I was little. I haven’t thought of them in years!

  19. glrsims says:

    Love the review, especially as it’s very similar to my feelings about Manifesto! I just sampled it this morning and what I told the SA was that it didn’t smell bad, it just didn’t smell like anything. It’s just a smell.

  20. Nile Goddess says:

    The older one launched by Isabella Rosellini had far more oomph despite being a drugstore cheapie. Despite never having worn it, will always remember that one when hearing “Manifesto”.

  21. gyrl58 says:

    I have seen so many poor reviews on this fragrance. I am such a perfumeholic that it takes a really good fragrance to get me satisfied. I received a sample of Manifesto and was not impressed by sniffing it. I wore it one day, and though I couldn’t smell it, I received compliments all day. I think I will purchase this fragrance. I guess it boils down to body chemistry.

  22. Merrily Row says:

    A sophisticated friend in her 40’s picked this up on a whim in duty free. And despite my intellectual agreement with the critical reviews, when she wears it, I just want to follow her around, she smells so good! Say what you will, on her Manifesto smells modern but not cheap, warm but not foody, pretty but not girly, unique but not oddball. Nothing to dismiss about that.

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