Penhaligon’s + Meadham Kirchhoff Tralala ~ new fragrance

Penhaligon's + Meadham Kirchhoff Tralala

Design team Meadham Kirchhoff will launch Tralala, their debut fragrance, under the Penhaligon's label. The scent represents "the surreal and fantastical world their designs evoke"; the name was inspired by* a character in the movie Last Exit To Brooklyn.

Tralala was developed by perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour; notes include aldehydes, saffron, whiskey, violet, leather, incense, carnation, myrrh, patchouli, vetiver, musk and vanilla.

Penhaligon's + Meadham Kirchhoff Tralala will launch in April, and I'll update with sizes and concentration when I can.

(first quote via, additional information via cosmopolitan)

* I want to be clear that "inspired by" was my wording. The exact wording from the source, since the name is obviously causing some discomfort: "There’s a dark undercurrent, too – ‘Tralala’, the pair admits, is partly a reference to a character in the 1989 film Last Exit To Brooklyn who ends up in a rather grisly predicament." That quote was from Cosmopolitan, but they have since removed the original article.

Update: Matthew Huband of Penhaligon's commented below, and I'm reprinting his words here so it will be more likely that people will see them: "Hello all, I’m the head of marketing at Penhaligon’s, We’d just like to clarify that the name Tralala is simply an innocent and musical expression which reflects the fragrance. The perfume is rich, whimsical and nostalgic in Penhaligon’s best tradition, as you’d expect."

Penhaligon's + Meadham Kirchhoff Tralala, with outer box

Another update: Penhaligon's + Meadham Kirchhoff Tralala will be available in 100 ml Eau de Parfum, €175.

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  1. TheSnailsPajamas says:

    I am pretty surprised that Penhaligon’s, agreed to this, considering what a sterotypical genteel English brand they like to brand themselves as. I take it no one at their HQ saw that movie? If my memory is correct, Tralala is a prostitute, and not only that, at the time, the movie was pretty infamous for a gang rape scene involving her.

    • TheSnailsPajamas says:

      Not that it’d be much different in theory if say they collaborated on a ‘Fantine’ perfume, but Les Mis is certainly much more romanticized. Tralala as a character seems so anti-Penhaligon’s?

    • Robin says:

      Just had that discussion on Twitter, where @selfstyledsiren tells me the character is “a run-down prostitute who meets one of the most hideous fates in all literature.” Perhaps Penhaligon’s didn’t know MK would be announcing that inspiration to the press :-)

      • Robin says:

        And adding…kind of puts a different spin on the bottle design…

        • peter says:

          Will they be following this with an Anne Frank fragrance????

    • olenska says:

      I honestly thought that nothing could faze me, but reading this news made me gasp as if I’d been punched. If you have read Selby’s novel, you will understand– even more so if you’ve ever suffered in real life even one atom of what Tralala endures in fiction. IsTHIS what passes for inspiration in the fragrance industry these days? And they want women to buy and wear this?

      • TheSnailsPajamas says:

        It is beyond weird, as the book always struck me as Zola-esque in the utter misery of the characters and the situations. I can’t remember the movie anymore but naming your perfume after such a miserable, tragic and unlikeable character as her just boggles the mind. She’s no Fantine and no Becky Sharp. Frankly the juice sounds great, but Tralala as a name sounds like it would fit perfectly with that Human Existence scent that was made for the movie Perfume.

        • olenska says:

          I’m sure they think they’re being “ironic” or “postmodern”, but what they’re doing is co-opting violence against women as a fashion statement. I’m sickened.

      • Robin says:

        Have a feeling that inspiration will not be in the official press materials, although I think they said it at the launch event.

  2. rickbr says:

    Judging the notes, it seems to be a typical Bertrand Douchafour scent. He seems to be perfect to capture surreal, altough i wonder if this won’t smell like his previous works for other brands.

    • Robin says:

      We shall see! His fragrances haven’t seemed as same-y to me lately.

  3. JolieFleurs says:

    The notes sound fantastic but I cannot believe they went there with the name. In fact, I thought maybe they just made the name up, but apparently not. And then to include whiskey in the notes… definitely seems intentional.

    I’m not one to get caught up in a lot of politically correct nonsense, but this really is kind of off-putting, to say the least.

    • Robin says:

      You know, likewise, I don’t like to get overly PC, but have to say I think this is a mistake. Will be interested to see if anybody tells Penhaligon’s so, though…so far, I see nothing directed at them on Twitter or Facebook. Quite the opposite, there are comments about what a great name it is, no doubt from people who don’t know the back story. And out of context, it is a great name.

      • Robin says:

        Also adding that I’ve added the original wording to the article above…might be more accurate to say “partly inspired by” than “inspired by”?

        • JolieFleurs says:

          Their wording is even worse, though. “Rather” grisly? Ya THINK??

          • Robin says:

            The part that might make it better is the “partly”, I guess. As in hopefully they had other reasons for picking the name, and hopefully those are the reasons that will be emphasized when Penhaligon’s starts promoting the scent?

      • JolieFleurs says:

        Yes, I agree, it’s a great name and until others mentioned it, I didn’t even make the association. I had put the darn book far, far out of my mind.

        In no way, shape or form do I think they are celebrating the violence depicted in the story, but you do have to wonder what they were thinking. I’m hoping someone mentioned an edgy novel with a character named Tralala and no one bothered to look into it any further.

        But then…the whiskey note. Ugh. They are going to absolutely have to change the name, I think.

        • Masha says:

          I don’t think we can compassionately assume that “in no way, shape, or form” are they celebrating violence against women. Sadly, it seems that it is exactly what they are doing. The whiskey note seems to refer to the fact that Tralala was drunk when she was gang-raped/murdered. No words….

  4. olenska says:

    In a recent interview with Clayton Ilolahia, Bertrand Duchaufour stated: “I met (designers Meadham & Kirchhoff) several times to understand exactly what they wanted… (The perfume) has a wonderful name, which I can’t reveal I am sorry but I really appreciate the name.”

    Now that the name has been revealed, I wonder if he understands where it came from or its significance. Because once you know, it’s hard to “appreciate” it.

    • Gblue says:

      Bertrand is probably appreciating the name as in French it’s the equivalent of “blah blah blah”/”etc”.

      • olenska says:

        I suppose that would be true if Meadham & Kirchhoff kept their perfumer completely in the dark as to the inspiration behind the name… or had him design it, and only then named it, in which case it’s even more mean-spirited. In any case, I question it. Strongly.

  5. mutzi says:

    Having not read the book or seen the movie, I didn’t get that connection; but now agree with everyone. It is not an inspiring or likeable choice.

    What I thought of immediately was Framboise Tralala from L’Artisan.

  6. nozknoz says:

    Looking on the bright side, the creepy Marni doll now has a companion.

  7. Bejoux says:

    The fate of Tralala in this extraordinarily dark book is devastating, truly gut-wrenching and I will never forget it even though i really would like to… I have never seen the film but perhaps naming the perfume after a character “in the film” perhaps means that they have not read the book and maybe the character of Tralala is not as hopeless and her fate not as dreadful in the film. After all the book was banned for years but the film was not so they must have softened it to pass film censorship. In my opinion, before using this they should have consulted the original source material – and then I don’t think they would have used it, never mind put a weird puppet head on the bottle. I am disturbed by this and curious to smell it but I don’t know if I can overcome my revulsion. They may benefit by the book being less well-known/notorious in the UK but I do think this may be something Penhaligon will regret.

    • Hi there Bejoux, I am a film critic and remember the film very well; I saw it before I read the book. And Tralala meets the exact same fate, and it’s a truly disturbing scene, although Selby’s explicit, pitiless physical detail is only suggested. And honestly, Jennifer Jason Leigh as Tralala even before things get terrible for her is a lost, degraded soul. I can’t imagine how she would inspire a perfume. But fashion designers often latch onto to the look of something (in this case old-time, gritty Brooklyn and its seedy waterfront) and don’t take into account how people will respond to remembering the WHOLE film.

      • Ah wait, my memory may be playing tricks; I guess Tralala survives the rape in the film. It’s still nothing I want my perfume to be referencing, although I honestly think this is cluelessness at work, not malevolence.

  8. Oakland Fresca says:

    Ditto. Ditto. Ditto. “Rather grisly predicament” is an insanely daft characterization. Between the reference to Tralala and that horrible sock puppet head, Meadham Kirchhoff comes off at best as totally tone deaf, and at worst misogynist.

    • Robin says:

      In all fairness though, the words “rather grisly predicament” are Cosmopolitan’s. It may or may not be what they said at the press event.

      • Oakland Fresca says:

        I just checked out Meadham Kirchhoff’s website which opens with a video of a fashion show, with a voice over of the breathless insane appeal of Blanche Dubois calling her phantom? lover on the phone asking him to rescue her… before Stanley rapes her (Streetcar experts, help me with this! I’m struggling with the plot, but I can’t be far off).

        So they have a very strange sense of womanhood and desire. Mental illness and rape seems to be a theme. :(

        • olenska says:

          Holy mother of god. And if you notice, the coy title of this video is “A Cautionary Tale”. I certainly consider myself cautioned. And I rather think the time for diplomatic defenses of Meadham Kirchhoff’s motives has ended.

  9. kindcrow says:

    I read Roger Ebert’s review of the movie (, and it sounds like the gang rape made it into the film.

    Someone should have talked them out of this. Someone should have talked Demeter out of including notes of white smoke and rubber in their First Response-Boston fragrance.

  10. Masha says:

    Wow, I really am disgusted by this. A perfume named after a character who is gang-raped to death, and then horribly mutilated. Is Penhaligon’s now celebrating the most horrific acts of violence against women? I do not think this will sell well in India, where a lot of us gals (and guys, too) are trying to put a stop to such hideous violence…I hope Penhaligon’s, the design team, and Bertrand Duchaufour are hanging their heads in shame; but somehow, I fear they may be congratulating themselves smugly about how “cool and avant garde” they are. Where’s the Mr. Yuck face?

    • olenska says:

      It’s right here, and lots of it. Along with powerful wishes of strength to those who have dealt and are still dealing with the REALITY of what Meadham Kirchhoff finds so amusing to parody in their perfume.

  11. hajusuuri says:

    Having no clue about the back story and never really cared about any back story of any perfume, I’ll say that the bottle has a quirky charm and the notes sound pretty good.

    • JolieFleurs says:

      Not to put too fine a point on it, the backstory is a prostitute who was gang raped by a hundred men in a garbage dump, some with brooms, and then beat to death.

      Odd thing to even partially reference in a perfume.

      Am now curious about the L’ Artisan.

      And I still hold out hope that Duchafour had no idea about the backstory, other than maybe edgy novel with a prostitute.

      • olenska says:

        There’s no way to tell whether Mr. Duchaufour ever read the book. But that deliberate keynote of whiskey implies that something of the book made it into the brief.

        Other elements (aldehydes, violet, and “a powdery note of heliotrope” as per the press statement on Basenotes) suggest the scent of women’s makeup– a notion echoed by the smeared mascara and lipstick of Tralala’s eerie doll-head.

        I don’t know about anyone else… but to me, this doesn’t sound much like Mr. Huband’s “innocent and musical expression”. It sounds more like “un parfum de puta”… in which case, Mr. Duchaufour understood that brief loud and clear.

  12. matthewhuband says:

    Hello all, I’m the head of marketing at Penhaligon’s, We’d just like to clarify that the name Tralala is simply an innocent and musical expression which reflects the fragrance. The perfume is rich, whimsical and nostalgic in Penhaligon’s best tradition, as you’d expect.

    • olenska says:

      *crickets chirp*

    • Masha says:

      Guess someone’s going to be busy this weekend, re-making marketing material!

    • hajusuuri says:

      I think the bottle is whimsical and could see myself going for a mini of it. The perfume notes sound good! If this will be available at SFA in Manhattan, I will certainly check it out.

    • TheSnailsPajamas says:

      Your press release states the name was inspired by a character in
      Last Exit to Brooklyn. Are you seriously trying to say it was purely coincidental that the name had nothing to do with the character everyone who knows the book/movie is associating it with? That’s not using your brain at the very least. Whoever at Penhaligon’s worked with MK on the project should have done their research, and if they knew about the character as a result, should have nixed the name purely on the grounds that an intelligent consumer who knew of the book/movie might question the ‘coincidence’ and find it distasteful, even if it, as you are implying, had nothing to do with it. For MK to cite such a visceral and violent book/movie, I’d also have thought Penhaligon’s would have thought wouldn’t be, even in a passing mention, a good fit for the image you have clearly cultivated over the years.

      I have never been one to care about back stories to perfumes, and I haven’t read the book or seen the movie in years. However, I have a good memory. Regardless of perfume notes or bottle design, the first thing to come to mind when I read your press release was the brutal gang rape of Tralala. Please don’t come here and tell me or anyone else familiar with Hubert Selby Jr’s work that it has nothing to do with it. That’s you not doing due diligence (or ignoring the results of it) because you assume customers won’t think it is a big deal.

      Do I think Penhaligon’s promote violence towards women? No. I won’t presume to guess what MK think, other than they are courting controversy because they think it’s edgy. That in itself tells you all you need to usually know about someone.

      What I do think is that someone at Penhaligon’s made a very bad judgement call because they were too wrapped up in the cool factor of the collaboration.

      • Robin says:

        Snails, I have never seen the press release and am going to assume it doesn’t mention the movie…maybe you’ve seen it, but want to be sure you understand that I never implied I had!

        My article was based on Cosmopolitan, who I assume sent somebody to the first press event, where either M or K said something about the movie. So, no reason to assume it is anything official from Penhaligon’s.

        • TheSnailsPajamas says:

          Sorry R, I am mistaking the release for the blurb above or whatever it is officially referred to!

          • Robin says:

            No worries, just want to be clear! Everything above was from either Vogue or Cosmopolitan, and since Penhaligon’s just held their launch event for Tralala, I assume that’s what they were reporting on. So if M or K mentioned the movie during the course of this event, that’s still perhaps disturbing to many, but it doesn’t mean Penhaligon’s in any way sees the movie as part of the inspiration for the scent or endorses the idea of doing an homage to this character, or ever had any plans to use it as part of the marketing campaign.

          • TheSnailsPajamas says:

            Yes, after reading both it seems clear – well clearer – that the name is the bit with the dubious inspiration. Nevertheless I still see it as a pretty bad judgement call. Interesting to see if Penhaligon’s will continue to insist what they said above though, in contradiction to what MK appear to be saying.

    • kindcrow says:

      I suggest that you read the Cosmo article at, and then ask Meadham and Kirchhoff if Cosmo misinterpreted something?

      • TheSnailsPajamas says:

        Just read that – holy cats, I guess there’s no real doubt, is there? MK knew exactly what they were referencing.

        • olenska says:

          And Cosmopolitan has now entirely removed said article from its website. A site search of “Tralala” returns zero results.

          • kindcrow says:

            I figured that they might — that’s why I printed it as soon as I found it.

    • Oakland Fresca says:

      Matthew Huband,

      Thank you for entering the fray and clarifying Penhaligon’s perspective on the inspirations for the fragrance. “Tra la la” is indeed a whimsical note! In fact, my first cultural association upon reading the name of the fragrance and the notes was of Baroness Bomburst from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The problem is that Meadham Kirchhoff seem to want to invite controversy by referencing a miserable, gang-raped prostitute as somehow part of the fragrance’s origins. There really should not be anything “controversial” at all about Hubert Selby’s character Tralala, her fate is horrendous—not interesting, nor exciting, nor edgy. Full stop. When I visited Meadham Kirchhoff’s website, a video of a fashion show begins with the voice over of Vivien Leigh as Blanche Dubois pleading for help before the character Stanley rapes her, sending her spinning into madness. . . these dated tropes of women’s beauty through vulnerability, victimhood, and madness have largely been laughed out of circulation since the 1970s. It is painful to learn that a successful fashion house is reviving them, and has somehow snookered Penhaligon into participating.

  13. Bejoux says:

    Ok – If it’s an innocent musical expression of whimsy, why does the creepy doll head look like it’s crying rather than bursting into song? I hope Mr Huband gets a bonus if he gets them out of this …..

  14. Merlin says:

    Actually, I’m tickled that Penhaligon’s has managed to do something controversial.

  15. olenska says:

    Bertrand Duchaufour chimes in re: Tralala on Fragrantica today:

    “Yes indeed I was in London Thursday night for the pre-launch of Tralala of Meadham Kirchhoff. I am quite proud of what became of the product itself through the concept (if there is a concept), just because of the coherence, even if we first have to talk all about eccentricity.”

    Pretty rare thing, a perfume with no concept. Especially one that took three years to make, according to a quote from Edward Meadham in the now-vanished CosmoUK article. (Or maybe he and Kirchhoff simply saved up that small detail for the launch party? If so… what a dirty trick to play on the company that honored you with a perfume.)

    • Robin says:

      Well, the issue will disappear now then, & perhaps just as well. That doll head is freaking me out now though, wish they’d use a regular Penhaligon’s cap.

      • Masha says:

        I have to say, this has been quite fascinating to follow and comment upon. Thank you, Robin, for being a neutral leader and letting us express ourselves. I am glad the feelings of outrage and disgust expressed in this thread were heard loud and clear, though I’d be much happier with honesty and a clear apology from the parties responsible for the marketing/concept of this perfume. Whitewash from the marketing team/perfumer and erasure of an article from Cosmo is not entirely adequate to my mind….

        • Robin says:

          Well, I don’t expect anything from Penhaligon’s, since I have no evidence they’re responsible. But I certainly feel different about MK, not that it matters seeing as how I was not a customer.

  16. donanicola says:

    I have successfully deleted most details of the film from my memory but the overwhelming impression of degradation and despair will never be eradicated. My preference is to believe BD’s and Penhaligon’s innocence as to the life and death of Tralala (though ignorance can be culpable) but I now have a basis for my total and utter dislike of MK’s designs which up until now had been merely instinctive. They are creepy.
    On the bright side, apart from the whiskey (I’m still recovering from the alcohol-fest that is Atelier’s Gold and believe me I like a drink) the notes to this scent sound lovely.

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