Fendi by Fendi (for women) ~ fragrance review

Fendi The Kiss

Imagine this: It’s the late-1980s, and Sirio leads you to your table for lunch at Le Cirque. As you dangle your quilted Chanel 2.55 off your chair and consider whether you’ll have the Dover sole or the carpaccio, a cascade of laughter draws your attention to the table next to you. The frizzy-headed woman with Bordeaux-purple gloss lipstick and an armload of bangles is Opium. Next to her sits Giorgio, a blond real estate agent with frosted pink talons for fingernails. Coco, swathed in fur and velvet and jewel tones despite the July heat outside, looks a little embarrassed by their loud conversation. (Boucheron had to be at a committee meeting for a Met gala and couldn’t make it. Neither could Cinnabar — she’s summering at her house in Bali.)

Then the room’s chatter and clink of silverware stops. A curvaceous, full-lipped woman of a certain age glides toward the empty chair at the table. She’s ignored the trend for shoulder pads and somehow combines Sophia Loren’s earth-mother sensuality with Silvana Mangano’s elegance. Still, her silkiness packs no less potency than the assertive styles of the other women at the table. This is Fendi by Fendi.

Fendi launched its first fragrance, Fendi, in 1985. The Société Française des Parfumeurs classifies it as a floral aldehydic chypre, but its honeyed base notes give it the warm, dreamy feel of an oriental. Fendi includes top notes of bergamot, aldehydes and rosewood; a heart of rose, lily of the valley, geranium, jasmine, tuberose, orris and carnation; and a base of cedarwood, patchouli, sandalwood, moss, musk, amber, vanilla and benzoin.

Fendi kicks off warm, sweet, and mossy-green with a hint of the kind of funk that wood can make. This touch of dirtiness is quickly swallowed into Fendi’s operatic heart of major florals blended so that not one single note sings loudest. I can only pick out rose's grounding and jasmine's tingle. The heart is tightly swaddled in a powdery mix of sweet wood, animal musk, benzoin and patchouli. Fendi is one of those fragrances that you can identify in a millisecond. It’s big and complicated, but it telescopes into a definite signature that reads as a velvety blend of honey, tobacco, sandalwood, and rose. 

"We're tried to make the fragrance as feminine as possible," said Carla Fendi.1 For more insight into what femininity means to Carla Fendi, here’s what she told the Boston Globe in 1987: "My mother taught me the truth about the authentically fashionable woman. The real fashionable woman is a thoroughbred, apart from her clothes. She projects a joyous spirit, moves with feline grace, has a gentle tone of voice,” and "It's no longer necessary for a woman to deny her femininity. When it comes to equal jobs, there is no rivalry and conflict between the sexes. It's time for women to reemerge their natural splendor. Women must be women again.”2 This combination of power and femininity (but perhaps not "gentle voice") definitely shows in Fendi.

Fendi perfume advert

Fendi is probably best applied in dabs, and not during summer. (I’m testing this during a heat wave, by the way. I love it anyway, but the bottle is going back into the perfume cabinet until it’s sweater weather.) I was lucky enough to find a bottle of Fendi Eau de Parfum at Goodwill this week, and I bought it for a friend who wore Fendi for years and is still mad she can’t buy it anymore. After sampling it the last few days, I’m afraid all she’ll be getting from me is a decant.

Fendi for Women is discontinued, and bottles online cost a king’s ransom, so keep your eyes open at thrift shops and estate sales.

1. Women's Wear Daily, November 21, 1986.

2. Marian Christy, The Boston Globe, February 22, 1987.

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60 Comments

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  1. juicejones says:

    Great description of what turns out to have been a pretty good time. Free, outrageous and not as socially contained or concerned as we are now. Those women didn’t sneak a smoke.
    I had a close friend who bathed in the stuff. So much so that we called it Offendi. But hey, she enjoyed it and we enjoyed her.
    The carpaccio sounds delicious. I’ll have a Kir Royale.

    • Angela says:

      I like your attitude, and make that “two” on the Kir Royale!

  2. JolieFleurs says:

    Oh, I could almost cry. I loved this one, too. I ended up giving it away, because my Husband ( boyfriend at the time) didn’t like it. But now he’s so used to perfume I donm’t think he’d even bat an eye.

    An incredibly generous swapper (thank you, Jen!) sent me a mini, and I am slowwwly doling it out, drop by drop.

    They definitely don’t make ‘em like they used to.

    • Angela says:

      It had been years since I smelled Fendi on skin, and I liked it so much more than I used to–probably since I’ve smelled so much perfume since then. I can’t wait until it gets cold so I can trot out the bottle!

    • bookwyrmsmith says:

      You’re welcome!

  3. sayitisntso says:

    Angela, you just ain’t right! “Girl, you know that Fendi perfume you loved back in the day but can’t find anymore? Uh-huh, well I found a bottle in a thrift store….for a dollar…..and I love it…..don’t worry, I’ll send you a sample…” I can hear your friend crying now! lol!

    • Angela says:

      Hmm. I’ll have to be a little more diplomatic than that, I guess. Maybe I’ll say, “I got lucky and got a decant of Fendi for you!” and leave it at that…

      • sayitisntso says:

        You’d break her heart to put it any other way!

        • Angela says:

          Thanks for the wise warning.

      • Lucy says:

        Don’t forget to tell her you also scored one for yourself. Otherwise you’ll never be able to wear it around her.

  4. Lucy says:

    This was my aunt’s signature scent. When I was 12 I drew her name for our Christmas gift exchange and it was at the top of her list. I spent a whole day at the mall searching before I found it. (Small town mall, no big stores like Nordstrom, Neimans, etc.) Of course it was way too mature for me but even then I knew it was glamorous stuff. I doused myself in it and we had a very long car ride home. I haven’t tried it since, although my aunt continued to wear it until it was out of production. I’m so glad to finally see it reviewed here. It deserves one. –And I feel for the poor soul who dropped it off at Goodwill instead of making a fortune on ebay. What a great find for you!!

    • Angela says:

      I love your story! Yes, I was super lucky to find Fendi. I have to admit, though, that it was expensive for Goodwill–$18.99. Worth every penny, though.

      • AnnieA says:

        That must have been at the Fancy Goodwill store, where I saw designer jeans at $35 apiece.

  5. AnnS says:

    This one is a real doozie! It’s a shame they don’t make it anymore – if a niche house released it today, fume heads would go nuts. It is a massive scent, and one I couldn’t ever really wear. Just a pin dot would do me fine, even though I have no troubles with other big frags like Coco and Boucheron (both with respectfully modest applications).

    I always felt that the ad campaign was so evocative and well executed. It really hit a nerve when I was a teen and I really did become desperate to smell it at a store, which was not even possible. (My first massive perfume madness?!) It never came anywhere to any of our local malls, so it became mythic in my mind. You know, that happens to me all the time now with niche and indie releases, but at least I can buy or swap for samples. Remember a time when you just couldn’t get there at all when you saw an ad for something? Exclusivity was certainly an insurmountable aphrodisiac. Now, one way or the other, most of us can get whatever fragrance we want.

    I was lucky a few years ago and found two bottles of the Fendi edp on the redline shelf at the local Kmart. I bought them both for less than $20. One I found a good home as a sale/swap with a perfume friend, and the other I sold on ebay. It was the biggest fragrance sale I ever made – worth more than used gold. I am happy that they moved on to happy homes.

    • Angela says:

      Isn’t it funny how certain fragrances take up mythic space in our imaginations? I can definitely see Fendi doing that. What a fabulous score at Kmart, too!! Wow.

  6. kaos.geo says:

    Buenos Aires, 1988, winter (summertime in the northern hemisphere).

    I was 15 years old. My geography teacher was of italian descent (as half of the Argentine population, the other half are from Spain).

    On the previous year she had traveled to Italy to visit her family’s city of origin. On her way back, in the duty free shop in Rome, she picked this up.

    She walks through the rows of school desks and she is leaving an intoxicating trail… 15 years old me asks what she is wearing…. “Something I picked up in Rome” she says with a mysterious smile…

    I say: “Fendi di Roma” and she turns pale.. LOL she looks at me and says.. “That’s right, Fendi”

    I compliment her and she blushes, regaining composure.
    The truth is, I smelled the frag on a magazine paper strip the year before (my aunt was a seamstress of sorts, and she had an ample supply of fashion mags from all over)… it stuck to my brain.
    Very sexy, very strong… very inappropiate for a morning classroom! LOL But well, she was gorgeous, she could pull it off.. and it was winter ;-)

    • Angela says:

      What a fabulous story! (And what a great memory for smell you have.) As I read your comment, it was like seeing a movie of the memory–with smell-o-vision.

      • kaos.geo says:

        Hi Angela! Your review evoked the memory, it was spot on, at least for me.

        I honestly cannot recall 100% what Fendi smells like today, but I do remember the honeyed spiced rose note. :-D

        • Angela says:

          I bet if you smelled Fendi now, you’d remember it.

  7. nozknoz says:

    Angela, this is off topic, but I was thinking of you and your protagonist Joanna Hayworth yesterday after discovering the most adorable, nostalgic dresses and accessories on the Lena Hoschek website. No affiliation – I read about her shop in a New York Times article “36 Hours in Graz,” Austria, and did a bit of googling to see what the designs looked like. Ms. Hoschek collects traditional textiles and is inspired by Austrian dirndls and other nostalgic styles, such as 1950s sun dresses and Latin-influenced cocktail dresses. It’s fascinating to see both her traditional and updated interpretations.

    • Angela says:

      I just checked out her site, and–you’re right–I love her style! I think I’d call it “Indigenous Burlesque.”

      • nozknoz says:

        Ha! Angela, you should copyright that! :-)

        • Angela says:

          I always knew I was meant to work in one of those fancy New York advertising agencies…

    • kindcrow says:

      Ah, dirndls are effing adorable! I love the details — embroidery, patterns, lace. I’ve wanted one for years.

      • Angela says:

        I know! What is it about them? I feel the same way, even though I’d look ridiculous in one.

      • nozknoz says:

        kindcrow, when I was looking for information on Lena Hoschek’s site, I found a video featuring several traditional dirndl shops in Graz – the details and colors are indeed delightful.

  8. Elisa says:

    I love Fendi! I definitely see the resemblance to Coco, but I prefer Fendi. I managed to get half a bottle for cheap at a moving sale. It smells to me, after the initial aldehyde/floral blast, like pumpkin pie and leather.

    • Angela says:

      Great score to get some at a moving sale! And now I will be thinking of pumpkin pie and getting hungry next time I try it…

  9. mals86 says:

    Never smelled this one, and I think the oriental cast of it would do me in. But I remember those ad, always loved them. So elegant, with that restrained passion that is sexier than all-out nudity.

    • Angela says:

      I agree. The model they used looks so classic. She’s as fresh and interesting now as she was then.

  10. jirish says:

    My favorite perfume from the 80s, and I’m still mad they discontinued it. I have about a third of a bottle left, and I’m pretty stingy about using it. Would love to score another bottle at a thrift store! I kind of feel like Fendi has never gotten the perfumista attention it should have, so I’m happy to read your review. I haven’t been able to pick the scent apart the way you have – I never really knew what comprised the scent, only loved its warm, animalic beauty. I remember when it came out, Vogue said it smelled like a woman in furs in the back of a limo, and that always stuck with me.

    • Angela says:

      You know, I’m not sure I would have been able to pick apart the scent, either, except that I’d been away from it for so long that it smelled new to me again. I love Vogue’s image of it!

  11. lupo says:

    Thanks for the review Angela. I must say – not quite familiar with the perfume, I just love reading your post! Brilliant as usual :) Have a good day one and all

    • Angela says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post!

  12. annemarie says:

    Reviews like this are such a treat, and on my birthday too! (I have your book on the way to me from Book Depository, Angela, but it has not arrived in time. :( )

    I have not ever smelled Fendi, but this review reminds me of a remark by Tania Sanchez, in The Guide. Not an exact quote, but something like: ‘If you love something, buy it. Otherwise you will find yourself bidding on eBay against other poor fools who didn’t buy it when they could.’

    I’m glad I bought some vintage Ysatis a few weeks ago. I treasure it.

    • perthgirl says:

      I’m still kicking myself for giving my old bottle of Ysatis away :-(

      • Angela says:

        I’ve given away stuff I’ve regretted, too. I just have to tell myself that someone else is enjoying as much as I would have (hopefully).

    • Angela says:

      Happy Birthday!! What a perfect time for a dab of Ysatis. I hope you’re having a day full of all the things and people you love.

      I’m sorry the book hasn’t arrived yet. The first wave of orders has been slow, and I even called the printer about it. They said that’s typical at first, but should pick up.

      • annemarie says:

        It’s here! Now I’m glad the weekend weather is likely to be horrid. I’ll be curled up in the warm with your book and a cat on my lap. :)

        • Angela says:

          That sounds like a relaxing combination! I hope you that you’re in the mood for some frothy reading

    • AnnS says:

      I do wish I’d bought a bottle of Ysatis in the 80s/90s? whenever it was generally available in original form at the stores. It was always something I liked. I have a small decant of the vintage and I horde it.

      • Angela says:

        I probably should have put Ysatis at the lunch table, too. I sort of see her as the 1980s version of Carnal Flower, all glam seduction.

  13. perthgirl says:

    It seems like only recently this stuff was almost being given away, I remember seeing it everywhere for about $40. But now I think of it, it was 10 yrs ago.
    And people wonder why I have so much perfume- but there’s a good reason why I can’t get rid of any! Lol

    • Angela says:

      I know what you mean. I often get the urge to clean out my perfume cabinet, then I get panicky thinking that I might just want one spritz of something…

  14. platinum14 says:

    This is a very special fragrance. More than any other women at that table, the Fendi gal has THE power to get men to do anything she wants.

    To this day, i will still follow total strangers wearing Fendi on the street for a few blocks…

    • Angela says:

      That’s the mark of a truly powerful fragrance!

  15. Dawn says:

    It always annoys me when I fall in love with something to find out that it has been discontinued. Deneuve is one of them. When I first tried it, I was left speechless/breathless because of it’s beauty. Even though I have two large decants of the parfum and two almost full bottles, I’m still stingy with it because it costs an arm and a leg on E-bay. The other is Fendi’s Theorema and I normally don’t like citrus perfumes. Even though on some days there is a sour citrus vibe to it, I love it. But I was lucky in Theorema’s case because I managed to get 2 bottles of it on Beauty Encounter about a month ago. But it seems like Fendi is quick to discontinue it’s offerings.

    • Angela says:

      I’ve heard so many wonderful things about Deneuve–it really is a shame it was discontinued. And, of course, I love Theorama! You were lucky to put away a stash of it. On good days, I try not to mourn the discontinued fragrances but think of all the fabulous new perfume coming out. On good days.

    • mals86 says:

      Isn’t Deneuve gorgeous? Nothing like it.

      • Dawn says:

        I find Deneuve to be a stunner and wonder why it hasn’t been brought back. Even for a limited time.

  16. Omega says:

    Fendi is a great scent..though, lol, for some reason it reminds me of a promiscuous friend of mine in hs, perhaps she wore it? She liked the boys a wee too much. Lol, she’d always call me a prude(a good smelling prude though, Poison was my scent)..while she would have her wild stories, that I didn’t want to hear. I don’t miss hs, but do miss the perfumes:).

    • Angela says:

      That’s hilarious. Between Fendi and Poison, I’d give the edge to Poison for being more open to fooling around, but who knows? It always depends on the person…

  17. olenska says:

    What a honey-goddess of a perfume. I cherish my bottle, found full and still-in-the-box at an antique store. Whatever motivation its former owner had to give it up, I bless them for it.

    • Angela says:

      It sounds like that bottle found the home it was destined for!

  18. Marjorie Rose says:

    I have a mini of this that I bought at an estate sale a few years ago, mostly because it reminded me of Opium, which I like. But I admit, it hasn’t gotten much wear. I will try to remember to dab some on when the weather cools down. Although if I listen to kaos, it sounds like it might be a distraction at work!

    • Angela says:

      Hey, you’ll give the boys something to dream about for years. Nothing wrong with that!

  19. JoshBokaie1998 says:

    Fendi was my Mother’s signature perfume from 1985 until around 1995. The memories this fragrance holds for me are precious and comforting. I’m lucky to have a lot of bottles back stocked, and they are my most cherished. I will never understand the discontinuation of this fragrance. I always liked the apple note in Fendi…it’s never been listed, but I have always smelled it, especially in the top notes. Fendi is one of the best chypres, and it’s certain that fragrances are not made like this one anymore. Mom no longer wears it, but I now wear it every fall/winter as my signature. There’s no replacement for Fendi…nothing has ever compared to it for me. It’s immediately recognizable, and I think it’s one that you will forever connect with a person that uses it/has used it. I like to put on my Def Leppard “Hysteria” album and use a couple sprays of Fendi to pretend it’s 1987 again. Those were my favorite and best days. Thank you for the review. I enjoyed reading it.

    • Angela says:

      Your comment is an excellent reminder of how powerful a fragrance can be! Thank you so much for sharing your love for it and the memories it brings back.

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