Avon Femme ~ fragrance review

Avon Femme

As long as Rochas Femme is still on the market, it takes a lot of moxie to name another fragrance “Femme.” When I think of Femme, I envision Edmond Roudnitska’s creation and an elegant yet curiously raunchy perfume that suits a woman of singular character. This Femme ignores focus groups and cleaves to an artist's  imagination. The Femme woman stands out today for her sure — if unfashionable — presence, and although opinions might be mixed, you don’t forget her. What’s Avon going to do with that?

“All eyes will be on you in this glamorous silhouette of rich jasmine petals and stunning magnolia touched with radiant amberwoods,” the copy on the Avon Femme sample’s folder reads. Additional notes include pink grapefruit, violet, plum, wild orchid, peach skin, musk, and woody notes. Hmm. Peach skin and plum. Jasmine. The wood and musk that some perfume houses use to simulate oakmoss. Could Avon possibly….?

Nope. Avon Femme is worlds away from Rochas Femme. If Rochas Femme is a risqué knockout with velvet-draped cleavage but manners to please the queen, then Avon Femme is a clean, efficient, and pretty suburban woman with a crisp Chardonnay in the refrigerator, a full calendar buzzing on her smart phone, and a living room of Pottery Barn furniture. I don’t mean to suggest that Avon Femme needs to be Rochas Femme, but I do want to point out the differences, lest your mind drift the way mine did.

Avon Femme is an aldehydic floral firmly rooted in the migraine-inducing (at least, for me) woody musk that is so popular these days. The woody musk jumps to the forefront from the first spray, with icy plum, peach skin, and generic flowers in the background. The woody musk stampedes over any “jasmine petals” or “stunning magnolia” that might lurk in Avon Femme’s composition. As the fragrance wears over the next four hours, it sweetens slightly, but otherwise hangs tightly to woody musk as it fades. Basically, if a woody musk soliflore existed, this would be it.

And now a note about “woody musk.” I’m not a fragrance professional, so all I can do is offer you my view as someone who loves wearing perfume and who wears a lot of it. Over the past four or five years, department stores fragrances seem to have latched onto woody musk and made it a centerpiece in many of their new launches. On one hand, this woody musk isn’t sweet or pandering, and it might ground certain perfumes, much like oakmoss did in the old days.

On the other hand, the woody musk is sharp, hints at something the Orkin man totes to ward off cockroaches, and instead of providing a cloud-like cushion for a composition as oakmoss does, it stabs the fragrance through in a really intrusive way. It’s like adding too much tarragon to a dish — you can’t appreciate the rest of the entrée. Plus, it’s dated! Before long, people will sniff something loaded with this type of woody musk and say, “That is so 2009.”

If I were in charge of orchestrating Avon Femme, I’d draw from Avon’s rich history and aim for a perfume that is classic, comfortable, and engaging. It wouldn't have to break new ground, but it would need a definite signature. I’d draw inspiration from all those Avon ladies who, through the years, visited their neighbors and heard intimate stories of their lives and knew who favored a coral lipstick to remind her of her honeymoon in Maui in 1961 or who feared aging but whose personality embraced all the enthusiasm of a teenager. I’d toss Avon Femme’s trendy woody musk accord aside and ask a perfumer to create something to warm the heart of both the granddaughter and grandmother of today’s Avon customer. Something authentic, not trendy. Authenticity will always be in style.  

But I don’t have a network of stockholders to please, either. In the meantime, I guess I’ll take my favorite Femme, Rochas Femme.

Avon Femme Eau de Parfum is $30 for a 50 ml spray bottle. It’s available on the Avon website, along with matching bath and body products.

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  1. scentfromabove says:

    Angela, I enjoy reading your articles. You have a way with words. I have never worn an Avon scent. I like a few of Mary Kay’s fragrances. But, I loved reading this!

    • Angela says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! It means a lot to me that you can enjoy reading a review of a fragrance I pretty much find “meh.”

  2. Dilana says:

    The only “Avon Lady” I ever knew was a man I went to college with, supplementing his scholarship. He never tried to sell to me or any of my friends. (We were not likely targets for make up purchases, or perhaps he simply knew that what little spending money we had was spent on supplementing the school food plan with pizza deliveries).
    I can imagine the fun he would have offering “woody musks”, not fragrances, just the phrase.
    It is ironic that in an effort to combat the supposed dangerousness of oak moss, the fragrance industry has turned to a synthetic that a number of people (including myself) find migrane inducing.

    • Angela says:

      “Woody” musk–I’m chuckling at that. I bet he was a fun Avon “lady.”

      I agree so much about the woody musk, though. I understand the need to add something to a fragrance to “ugly” it up just a touch and give it texture, but this sure doesn’t work for me.

      • Dilana says:

        Oh, my college friend was a vary fun guy, but not much of a lady.

        • Angela says:

          Well, I guess we can’t all be ladies, regardless of gender…which is for the best!

  3. sweetgrass says:

    I think I’ll stick with the Rochas variety too. I finally got around to ordering a bottle (modern EDT) just last night. It was a great price on fragrancenet after a coupon. :)

    When I was growing up, my mom did order from Avon occasionally. She wasn’t much into makeup, really, but she would order nail polish and stuff. I remember really liking the catalogs. I don’t think I ever had any Avon perfume. I’m pretty sure that was when my mom was wearing Oscar de la Renta.

    • Angela says:

      I admit to missing Oscar de la Renta! I remember when it was in the air everywhere. The new(ish) Esprit d’Oscar is pretty decent, though.

      • sweetgrass says:

        It’s been so long since I’ve smelled OdlR that I barely remember what it smells like! I sniffed the EDT at Macy’s some time back to see if it would jog my memory at all, and it really didn’t. It seemed way more powdery than what I remembered. I don’t know if it’s just reformulation or if my mom maybe wore the EDP when she was wearing it (or both).

        I don’t think I’ve smelled Esprit d’Oscar. I’ll have to look for it.

        • Angela says:

          It came out a few years ago, and–who knows?–might even be discontinued by now. But I liked it.

  4. poodletwins says:

    Maybe this is what tips me over towards finally trying Rochas Femme, as I’ve just started reading about Rochas Alchemie and Mystere yesterday. Does the modern version of Femme hold up pretty well? Great review, btw.

    • Angela says:

      In my opinion, all perfume lovers should sample Rochas Femme. You might hate it, but it’s a good reference point to have in your brain somewhere. New Rochas Femme–the version that cam out in 1989–is a different perfume than the original Femme (1944), but it maintains most of the original’s shape and spirit. It also packs a hardy B.O. note, which is tantalizing to some and repellant to others. But do try it!

  5. mals86 says:

    I was surprised to find that I got on just fine with refo (Rochas) Femme – yes, cumin, but it seemed perfectly at home, unlike with the Tom Ford Shanghai Lily I tried the other day. It was vintage Femme that just slayed me with balsams. Could NOT manage it, but a friend took it over and said it was glorious, in perfect shape.

    Yeah, this sounds boring.

    • Angela says:

      I love them both, and I’m amazed–but I guess not surprised, not really–at the range of old Femme formulations out there. But the new stuff is great!

  6. annemarie says:

    It says something about the status of women today that a perfume called ‘Femme’ is safe and derivative, whereas the Femme of 1944 was rich, bold and daring. What has happened?

    Still, in fairness, Rochas Femme cost a lot more in its day than any Avon perfume ever.

    • Angela says:

      What interests me, too, is how despite its attitude, Femme (along with Shocking!) became a pretty common fragrance, for years. Maybe women were willing to be more distinctive? I don’t know.

  7. Sounds interesting. I dont know that parfum. But after your article i decided to buy. Thank you!!

    • Angela says:

      I’m not sure I’d call it “interesting,” but I hope you enjoy it!

  8. Diddlypops says:

    Loved the article, just read it as my Avon was delivered today. What did I treat myself to… FEMME! Lol. On the paper page when I rubbed it I got the grapefruit and it kinda reminded me of a Miss Dior kind of scent. In spritz form though it’s very strong and I detect more peach (not a peach fan) I guess it will wear lovely in the summer though.

    • Angela says:

      Nice timing! I hope you enjoy it this summer.

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