The Maison Martin Margiela Replica fragrance collection has been available in Europe for a while, but it just arrived in the United States this spring. I've made some strategic visits to Sephora to sniff and spritz (and to request samples!), and I'm ready to share my thoughts on three of them: Flower Market, Beach Walk and Funfair Evening, originally launched in mid-2012. All three fragrances were developed for Maison Martin Margiela by perfumers Jacques Cavallier and Marie Salamagne.
Flower Market "carries the scent of fresh cut flowers in the buckets and vases of a Parisian flower market in 2011," and its composition includes notes of crushed leaves, freesia, sambac jasmine from India, Egyptian jasmine, tuberose, rose from Grasse, peach, cedarwood and oakmoss. I inhaled Flower Market hoping for the leaves and the roses to stand out — but what I got was mostly the freesia and a raw-edged jasmine, the kind that makes me feel slightly queasy. I eventually picked up on the tuberose, which also felt a bit rough and didn't seem to mix well with the weirdly intrusive peach note. Due to this oddly discordant and unfinished effect, Flower Market doesn't smell as sophisticated as it should. Then again, I haven't been to a Parisian flower market since 2003, so maybe things have changed.
Beach Walk seems to be selling particularly well at my local Sephora stores, which makes sense for this time of year, since it is "inspired by a walk in the fresh ocean air of the Corsican beach of Calvi in 1972." It's composed with notes of bergamot, pink pepper, lemon, ylang ylang, Transluzone, heliotrope, coconut milk, musk, cedarwood and benzoin. Basically, this is an attempt to evoke the widely shared olfactory memory of suntan oil and salt air, and it does a competent job, although so many other brands (from prestige to indie) have already successfully bottled this particular smell that Beach Walk can't help but feel a bit redundant. Early in its development, there's an almost-dirty vetiver note that interests me — it reminds me of the boardwalk at certain East Coast beaches — but this element somehow fades away, leaving a more predictable citrus-ozone-coconut blend.
Lastly (for today, at least), we have Funfair Evening, a fragrance that "evokes the sugary lightness of a Santa Monica carnival in 1994" with a composition of petitgrain, sweet apple, pear ester, star anise, neroli, Moroccan rose, tuberose, Egyptian orange blossom, Ambrox, white musk, Tahitian vanilla and caramel. By "caramel," we mean "ethylmaltol," of course. It's one of the dominant notes here, and once again, I wish I smelled more rose (or neroli or orange blossom), because what I ended up wearing was a confection of caramel, apple-flavored hard candy and licorice, dusted all over with a very synthetic musk. It did give me that feeling of a long, hot day at an amusement park, when you might have eaten too many of the wrong things and then ridden some regrettably topsy-turvy ride too soon afterwards...although I'm not sure this is what the creators intended.
In case you haven't been able to guess, I ended up feeling annoyed by these fragrances. I liked Maison Martin Margiela Untitled well enough when it was released; it wasn't my style, but it felt like a smart, minimalist iteration of the "fresh" fragrance trend, and it didn't seem to be insulting anyone's intelligence. I can't really say the same for the Replica line (although, to be fair, I haven't tried the other three fragrances yet). All three feel like dull re-workings of ideas that have already proven to be successful — and, considering these Replicas are priced over $100, you might as well splurge on a travel-size bottle of Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower (if you really want a gorgeous tuberose bouquet), or pay significantly less for Prada Candy (if you're craving a sugary gourmand) or Bobbi Brown Beach (self-explanatory, and a best-seller since 2002).
Or am I missing the point entirely? Have you tried any of these fragrances yet? What did you think?
Maison Martin Margiela Replica Flower Market, Beach Walk and Funfair Evening are available as 100 ml Eau de Toilette ($125 each).