There’s a celebrity category I just discovered. It’s a very small category, and somewhat complicated, This category is for fragrances created by designers who used to be huge Celebrities but are now hugely successful Designers. The fragrance I’m thinking about in particular is Nirvana by Elizabeth and James, a fashion brand created and owned by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, the Olsen Twins.
Yes, the little Olsen twins from the 1990’s era sitcom, Full House, the child-stars who grew up on TV and retired as multi-millionaires with their own company at age 18. They have re-incarnated themselves as designers of sophisticated clothing and accessories, and are now award-winning fashion insiders famous for their “just rolled-out-of-bed” bo-ho look. They own several successful brands:
- The Row, upscale and city-chic, is sold in retailers such as Barney’s and Net-a-Porter online
- OlsenBoye is mass-market, available at JC Penney
- Elizabeth and James, named after their sister and brother, vintage-inspired and androgynous so that pieces mix and are interchangeable, is sold through its own website, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Bloomingdales and others.
Read the Olsen Twin’s amazing story here in Wikipedia.
So what about Nirvana Black? Introduced in 2015 exclusively through Sephora stores, it has a partner, Nirvana White - the two scents reflect the brand’s duality of male and female. Reflecting the Olsens’ minimalist design aesthetic, both Nirvana fragrances are built around only three key notes – the notes form a printed border around the logo on the face of the each package – so this simplicity is obviously an important design element. White is the alluring floral musk with notes of peony, lily-of-the-valley, and vanilla. Black is the sensual, woody scent with notes of violet, sandalwood, and vanilla.
Focusing on three notes without having them fight for dominance or cancel each other out is a challenge for any perfumer, but Pierre Negrin who created luxury fragrances such as Amouage Opus VII, Amouage Interlude Man , and Ralph Lauren Blue, delivered the goods for the twins with Nirvana Black.
Nirvana Black is violet, sandalwood, and vanilla, which happen to be three of my favourite notes, so I guess I was predisposed to love this this fragrance, but wearing it is a much more nuanced experience than three simple notes as it dries down. Described on the website as “an intimate moment captured…” it opens with tender violet, faintly sweet, green and sappy with the promise of spring. I love these opening moments, but the green fades fairly quickly as sandalwood warms up and sweetens the airy violet note so that it becomes sugary. Not sweet, just sugary, the sensation of a crisp coating of sugar rather than baked-in sweetness.
The distinctively creamy and aromatic woodiness of sandalwood creates a soft accord with sweet violet in the heart, which last quite a while, but then the third note, vanilla, enters the scene. Instead of taking the spotlight, vanilla joins the accord and takes it into a new dimension, powdery on the top, dark and lightly spicy underneath, green violet and sandalwood swirling slowly in the middle. Nirvana Black is unusually beautiful, and as the scent dries down, it becomes darker and warmer, musky, with a deeply sensual and intimate quality that goes beyond gender.
Much more than a skin scent, but with a controlled sillage, this scent has a maturity and sophistication that is surprising. Nirvana Black feels like the warmth of uncomplicated love, like feeling the sun from both sides.
Notes: Violet, sandalwood, vanilla.
Parfumeur: Pierre Negrin