L’Homme is Prada’s first major fragrance launch for men in four years. Typical of the Milanese fashion house, the new fragrance is handsomely presented in packaging that mimics the brand’s iconic Saffiano leather and an advertising campaign shot by notable fashion photographer Steven Meisel.

Like most leading designer brands, Prada is multi-dimensional. The brand’s seasonal runway collections attract one type of Prada customer and the Luna Rossa Sport collection attracts another. Never the two shall meet. The fragrances operate on similar laws of attraction. Luna Rossa is a feel-good, sporty men’s fragrance that makes no attempt at challenging the status quo whereas the Olfactories Collection appeals to customers who want something less mainstream. Something I admire about the brand and the work of its creative director Miuccia Prada is the synchronicity that exists between the fragrances and everything else that carries the Prada name. Fragrance feels like an integral part of Prada’s creative vision rather than a disconnected afterthought.

Miuccia Prada has a reputation for being one of the fashion industry’s most innovative designers. “Her ability to look at the world from an unconventional vantage point allowed her not only to anticipate, but quite often, to set new trends.” – Prada’s creative ally is Givaudan perfumer Daniela Andrier. With over fifty fragrances together, the pair has created a unique olfactory signature for the brand. A typical Prada fragrance will often contain warm oriental notes of amber and musk, powdery iris, and radiant floral bouquets. Even when traditional fragrance ingredients are used, Andrier is an expert at transforming them into compositions that read light, ephemeral and modern.

For the pair of new releases, La Femme and L’Homme, Miuccia Prada wanted to challenge the notion of gender in fragrance. L’Homme is based on the fougere accord, a harmony of notes that has underpinned a majority of men’s fragrances over the past century. Fused together with this masculine theme are delicate notes of neroli, violet and iris, which mix the codes by which we define what is masculine and feminine in fragrance.

Olfactory impressions:

L’Homme opens with a clean and linear neroli note. This opening stage of the fragrance reminds me of my favourite Dior Homme flanker,Dior Homme Cologne, which Olivier Polge authored in 2007 (very different from the 2013 fragrance Francois Demachy created with the same name). Polge toned down the original’s powdery and gourmand notes and he stacked the top end up with orange blossom – hence the cologne name. Similarly, L’Homme has a classic eau de cologne feel with this prominent neroli note, which is surrounded by violets. Violet can feel old fashioned but here the flower feels modern and even a little bit abstract. It’s a fleeting purple haze that leads to the more tenacious iris note running from the heart of the fragrance down into the base. All the while a dry woody cedar note hums in the background. Pepper gives texture and geranium adds a hint of floral freshness. Geranium is also a keystone in L’Homme’s fougere accord, which is far more demure compared to the chest-beating aromatic fougeres of the 1980s or more recently, Amouage’s Bracken Man. As L’Homme settles on skin, the fougere accord is warmed by Prada’s signature amber note and musk. At the final stage of the dry down, what remains is an elegant amber-fougere that is not overpowering and stays close to the skin.