Mona di Orio has had a hard time of it. She received catastrophically bad reviews from that de facto dean of perfume critics Luca Turin who described her perfume Oiro as : “Third world air freshener for the price of a flight to where they could sell it for 25 cents.” Somebody definitely got out of the wrong side of the coffin that evening.
It was intriguing, though. I mean, if something is that bad, it has to at least be original in its egregiousness. So I ordered a couple of samples, namely Oiro and Chamarre, and was surprised. They came in a bundle of others including, Lubin’s Idole, Parfumerie Generale’s Cologne Grand Siecle, Comme des Garcons Luxe Champaca, Knize’s Knize Sec, and Solange’s Stoned. The di Orios I put aside as likely to be a fumic screamfest, and I wanted, shall we say, control and composure before I confronted them.
As it turned out, they were the only things in the packet to hold my attention at all. Everything else was nice, but definitely something I had smelt before, usually better done. The Knize was built on a strident synthetic that I really disliked and that wasn’t there when I originally smelled it in the eighties. What of Mona, then?
Chamarre, which means richly ornamented, brocaded, embroidered, the sartorial equivalent of glorious excess, is very powdery. If it reminded me of anything, it reminded me of Guerlain’s Cuir Beluga. It has that kind of ultra dry, going to turn white and brush off the skin like talcum, tactile quality. Here is the difference, though – where Cuir is sweet with the marzipan smell of heliotrope, Chamarre is almost salty, there is an undercurrent that reminds you of the saline note in clean human skin.
That, it turns out, is where you get to the fascinating part of Ms. Di Orio. She is interested in flesh. That’s the theme running through most of her fragrances I’d guess – carnality.
Oiro did nothing but confirm this opinion. It featured an obviously natural jasmine note. I’ve smelled it before, in the first version of Diane Von Furstenberg’s Tatiana. Oiro is a jasmine bouquet and that’s interesting as a start, and hard to find now. Most niche firms create jasmine soliflors and those are usually like shock jock radio, all talk all the time, with the jasmine hogging the mike.
Where Oiro does come close to Howard Stern is that like him, it knows how to talk dirty. The indolic side of jasmine is uppermost at all times, and after a while it dawns on me that this reminds me of a uniquely French kind of conversation, much loved by ordinary Frenchmen, the conversation about ass.
I admit this is a hard concept for Americans to comprehend because what we do about ass is to kick it (if we want to get somewhere) or kiss it (if we want to get somewhere) or haul it (if we want to get somewhere) but when it comes to asses, in our minds they don’t combine well with stasis, let alone analysis. What Oiro does is to sit on its ass and parler cul for some hours.
In fact it was still talking a largely blue streak this morning when I got up.
Would I wear these myself? Sure. No problemo in the buffo. Dressed, I don’t know if I could pull it off with conviction (not being Ru Paul), but I’d try. There’s nothing wrong with flesh per se, it’s just that, like indulging in public nudity at rock concerts, our contemporaries don’t want to be reminded of it. Flesh it seems, despite the fact that we’re made of it, press it, allegedly want to see people in it, is out of fashion these days. If you’re nude, you’re naked, and not the other way round.
Too bad for Ms. Di Orio.