Since I have started a series on stratospherically priced perfumes, I feel an obligation to examine an equal number of inexpensive ones. Although the gap between expensive and inexpensive is growing these days, it’s still not hard to come up with lots of good options that don’t cost much.
One such candidate is Karl Lagerfeld’s Sun Moon Stars. It’s an intriguing perfume for a couple of different reasons, but let’s begin with the fact that it was created by Sophia Grosjman, who also did Paris for YSL, Eternity for Calvin Klein, Tresor for Lancome – in short, one of the greats of the perfume world.
Then there is the reported brief for the scent. Lagerfeld reputedly wanted a fragrance that recalled the smell of books. He is by way of being a bibliophile (A rare admission, for whatever it is that makes him what he is, M. Lagerfeld seldom admits to it. He knows the value of appearing both unclassifiable and unpredictable in the world of fashion.) When it came out in 1994, Sun Moon Stars did smell of books, specifically like the cool pages of a newly printed Rizzoli coffee table book. This puts it in sharp contrast to such perfumes as CB I Hate Perfumes In the Library which smells of old books.
The notes make Sun Moon Stars sound like a floriental: freesia, water lily, rose, heliotrope, jasmine, orange blossom, narcissus, sandalwood, amber, musk. Once you smell it, however, you realize that the inspiration was actually Après L’ondée, to my nose a modern Après with a pear note in the beginning. This makes it an interesting perfume for a second reason, and that is, that it is clearly Sophia Grosjman’s take on the perennial classic.
It is fascinating to smell the work of great perfumers performing what you might call the set figures of perfumery, and then expanding on them to choreograph a new perfume of their own. It is also worth noting that at about the same time Lagerfeld was quoted as saying that Guerlain’s Apres was one of his favorite perfumes.
Après L’Ondée is of course also a very melancholy scent, famously so, and perhaps melancholy is at the core of Lagerfeld also. A very absorbing book about Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent during their salad days in the seventies came out a few years ago titled The Beautiful Fall by Alicia Drake. Perhaps it suggests a valid reason or two for Lagerfeldian melancholy
But then again, like so many things written about him, perhaps it is merely a blind alley. Sun Moon Stars may paradoxically say more about a protean personality by actually saying nothing at all.