John Varvatos’ target audience for the Star USA line, clothing and fragrance, is “adults” (men in their 20s and beyond), but the effect of the name “Star USA” coupled with the new fragrance’s container — part beer bottle (note the metal-spring cap), part subway token (top) and part “microphone” — is more ‘Adolescent Avon’ than ‘Modern Metro-Man.’ (The bottle does fit with the Star USA m.o.: “being a little off.”1)
Star USA was developed by perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux and includes notes of red ginger, juniper berries, cédrat, blue spruce, cardamom, osmanthus, vetiver, Belambre and tonka bean. Star USA starts off with a sheer, very mainstream (verging on generic) accord of citrus, ginger (zingy, but fleeting) and juniper-spruce. The opening is crisp and a tad menthol-y. I don’t detect any osmanthus (too bad!), but there is a hint of cardamom in Star USA’s early and mid-development.
Judging from past Varvatos perfumes, I assume the designer or his creative team — or Flores-Roux (a Givaudan perfumer) — adores Belambre and Serenolide2 (two Givaudan fragrance molecules that, in our simple times, can almost create a ‘perfume’ on their own when combined). Belambre and Serenolide smell of (non-specific) wood and sweet, fruity-floral musk (not feminine at all). Star USA’s base smells of these notes — there’s light orange blossom, maybe some “citron”-musk and wood. Flores-Roux also developed John Varvatos Artisan and Artisan Black, and when I sniffed Star USA, I immediately recognized a “family” resemblance; Star USA reminds me especially of Artisan Black.
Varvatos wanted Star USA to “take a risk and push the walls out and do something different,”3 but Star USA is just a clean, “nice” (inoffensive) perfume for men. The only way Star USA strongly differs from recent Varvatos perfumes is the bottle design (other Varvatos fragrances for men come in flask-shaped bottles). As for the other aim: to create a classic fragrance with “the lasting appeal” of “Chanel No. 5”? I’ll be kind and just say: no comment.
Star USA is the type of department store scent that will probably appeal to a wide audience — everyone from teens to grandfathers. That’s its strength…and weakness (if you like distinctive perfumes).
John Varvatos Star USA is available in 50 ($55) and 100 ($70) ml Eau de Toilette.
1. Women's Wear Daily, 7/8/2011.
2. You’ll recognize Belambre and Serenolide if you’ve smelled either of Varvatos’ Artisan fragrances.
3. Women's Wear Daily, 7/8/2011.