I felt like the next story to tell was one of this indulgence of pleasure and luxury, because that’s what decadence is. And I had to tell that in a way that was irreverent, which is very much part of who I am and how we tell stories, which is with an offhanded, irreverent sense of glamour, rather than first-degree glamour — something a bit more unconventional.1
So says Marc Jacobs, who has released a new feminine fragrance called Decadence for fall. Decadence was developed by perfumer Annie Buzantian and is a "sensual, luxurious, woody fragrance" with top notes of plum, iris flower and saffron; heart notes of Bulgarian rose, jasmine sambac and orris; and a base of vetiver, papyrus woods and liquid amber.
When I spritzed Decadence on a blotter at my local Macy's and took a deep whiff, I gasped and recoiled (to the amusement of the security guard keeping an eye on things). It opens with something sharp and harsh that I can only describe as "knitting needle up the nostril." It is some kind of aldehyde? I do not know. Despite this experience, I requested a sample of Decadence at the nearby Sephora and tested it for a few days.
Fortunately, that piercing introduction — like the feedback shriek from a microphone when someone first steps up to it — fades out after a few minutes on skin. The saffron and plum top notes become noticeable. The jasmine and other florals in the heart are whipped together into something subtle but still synthetic. The base gradually surges up to take over the composition, and it's a contemporary woody amber that also nods to the idea of a very contemporary chypre. The dry down is a touch vanillic, which should please many wearers. Overall the whole thing is pleasant, if a bit blunt and linear. Decadence reminds me slightly of J. Crew No. 31, with rougher edges. Actually, it seems like a few other high-end department store fragrances I've tried, but I can't seem to remember exactly which. (If you've tried it and it reminds you of anything else, feel free to comment!)
In a recent profile of Marc Jacobs in The New York Times, the author noted, "Marc himself says he doesn’t have a signature: There is no one silhouette, style or technique you can point to and say 'that’s Marc.' There is, however, a recognizable Marc Jacobs woman."2 If you follow fashion, you can probably name one of Jacobs's longtime muses — Sophia Coppola, Winona Ryder, et al. And yet — there's a Victoria's Secret Angel in the Decadence ads? I never would have nominated Adriana Lima as the face of any Marc Jacobs product. The visuals seem more like something from Gucci or Dolce & Gabbana; again, somewhat generic.
As a fragrance, Decadence doesn't feel at all "irreverent," and it falls short of truly "indulgent" or "glamourous." However, it over-compensates for its failure to deliver on Marc's original promise with its packaging, a bottle designed to resemble a handbag with a (faux) python flap, a gold chain, and a silky black tassel. It's not the first perfume bottle shaped like a purse (remember Anna Sui Dreams?), but it's certainly the most lavishly realized.
Okay, okay; I'm probably not the target customer for Decadence. That much is clear. If, however, you're a fan of Daisy and Lola and you're ready to graduate to a perfume with more depth and richness, possibly for evening wear, this one may be worth a try. And if you just want to collect the purse bottle, that's as good a reason as any to pick up Decadence.
Marc Jacobs Decadence is available as 30 ($70), 50 ($95) and 100 ($120) ml Eau de Parfum. (Incidentally, the 30 ml size does not include a tassel.)
1. Via Women's Wear Daily, 6/2/2015.
2. Via Who Is Marc Jacobs? in the New York Times. The articles goes on to describe the archetypal "Marc Jacobs woman" this way: "She appears more out of time than out of place: Her skirt is calf-length and conservative with unsexy heels, but her T-shirt is sequined and see-through. Or she’s wearing polka dots with broderie anglaise and dirty sneakers, or she’s dressed like a disco queen in Daria glasses. She has an arsenal of Peter Pan collars and colored furs and brooches, but her hair looks like it was cut in the dark and her handbag matches nothing exactly."
To me, he always seems to be trying way too hard. I can’t think of him without remembering the black lace dress over white shorts with rhinestone buckled pilgrim shoes, or more well-oiled skin than shown by all the other designers put together. And yet, he has some of the best perfume bottles.
I actually do enjoy his various Daisy bottles and I love the Mod Noir bottle.
I miss 1990s Marc, when he seemed shy and weirded out and he had long hair and baggy clothes. lol.
I remember that Marc.
People do change, but….
I think he had “help” changing.
The Lola bottles are cute, too.
Great review Jessica! I absolutely Love Decadence. On me it is incredibly sweet and I find it to be a sexy fragrance, although that is subjective. I will share two comments I have received from young men. the first was ” you smell like sugar, I like it” and the second was ” why do I smell candy” like I said very sweet, but also sultry.
Very nice reactions! It definitely has some sweetness as it develops — but not as much sweetness as Flowerbomb, for example.
FWIW I found it very sweet as well–I didn’t try it on skin because the tester already smelled more sweet than I can handle! Glad it’s found someone more up to the task (and I totally see how it might be a winner with the young men!)
I thought the scent was pretty ok, very right now. But I really don’t like the bottle. It tries so hard that it ends up beeing boring.
I will add that the large bottle is not that cute, and is a little clumsy feeling.
I completely agree. The 1.7 bottle is fun, but the 3.4 just looks tacky.
Thank you! I am not alone! I just don’t see the appeal of the bottle. I am sure many will like it though.
I still really like Daisy… enough that I’ve used up a mini and keep contemplating a small spray bottle, if I can find one.
Hated Dot, hate Honey – I wonder if I might get on okay with this, though. I don’t mind aldehydes.
I like Daisy, and now our oldest niece is wearing it, which makes me smile!
Dot and Honey were pretty unmemorable for me, despite the adorable bottles. Decadence and I are actually getting along ok after the initial 10-15 minutes. It’s still not all it’s cracked up to be…but you should try it when you have a chance!
Many reviewers say this one is another one La Vie est Belle influenced fragrance. Could you comment this?
Tried Valentino Donna the other day, and it is also a LVEB clone. So boring situation at the market now…
I don’t find it similar to La Vie est Belle — that one had more iris and was much smoother, and more similar to Angel (but tuned waaaaaay down) or Flowerbomb. This one is woodier and has a noticeable plum note.
Haven’t tried Valentino Donna yet!
After just finishing Chandler Burr’s The Perfect Scent, I now view these declarations from designers, extra cynicism and extreme side-eye.
Still, I’ve given this a sniff and it’s terrible. Thin, chemical, an unnecessary. It’s like they spent most of the budget on the development of the bottle – which is admittedly cute – and at the last minute remembered they needed actual juice to put in said bottle. #nomaam
I love the meaninglessness of that statement. Decadence is the indulgence of pleasure (and luxury). What exactly does that mean? He was using the language of the press release but he made it sound even more jumbled and empty.
Am I the only one not impressed with the bottle? I guess its just not my style. And Jessica, you lost me with the note “iris”. I have tried and tried and tried to give iris a chance, but it comes off smelling like urine on me (YUCK!). Even though it was mentioned that this might be one of the more mature fragrances from MJ, I still can see teens flocking to this.
Well, I wouldn’t categorize it as an Iris Fragrance — the florals all sort of merge together! So don’t let that put you off it.
You got further than me, Jessica. That top note was so brutal that I threw away the blotter after maybe 2 minutes.
One of my friends (non-perfumista) described that topnote on the blotter as “like some cleaning product that [she] smelled in all the public bathrooms on [her] last trip to Paris.” lol.
Saw the bottle at Nordstrom, popped open the top and didn’t bother to sniff it. Now, I would not refuse a mini of this…
I have a mini of Anna Sui Dreams, come to think of it. I don’t even wear the fragrance that often…I just like to look at it! So cute.
I think he lost his way fragrance-wise when the original Marc Jacobs was relegated to the back burner or attic and Essence and Blush were dropped. I liked all three of those (loved Essence) and they all had more presence and value than the current stuff.
Agree re: original Marc Jacobs. Loved that one. Didn’t get much exposure to Blush and none at all to Essence.
Also like Daisy, but prefer Chanel Chance Eau Tendre
I like Daisy and even some of its flankers, but it’s not me. I have bought them as gifts for 13 year old great-niece who was outgrowing her Justice scents.
Blush was my signture fragrance, pre- perfumista day’s, i was so excited to win a partial bottle on ebay, and i do still like it,
but its a bit thin on it’s own, i think i’ll experiment layering it with other jasmine perfumes.
That original was so nice! — I guess Mod Noir picked up the white floral theme too, but the original MJ felt more like a proper perfume.
Test-drove this scent on 3 separate occassions at a local department store. Partly because I wanted to disprove what my nose kept identifying each time the liquid landed on my skin: a dead-ringer for Axe White Label Night dry deodorant spray. Granted, there’s depth in Decadence that’s wholly absent from Axe, as one would hope. (Though, the aluminum-tainted smoke cloud that emits from the Axe canister sort of obliterates any chance of detecting note-complexity in the product.) I also thought of Decadence as the louder, brasher decendent of Estee Lauder’s Sensuous Noir, subtracting SN’s keynote pine and adding sugar. I took it on the chin on another site for suggesting the next association, but there’s something in Decadence that I find derivative of E & J’s Nirvana Black. NB lists only about 3 notes, Decadence lists way more and probably only one of those does it have it common with NB (vanilla?). Nevertheless, Decadence, at some point in its drydown on my skin, tosses a ghost of NB around me and it makes me miss having a FB of NB all the more. Decadence, for all its abundant notes and good-grief longevity, makes NB seem all the more elegant in its simplicity. But that’s just me. I’m not sure if any of the 5 senses are as subjective as scent. And I imagine after such a long season of syrupy-sweet department store scents, Decadence will be like a breath of fresh air for many.
I recently re-discovered Guerlain’s Idylle- had originally dismissed it, not understanding that it is not necessary, indeed would be very boring if every Guerlain had to be a powerhouse, a la Shalimar, Mitsouko, etc. The balance T. Wasser executed in creating such a delicate, but not unsubstantial fragrance has made me think of him as a genius instead of the guy who turned my Shalimar pink. Reorienting my sense of smell to the subtleties that lie within the numerous layers of Idylle, each layer as sheer as chiffon, makes inhaling a fragrance such as Decadence feel like I’m being tackled to the ground by an NFL linebacker. That said, I can think of a time or two when I’ve reveled in the experience of being tackled to the ground, so who knows. I think the bath and body products for Decadence should be awesome and could make terrific base products for layering lighter scents atop. Of course there’s always Axe White Label Night…
Now I need to find Decadence to try and ALSO re-smell Idylle!
You’re righ t– Decadence lasts, and lasts, and lasts!
Great review – the “knitting needle” was so apt I laughed aloud. Great way to start the day. I don’t know what to make of this frag – another case of so much work put into the bottle and not so much in the perfume itself. The needle for me was a very acidic pear like a vile mouth puckering candy we have in the UK called Pear Drops – designed apparently to make you smell like you are radiating ketones.
A long time after that the drydown was ok but it was long wait full of meh. I will pass on this despite being a sucker for a cute bottle.
So much work and money must have gone into that bottle! I’d love to see a pie chart of the actual costs…
I actually enjoyed it! There is a little bit of skank in it that appeals to me. And the bottle screams Joan Collins!
I love that — Joan Collins is a perfect analogy!
I find it interesting. And my coworker said it is similar to Rossellini’s “Manifesto”. Is anyone here who remembers this fragrance?
It was green, fresh, with basil, and really special.
Yes, it was good.
Oh, I had forgotten that I remember that one. it was very special.
I remember Manifesto! One of the few celebrity fragrances that has ever made sense to me. She had a short-lived cosmetics line, too!
However, I don’t smell any similarity in Decadence…
I just tried this at Ulta. Yes, I got the knitting-needle-up-the-nose experience and then the reeeeaaaally sweet fruity notes, accompanied by what my nose interpreted as sour frankincense, very similar to the note that made me scrub off Pharrell’s GIRL fragrance. There’s apparently some aromachemical that I can’t stand, and it’s in both this and GIRL. That said, it did die down in Decadence and now I have some sort of sweet woody notes left. All in all, not a pleasant experience, though I did get some nice brow powder while I was there.
We had very similar experiences with its development, although that particular aromachemical doesn’t seem to bug me too much! and at least you got a good brow product out of that visit to Ulta.
I come across Decadence frequently on nights out. I think I remember catching a whiff of this six times in one night. and on another night I walked by three separate groups of people in one bar on the way to the toilets and was hit in the face by Decadence as I passed by each of them. I’m not a fan of original Decadence but there is a limited edition gold bottle I came across in Debenhams that was on offer for nearly half price before Christmas. so I snapped it up because the bottle is glorious! and it also smells how I imagined Decadence should smell and is less harsh. and according to the sales assistant it has champagne in it. fancy! but it only comes in 100ml so my after thought was “I’ll never get through all this before it goes off” because to me it’s not really a day fragrance. so I layer this with Illamasqua Freak Scarab for nights out as I can’t always tolerate Decadence on its own and I don’t want to smell like everyone else