Back when we wrote about our favorite perfumes of 2015, I mentioned the recent proliferation of perfumes that evoke lipstick or other cosmetics — not a new idea, I pointed out, but a trend I can actually enjoy. One example I mentioned was Maison Martin Margiela Replica Lipstick On, which I kept meaning to try and I've finally been able to sample. (Earlier last year, I reviewed a few of the original fragrances from this collection — reviews here and here.)
The description for Lipstick On reads, "Within the intimacy of an apartment, a woman applies the finishing touches to her makeup. A cloud of rice powder lingers around the intensity of crimson lipstick. Lipstick On evokes an age-old ritual in a sophisticated, modern fragrance." Its composition includes top notes of bergamot, heliotrope and neroli; middle notes of orange flower, iris and galbanum; and base notes of tonka bean, bourbon vanilla and patchouli.
I don't know about "age-old" — Lipstick On is assigned a reference-point date of 1952, which was before my time but surely not ancient history. Still, I can see how this perfume is a nod to 1950s feminine glamour and a postwar return to luxury. It's dry and sweet, and its notes tumble out in sequence, just as promised: a breath of citrus, an almond-dough heliotrope, some candied orange-blossom, a powder-puff effect from the tonka and vanilla and a base of creamy woods (not patchouli). There are also hints of raspberry and violet along the way. These notes seem to pop out individually, rather than weaving together as they should. Lipstick On makes me smile, because I happen to love lipstick-inspired perfumes, but it still feels a bit paint-by-numbers to me. Its staying power is about average for an Eau de Toilette.
When I reviewed some of the earlier Maison Martin Margiela Replica scents, I opined that they felt "like dull re-workings of ideas that have already proven to be successful — and, considering these Replicas are priced over $100, you might as well splurge on [the originals]." As much as I'm enjoying my sample of Lipstick On, I'd have to say the same thing. If it's the overall concept that appeals to you, you could opt for the more classically elegant, smoothly constructed Chanel Misia (which has a suspiciously similar list of notes); if you're seeking the violet-pastille scent of vintage cosmetics, try L'Artisan Drôle de Rose or Diptyque Rosaviola. Heliotrope-lovers should head straight for A Lab on Fire What We Do in Paris is Secret.
Basically, although I do wish that the Replica line were available in smaller bottles so that I might own just a bit more Lipstick On, it's just never going to rival Frédéric Malle Lipstick Rose in my affections. If it opens other women's minds to the possibility of "lipstick perfumes," I'm glad; otherwise, I'm still feeling like the "Replica" brand-name is just a little too accurate.
Maison Martin Margiela Lipstick On is available as 100 ml Eau de Toilette ($125).