Comme des Garçons’ latest fragrance is called Concrete. But Comme des Garçons says the fragrance isn’t about concrete at all — it’s a deconstructed sandalwood. It’s also supposed to evoke New York City. So, which is it?
None of these, if you ask me. To me, Concrete is a sweet and creamy, yet industrial-smelling fragrance, sort of like warm custard in a wet alley near freshly plastered walls. It’s friendly and easy to like, but also unfamiliar. That combination — easy yet with its own intriguing character — is so rare these days that I’d be surprised if Concrete isn’t one of the year’s hits with perfume lovers.
Nose Nicolas Beaulieu developed Concrete. Comme des Garçons is coy about listing its notes, only adding rose oxide and a reference to the company’s “spice signature” to the “deconstructed sandalwood” its marketing materials tout.
On spraying on Concrete, the first image that comes to my mind is fresh plaster. Plaster has the same chalky creaminess — and isn’t that far from the idea of wet concrete, come to think of it. Embedded in the plaster is sandalwood’s warmth without a particularly woody vibe. The plaster smells like it’s molded on a rod made of surgical steel, but with the intimate and slightly medicinal feel I associate with saffron and oud. And Concrete is sweet. Not sugary sweet or sweet like vanilla or amber, but sweet with a hint of spice, like sandalwood.
Once Concrete has settled a few seconds after spraying it, it doesn’t change much. It has a moderate sillage and lasts about four hours on my skin. I’ve been able to wear Concrete in the morning and shift to something else in the afternoon without worrying about Concrete getting in the way.
It’s impossible for me to impose a gender on Concrete. I think it could be worn comfortably by the most macho or girlish person, as long as that person was willing to chance a fragrance unlike anything else on their dresser.
A discussion of Concrete wouldn’t be complete without mentioning its bottle. Concrete is packaged in the traditional Comme des Garcons flat bottle that lies on its side, only it's encased in a smooth coating of — you guessed it — concrete. The bottle I borrowed for testing even has a few bubbles from where the concrete has dried. To complete the industrial feel, the bottle, in turn, comes in a bubble-wrap pouch inside the box.
Concrete is that gratifying combination of novel and easy that’s so hard to find these days. I don’t “love-it-have-to-have-it” (admittedly, I’m getting jaded), but it’s a pleasure to smell something with so much personality that’s also so welcoming. Don’t just take my word for it, try it yourself and see.
Comme des Garçons Concrete Eau de Parfum is $165 for 80 ml. For information on where to buy it, see Comme des Garçons under Perfume Houses.