Welcome to Tynan Sinks’ new fragrance column, Smells Like Trouble. As Byrdie’s resident fragrance connoisseur, Tynan will be sharing the scents that linger on in his mind, and nose, and clothes.
I think a lot about loyalty in beauty, and more so, truth. How we define it, and if it even exists at all.
The biggest beauty brands are not beauty brands—they are lifestyle brands that happen to sell makeup. Chic pink packaging or the promise of a clean product. It’s not what we’re wearing or even how we look in it, but the fact that we’re using it at all.
A celebrity brand owner or the feigned exclusivity of drop culture often take these products and collections from subpar and elevate them to the hottest release of the season. Beauty makes us feel like we’re a part of something. It appeals to our emotions, which often takes precedence over the quality of whatever we’re applying. What are you pulling out of your bag to touch up with in front your friends? Is it Boy Brow? Trophy Wife? A Lip Kit? Now more than ever, we’re not buying makeup—we’re buying an idea. The price of admission for entry into a lifestyle we can achieve with just one more product.
Now more than ever, we’re not buying makeup—we’re buying an idea. The price of admission for entry into a lifestyle we can achieve with just one more product.
That’s why I love fragrance. In an industry where there are no gods and no masters, fragrance is something you can’t fake. Okay sure, the fragrance industry is not immune to blind brand loyalty, but at the end of the day, the truth is in the juice. You either respond to it or you don’t. You feel it in your gut, as surely as love or hate. It’s not a decision so much as a fact. Whether we love a fragrance or not is instinctual. It’s predetermined.
Fall is the biggest time for fragrance, as it’s when every brand is preparing to drop their newest scent. Fragrances make brands a lot of money, and approaching the holiday season, they becomes a perfect storm of dollar signs. Often, the fanfare of a scent release is better than the scent itself. Millions are poured into campaigns with a celebrity face you end up seeing in magazines and online banners, and billboards. It’s all a lot of build up to a scent that oftentimes smells, well, a lot like everything else.
Arguably the biggest launch of the season is finally upon us: Voce Viva by Valentino.
If you don’t know it, you will, but you definitely know the woman who’s fronting the campaign: Lady Gaga.
I was drawn to this fragrance, but this tidal wave of marketing seemed all too familiar. Big, flashy imagery and a massive celebrity name, all for a scent that might end up being unremarkable. I was ready to be let down. Even when it showed up at my doorstep and I slide it out of its berry red box, I stared at the little gold bottle, ready for…well, not much.
Which is why I was delighted the it hit my skin and, in an instant, I knew. It was a simple, undeniable truth. I loved it.
On my skin, Voce Viva is a linear scent, meaning that instead of evolving through the top, middle, and base notes over time, it smells the same throughout wear. If that sounds like a negative, it’s not. Sure, I love when a scent takes me on a little journey from morning to night, that’s half the fun. But I’m just so goddamn enthralled by this scent that I don’t mind that it rides out throughout the day in the same way.
Voce Viva is a masterclass in the rule of thirds as it pertains to scent. Bergamot, mandarin, and ginger spritz your skin like opening a can of a Fresca on a hot August day, equal parts sweet and tang. White florals, which usually repel me, blossom in the middle, taking up space while still being soft and airy, like a fluffy white cloud in a blue summer sky, or a comforter billowing off the side of a daybed. At the base, a moss accord, sandalwood, and vanilla anchor the scent.
Three different, yet equally prominent ideas come together for a scent that’s supple, plush, and smooth. It’s lovely. I keep coming back to it. It’s not the type of fragrance I usually love but I really do love this. More so, it’s not something that I’m familiar with, for better or worse. It doesn’t immediately makes me think of something else, and I think that’s an accomplishment in itself.
It’s bright but not altogether sweet, like an orange wine meant sipped slowly. It has an ambient warmth to it, like pavement still radiating heat from the afternoon sun at dusk. It’s a full, round scent—not heavy, but consistent. It envelops you. It’s a joy to wear and discover over and over again.
There is a truth in fragrance that you don’t get anywhere else in beauty. You know what you like, but you can never judge a fragrance by its notes or its structure, only by its scent. It will humble you, over and over again, by taking what you know (or think you know) and turning it on its head, for better or worse.
I’m looking forward to seeing the life of this fragrance, the response from the masses, which I’m sure will be great. There may be nothing new under the sun, but there are still many, many things that can be good. The contrarian in me turned his nose up at this scent before even smelling it, but once I had, I knew I had found one of my main scents for fall. I think you will, too.
Valentino Voce Viva is available today at select retailers.