Comme des Garcons Daphne

...that's what I call a Hollywood Harem!

Comme des Garçons is a fashion brand that tick-tocks wildly between dour avant-garde and whimsy, sometimes in the very same item. Clothes-wise, for instance, you might choose between an ass-tumor dress (just try to make those hip bustles look flattering) and "bare feet” shoes the color of a Caucasian cadaver, complete with cartoon-drawn, red-painted toenails.

Built-in pedicures protect against fungal infections.

Move over to Comme des Garçons’ fragrances, and there’s a tantalizingly schizophrenic array that ranges from the “dust on a hot light bulb” of Odeur 71 to the frozen violets of Stephen Jones. And let’s not overlook the world’s-religions-in-a-bottle Incense Series.

With Comme, it’s “expect the unexpected”. And since CdG is so gosh-darn unexpected, what I REALLY didn’t expect was Daphne, a proper “vintage lady” perfume. Psych!

Daphne is the collaboration between hip British heiress/couture quirkster Daphne Guinness and perfumer Antoine Lie. Stuffed with boldly assertive notes including incense, tuberose, saffron and oud, it’s an “around the world in 80 ingredients” scent. Ms Guinness’ intention with Daphne was to smell-check some of her favorite places in the world: France, Spain, and the Middle East. The result is a dress-up scent that’s dramatic and a little high-strung.

As soon as I first smelled Daphne’s clouds of incense rolling off my skin, I instantly wanted to buy it -- which is rare for me. The tuberose gives this eau de parfum an old-fashioned va-va-voom, which is emphasized by jasmine and rose. But then there’s all that incense, kinked up with saffron and salty-leather oud. That’s what I call a Hollywood Harem!

However, my impulse-buy neurons stopped firing when the harem morphed into a smackdown between a penny sweet shop and the Ladies Auxiliary Club circa 1962. Daphne’s orange and vanilla nudged everything towards candy, and the florals wilted into a musty, treble-y mush. Daphne had gone from pleasingly "old-fashioned" to downright frumpy.

Trying to recapture that first rush and eager for insights, I cruised Octavian Coifan’s erudite blog, 1000 Fragrances. There, he called Daphne “a hyper sweet powdery fragrance with an extraordinary bug-spray power”. Not a fan, then.

Happier tidings were sounded over at Now Smell This, where Angela found “its warmth, complexity, and femme fatale vibe...irresistible.”

See? That was the Daphne I knew and hankered after! So why was I smelling like Gladys taking the minutes of the Ladies Auxiliary meeting?

But when I smelled Daphne's lingering incense on my clothes the next day, I wanted to experience it all over again. I’m thoroughly addled. For now, I’m just dating my sample and holding off on a full bottle commitment. Although having reapplied Daphne in the course of writing this review, I’m swooning anew. Straighten your wig, Gladys -- we’re off to the harem...again!

Daphne is available at LuckyScent and Comme des Garçons boutiques, from $150 for 50 ml

Photo credits:

CdG shoes via
Elvis still from "Harum Scarum"


  1. I wanted to love this, too. It ended up smelling like bubble gum on me.

  2. You're not the first person I've heard with the bubble gum damnation re Daphne. I think I'm focusing so hard on the bits on want to love that perhaps I'm experiencing bubble gum denial. I will admit to candy.

    I coincidentally ran into someone who works at Scent Bar last night when I was still drenched with Daphne after reviewing it, and she sniffed appreciatively and said, "Mmm, what are you wearing? I smell patchouli!"

    (I somehow managed not to tune into the patchouli, either, and I love patchouli.)

    She was very surprised to hear that it was Daphne, as it's not fave of hers.

    "It doesn't smell like that on me," she harrumphed.

    If Daphne were a little less throat-clearing sweet, it would be called "Katie" instead of "Daphne". As it is, I'm still undecided.

  3. Katie -- Patchouli Luxe is a good example for me of exactly this kind of frustrated reaction to CdG fragrances. I love it right out of the bottle, then the immortelle note kicks in and I don't like it at all, yet I keep getting whiffs throughout the day of what I originally loved about it at first blush, so I will myself into denial over its unflattering character traits in order to keep the romance alive.

    Ditto to the frozen space violets of the Stephen Jones collaboration -- half of me pines for it, the other half revolts at the idea.

    Good luck with the Daphne. It sounds like it's got you hooked, for better or for worse.

  4. Oh my god, Nathan! We're having disfunctional relationships with our perfumes!

  5. I'm having a dysfunctional relationship with that video. Part of me is mesmerized by the dreamlike disconnection, melancholy and mystery (it's very reminiscent of Darren Aronofsky's film "The Fountain") and part of me feels a mounting anxiety about the desolation depicted. Is it an ad for Daphne? Or just a video that has become associated with it? I must say it is an excellent visual (synesthetic) representation of the olfactory experience of CDG fragrances. CDG 3 is the sibling to CDG Stephen Jones, the art direction for that one was an imaginary space flower, too, encountered in the vacuum of solitude, beautiful but also evoking the longing for a real thing now almost forgotten. This video could equally represent the experience of CDG White: the white ashes of burnt flowers and spices falling on snow. Replace the barren branches with Gothic stonework and you've got Avignon.

    Haunting, beautiful, disconcerting. Too much of that and I could get all Sylvia Plath on you need a dosage adjustment ;)

    P.S. I would love to see a regular Nathan and Katie pen pal exchange...

  6. Okay, this answers some of my questions: at is a "making of" video in which Daphne Guiness explains the idea behind the short film. She sees experiencing scent as akin to "time travel". Thanks for a thought provoking posting!

  7. Thanks, Scott, for the additional info on Daphne's cryptic "commercial". I, too experience mounting anxiety as the eerie soundtrack builds and the camera descends into the tangle of gray branches. The last thing I expect to see is an escapee from a baby shampoo ad.

    I agree that the film is a better fit for the more abstract of CdG's offerings.

  8. I am glad Scott questioned the video first! It definitely evokes a Sylvia Plath sensibility. (can I use that in the same sentence? ha)I thought some jazz music set my teeth on edge but I think this music beats that by a mile. And if this fragrance is meant to allow time travel, then this is a trip I won't make!

  9. Okay, apparently I'm a closet Sylvia Plath freak, because I *love* that video. Maybe that explains my dysfunctional relationship with my fragrances. ;)

    And Scott is right, it has a very Aronofsky feel to it -- more about sheer visual expression than intelligible message. The first 3/4's of the video is a terrific depiction of the CdG line as a whole, and I burst out laughing at your baby shampoo refugee comment, since you're absolutely correct. With that pretty blonde ending tacked on, it's like two completely different videos mashed into one.