Manifesto by Yves Saint Laurent (YSL)

Get a whiff of this:

It’s 2007 and you’re an intelligent but naturally impressionable teenager watching your first large-scale teen beauty pageant on TV, much to your mother’s disgust. You have argued that you are mature enough to make rational decisions about the media and how it can manipulate the minds of youth, and not convinced by the “old enough” claim, but impressed enough by your choice of words in the latter part of your plea, she concedes. Your eyes are glued to the screen and you watch with delight as the these young but very glamorous, sophisticated, all-grown-up and confident-looking beauties parade around the stage, and then it is Q&A time. Miss South Carolina takes the stage.

The question: “Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can’t locate the US on a world map. Why do you think this is?”
The response: “I personally believe that US Americans are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation don’t have maps and, uh, I believe that our education like such as South Africa and, er, the Iraq everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should… our education over here in the US should help the US, Ira-, or should help South Africa, it should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future. … I’m sure that all makes sense in context.”

You turn off the TV, and say to your mother. “Sorry mom, that was disappointing. But I can’t say it wasn’t entertaining.”

Well, in defense of Miss South Carolina (see the video here), she was probably extremely nervous (I mean these are kids, after all – that’s a lot of pressure!), and later it was discovered that she did indeed have the ability to answer the question in a more-than-satisfactory manner, but sadly, this is not the case when YSL’s Manifesto is used as an analogy.

The creators of this fragrance wanted to create a Manifesto of Femininity whose fragrance would evoke “an attitude, a burst of laughter, a tone of voice, a presence.” The TV ad for the scent shows a lovely Jessica Chastain showing off the luminosity, charm, grace, power, and audacity attributed to the scent, but sadly the declaration of independence the perfume is supposed to make seems somewhat lacking in the juice itself. An assertion in which one watches what one says so as not to piss off any authorities, supports the status quo, and avoids calling attention to oneself strikes me as a more convincing manifesto for what the scent’s pretty-but-just-from-afar bottle contains. When I used to think of YSL in my younger years, I would think of bold, timeless, renegade perfumes full of character and luxury from different eras, such as Rive Gauche, Opium, and Paris.

This current top seller, however, proves again, after its previous releases of Parisienne and Elle, that YSL is falling prey to mainstream commercialism. Manifesto fails miserably to give its wearer the wow factor it promises. Not to say it’s a poorly-constructed composition. It’s just that it doesn’t bring on anything exciting, sophisticated, original, modern, rebellious, daring, or bold… or even oriental, for that matter, and it’s classified as a floral oriental! And this is exactly what the marketing of the fragrance said it would do, so I have to admit confusion and disappointment at the sales pitch. Perhaps I’d respect Manifesto a lot more had it been named something less misleading.

This is all not to say I dislike it. Manifesto is may not be unique, but I don’t think it’s that predictable. At first spritz in the store, I got a generous, bubbly burst of tart and juicy blackcurrants, stems still attached, which is perhaps why it had me at first sniff and why I ended up with a wee bottle of the stuff in my duty free cart at the airport. I love Crème de Cassis, and this is what the sticky, jammy top notes remind me of, along with some fizzy champagne. Kir Royale anyone? I found out later that once the top notes fade, Manifesto’s loud and friendly laugh turns into a mild whisper as the sheer, musky jasmine and lily of the valley at its heart come out and subtly do their thing. It has a clean patchouli at the base smothered with some creamy vanilla, sugar, and wood, and there is also a slight marzipan kick to it. It’s a sweet gourmand of a perfume, so if Flowerbomb, Jimmy Choo, Prada Candy, or Angel aren’t your thing, this likely won’t be either. As for me, yes, I have a sweet tooth. Umm, you might also compare Manifesto to Dior Addict, Miss Dior Cherie, and Chanel Coco Noir, which are also all nice fragrances, but just slightly uninspired and a tad generic.

Manifesto is an easy-to-wear, non-offensive (unless you drown yourself in it), office-friendly fragrance, and this is probably why I’ve used so much of it compared to other bottles in my collection, despite liking it nowhere near as much as some of the others in its company. Though somewhat run-of-the-mill after the top notes fade, it is a warm and comforting blend with decent lasting power and sillage, so I grab for it a lot, particularly in the fall and winter. As a sweet scent, this fragrance should please a younger crowd of perfumistas. I’m not saying that sweeter fragrances are for younger people, it’s just that consumer statistics apparently sway that way.

However, to reiterate, the marketing campaign for Manifesto again seems amiss in this regard. Jessica simply looks too powerful, mature, romantic, intelligent… and too pale-skinned to be the right face for this scent. Someone conveying a more bubbly and youthful look is required, me thinks. Clearly, like many others, I am not kosher with the contradictory message YSL sent out with this scent, but overall, again, I indeed do think it smells nice, and it grabs compliments. As it’s an appealing-to-the-masses, vanilla ice cream and cupcake concoction, you probably cannot go wrong with this little number should you need to buy someone, or yourself, a gift.

From Fragrantica:

  • OLFACTORY GROUP: oriental floral
  • MAIN ACCORDS: balsamic, vanilla, woody, aromatic, powdery
  • TOP NOTES: black current, bergamot, green notes
  • MIDDLE NOTES: lily of the valley, jasmine
  • BASE NOTES: vanilla, sandalwood, cedar, tonka bean

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