It seems fitting to inaugurate a perfume blog by discussing my earliest love, the perfume that spawned my (expensive and probably indulgent) interest in fragrances. It is by no means a unique first-perfume (I had painfully dull taste at the time), but to its credit, it has significantly marked the collective adolescent memories of thousands of women, which is no small feat for a fragrance housed in a truncated water bottle.
Ralph, by Ralph Lauren. (If you stare at the letters for too long, the oddity of its consonants becomes troubling.) Its central accords* are fruity (apple, mandarin) and floral (freesia, magnolia, iris)**. As a movie, it would open on a beach with a breeze. The sun would immediately impart a headache.
As a teenage scent, it’s undeniably youthful, fresh. However, and almost immediately, Ralph turns saccharine, borderline sickening — the way that innocence and naïveté can fast become a source of irritation. Fortunately, the target audience is young. The Internet seems to bracket them at 15-25, but I would say 12-18. When you’ve seen body hair and you’re old enough to vote, the idyllic promise of Ralph should start to fade.
Launched in 2000, this perfume’s arrival was timed perfectly with the reign of …Baby One More Time era Britney Spears: fresh-faced and sweet, with an undercurrent of emergent sexuality. Not a girl, not yet a woman: this would have been a perfect tagline for the perfume. The early 2000s seemed to be a period in which postadolescent girls rushed to discover, or uncover, their own bodily depths. Expectedly, as the initial target matured, the line expanded to fit their profiles. Ralph Cool, Hot, Rocks and Wild appeared in the decade that followed – perfumes as mentors.
Another perfume that falls within this profile is DKNY’s Be Delicious, which was launched in 2009, although I could have sworn it was much earlier than that. To a twenty-something, it seems dated, like Ralph — yet its legacy is far less extensive. Playing with the cultural familiarity of Ralph‘s sweet accords (Be Delicious is also floral – magnolia, lily of the valley – and fruity, like its bottle suggests), the perfume spoke to the newer generation of women at the cusp of their sexuality. It makes sense: an apple, after all, is where innocence was first lost.
* Per Wikipedia, “Perfume is described in a musical metaphor as having three sets of notes, making the harmonious scent accord. The notes unfold over time, with the immediate impression of the top note leading to the deeper middle notes, and the base notes gradually appearing as the final stage. These notes are created carefully with knowledge of the evaporation process of the perfume.”
** For full descriptions of a perfume’s note pyramid, check out Basenotes.