Misia is an evocation of the stage underneath ballet dancer’s careful and feather-like feet. Misia too moves gracefully like a ballet dancer, with its oscillations between each movement perfectly and carefully fine tuned. When smelled, I am taken back to picturesque fantasies replaying in my head like pretty little vignettes. I close my eyes and can image the dancers powdering themselves and sliding into costume, with lips and cheekbones stained a beautifully destructive red or ethereal purple. I imagine the room full of anticipation, perhaps Diaghilev on a private balcony sitting next to Ernest Beaux and Coco Chanel (which is not so hard to imagine, considering Bois Des Iles was inspired by Tchaikovsky’s opera The Queen of Spades). The air is scented heavily, thick with careful dabs of precious parfum placed on the most intimate and delicate of areas. However, the ballet dancers apply a thin blend of sandalwood oil to calm the nerves before the performance. This has mixed with their makeup and their scent has become Misia, Olivier Polge’s opening to the Chanel Les Exclusifs lineup.
Photo by Chanel
Misia opens like vibrant pastel hued powders being thrown into the air. A cloud of deep rose reds and violet purples tied together with cushion-soft powders. To create the lipstick accord, rose and violet form an almost edible feature, contiguous to the impression of Turkish Delight and raspberries, however this is pulled back firmly away from the gourmand sphere with a smooth leather note and a translucent backbone of heliotropin. What I think is most appropriate is how nose Olivier Polge has paid a subtle tribute to the Chanel style of permanency of taste and the fragrant stereotypes of femininity done without the obnoxious overtones. The rose, perhaps more suitably roses used in Misia boast the labels of both Turkish rose and Grasse rose, with them containing features of sumptuousness and powder respectively. Further, the generous addition of iris and orris adds to the vintage 1920’s charm of Misia, with these powdery notes saturated just enough with the unctuous rose and violet. As the powders develop, they begin to obtain a taut greenness which actually serves as a counterbalance to the flashy floral hues. This adds a warmth that for certain would be hard to develop in a perfume accord (with research however, I am led to state that this accord is due to the molecules neofolione and undecavertol, which both add a slyly green, warm, fruity-waxy quality to the fragrance, lending itself nicely to violet based compositions).
Iris notes in particular often evolve into a vegetal territory resembling boiled carrots and carrot seed, compounded with warm yellow florals (mimosa; cassia). This is not absent in Misia, however attuned precisely enough that it becomes hidden somewhere in the heart notes. Much like Luten’s Iris Silver Mist however, on some days this is tipped over the edge and the limp carrot note is most present. When this is the case, I unfortunately find Misia unbearably cloying, and I must apply this with caution. Iris doesn’t like my skin sometimes.
As the fragrance warms further, the tonka bean, benzoin and sandalwood achieve a pleasing thinness like the frilly skirts of female ballet dancers. These notes rush through the olfactory palette pleasantly, achieving a layered style seldom found in Chanel works. They shift delightfully, and the innate sweetness of individual notes supply the only saccharine glow that can be found. I think that therefore the vintage neo-classical vibe of Misia comes from its use of layers in a style very typical of the inspired time period, and the violet (particularly alpha-ionone in abundance) tonka accord adding to this impression. Finally, I shan’t not forget the leather note found here, alloying down the sweetness and blending itself in propriety with the other notes surrounding it. The leather becomes somewhat innocent yet mature, and impossibly very attractive.
Alternatives: Iris Silver Mist by Serge Lutens; Lipstick Rose by Frederic Malle; and Traversee du Bosphore by L’Artisan. Note: My favourite fragrance in the candy violet-rose style is Traversee du Bosphore.
Technically a great work.
Subjective rating : 3/5 (I’m just not an iris fan, sadly).
Objective rating: 4/5
6 thoughts on “Misia by Chanel”
I have smelled Misia only once but liked it enough to order a decant, yet to arrive.
But you know, I think the perfume is overburdened with backstory. Firstly, people have to have it explained to them who Misia Sert was. Once we’ve assimilated that, Olivier Polge tells us that actually the perfume is less about Misia personally and more about the support and inspiration she offered Coco Chanel by drawing Chanel into her world of artists, poets and musicians. Furthermore, the ballet, we learn, was not classical ballet (tutus and floaty gowns etc), but the Ballet Russes. And what the hell? Dancers smell of sweat and rosin way more than they smell of makeup.
So I’m sick of all that and just want Misia to be a nice perfume. Which I think it is. Sumptuous, as you say, without losing sight of the elegance and restraint which are fundamental to Chanel. The point of all that backstory may be that Misia is a more emotional perfume than we usually get from Chanel. That’s a welcome shift, although of course if anyone really want’s throbbing hearts and bodily smells they will have to go to some of the more avant garde houses out there.
I wonderful thought, and I agree with you entirely. The perfume should tell the story, not an external idea behind it. But I guess saying that in the most romantic way possible the linkage of this scent and ballet makes some sense. Notice how I didn’t talk about Misia at all? She is largely irrelevant in this review… I extended it to ballet dancers anyway.
Good to see you around these parts. -Liam.
I like that you do subjective / objective ratings. Never known anyone to do that. It’s really useful. 🙂
Thank you! Yes – it was a stroke of genius on my part.
A few times I have lent people my glasses while in drag. Almost everyone who has used them comments on the smell of my makeup still on the glasses and how much they love that scent. Currently I’m telling them all to buy Misia because it’s a pretty good reflection of how my glasses smell, iris, powder, rose, sweat and a slight metallic edge.
Well! There we go! I must be sure to smell you when we finally meet.