A few years ago, I went to an exhibition of paintings by iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo at Tate Modern, London. I have long admired the woman as much as her art.
Kahlo trod her own path, overcoming childhood polio and a horrific bus accident to live life in a truly uncompromising and passionate way. Her sheer determination and refusal to let potential limitations hold her back, is endlessly inspiring to me.
Even when confined to her bed, she managed to transform great suffering into great art. Kahlo is testament to the healing power of creativity; she once said “I am not sick. I am broken. But I am happy as long as I can paint.”
Artisanal perfumer Shelley Waddington seems to feel the same way about her:
“Although her body was wrecked by pain; Frida was fearless, feminine and revolutionary; cross dressed, smoked cigars and has been a part of pop culture for over 50 years. A world-travelled sophisticate who had love affairs with both men and women, Frida remained happiest at Casa Azul, her traditional family home.”
Frida Eau de Parfum has the following structure:
Top notes: Fruits, herbs and leaves of Frida’s garden. Agave, Green pepper
Heart notes: Tuberose, Hibiscus, Cactus flower
Base notes: Light woods, Sugar, Oakmoss, Aldehydes, Myrrh, Frankincense and Copal, Tobacco Accord, Sexual animalic notes, Musk, Amber
The beginning of Frida is so vivid I’m immediately reminded of one of Kahlo’s many self-portraits where she is depicted in vibrant colours with a back-drop of lush tropical plants.
We are transported to a surreal version of Frida’s garden in Mexico where we find a tangle of giant cacti and mammoth plants surrounded by dripping foliage. The scorching sun beats down so all that greenery is hot and pungent. The scent of refreshingly cool and juicy watermelon cuts through the intense humidity.
The presence of hibiscus represents the flowers in Frida’s hair, but tuberose makes up the heart of the fragrance. The natural absolute used here is very sensual; fruity, fleshy and intoxicating. Shelley uses it with great effect to pay homage to Kahlo’s ravaged body.
The base is soft woods, light resins and a faint trace of smoke from one of Frida’s cigars. There’s also a dash of sugar syrup along with the lingering warm breath of tuberose. Frida stops short of coming across as animalic.
It has a nice amount of sillage and lasts fantastically well. The high percentage of natural materials used is very evident and gives the composition a striking sense of vitality.
Frida is a celebration of the woman, the artist and her Mexican heritage as well as her incredible endurance and love of nature. It is a fitting and evocative representation of a highly courageous and unconventional woman.
Do you know any of the fragrances by En Voyage Perfumes? Do you admire Frida Kahlo?
I love Frida, the artist and the person behind – but the parfum is obviously a no-go for me, due to my nemesis note : Tuberose. I’m a bit annoyed by the fact that (almost) every time they want to create a parfum for or about strong women it must be with Tuberose…
But then again, I can imagine that Kahlo might have been a tuberose person 😀
LJG, synthetic tuberose was my nemesis but I’ve found natural tuberose absolute is so much smoother.
I agree that Kahlo and tuberose is a good fit, although she actually wore Shocking (how perfect is that?!). It also really does an important job of representing her body which was such a pivotal part of her story and her art.
Great review Tara, I see you find the opening more colourful and tropical, and overall a somewhat ‘easier’ perfume than what I did. At least that’s how I read it 🙂 I love the imagery of a humid tropical landscape that you paint, so beautifully vivid.
I really haven’t tried enough of Shelley’s work, there are many I absolutely must try, because I think very highly of her as a perfumer. Both Frida and Fiore Di Bellodgia are such great perfumes with the latter being more a me-fragrance.
I do seem to have got on with the surreal opening a lot better than you and V. It’s mostly super-sized, aqueous green on me.
I do love the sound of Fiore Di Bellodgia and would like to try it at some point, especially as you feel so at home in it. Captured in Amber is one that particularly impressed me because it’s an amber I actually really enjoyed and the ambergris is fabulous.
Basically what Lady Jane said… but I would still like to try it. Sadly Envoyage perfumes are impossible to get hold off here.
Sabine, it is a shame that the US indie lines are so difficult/expensive to get hold from here.
Good news that V has some En Voyage perfumes you can try when we visit soon. Fun!
I have 8! Though not Fiore de Bellagio, which I am curious to try.
8? Fab. I’ve only tried this, Zelda and the chocolate trio.
I sense a general perfume rummaging session at mine is indicated…;)
Sabine, I have several you can try when we meet…I am sampling this again as I write. Your review is mouthwateringly luscious and sensual and also beautifully conveys the darker, embattled side to Frida’s life. Try as I might, this still plays resoundingly as a vegetal perfume on me, with nary a floral aspect. It’s not unlike Papyrus de Ciane in that regard. The herbs, agave and green pepper eclipse everything else and the quite tenacious opening was all kinds of weird. Which I am sorry about, as I love tuberose and numerous other things on the note list. They are just not showing up on my skin. But for those who can smell the full fruity floral veggie medley, I think this must be a very clever olfactory rendering of Frida.
V, I do wonder if perfumes with a high percentage of naturals have a tendancy to play differently on different people. My experience was very similar to Thomas’s but you and Asali seem to get something else altogether. Too bad that you don’t even pick up the tuberose, it’s so well done here.
It is indeed a clever olfactory rendering of Frida.
I thoroughly enjoyed your take on this Tara. I have a sample that I have yet to try. It will be interesting. ❤️
Thanks CQ! I wonder how it will play out on you?
Many of En Voyage’s perfumes are among my favorite and most worn fragrances. I love how Shelley combines aromas. Aforementioned Fiore di Bellagio simply blooms on my skin. I feel great wearing it. Similar is with Frida. It seems that the tuberose in Frida is “my type” of this flower in the perfumes. I love it during these summer days. Gardens are the most beautiful and scented in the summer. I agree that “the beginning of Frida is so vivid” but the dry down is also so special for me. It is full of life. It reveals a sort of masculine side, makes a twist. It is like the most beautiful prolonging of the perfume’s life. I usually don’t find so prominent dynamism in the perfumes’ bases. The longevity is excellent on my skin. The first day I found 9-10 hours, it was the application from a vial, later I’ve got 11-12 hours from a spray. The full bottle of this beauty is in my hands. I love your review, Tara.
Many thanks for your lovely comment, Damir.
Frida also features “my type” of tuberose and I agree it’s perfect for the summer months.
You make a very good point about the base. So often the far drydown of a pefume can be dull or barely there, but here it’s distinct and multi-faceted. I love the touch of cigar smoke too.
Longevity really is outstanding. Enjoy your bottle!
Enjoyed reading your take on Frida, Tara. As Damir said, I actually enjoy the drydown more. I like its smooth and not-in-your-face tuberose and greenness in this fragrance but I have a little hard time with the watermelon note; in my hot environment, it gets too overpowering. I should try again when it’s cooler.
That’s really interesting, thinkingmagpie. I assumed the watermelon would be refreshing in the heat but perhaps it can be just too intense. I hope it works better when you re-test.
The heart and drydown are my favourite parts too.
Thanks for the review, Tara, I’m looking forward to sampling this. Tuberose is not my friend but if anyone can make a tuberose that works on my skin, it would be Shelley Waddington. I am a great admirer of En Voyage perfumes, Zelda is a must and I also really like Go Ask Alice. I finished a decant of the latter and really want a bottle, I think I’d like to own the whole line but sadly reality gets in the way of my perfume dreams 😉
ringthing, reality is a pain like that 🙂
Go Ask Alice sounds fab. I’d love to try more by En Voyage and hope to do that when I visit Vanessa in a couple of weeks, as she says above that she has a few samples.
Shelley is super talented and made the tuberose here very wearable for me. I really hope Frida works for you.
Tara, I’m always impressed by your perfume writing as you find a way of saying things such that your “voice” is always in perfect rapport with the perfume you’re reviewing. You sound strong and passionate in this review — in the way you voice your admiration for Frida Kahlo and for this perfume — and I love the way you couple it to the rich image of Frida’s garden. The humidity and the teeming nature of the plants, all of it spiraling together … I feel like I’m in that garden!
This perfume sounds like it very much lives up to the woman who inspired it. I’ll look forward to sampling it at some point. I have tried several of Shelley’s perfumes and my favorite is Vents Ardents, followed by Zelda.
This means a lot to me – especially coming from you. Thank-you so much, Suzanne.
The opening is unusual and surreal but so was Frida’s life and art so it seems fitting. I’ve made a mental note about Vents Ardents, thanks.
Hey gorgeous Tara,
I never knew much about Frida Kahlo past her famously unusual look and that she is often painted on black velvet and sold at markets. Her trials and tribulations were a surprise. I think I will search out a biography, and maybe even this lovely sounding scent.
Portia, I don’t think you can fail to be rewarded by finding out more about her. No doubt a book would go into more depth but there is a also a good biopic from 2002 starring Salma Hayak called Frida.
Sadly I cannot forgive Salma Hayak for her characters meanness to Daniel in Ugly Betty and I have to eschew every film she’s in.
I know, sometimes I’m a seven year old.
Ha! Oh well xx
I actually haven’t smelled any of Shelly’s work. I should remedy that ( especially since I live in the U.S).
Your review is lovely – I don’t really gravitate towards perfumes described as tropical but this sounds very good. And i’ve been curious about Zelda
I do think Shelley’s perfumes are well worth exploring and yes, as you’re in the States it should be pretty easy to do so. Zelda is great and I loved the chocolate/ambergris of Captured in Amber. I hope you find something that appeals to you.
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