Content warning: This post contains references to suicide.
“The woman is perfected
Body wears the smile of accomplishment…”
~ Sylvia Plath
Orlo is the second Versi fragrance from Mendittorosa. The scent is inspired by Edge, a 1963 Sylvia Plath work written days before she committed suicide.
Bergamot, cyclamen, magnolia, orange blossom, metallic rose, peach, patchouli, cumin, papyrus wood, cashmere woods, cetalox (“grey amber”) and iris.
It’s hard to write about this scent, almost as hard as it is to write about Sylvia Plath and read her work, Edge, knowing that she wrote it just days before she killed herself. Edge is a short, brutal and powerful poem and Orlo, in some respects, is a brutal and melancholy scent – a fitting tribute perhaps to a life which was cut short by a debilitating mental illness.
Orlo opens with a gauzy, powdery, floral lift. It doesn’t feel particularly sad or brutal at this stage. Instead it conjures a woman dancing in a white gauzy dress on the beach in warm afternoon sunshine. Bergamot, cyclamen, magnolia and orange blossom all contribute to that gentle, uplifting feeling with a watery tone being apparent in the background, a saltiness that drew to mind sea spray. There’s something a little papery in there too, as if the lady’s notebook is being rifled by the breeze as she dances and twirls. Orlo sets us up with this fleeting heart to believe that we are in for an easy ride, a sweet and naive beginning, happiness and sunshine. Like many things in life though the top of the scent is misleading, fleeting, and leads to a much darker heart.
The heart of Orlo quickly pulls the fragrance in a deeper and darker direction. The metallic rose quickly comes to the fore and it is both dark and – as you would expect – metallic. Here Orlo shows its teeth and starts to become challenging. Storm clouds have gathered as the lady dances on the beach, her dance slowing with each rumble of thunder. The sky is a bruised shade of grey. The breeze has become tendrils of a storm and they are whipping now at her skirt tails rather than swirling them.
Cumin also steps forward. Warm, spicy, it smells like the faint odour of sweat, or fear. Coupled with the metallic rose we get impressions of the storm’s electricity perhaps, or blood, or again, fear. This plays with the sea spray tone we noticed earlier – and we wonder now if it was sea spray or blood? In this phase of the wear we see how tempestuous a scent can be, how it can unease and unsettle. The coldness of the metallic notes strike against the warmth of the cumin, and we are reminded of the fragility of the body, of life, in the face of something else, something deep and old and frightening.
There’s something almost sour lurking in the background, at times it smells a little like peroxide, at others a little like gas, turn again and it’s perhaps a little rubbery. This facet isn’t very noticeable, but when testing the fragrance I kept wondering what the smell was, so it’s definitely there.
In certain ways, Orlo feels a bit like a Greek tragedy. It’s all light and upbeat before a terrible tragedy befalls our protagonist and everyone she loves dies, and then finally, at the end, she triumphs to redemption, even thought she must surely be heartbroken. Orlo made me feel a bit like that. It’s impolite, alludes to the messiness of life, and if not quite fully challenging it doesn’t give you an easy ride either.
Here I will take an aside to say that it is vital you try Orlo on skin before you buy it. On the blotter the metallic and cumin notes aren’t as noticeable as they are on skin, and my skin particularly. If you too amplify these facets, or find them challenging, then do check this one on your own chemistry before you buy it.
Orlo’s heart is where we find the most difficult phase of its wear and it calms down again towards the final phase. A lovely, fleshy peach begins to fill the space adjacent to the cumin notes, and it softens everything off again. A green-ish paperiness flutters by, and there are hints and traces of sweetness flirting around the edges. The storm clouds roll back again, and if our protagonist isn’t quite dancing, she is no longer cowed by the weight of the storm. A strange type of calm descends on the fragrance and aside from the lingering hum of metal and cumin, we could all but think we had imagined that tumultuous heart of the scent.
On paper particularly there is a soft petal-like feel which appears right towards the end of a wear of Orlo. Sometimes this feels like that velvety texture of a rose petal, and at others it is most definitely the silken touch of iris.
Orlo is a scent which is most definitely not for everyone, but you cannot fault it at all for the structure and level of detail and nuance it contains. This is a fragrance which will take you on a journey – whether or not you like the destination or the scenery on the way is something you will have to decide.
The other stuff
Orlo projects moderately from the body when worn – to around handshake distance or just under perhaps. Particularly in the mid-phase of the wear, or in warmer weather, this is extended beyond handshake distance. That said, this is never an obnoxious or room-filling scent, so it is relatively safe for daytime or office wear.
The longevity of Orlo too is decent – lasting about six or so hours following application. Perhaps because I knew the story of when Sylvia Plath wrote the poem, or perhaps because of those metallic notes, I found it to be quite a melancholy fragrance which you may want to wear on those days when you want a touch of the dramatic or nostalgic about you.
The perfumer for Orlo was Anne-Sophie Behaghel.
Mendittorosa are a high-concept, luxury Italian brand. They work with a variety of different noses to craft incredibly complex and storied compositions which all feel very strong on the storytelling element of perfumery. It’s hard to find a Mendittorosa scent which isn’t bold and characterful, with woods and spices being the most memorable elements of their line up.
Bloom were generous enough to supply us with a no-strings-attached sample of this scent. Thank you to them.