What does the future smell like? It depends on who you ask. PUIG perfumes, which produce fragrances for Paco Rabanne, believe that the future smells sexy, confident and energetic. So they decide to enter the Phantom market, the latest fragrance-cum-part of the retro-futuristic art of the fashion house. The Phantom comes in a robot-shaped bottle that, when you tap the phone on the NFC tag built into its head, greets you in its digital world. Digital trinkets on offer will include interactive filters, personalized playlists, augmented reality filters and more.
Paco Rabanne has been nominated for Spanish designer Francisco Rabaneda Cuervo, who was a pioneer figure in the fashion world in the 60s. Both he and the house that bears his name appreciated the absurdity of science fiction. Rabanne began to produce dresses made of metal and plastic, glued or joined with wire, instead of sewing. His fashion work adorns almost every fashion retrospective of the 1960s and, much more than his contemporaries, embodies the fashion of the “space age” of that era.
The Phantom is conceived as a love letter to that history, with a retro-futuristic design in which it would not look out of place Barbarella. The bottle is heavy, with the traditional small letter “pr” in the body, with the outline of the letter “p” made of glass. This allows you to watch the water line fall as you spray yourself with the scent every morning. It comes in two sizes: 100ml (which I’ve already seen and used) and 150ml, of which only the last one can be refilled.
Of course, the Phantom is not only a fancy bottle, but also the key to the entire online world of digital accessories. At the top of the bottle is an NFC chip which, when tapped, greets the owner’s smartphone on the list of digital trinkets as a reward for buying the bottle. At the time of writing, only two items are available, but the company says the list of items will grow over time, as noted above.
First, Boombot allows you to select a date to get a Spotify “playlist that was number one that day”. If analyzed in more detail, it seems to be limited to U.S. charts, but you’ll be able to open the playlist in Spotify and deepen up to half a century of tunes. This is a feature that you will be familiar with if you have ever used a site like MyBirthdayHits, which looks a little less nice, but does a very similar job.
The second and for now the last one is an exclusive Instagram filter called Paco Rabanne’s Phantom Philter. This sees a small AR version of the bottle sitting on your shoulder, flying around your head or telling someone he loves them, and his eyes and head movement sync with yours. And it’s fun, fun enough for at least one selfie with a little cartoon.
But science fiction isn’t just in the clothes Phantom wears, but in how the scent is created in general. The perfumers worked in collaboration with artificial intelligence that helped them explore new possibilities in creating fragrances. According to the company, the team devised a new fragrance and then programmed the formula into AI, which went through a series of as yet untested combinations to make the reactions to the scent more intense.
In Phantom’s case, perfumer Loc Dong wanted to try and “overdose” a molecule called styrene acetate. When he suggested this to the computer, Dong recommended using “ten times more than usual”, compared to modern perfume. Similarly, the lavender used in the fragrance was obtained by “molecular distillation” which gives a “very modern note of lavender”.
In a statement, Paco Rabane added that the fragrance was tested on men aged 18 to 35 to determine how they felt in them. They said the Phantom made them feel “sexuality,” “vigilance,” and “energy,” although the specifics of that testing are a bit loose.
Now I am not a perfume reviewer, a job that I will leave to much more qualified people from Fragrantica. (Who knew that people could smell the scent and wish the designers had added more bergamot?) I would describe the Phantom as a sweet musk, which even a few hours after application felt strong and persistent. It’s certainly a more energetic scent than the one I’m used to – my chosen shaving product is Chanel Allure Homme Sport – and as a result I felt more productive. In fact, the Phantom smelled strong, but not unpleasant or overpowering, and everyone who invited me to sniff me in these COVID-sensitive times seemed to agree.
All in all, it smells pretty good.
I don’t know if the digital goodies offered here will be an appealing exception, at least not based on current evidence. Maybe this is for those menswear influencers I see all the time on Instagram, even if they repeat YSL and Celine more often. Maybe a little AR robot, sitting on their shoulder while smoking and drinking coffee, reclining on a bench in a Parisian park, is what they need to boost their hard-working relaxation. But basically, you’re going to buy this thing because it smells nice, not because you get a free Instagram filter … right?
Phantom by Paco Rabanne was launched on August 1, 2021, and will be available in the U.S. at Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, Dillard’s and Sephora. There’s no word yet on how much a 100ml bottle will cost, but the 150ml edition will return you $ 125, while a 200ml refill is priced at $ 130.
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