Rykiel Woman Not For Men! Review (Anne Flipo) 2003 “Controversial Floral”


Rykiel Woman via amazon.com 

It seems that every time I choose something “intriguing” to review, my ferreting leads me (more often than not) to the conclusion that there are a boatload of divergent opinions about it. These impressions invariably are either wildly favorable, or individuals detest it in no uncertain terms. I really must be mad. We do have a bit of a reprieve with Anne Flipo’s 2003 eau de parfum for Sonia Rykiel, Rykiel Woman (Not For Men!), in that at least there’s no disagreement regarding its fragrant components! Small mercies. Rykiel Woman is a challenging fragrance to classify, to begin with. Let’s investigate further.

Sonia Rykiel perfumes

Sonia Rykiel 

We need to address the elephant in the room from the get-go: Sonia Rykiel’s choice of name. In today’s culture, it is certain to irk a fair amount of the population. Some say that Anne Flipo’s sense of humor may be responsible, but I have no concrete evidence for that. We would do well to remember that many perfume houses delineated masculine from feminine fragrances at this time, which didn’t prevent most of us from wearing what we liked (if we had a mind to do so). It is rather conflagratory  to add the directive Not For Men! – complete with exclamation point. After all, what is masculine? What is feminine? And who really cares?

Perfumer Anne Flipo

Ann Flipo via wiki

Most classifications refer to the category ‘amber/spicy’ – which isn’t strictly accurate when you smell Rykiel Woman. Although this perfume is beautifully blended, it’s a busy one with a lot going on. Rykiel Woman is very sweet, powdery, spicy, floral, sueded, and shot through with bolts of incense; some noses easily perceive the soft leather note, while others don’t register it at all. There’s a pleasantly hefty dose of both pink and black pepper to confer that initial kick of spice, some velvety musks to accompany the dusky amber in the base. Violet is queen – so if you’re not a fan of this flower, then Rykiel Woman is definitely not for you. The Bulgarian rose and jasmine Ms. Flipo employs are of stellar quality; they are radiant and contribute a genuine warmth to the overall composition. From this juncture, things become somewhat murky (some might think them muddled) – but for me, this is part of the delightful conundrum of teasing out what, and why – certain essences are part of this fragrance as a whole.

Best perfumes that use dates

dates via pixabay

The culture of dried fruits and spice commenced, for me – with 1992’s glorious creation Féminité du Bois for Shiseido, which was composed by the dream team of young Christopher Sheldrake and Pierre Bourdon. Our current ongoing love affair with dried fruits and deeply woody bases may well have had its nascence here. It’s not surprising that many more perfumes which embraced these notes would rapidly ensue. Rykiel Woman’s date note reminds me of this connection; she substitutes the intense cedar with a very measured touch of oud, bestowing a more medicinal effect. In fact, medicinal tones weave in and out of this unusual fragrance; sunflower is the other persona which is strikingly herbal, possessing some resemblance to facets of eucalyptus. You might not initially register this quality – but once it has been brought to your attention, it cannot be ignored. In such a sugary scent, it’s unexpected – yet medicinal works in Rykiel Woman, in combination with a distinctly gentle suede note which is extremely cosy and nose-friendly. Tender memories percolate up to the surface. One experiences a sense of well-being, of comfort – as if cocooned and safe from harm. When it was available for a very good price years ago, I purchased several backup bottles and gave them to my friends – who are still genuinely fond of Rykiel Woman to this day.


 Sonia Rykiel Rykiel Woman edp

Rykiel Woman from Ida’s collection

I’ve come across negative perceptions which run the gamut from outright disgust to disdain. The complaints are these: it’s too screechy, too powdery, too sweet, too strong, too weak; some say it’s too musky – while others can barely smell it.  As for the quirky bottle? Some have bought it for the bottle alone (heaven knows why!), while others find it garish and tasteless. Whichever camp you belong to, it’s certainly not one you’ll forget easily, topped with a black and bronze-hued bubble cap which crowns an elliptical-shaped flacon emblazoned with alternating clear and frosted glass stripes. RYKIEL WOMAN is embossed in psychedelic metallic red-violet, just so you don’t forget. The bottle holds a generous 4.2 oz.(125 mls), so it will last, however much you paid for it – and there was also a “Lait de Désir Pour le Corps” for sale, all 200 mls of it (the body lotion was truly marvelous). Anne Flipo followers often compare Rykiel Woman to another incense fragrance which she composed one year later: Barbara Bui. It seems that many prefer Barbara Bui to the Rykiel, because it is a very quiet incense/woods -driven fragrance, a skin scent. I own both, and perceive similarities and considerable differences between the two; you may love them each, as far as I’m concerned.

White angora cat by Jean Jacques Bachelier

n the final analysis – wear what pleases you. I’m not embarrassed to love Rykiel Woman. It can be a nonjudgmental palate cleanser if you’ve been stuck in a particular groove, or overwhelmed recently by powerhouse perfumes. I think of it as a pussycat perfume: claws retracted, purring and fluffy in the most charming way. It’s fabulous on a man, whatever the label says. And it’s perfect for when you want to feel a little exotic, but not empty the room. Rykiel Woman is discontinued, but one can still find it relatively inexpensively online.  Notes: violet, dates, pink pepper, black pepper, sunflower, Bulgarian rose, jasmine, leather, amber, agarwood (oud), olibanum, musk.

Rykiel Woman is from my personal collection; I purchased it myself. My nose is my own…

Ida Meister, Deputy and Natural Perfumery Editor

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