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Modern Muse: Estée Lauder’s new crisp, feminine fragrance

The Scent

Modern Muse by Estée Lauder

The back story

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Estée Lauder has a solid track record of launching blockbusters, so there are great expectations for her latest release, Modern Muse. To celebrate the launch of the scent, held on the final night of New York Fashion Week last month, guests were encouraged to bring their own muses to the party, which took place within the James Turrell exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum. Art, after all, was one of Lauder's muses and remains a major focus for her two art-collecting sons, Leonard and Ronald. Isn't it nice to see a fragrance referencing something besides sexuality?

What it smells like

This is a sophisticated scent that gets its sparkly floral notes from a special extraction of jasmine sambac and its anchor from a double dose of high-quality patchoulis. On the skin, the hint of orange blossom quickly gives way to a forceful bouquet. And while the patchouli isn't overly earthy, the musk notes are pronounced.

The nose

Harry Frémont shares the credit for developing two iconic fragrances: CK One (with Alberto Morillas) and Tom Ford's Tuscan Leather (with Jacques Cavallier). He is also the nose behind several celebrity spinoff scents: Britney Spears Radiance, 50 Cent Power, Gwen Stefani Harajuku Lovers Baby, Rihanna Nude, Usher VIP. (They count as muses, don't they?)

The look

Karyn Khoury, senior vice-president of corporate fragrance development for Estée Lauder, and Richard Ferretti, the brand's senior vice-president and global creative director, spent a day in the archives with Leonard Lauder, studying the original flacon for Youth Dew (the company's first fragrance, now over 60 years old). You can see how the bow has evolved, this time as two integrated, squared navy "patent" pieces at the top of Modern Muse's long, lean bottle. The effect is chic and vaguely deco. Best of all, there's no cap to get mislaid, a design detail of Ferretti's that ensures the bottle is "always perfectly dressed," says Khoury.

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The face

For the moment, it's American model Arizona Muse, which is apropos. The 25-year-old signed as a face for the brand last year prior to the fragrance's launch.

Who it's for

To hear Khoury tell it, Modern Muse is for confident, inspirational, magnetic, powerful women. And if this doesn't sound like you, perhaps you aspire to such an ideal. Really, though, it's the type of crisp, feminine fragrance that doesn't discriminate by age group or inclination.

Cachet factor

Like Lauder's previous hits, Beautiful and Pleasures, the muse message resonates and has wide appeal. According to Khoury, the fragrance will particularly appeal to the woman who lives with dynamic tension – the kind who slips seamlessly from her professional role to her personal one. As with most fragrances, you buy into the image as much as the scent itself, yet here the scent and statement dovetail in a way that works – a combination that smells like success.

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Where to buy it

Estée Lauder counters across Canada (visit for locations).


$115 for 100 ml, $90 for 50 ml, $65 for 30 ml.

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