Theorema (Fendi)

I asked no other thing,
No other was denied.
I offered Being for it;
The mighty merchant smiled.

Brazil? He twirled a button,
Without a glance my way:
"But, madam, is there nothing else
That we can show to-day?"


--Emily Dickinson, from Complete Poems (Part One: Life)
"Does Fendi get easily bored with its own perfumes or don't the fragrances sell?" This question -- posed by NST's Kevin in his recent review of Fan di Fendi Pour Homme -- is one which I myself have often pondered.

Whether taken individually or as a quartet, the original lineup -- Fendi (1985), Fendi Uomo (1988), Asja (1992), and Theorema (1998) -- were unquestionably fine perfumes, well-made and distinctly individual. All now share the dustbin of history, while a number of inferior fragrances (some of which smell positively vile) have ended up doing wildly well. Why?

When LVMH acquired Fendi in 2005, they scrapped the entire fragrance line in one go. This mass divestiture amounted to a corporate version of remise de l'épouse-- an ancient rite whereby one strips a bride naked before presenting her to her new lord and master. In the mind of the groom, his bride ought to have no history at all... so like Marie Antoinette forced to disrobe on L'île aux Épis, Fendi had to enter the palace denuded of its past accomplishments.

In that light, Theorema -- like the hapless Dauphine -- can be viewed as a casualty of bureaucracy, the proverbial butterfly broken on the wheel. (Of course, that butterfly would have to be a Theorema eumenia, peacock-hued and impossibly fragile.)

Fendi's Theorema is not vintage, but it is nearly extinct. A gorgeous gourmand fragrance, orange-scented and subtly spiced, it displays a tendency toward creaminess in the drydown which saffron-lovers will surely appreciate. Lighter than many gourmands (notably its own relative, the two-ton honeybomb known as original Fendi), it has a gentle, wistful influence on the emotions that is hard even for a dedicated logophile to describe. It stays incredibly close to skin and is not tenacious (your average butterfly enjoys a longer lifespan, alas!) but while traces of it linger, you and the person sitting closest to you will heave plaintive sighs aplenty.

In that, you'll be joining perfumistas everywhere. From the numerous odes which can be read online, the Fendi fragrances in general (and Theorema in particular) are regretted with an intensity undiminished by the years. Newer Fendi releases have failed to assuage our grief. To give them their due, even these are not immune from their parent company's ruthless assassination methods. Palazzo (2007), LVMH's heir apparent to the Fendi title, survived for only two years before suffering the axe. It "didn't meet expectations", according to corporate. But then, it wasn't given much time-- an ominous fact which dangles over Fan di Fendi and all subsequent releases like the legendary sword of Damocles.

For now, LVMH can dispose of its Fendis as it will. But when Karma finally catches up... I'd love to be a butterfly on that wall.

Scent Elements: Jaffa orange, tangelo, orange blossom, jasmine, ylang-ylang, osmanthus, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, pink and black pepper, rose hips, sandalwood, guaiac wood, rosewood, patchouli, amber, benzoin, sweet cream accord, musk