Kai Eau de Parfum (Kai)

Every once in a while, it's instructive to see how the Other Half lives...

Wait. Scratch that. Try again.

Instead of the Other Half, try the One Percent. And in place of see, substitute imagine-- because there's no way you can see where they live from where you live. (The electrified security fence makes sure of that.) And since they sure as hell ain't never gonna come to you, all you can count on are those priceless gold nuggets of lifestyle largesse they occasionally toss to little people like you... from a safe distance enforced by Krav Maga-trained bodyguards.

Featured among Oprah's Favorite Things and Gwyneth's... um... GOOP, Kai is one of those trendy, idealistic brands that every modern-day Marie Antoinette happily endorses. Visit the Kai website (the internet being a free country, it's not like they can keep the likes of us out) and you can actually view a list of all the celebrity "devotees" who have affixed their imperial warrants to the product line. Though uniformly glamorous beyond any doubt, they strike me as a group of people so dulled by a surfeit of entitlement that their companionship would probably bore me to tears. The gulf between our experiences -- hell, between our household grocery budgets! -- would be too vast to bridge even with the help of Drs. Oz and Phil.

A case in point: the first thing we learn about Kai founder Gaye Straza Rappaport is that she spent all her childhood summers in the tropics. (Didn't we all?) There’s nothing like the scent of exotic flowers, she states-- casually, confidently, as if this was a fact of which most human beings hardly need to be reminded. Plumeria, pikake, gardenia and jasmine seemed to grow everywhere (on Hawai'i, her parents' vacation-spot-of-choice). Every time I smell one of those flowers I'm instantly back on the islands surrounded by loved ones.

Wow. I for one find that totally relatable-- so long as you omit the plumeria, pikake, gardenia, jasmine, islands, and loved ones. My childhood summers were spent scrubbing my great-aunt's kitchen linoleum and getting slapped upside the head for not putting my back into it. Use some elbow grease! she'd shout, brandishing the back of her hand at me. After several more hours of scrubbing, shouting, and slapping, she'd release me into the backyard, where I was instructed to "let the wind blow the stink off".

Good times, good times-- but I digress.

Kai is sold in the sort of boutique described as a "jewel box", in which every item appears to have been individually curated by the heir to an aristocratic title, and where no discernable price tags can be spotted for love or lucre. I have visited one or two of these boutiques, where I played the role of Penniless Slumdog Looky-Lou. The fact that said boutiques are located in New Jersey is most likely a source of discomfort to Malibu native Rappaport, whose daddy was an aerospace billionaire with a private yacht docked at Kona Kai (catch the reference?). Her Eau de Parfum reeks of all of the tropical flowers she named above, sans parabens, sulfates, phthalates, phosphates, or animal testing. It retails at $75 per 1.7 oz. bottle, which puts it within the reach of aspirational purchasers, provided they eat nought but ramen noodles for a month to save up.

In short, Kai is the very smell of privilege, which does not mean it's even remotely interesting. This, more than anything else, is what I wish Gaye, Martha, Oprah, and Gwyneth understood. Just because you insist on rubbing our noses in your lifestyle doesn't mean we can't recognize it for what it is: a great big steaming pile of waste.

Scent Elements: Gardenia, tuberose, lily, jasmine, musk