Welcome to Tynan Sinks' fragrance column, Smells Like Trouble. As Byrdie's resident fragrance connoisseur, Tynan will be sharing the scents that linger on in his mind, and nose, and clothes.
If this time last year, I could look ahead 12 months and see my life now, what would I think? If I saw myself wearing a mask, washing my hands incessantly, always having hand sanitizer within reach, and social distancing, how would I react? In ways that feel like they happened slowly and all at once, the last year has changed the way we live our everyday lives completely.
This new emphasis on “clean” is everywhere. I don’t mean “clean” as in clean beauty and clean ingredients—"clean" as in free of germs and bacteria. Every brand now has a hand sanitizer, beauty products are now touting blue light and pollution protection, we have sterilizing cases for our electronics. It would make sense then that our desire to feel clean would extend into our fragrances.
Maison Margiela aims to do just that with the new addition to their REPLICA collection, Bubble Bath.
REPLICA scents are meant to evoke a time and a place in our collective memory in a very literal way, calling to mind palpable pieces of the scene they’re trying to set. Take the scent Beach Walk, for instance. Instead of being inspired by a beachy scenario of sunscreen and tropical fruit, it smells like sea salt and ocean air.
The reason that the REPLICA collection is so successful is that they do what they do so well. The scents hone in on their tableau in a way that is universally recognizable, so they set the stage and leave the interpretation of the scent up to you, your life experience, and your memory. What REPLICA evokes for me won’t be what it evokes for you, but we’re both sniffing the same scent.
The newest scent, Bubble Bath, is a fantastic addition to the REPLICA family. It brings to life its namesake inspiration so well that it turns wherever you find yourself into a steamy, luxurious hotel bathroom.
On first spray, the scent opens with a big soapy note, like a freshly unwrapped bar of Ivory. It’s not a floral or green interpretation of soap, but a true distillation of a bar of soap that might have sat on the side of your grandma’s tub. This was more or less what I was expecting, but as it warms up to your skin, it becomes so much more than that.
At the heart of the scent, florals like lavender, jasmine, and rose expand on the soapy note in a way that makes it light and sudsy, lathering it up into glassy, iridescent bubbles floating in front of you. I am pretty opposed to anything too floral so I was sort of expecting this to be just another iteration of a clean flowery scent, but I have to say that Bubble Bath uses the florals to enhance and expand on the idea of soap without ever making the florals the focal point. That was a nice and welcome surprise.
At the base, you’ll find white musk, patchouli, and coconut. These base notes are pretty noticeable throughout wear, pulling up through the scent to give the airy, bubbly notes something to stick to. The white musk adds a misty note, like fog on a mirror, the patchouli gives it a much-needed earthiness that keeps the scent from floating away entirely, and the coconut’s soft, milky sweetness rounds the fragrance’s edges.
Most REPLICA scents are linear, meaning that they were made to smell the same throughout wear, instead of evolving from top, heart, and base notes over time. Bubble Bath is more traditional in that it does work to reveal different parts of itself as your wear it. After the big soap note at the beginning, it warms up on your skin and really blooms into a full experience.
Bubble Bath really makes you feel like you’re taking a long soak in a hot bath, with castles of tiny bubbles rising up around you from all sides. It’s not just the bath, though—it’s the steamy, humid bathroom, damp tile, warm skin, and wet hair. The musk, patchouli, and coconut at the base create a super soft, plush note that feels like wrapping yourself in a warm hotel towel after a long, hot bubble bath. It’s the whole fantasy. It’s more than just smelling it—you can feel it.
And that’s what makes REPLICA scents so good, time and time again. They take things you know from places you love, and things you love but don’t realize you know, and distill them into fragrances that take you back there, again and again. Or maybe it’s a place you’ve never been but dream of going, or a place you love but can’t visit right now, since no one is traveling.
It could be that a bubble bath is the best, most relaxing part of your day, and you want to keep a bit of that with you even during all of your hours spent out of the tub. A quick sniff and it brings you back to your last bubbly soak, or reminds you that in just a few hours, you can shut your laptop and sink back into hot water and fluffy pink bubbles.
We've all had to adjust to our new normals, and I have a feeling that when all of this is over, whatever that even means, we will all have a new fascination and appreciation for cleanliness. This lovely, transporting scent is evidence of that, and I think it will have us smelling not only clean, but comforted.