OK, this one was a bit more than that. Unlike Ted Baker Ag, Mauboussin Histoire d’Eau, or Avon Cologne Royale Somewhere, I did not buy Calvin Klein Contradiction purely for the bottle, although it was a major driver of the impulse.
This spontaneous online purchase—my first full bottle this year!—came on the heels of two recent reviews: the first by Portia on A Bottled Rose (Mood Scent 4: Roses, Roses, Roses), which also inspired Sam at I Scent You a Day to buy and write about it, which cumulatively prodded me to go for it as well!
In fairness, as good as they both made it sound, I probably would have resisted the temptation if not for the fact that Calvin Klein Contradiction is, in a way, “one that got away” when I was younger. It was launched in the late nineties (it’s difficult to pin down an exact year, but 1997 is the earliest) and I first got to know it either then or in the early 2000s. One summer, I discovered it in a Carrefour, on a lower shelf—I distinctly remember squatting down to pick up the bottle and sniff it—and would make a point to visit that aisle and smell it every time I went shopping for necessities. I never bought it because I was trying to save money and already had a perfume (can’t remember what it was now).
The visuals appealed to me immediately, of course. I loved the color of the liquid, a beautiful coral pink, and the oversized silver cap that made it look like a small amount but could be removed to reveal a column of much more perfume. That the hidden glass is frosted is a very nice design touch.
The visual metaphor fit the name perfectly—it was simple and elegant. Clever. The name Contradiction itself also hit a note with me. It sounded edgy and challenging, to which I aspired.
I can’t really describe my memory of the scent. Floral with darker tones. The current version, though reformulated, still matches the memory, but it’s sharper. Sam called it a “frosted rose” and I think that nails it. The metallic opening (attributed to eucalyptus, which I would not have guessed) reminds me of hairspray. To me it’s “very 90s,” both in that it was a pervasive type of fragrance around that time and in how I generally felt in that era, caught up in the thrill of window shopping and the optimism of looking toward a bright future.
I wouldn’t have pegged this as a “rose perfume.” Like many 90s fragrances, the floral bouquet is rich and, in the totality of the various flowers, abstract. Credited here are top notes of lily, peony, lily-of-the-valley, orchid, rose, and false jasmine; middle notes include lilac and jasmine. I get where some Fragrantica commenters are coming from when they say it reminds them of NIVEA Crème, another classic nostalgia scent. However, the eucalyptus throws a mesh barrier between my nose and the otherwise sweet florals, preventing them from smelling moreish. Keep your distance, the mintiness intones. The sharpness yields to something more like shampoo. The soft—but still cold—drydown is a powdery blanket of musk, sandalwood, and tonka. This part is comforting, like winding down for bed while feeling clean.
The cap confused me at first, because it was a cheap plastic—in my memory, it was a solid metal. Did they change it, or had it always been plastic? Was my ignorant younger self fooled by the color into thinking it was metal? Fragrantica to the rescue confirmed that it had indeed been changed from metal to plastic after Coty took over Calvin Klein fragrances. Now I am disappointed, especially as I bought this for the bottle… but the fulfillment of nostalgia will have to make up for it!