International Women’s Month: Cécile Hua


Welcome to International Women’s Month! Scents of Self will be celebrating with tributes to the female pioneers of perfumery all month long, culminating with a workshop on Saturday, March 26. Next up: Cécile Hua!

“My heroes are the people who try to stay true to their vision despite the industry and its pressure, the ones fighting against soulless products, the ones making sure there is a connection between the juice, the name, the packaging and the positioning: anybody who loves the product enough to make sure it will be done right. How do you expect an emotional response to a product that you don’t love yourself?” -Cécile Hua, Basenotes, 2008

My greatest perfume regret is selling my bottle of M.A.C MV3. I was 21, and I told myself that I needed the $50 a lot more than I needed another bottle of perfume. Three years later, MV3 is now going for $179 on Ebay, when it can be found at all. As well it should! MV3 was the perfect sweet leather.

The nose behind MV3, of course, is today’s International Woman, Cécile Hua. The French-Vietnamese Hua earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in chemistry before attending Givaudan’s perfumery school. She won the first Fashion Group International Rising Star Award for Fragrance Design in 2003, and has been working for the fragrance firm Mane for the past 13 years.

In interviews, Hua overflows with passion about the perfume industry’s future. She acknowledges perfumery’s current realities, the “soulless products” and “disposable commod[ities]”, but looks toward “a better tomorrow, where fragrance design will be given back the attention it deserves.”

And until that better tomorrow comes, Hua brings the same level of gravity to every project, even the soulless ones. With dazzling versatility, she jumps effortlessly between cheesy celebrity fragrances (Paris Hilton Fairy Dust, Jessica Simpson I Fancy You) and challenging niche compositions (Charenton Macerations Asphalt Rainbow, Atelier Cologne Grand Neroli). Cécile, you’re welcome at my basement perfumer compound anytime. (Bring some MV3!)

Sexy Times, Part 2: M.A.C MV3

The other day we talked about Angelina Jolie, who was widely considered to be the hottest woman on the planet until the recent appearance of version 2.0, the younger, graceless Megan Fox. Although I had pegged Angelina as a Prada woman, she actually wears a men’s cologne, Bvlgari Black. Black was created by perfumer Annick Menardo, who is also responsible for the very popular Lolita Lempicka and Christian Dior Hypnotic Poision, and released in 1998. Since its inception Black has been the darling of perfume lovers and critics, who rejoiced at being able to find such an unusual perfume at a mainstream price.

Black is supposedly a smoky vanilla scent, with the smokiness coming from a lapsang souchong tea note. The reality is that Black smells like straight-up burnt rubber. Now, rubber may have sexy connotations galore to the BDSM crowd, but I personally find it disorienting and unenjoyable. Black is edgy, I’ll give it that, and a good match for Angelina, who famously used to wear a vial of her ex-husband’s blood as a necklace.

You guys, I know that we’re supposed to think that Angelina is like a much more bangable Mother Teresa or something to that extent, but does anyone else remember that she used to be really, really weird? I mean, remember how she made out with her brother on the red carpet, and took pictures with horses that were Equus-levels of inappropriate, and slept with a knife under her pillow, and just generally seemed very troubled? I will include the most family-friendly of those horse pictures here to illustrate my point.

Yes, this really and truly was the most family-friendly of the horse pictures.

I will be honest here: I do not particularly care for Angelina Jolie. I would never try to deny her incredible beauty or her equally impressive charity work, but I also have not forgotten that she had an affair with a married man. I also hated her in “A Mighty Heart”. I actually feel fairly strongly about this. “A Mighty Heart” was about the Jewish journalist Daniel Pearl, who was murdered by Pakistani terrorists in 2002. That movie had a damn important story to tell, and that story was lost amidst Jolie’s overdramatic attempt at serious acting. Additionally, “Beowulf” was nothing short of the worst movie of all time. I think what I’m trying to say here is that Angie should probably stick to “Tomb Raider”, and try to be a little bit less of a homewrecker.

Cut it out, Angie!

So we were talking about Black, and how it is very interesting but (in my personal, very unpopular opinion) has no place on a list of sexy perfumes. However, Black is closely related to a perfume that is the very definition of “Sexy Times”: MV3 by M.A.C. MV3 was created in 2002 by perfumer Cecile Krakower, whose otherwise scanty resume includes “Paris Hilton Fairy Dust.” Like Black, MV3 is a smoky vanilla. There are two key differences between the two. First, where Black evokes smokestacks belching out black clouds, MV3 contains a mere breath of smoke. Second, instead of Black’s bizarre rubber note, MV3 has dark, creamy leather.

Despite a prominent vanilla note, MV3 is worlds away from Pink Sugar and its ilk. It starts off sweet and smoky and dries down to a rather sharp, unsweetened leather. At no point is MV3 particularly friendly or comforting. The green dagger that is the vetiver topnote gives MV3 unsmoothable edges and a dangerous glint in its eyes.

MV3 reminds me of the Barry Levinson movie “Liberty Heights”. Adrien Brody falls in love with an exquisite girl (played by the still-fabulous model Carolyn Murphy), only to discover that she is absolutely psychotic. Her character is compared to a thoroughbred horse: beautiful, but very high-strung. MV3 smells like a stunning woman (blonde hair, pale, creamy skin) wearing a tight-fitting leather jacket. She’s sitting alone at a bar, smoking a cigarette. You might wonder how such a gorgeous creature could possibly be alone. If you were to approach her, you would probably discover that there is a very good reason for her solitude.

Carolyn Murphy in Liberty Heights. Can’t you just feel the crazy?

MV3 is very reasonably priced at $25. It is sold at M.A.C stores and M.A.C counters in most department stores.

Disclaimer: I have tried MV3 at Nordstrom and M.A.C stores.