Monday 18 March 2019

CHAMELEON by Zoologist

When a perfume company takes a very particular inspiration for its fragrances it can often run into difficulties with breaking out of a perceived style. This has been one of the challenges with Victor Wong’s Zoologist range, but it’s one that is about to be blown out of the water. The brand became known for highly scented animalic fragrances that often veered more towards “olfactory artistry” than “wearability” and, with the exception of Hummingbird and Camel, were very anchored in a niche clientele. This month sees the launch of Daniel Pescio’s Chameleon and his balance between style and substance is absolutely spot on.

When Zoologist was launched in 2013 the world of niche fragrance was in full swing and the perfumes that were available seemed to cover every taste. The difference with Victor Wong’s company though was that the scents were carefully curated into a very particular style. The vision of Zoologist was to create fragrances that captured “the idiosyncrasies of the animal kingdom,” transforming them into scents that were “unusual, beautiful, fun, and even shocking.” This laid itself open to animalic overdoses, challenging combinations, and often a perceived drive for scents to be “creative” rather than “commercial.” Couldn’t we have both?

Daniel Pescio was born in Brazil and initially worked in the world of cinema before deciding to retrain as a perfumer. After studying at ISIPCA in Versailles, he began working with private clients and it was at this time that he created Fleur Cannibale and the incredible Muguet 56. With a preferred style of close-body fragrances, the mix of Zoologist and Daniel Pescio was always guaranteed to be wonderfully disruptive to the range, and they haven’t disappointed. Chameleon is an incredibly creative and innovative take on ylang ylang and perfectly straddles the line between “commercial” and “niche.”

It opens with a huge dose of ylang ylang and, even though this is the primary ingredient, it seems to playfully go in and out of focus as the scent develops. However, the banana nuance so often associated with this flower has been dramatically reduced and, in its place, jasmine gives an almost castoreum quality to the ylang instead. This darkened floral is brightened by aromas of aldehydic galbanum, even though neither of these are actually in there, and a fruity mango is stopped from becoming too dominant by the tartness of the bergamot and lemon combination. This feels like the core of the fragrance, but there is so much more to come.

Touches of violet and pepper bridge wonderfully into the base of Chameleon but a subtle use of saffron adds a spiciness to this topical-esque scent. The development of the fragrance sees the perfect combination of vetiver and patchouli washed over by a smooth sandalwood, although the support from the musk cannot be overlooked. It almost gives a commercial anchor to this exquisite scent but, used here, supports without dominating. Cashmeran is also listed as an ingredient but I feel that it pulls everything together, rather than standing alone, and helps to blend the vanilla into the overall composition.

Chameleon is available from the Zoologist website at and also selected stockists priced at £145 for 60ml. [Sample provided by Daniel Pescio]

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