Paco Rabanne's latest fragrance has NFC, for some reason | Engadget
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Paco Rabanne’s latest fragrance has NFC, for some reason | Engadget

What does the future smell like? that depends on who you ask. the puig perfumers, who produce fragrances for paco rabanne, believe that the future smells sexy, confident and energetic. This is how they choose to market Phantom, the fashion house’s latest retro-futuristic fragrance and art piece. Phantom comes in a robot-shaped bottle that, when you touch your phone to the NFC tag embedded in its head, welcomes you to its own digital world. digital trinkets on offer will include interactive filters, custom playlists, augmented reality filters and more.

paco rabanne is the nom de guerre of the spanish designer francisco rabaneda cuervo, who in the 1960s was a pioneering figure in the world of fashion. both he and the house that bears his name have appreciated the absurdity of science fiction. rabanne began to produce dresses with metal and plastic, glued or sewn with wire, instead of sewing. His haute couture work adorns virtually every 1960s fashion retrospective and, far more than his contemporaries, embodies the “space age” fashion of the time.

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phantom is meant to be a love letter to that story, with a retro-futuristic design that wouldn’t have looked out of place on barbarella. the bottle is heavy, with the traditional lowercase “pr” logo on the torso, with the outline of the “p” made of glass. that allows you to watch the waterline fall as you spray yourself with the scent every morning. it comes in two sizes: 100ml (which I’ve seen and used) and 150ml, only the latter of which is refillable.

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Of course, Phantom isn’t just a fancy bottle, it’s the key to an entire online world of digital goodies. The top of its bottle houses an NFC chip that, when touched, welcomes the owner’s smartphone to a list of digital trinkets as a reward for purchasing the bottle. As of this writing, there are only two items available, but the company says the list of items will grow over time, as described above.

Image of the NFC tag at the top of the Paco Rabanne Phantom bottle.

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First up, Boombot lets you pick a date to get a Spotify “playlist of bangers that were number one on that day.” Upon closer analysis, it looks like it’s limited to the US charts, but you’ll be able to open the playlist in Spotify and groove to half a century of tunes. It’s a feature that you’ll be familiar with if you’ve ever used a website like MyBirthdayHits, which looks a little less beautiful but does a very similar job.

second and for now last, it’s an instagram exclusive filter called paco rabanne’s ghost filter. this sees a small ar version of the bottle that sits on his shoulder, flies around his head or tells someone he loves him, his eyes and head movement are also in sync with his . and it’s fun, fun enough for at least one selfie with the little cartoon.

But the science fiction isn’t just in the clothes the ghost wears, it’s in how the fragrance was created in the first place. the perfumers worked in collaboration with an ai that helped them explore new possibilities in fragrance making. According to the company, the team conceived of a new scent and then programmed the formula into an AI, which ran a series of as-yet-untested combinations to make reactions to the scent more intense.

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In the case of phantom, perfumer loc dong wanted to try an “overdose” of a molecule called styralyl acetate. When he suggested this to the computer, it recommended that Dong wear “ten times the usual amount,” compared to a modern perfume. Similarly, the lavender used in the fragrance was obtained through “molecular distillation” which produces a “very modern lavender note”.

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in a statement, paco rabane added that the fragrance was tested on men between the ages of 18 and 35 to determine how it made them feel. They said the ghost made them feel “sexy,” “alert,” and “energetic,” though the details of that test are a bit sketchy.

Now, I’m not a perfume critic, a job I’ll leave to the much more qualified people at Fragrantica. (Who knew people could smell a scent and wish designers had added more bergamot?) I would describe phantom as a sweet musk, one that even hours after application feels strong and lingering. It’s certainly a more energetic scent than I’m used to (my go-to aftershave is chanel allure homme sport) and I felt more productive as a result. in fact, phantom is a strong scent but not unpleasant or overpowering, and everyone I’ve invited to smell me in these sensitive covid times seemed to agree.

Overall, it smells pretty good.

I don’t know if the digital products on offer will be a compelling draw here, at least not based on current evidence. maybe this is for those menswear influencers i see all the damn time on instagram, even if they usually represent ysl and celine. maybe a little ar robot, sitting on their shoulder while they smoke and drink coffee, reclining on a paris park bench, is what they need to reinforce their effort and calm. but fundamentally, you’re going to buy this because it smells good, not because you get a free instagram filter… right?

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phantom by paco rabanne will be released on August 1, 2021 and will be available in the united states at macy’s, nordstrom’s, dillard’s and sephora. There’s no word yet on how much the 100ml bottle will cost, but the 150ml edition will set you back $125, while the 200ml refill is priced at $130.

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