Shanghai Lily appears to me as one of the most awkward pieces from the Private Blend collection. Although others enjoy a larger popularity, trying them on and wearing most of them I came to the conclusion that this one has a rather captivating and complex story, managing to always surprise me with something new.
I cannot place Shanghai Lily in any olfactory category. It behaves differently on the skin, depending on a variety of factors, sometimes appearing like an ample and decisive floral, other times a spicy-floral mixture or an oriental with numerous layers that unfold slowly, very slowly… The body’s temperature and the mood seem to be dictating its character at every wear. Also, as a bonus in my case, it is the only lily perfume (although I shave to mention the fact that the “lily” effect is artificially built out of spicy-floral tones) that I really find as being gorgeous, although it is not entirely defined by this particular note. Or maybe that’s why.
Thus, it is not explicitly a perfume about a white flower, but a mysterious and evasive one, just like Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express – a film in which she actually has the Shanghai Lily name. You can even make a set of analogies between the perfume and her character in the movie, even if no one mentions if this film represented the base of this perfume. If you ask me, I would like to believe that this is true, because I am a huge fan of this film noir and I think that this perfume manages to loyally capture the cinematographic ideals and caprices of von Sternberg, and could perfectly “mold” on the divine Dietrich, in all the splendour of her youth years, with her moves that were so natural in impossibly glam dresses, heavily decorated with feathers and sequins, wearing a long cigarette holder and disarming her entourage with her laughter that is worth a thousand words.
The illusory lily from Shanghai Lily is, therefore, shadowed by cloves and frankincense, notes that offers the perfume decadent and exotic accents. The mix is multifaceted, having unlimited dark-smoky-spicy aspects, which entwine in a subtle manner. It is said, and I must agree with this, that this perfume has things in common with NU (with which it shares the frankincense notes) and with Opium, but especially with Opium, in my opinion. This is even more plausible considering that Ford was the creative director of YSL for several years, a period in which NU EDT and EDP Plus were launched, together with a few Opium flankers. Shanghai Lily is like a black-and-white remake of Opium, although you can clearly notice that Ford did not want to clone the classic, but only to adjust it to modern parameters without taking its glamour and grandeur. So, in spite of the fact that you can sense some of the oriental-balsamic vibrations of the great classic in Shanghai Lily, they can be felt here at a more diffuse and homogeneous level. It’s like Opium passed through silk.
The loneliness of the flower in the first part, although it is not a full lily but a “white” velvety and peppery note, it is of a true beauty. In time, the opulent spices, floral side, and the dark balsamic tones appear to be tied like in a silk scarf by the frankincense. The perfume has certain suppleness, it breathes, it doesn’t fall heavy, it’s not a baritone, which makes it more than suitable as a daytime perfume, although I would save it for the evening. It is persistent, without any reserves, erotic, creative, and filled with naturalness. The only “chemistry” in Shanghai Lily is the one between its ingredients, the same as those spectacular spiritual connections between some people.