Twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson launched this lifestyle brand in 2007 named after their two other siblings. The former teeny bopper celebrities have morphed into fashion icons and smart businesswomen who’ve built their own ever-expanding empire. They design not only for the luxe The Row line as well as the mid-price Elizabeth and James and even for JCPenny’s line, Olsenboye.  The Elizabeth and James line claims to be the blending of two dynamic and contrasting personalities: “Elizabeth’s uptown sophistication and feminine detail is paired with James’ laid-back downtown edge and masculine tailoring”.

Both Black and White have a mysterious, edgy and sensuous vibe. Mary-Kate and Ashley supposedly spent a full two years working with perfumer Pierre Negrin to create Nirvana Black in 2013. Woody, sensual, dark and somewhat masculine, Nirvana Black is intended for both genders. What I smell most is the dark sandalwood beneath the violet and vanilla top notes. There’s also a ripe fruity note at the opening along with a slightly chocolatey scent which almost vanishes when the woodiness takes over.

A number of fragrances are marketed as unisex. I could see these as being easily worn by a man and by some women, the type of woman who loves Tom Ford Oud Wood. This definitely wouldn’t work for the type who covets a floral more feminine scent though she’d probably love it on her significant other.

I mistakenly assumed assumed that Nirvana White, which was designed in collaboration with perfumer Honorine Blanc, would be a much lighter fragrance than Black.  According to Sephora’s description: “Elizabeth and James Nirvana White is a captivating blend of delicate peony, chic muguet, and tender musk for a feminine scent with dark sophistication.” Dark yes, and very musky, but I would definitely not call this one feminine. There is something a little brighter than Black due to a faint citrus scent at the start but that is quickly killed by the overbearing musk.

As you can probably tell, I’m not totally in love with either of these. They are interesting, I’ll give them that. And I do really like the retro-chic, sleek bottles that they come in that resemble a cigarette lighter.

A 1.7 oz bottle costs around $85 on Amazon and at Sephora and other stores. If you are aren’t sure you want to commit to a full bottle, they are both available in rollerballs so you could give them both a whirl for only around $30.


  1. Louise says:

    Thanks for such a descriptive review of these fragrances – I find good descriptions hard to come by! I know the best way to tell is to smell it yourself but a review always helps narrow it down for me.

    I love the bottles these come in – beautifully designed.

    I’d like to see more reviews like this – thank you!