Thursday, 11 November 2010

Donna Karan Signature

The creative tendrils of American born fashion designer Donna Karan reached the shores of Australia in the mid 1990's following the launch of her DKNY Jeans fashion line and signature perfume 'Donna Karan' (1992) - an eau de parfum presented in an alienesque flacon designed by her late sculptor/painter husband Stephen Weiss. When the perfume launched in both hemispheres, it created a stir... its exotic and unfamiliar bottle was staunchly modern, but also vilified publicly for its provocative, phallic form. Weiss later commented:

"I didn't set out to create a bottle shaped like a penis . . . it wasn't like I said to myself, oh, how can I make this thing more penile? I did a book with 100 forms and I happened to pick the one that looked like a phallus."

Whilst initially the flacon was distinctly masculine in appearance, a print campaign in support of the launch presented the bottle in a resolutely feminine way... the media spotlight only drew more attention to this indignity, but alas it seemed the beauty of the perfume inside was not triumphing over the immodesty of the bottle. Donna Karan (the edp) was withdrawn from sale a few years later.

Over a decade on, in August 2008, Donna Karan relaunched her discontinued fragrance lines from the 1990s - this time in understated, columns of smokey brown glass; her signature scent amongst them. Now, without the obvious distraction of the bottle, Donna Karan Signature can finally reap the accolades it deserves as a wonderful dry, woody leather chypre for women.

I do not find a whole lot of evolution between the first spritz and dwindling drydown, but this suits me just fine... I adore Signature right out of the bottle. It opens with a narcotising blend of rich florals and spice accords. There is a rather luxurious lily / rose / neroli combination that tumbles over a sublime bed of patchouli, amber and creamy sandalwood. Interestingly, I find it is both embracing and warm, and yet in some ways rather solemn and unemotional. I can't help but feel I am experiencing a return to perfume stylings of the early 20th century with its hint of napped suede and a huff of pleasant soapiness. Donna Karan Signature is gratifyingly beautiful, but possesses a vacant emptiness... a pang of reflection, much like that which I celebrate in my beloved Vol de Nuit. Recommended for both women and men, Signature has definite presence and leaves a soft perfumed wake behind you.

At this point in time I feel Donna Karan has finally found her moment. It may have been almost 2 decades in the making, but her Donna Karan Fragrance Collection offers much to be explored.


Kevin Guyer said...

Nice overview!
Donna Karan Signature is one of the great, unsung classics of modern perfumery. The juice and the bottle are both so uncompromising - something that you never got from her DKNY creations. I absolutely do not get the phallic connection to the original bottle design. You really have to look at it from a specific angle and use a flattening lens to make it look phallic - to me, in profile, the bottle always brought to mind a black swan.
The real problem with the bottle design is that it didn't function properly. The sprayer's trigger is on the side, as opposed to the usual top position. It's concealed by a strip of rubber, which made it feel a little unsure and as a result occasionally slipped out of place. Also the gold plastic chipped rather easily and the beak, where the perfume sprays out of, also chipped of easily.
I'm glad this beauty lives on in the new, high-end, but rather generic bottles.

Arwen said...

Dimi, what a lovely review. Many years ago a friend gave me a bottle of the same design with perfumed body lotion. The fragrance of the lotion was very long lasting and strong, so I never thought about buying the perfume until I ran out of the lotion. Too bad that the perfume had already been discontinued. I cannot believe how misunderstood this perfume was. What I remember was a sueded, floral, creamy, woody perfume with much tenacity, but at the end, a comfortable and elegan scent. I am glad that it has been brought back to life. My only question is whether the new fragrance has been reformulated to the point that it is a totally different perfume. I will get a sample of the re-issue and find out.

brian said...

I too wonder whether the newer version is at all a reformulation. I suppose it would have to be. So I'm curious how they compare. I was lucky enough to find an older bottle recently. It's one of my favorites. I think it smells great on a guy. There is the problem with the trigger. The rubber covering comes loose easily. Those earlier bottles were great: Fuel, Unleaded, Black Cashmere, Gold edp...

Homa Lea Masters said...

When this first came out I was hooked! I saved my money bought a bottle and wore it( sometimes layered with Cashmere Mist) till I ran out. Then found it had been discontinued. I still use Cashmere Mist exclusively and get snuggled by men and women alike who like the way I smell. I recently ran across sample bottles of the original and have been wearing it once again. I am so glad it is back as Donna Karan Signature. Send me a sample PLEASE so I can compare. Homergirl

Blog Author said...

Homa Lea Masters, instead of being solicited for samples, I'll do you one favour, which is the next best thing:

The rest is up to you.

Libby Philpot said...

I have one of the posters that was pulled. I have kept it in a tube to protect it, but keep thinking about having a custom frame made for it.