You don't have to be a cranky perfume blogger to feel exasperation at the never-ending stream of new perfume brands vying for your attention. It's not necessary to get a daily stream of press releases: just visit the news pages of Fragrantica or the Recently Added list of the Basenotes directory. Fragonerds today often feel equal amounts of curiosity, skepticism, and "whatever" when told about new brands. Did the world really need a third range from Michael Boadi (Boadicea The Victorious, Illuminum, and now Bohdidharma)? Did Sergio Momo really had to release over 60 perfumes since 2009 under the various Xerjoff offshoots?
Nowadays I rarely bother to shrug when learning about a new brand bursting into the scene with twelve fragrances. How many of them will still be around in five years? In ten years? But I have to admit that I did a double take when I saw the news about the release of a new line, Diana Vreeland Perfumes ($185-$250 at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman). The larger-than-life fashion editor died in 1989. She was a true perfume lover. In her autobiography, D.V., she wrote:
(and see also this post by Jessica on Tinsel Creation)“There’s a whole school now that says that the scent must be faint. This is ridiculous. I’m speaking from the experience of a lifetime.I always carry purse scent – that way I’m never without it. Do you notice any scent on me now? Don’t come any closer – if you have to sniff like a hound, it’s not enough!Perfume is an extravagance. But it’s odd that Americans, who God knows are an extravagant people, have never used scents properly. They buy bottles, but they don’t splash it on. Chanel always used to say, keep a bottle in your bag, and refresh yourself with it continually.”
But when I see headlines in some online sites claiming "A new fragrance by the legendary editor-in-chief of Vogue US, Diana Vreeland", I cringe. And then I cringe again. Because the five new perfumes are not "by Vreeland". They were not commissioned for her, either. Her grandson, Alexander, is the entrepreneur behind this venture. Mr. Vreeland is the administrator of the Diana Vreeland Estate and the husband of filmmaker Lisa Immordino Vreeland who directed and produced the 2012 documentary Diana Vreeland- The Eye Has To Travel. I'm guessing that the film's success and what seemed like a renewed interest in his grandmother (Atelier Swarovski already created a limited edition jewelry collection 'Diana Vreeland Legacy Collection' in 2012) made Mr. Vreeland and the estate decide there was a commercial potential behind the name. So why not release a perfume or five?
I tried to think of similar examples of posthumous use of a celebrity's name in perfume, but the only ones are a single fragrance in an existing line dedicated to the person's memory (Immortelle Marilyn by Nez à Nez, Josephine Baker by Etat Libre d'Orange), but maybe I'm forgetting something. But does it matter? I don't know.Obviously, the estate has every right to do it, but I'm still uncomfortable, especially since the late Mrs. Vreeland wasn't a label of any kind. She was an editor and a curator, but not a brand. Making her one twenty five years after her death doesn't feel right to me. If the family wanted simply to honor her memory they could have donated a wing to a hospital or to a museum. Slapping her name on perfumes she never smelled? Not that big of a tribute. I don't even want to think what will come next.
Let's talk about it: how do you feel about the concept of Diana Vreeland Perfumes? Would you be comfortable with similar endeavors?
Photo: Harry Benson: Diana Vreeland, New York, 1980