Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Let's Talk About It: Diana Vreeland Perfumes


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:
“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.”
(and see also this post by Jessica on Tinsel Creation)

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

25 comments:

  1. Yeah, this news makes me feel crabby, too. I tired of meretricious celebrity scents a long time ago, and the idea of a posthumous celebrity scent trend is NOT, NOT, NOT welcome. OTOH, I loved the The Eye Has toTravel, so maybe we should see if these are any good before rejecting the line completely.

    There may be some posthumous Elizabeth Taylor perfumes, but she at least started her line. nozknoz

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  2. I don't like when celebrities are used to sell products posthumously. Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn are two that have been used that way. In a way I'm glad that people are still into them, but also uncomfortable that they are being used to sell stuff that they had no association with while alive.

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  3. At first I was thinking this was a great idea - perfume made for a gal after my own heart, someone who actually wanted to smell like she was wearing fragrance! And then .... well, she of course had nothing whatsoever to do with the creation of this line, she never sniffed these five, either in their testing stages or their final versions. In all probability, she might not even have liked what we are being presented with as being "hers". It is, to my mind, a very cynical exercise to cash in on the perfume mania besetting the media and market. What a shame. If they had truly wanted to create a fragrance in her honour, well that's fine. But I don't believe that this is what we have here.
    Jillie

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  4. It smells off to me. From what I read, if she had wanted to create a perfume there would have been exact instructions and the thought of something commissioned by somebody else bearing her name would have horrified her. A homage to/inspired by yes anything else no.

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  5. Not thrilled, as it's got a snowball's chance in hell of being something DV would wear, much less endorse. Just look at the iconic picture of her sitting in her all-scarlet living room. You know right there that was a woman who wouldn't mince words about the state of perfumery today. But, it's all about the money. We all know perfume has good margins, so the relation is probably capitalizing on that. Of course, I'll eat my words if it turns out there's one in the bunch worthy of her name, but I don't hold out hope here. And I think anything bearing DV's name needs heaps and piles of real Mysore sandalwood, but we know that's not happening. Oddly enough I picture something along the lines of a mashup of vintage Opium and vintage Samsara in some sort of super-extrait form if imagining a scent for her.

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  6. I am hardly a perfume aficionado, and I don't pretend to know anything about fragrance. But...I am also uncomfortable with this. It's merely an opportunity to make money using Diana Vreeland's name and reputation. Not in favor of this at all!

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  7. Hmm. I have mixed views on it.
    Perfume for a perfume lover seems like a lovely tribute. For someone really close to you, and who's taste in perfume you know very well. This is a woman with rather strong views on fragrance, and Grandson doesn't seem very close to me. Following from this is how they smell: the proof is in the pudding so to speak- do they smell like a loving tribute to her?
    Just my 2cents worth anyway :)
    - Lynley

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  8. Agreed, Gaia. This is never a good idea. It takes the so-called "honoured" person completely out of the picture because they are not there to approve or disapprove. It is just a money making scheme and so basically means nothing.

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  9. I am flabberghasted that her grandson is doing this. I feel sure that if Ms. Vreeland had wanted to create perfume with her name on it when she was alive, she would have done so. I feel like this is a shameless attempt by her family to capitalize on her name. I would even feel better if he were really interested in scent and made a tribute to DV, but the way he seems to be going about it is just cold and commercial.

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  10. When I saw the Marilyn Monroe lingerie line a couple of years back I came up with the term "necro-marketing". It's rather horrible.

    There is a fain chance that a Diana Vreeland perfume will be good, but I doubt people here are holding their breath...AnnieA

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    1. "Necro-marketing". I like that. And now they're using poor Marilyn's image to hock hair products. How can someone who is dead endorse a product that wasn't even created during her lifetime? I think the Chanel ads are completely different because those use actual film clips of Marilyn endorsing No 5.

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  11. Gaia - spot on, and I agree 100% percent with you. There is something about the whole idea that is very off putting.

    If the fabulous Diana Vreeland were to create a fragrance? I imagine it'd smell something of a cross between MKK and Sheherazade by Jean Despriz, musky, powdery and animalic witih a touch of spicy carnation thrown in for good measure.

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  12. Oh, for heaven's sake, the woman is dead! This is a money grab on the part of a greedy grandson. He's not honoring her legacy; he's cashing in on her iconic image to enrich his own coffers. As for Ms. Vreeland's dated pronouncements on perfume, I'd like to play devil's advocate ;-) and counter with the following:

    “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." --- Her lifetime is nothing in the face of the millennia that people have been wearing scent. Her personal preference dates her and has come and gone out of fashion countless times throughout the ages. It doesn't make her preference right or wrong; it just makes it a preference for a particular time and place.

    "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!" --- The more than 37 million chronic migraine sufferers in the US alone and the countless others with scent related allergies would heartily disagree with her. When out in public, it would be nice if everyone would confine scent to their personal space. Most of the time it is possible for a sufferer to move out of harms way, but it is impossible when in a confined space or when forced to sit in close proximity to someone doused in scent. What Ms. Vreeland would consider a sensory delight could easily result in 24-48 hours of excruciating pain for a person with a neurological disorder such as migraines.

    "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.” --- During Chanel's time, underarm deodorants were not ubiquitous especially in Europe where the vast majority of women didn't even shave under their arms. Also, at that time, a daily shower or bath was not the norm in a number of European countries. Scent; especially eau de toilette, was a way of masking more unpleasant body odors. Also, Chanel and Vreeland were both heavy smokers which means their sense of smell was not nearly as acute as it would be for a non-smoker. No wonder they thought it was OK to splash on their scent with wild abandon. They were compensating for what cigarette smoking had taken away.

    I'm not a curmudgeon. Really, I'm not :-) I enjoy perfume but I find the pronouncements that some people make when talking about it to be pretentious. The enjoyment of scent is ultimately a personal experience and I find edicts beyond using common sense and showing courtesy for others when in public to be wholly unwarranted.

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    1. Eileen - I totally agree! There is nothing worse (for me) than walking into a room or an elevator where someone has left their heavy invasive perfume scent - I have to hold my breath! To me, scent is a personal thing...and only those who are in my personal space should share!

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  13. I am so used to 'celebrity' being tossed in my face in any number of products! I could care less now, numb. Only way I would be interested in the Vreeland entry to fragrance would be is if, one or all, seemed true to her essence, her character, and if it smelled good, to me! With all the amazing scent I want to catch up with, this is low on the list, if on the list at all. Remember, however, that Mrs. Vreeland has, and always had, a cult following through several generations. There will be a market, how small or large remains to be seen!

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  14. I have most--if not all--of the books by her and about her. I cannot recall if any of the books mentioned what perfume that she did wear or favor. If she was partial to one scent--then a special bottling or a special flacon designed as tribute to her might be more appropriate and much more meaningful.

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  15. "You don't have to be a cranky perfume blogger to feel exasperation"
    Since you're not a real perfume blogger this post is pointless. What happened? They didn't sent you a free bottle like all the other ones?

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    1. Just curious: how you would definite "real perfume blogger"?

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    2. Pretty sure anyone that can scrabble together a blog is a real blogger. And even the ones with a perfume background or big advertising don't get all the scents sent to them, and often source their own samples - and quelle horreur, express doubt on to-come releases before they've experienced them.

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    3. The snide comment would be made by someone who's too scared to post their SN *rolls eyes*

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  16. Am shocked and horrified by this. DV deserves better - much better. I might be OK with this if he had commissioned someone like Vero Kern (who I imagine would be very in tune to what DV might have wanted) to create a single, wonderfully luxurious, extremely gorgeous scent for her. But, five? No. Maybe they'll be nice, even quite nice, but a perfume named for her should be over the top fabulous. I'm imagining her haunting him with some truly horrific smells - I know, a petty, mean spirited fantasy on my part, but I think that's what he deserves.
    Anna

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  17. Diana Vreeland was a huge fan of Chanel No. 5. From her autobiography D.V.,

    Chanel No. 5, to me, is still the ideal scent for a woman. She can wear it anywhere, anytime, and everybody - husbands, beaus, taxi drivers - EVERYBODY loves it. NO ONE has gone beyond Chanel No. 5.

    Chanel was the first couturier who added scent to the wardrobe of the woman. No designer had ever thought of such a thing. Chanel No. 5 is a totally marvelous product - best bottle, stopper, box - and, of course, still one of the GREAT scents."

    Normand

    That was quite an endorsement.

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  18. I received the Diana Vreeland scent Simply Divine as a gift yesterday. I must tell you that it is "simply divine". DV felt that perfume was a luxury and essential to every woman. I own many expensive and custom perfumes and this scent holds its own amongst them. I do not know what her grandson's true intentions were, but he has created a perfume line that does not skimp on the finest ingedients. To say that she would not approve because she had no say in the creation well, that's just preposterous. She didn't have a say in any of the perfumes she wore and loved during her lifetime either. I only wish critics would actually smell the perfumes or buy a bottle before ripping the grandson to shreds. Whatever his intentions, I am proud to actually own a bottle of this delightfully controversial perfume. I wish Mr Vreeland much success and I'm sure his grandmother is looking down at him with pride.

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