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 Donna Karan (the edp) was withdrawn from sale a few years later.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.