Diorellish, or The Perfume Formerly Known as Diorella

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(Jane Fonda. Faded Barbarella.)

Diorellish (the the current reformulation of Diorella) smells OK. On first impression, it smells a bit like Diorella, the lateral borders being in about the same places,  but the depth isn’t there. This sort of reformulation, which deliberatly avoids nuance is particularly insidious. It tries to convince you that quantity is the concern. If 95% of the formula remains intact, how different can the reformulated version be?  This argument neglects the truth that the qualitative differences made by removing key elements kill the reformulation.

Think of the person who wore Diorella often if not always. Those around him would likely never know the difference since their contact with the perfume is more removed than the wearer’s. But for the wearer, Diorellish is a constant reminder that the present will always pale in comparison to the past. Try living in THAT moment.

Diorellish isn’t unattractive, and surprisingly is not entirely unbalanced. It “passes”. Diorellish is the Canal Street knock-off of a luxury handbag. It might fool others briefly, but you see the poor stitching, feel the inferior materials, and feel the shame of pretending.

But here’s where, for me, the destiny of expectation, and the dice-roll of unintended consequences come together. If you turn your head just right, Diorellish smells like a pretty eau de cologne. Where The original might have scared people, the imposter has that Goldilocks sensibility of offending virtually no one. At my job as a nurse in hospital, Diorellish fulfills the goal,  as would any eau de cologne, of denoting a person who at least made an effort to smell clean.

Do I mourn the death of Diorella? Every god-damned time I wear it. But do I also find a place for Diorellish?  Yes, but it was the luck of the draw.  I can understand why others despise Diorellish.  Contempt is an appropriate response to the deliberate diminishing of quality. To find that my favorite perfume has in fact been ruined is a shame, but to find a new use for the ruination itself feels like a healthy Fuck You to Dior, though I imagine Roudnitska must be rolling over in his grave.

Roudnitska’s work was a was an identifiable high point in classical perfumery and his influence on perfumers and generations of perfume wearers is still palpable. But because he was in fact a classical  perfumer, and used so many element of the traditional compositionsl palette, the bulk of his work has been gutted. Had I been an adult at the time of Roudnitska’s work, I’d have had dinner parties for the release of his new perfumes. I’d have flown to Paris to smell the boulevards and stopped people to compliment their perfume. People do similar things at first night of an opera season or a ballet premiere, don’t they?

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