• luca turin

Les Créations de Monsieur Dior

Updated: Aug 27, 2018

I went to the local department store yesterday (Attica, situated within a swank mall grandly named Golden Hall) and headed straight for the Dior counter, hoping to find the new JOY by Dior thing. It hadn't arrived, so more about that one later. Instead I ended up looking at a lineup of familiar stuff in new bottles, including the latest versions of some of the greatest perfumes ever: Diorissimo, Dioressence and Diorella. I usually avoid smelling them to prevent heartbreak, but this time I could not resist.

Dioressence is best forgotten: not unpleasant, but no relation. Diorissimo was surprisingly good, and so was Diorella. If you knew the original, you could certainly recognize the liquid freshness of lily of the valley in Diorissimo, and the weird, overripe fruit salad in Diorella. Clearly someone has put in a lot of work to maintain a plausible resemblance to the original in the face of god-knows-what raw material restrictions. I slipped the smelling strips between the pages of a notebook and walked away feeling vaguely grim.

Then I understood the reason why smelling these fragrances got me down. Time acts on fragrance in three different ways. When a reformulation simply replaces the original juice with a completely different one while keeping the name, that is just disappearance followed by false advertising. If instead you buy a vintage bottle and the top notes are damaged, the fragrance is merely soiled on the surface. You can usually wait a few minutes for the heart notes to shine through and pick up the story as you remembered it. But the Dior classic reissues are something else altogether: they are both recognizable and altered. To use familiar language applied to famous faces, they've had work done. Much of the color and freshness is gone, and the plastic surgery has given them a generic feel of tautness and discomfort. You feel like blurting out a little white lie: "you're looking great!" while trying not to recoil visibly from the surprise.

Much (too much) is made of the connection between perfume and memory. But it occurred to me that one of the properties of fragrance, until the Great Plague of Reformulation set in, was that they did not age. They were freshly mixed according to an unchanging formula and stayed forever young. Now it seems the fragrances of my youth have aged —expensively, to be sure, as befits celebrities. But the terrible news is that they are mortal after all . LT

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© 2018 by Luca Turin & Tania Sanchez.