Launched by Christian Dior in 1976, four years after the triumph of Diorella and composed by the same nose, the legendary Edmond Roudnitska, Dior-Dior was an astounding commercial flop resulting in its subsequent discontinuation and its firm positioning in the Pantheon of rarities.
It's hard to speculate après le deluge what exactly went wrong. Perhaps it was due to a discrepancy between zeitgeist and the character of the fragrance. By 1976 the advent of emancipated strident chypres as well as the progression from the hippy oils of the late 60s was not simpatico to a woody floral that had pared down the aromatic chypré piquancy of Diorella. And only fairly recently have woody florals for women known a slow resurgence with L'instant Magic, Bond no.9 Andy Warhol Silver Factory, Flower Oriental by Kenzo or the new Sensuous by Lauder and Magnifique by Lancôme.
However, it might also be attributed to the emerging ethos of the fledging perfume marketing: the importance of packaging and bottle being brought to focus much more assertively, the trade aspect getting seriously revved up, perfume being more of a lifestyle object than an objet d'art and copies of copies of things getting produced at a faster rate (although nothing like the alarming avalanche of more recent launches!).
According to Edmond Roudnitska, this resulted in a «olfactive cacophony», lowering of quality and debasement of creativity:
The choice of a perfume can only rest on the competence acquired by education of olfactive taste, by intelligent curiosity and by a desire to understand the WHY and the HOW of perfume. Instead, the public was given inexactitudes and banalities. The proper role of publicity is to assist in the formation of connoisseurs, who are the only worthwhile propagandists for perfume, and it is up to the perfumers to enlighten, orient and direct the publicity agents.~L'Intimité du Parfum (En collaboration) Olivier PERRIN Editeur, 1974 (availaible at "Sephora" on Champs-Elysées, Paris)
My small, houndstooth-patterned, vintage bottle has a very slightly bruised top note that is neverthless heavy on the indolic, intense aroma of narcissus and white florals, adding the patina of a well-worn, waxed floor with the remnants of cat pee in its cracks . Narcissus naturally extols this aspect, giving a distinctly feral impression which I personally love: from the leathery-laced Fleur de Narcisse by L'Artisan to the paperwhites note in Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker. Mohammud called its scent "bread for the soul" and I can see why: taking in its heady emanation is on the border of pain, it's so intense!
Dior-Dior also serves as a commemorative recapitualtion of a perfumer's artistic path, a simile of olfactory soliloquy: A melon note which Roudnitska put in several of his perfumes (Le Parfum de Thérèse, Diorella) is discernible, although not in the context of the aquatic fragrances of the 90s: melon in a Roudnitska composition seems to serve as a memento of summery laughs in the autumnal mistiness that the chypre base juxtaposes.
And the fresh jasmine odour of hedione/dihydrojasmonate, first copiously used by him in Eau Sauvage, leaps through, with its verdant, metallic cling-clang, puffing out small breathless sighs everytime I move my arms around; the sort of thing that would naturally mingle with the surroundings of white-washed windows and stucco-ed walls in places where iron rust feeds potted gardenias and people eat feta cheese alongside their watermelon.
The last familiar touch comes from the lily of the valley accord that Roudnitska so intently masterminded for his soliflore apotheosis, Diorissimo. (Arguably the only hommage missing is the Prunol base of Femme and the peachy core of Diorama).
Although all the above "notes" sound "clean", in Dior Dior they are neither freshly showered, nor vacuum-sealed. They breathe and deepen into a very feminine and quite urbane fragrance, far removed from Laura Ashley summer dresses, which persists on skin for hours.
For all its charm however Dior-Dior doesn't talk to me the way Roudnitska's more luminiscent creations, such as Diorella or Eau Sauvage, do. Perhaps it's just as well. Still, my bottle is poised alongside its sibling houndstoothed gems with its regal brow highly arched.
Notes: narcissus, muguet (lily of the valley), woods
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Ad pic illustration by Rene Gruau courtesy of Fragrantica. Houndstooth bottle pic courtesy of Musée del Perfum.