When one of the revered classics gets re-issued, it is cause for celebration. Or disenchantment. It really is a delicate balance. Diorama is no stranger to various versions circulating through the years since its original creation by Edmond Roudnitska in 1949. (You can read our own review on this page) Alternatively dirtier/raunchier (perfume aficionado speak is "skanky") or like a bowl of sunny late summer fruit left on the table to ripen a tad longer than usual (thanks to the famous Prunol base which Roudnitska was so fond of), Diorama has had its phases. The latest one involves a re-issue, just this minute going downtown in specific stores wordlwide (contrary to its Parisian Avenue Montaigne exclusivity as of last year) and a different attribution: to François Demachy, creative art director and head perfumer at parfums Dior, rather to Edmond Roudnitska. What does this mean? Many things.
- First of all, the industry secret on it being reworked was revealed to me quite a while ago alongside the difference attribution, when approached by a journalist who wanted my input for his research on something concerning the brand and the perfumer. I hope to be able to reveal the length of our coming and goings in the future. But I digress. The matter is the attribution to Demachy signals a change in the formula. Surely, the formula had been tweaked a couple of times already, like mentioned above. But the name of the illustrious creator was guarded as a porte-chance (a good luck charm). Divesting it of its legendary lineage creates an enigma as to whether Demachy has gained full creative control at Dior under the LVMH shortage of budgets for creations or whether his talents are sort of "sold short" as I believed, especially given his tutoring under Edmond himself. (After all François Demachy did beautiful work when the formula restrains were either lifted momentarily for J'Afore L'Absolu or concaved into the inherent idea of simplicity in the style proposed, as in Escale à Portofino). Is an attribution of the reworking of an acclaimed fragrance the final test and the signal from LVMH that there is perfumer lineage there? Is it merely a marketing trick? Or a desire to highlight the role of their head perfumer?
- Another aspect is that the former unattainability of Diorama (being a Paris flagship Dior store exclusive) for most of the perfume lovers the world over is now into crumbles, even if the places of sale are not low-brow at all. Still, the opening to the Anglo-Saxon market signals something important in the luxury business outlook. Namely that creating a hard-to-get exclusive creates a frenzy (uncle Serge played this game first and best) but you have to make sure that that frenzy finds a way to invade the biggest consumer market of them all and the one more attuned to the Internet: the USA and North America in general. Ergo Saks is now carrying Diorama as an exclusive, catering for the increased awareness of classics and more obscure fragrances by an audience which was brought up on the Internet or delurked enough to take notice. It was with surprise I had found out last year that even regular fare which we consider normal perfume counter-material (Diorella, Miss Dior etc.) is hiding beneath specific counters in the US and you have to explicitly ask for them to try them out. Maybe LVMH has finally realised they're sitting on a (very) dumped down brand (lately) and decided to make amends? Let's hope so!
- Which leaves us with the actual fragrance of the re-issued Diorama. How does it smell like? To cut a long story short, it is still recognisably Diorama, meaning a ripe juice with plummy goodness embracing an unidentified white flower at the heart, somewhere between sweet jasmine and the caramelised scent of immortelle.
Comparing with the till recently circulating re-issue on Avenue Montaigne one would detect some cleaning up which veered it further into Le Parfum de Thèrese direction with a bastardised peach overripeness rather than melon; and at the same time further away from Femme (both Roudnitska creations, the latter preceding Diorama, the former following it). It was still a nice perfume, but not on a par with the older vintages and I personally voted with my wallet for the contemporary bottles of Diorling.
The Diorama re-issue of 2010, much like the 50s vintage versions, is closer to Femme with its patisserie density and its bosom-heavy cumin tonalities and sports a particularly vivid Damascena rose on its lapel alongside the peaches and plums. Still, the inky, muddy depth of oakmoss is flamboyant in its...absence. The new re-issue of Diorama feels more like a fruity woody with a thin voice than a traditional chypre with timber tibre, much as it tries...
The re-issued Diorama is currently a Saks exclusive in the US, and available at Harrods and Fortnum's in London. Dior is re-issuing their classics under an umbrella collection called Les Créations de Monsieur Dior (no matter that Dior died in 1957 before many were conceived). You can read all about those here.