Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Emanuel Ungaro Diva: fragrance review & reminiscences

People sometimes say things are not what they used to be, and in the case of fragrances, they're unequivocally right. Despite a certain glamorization of the past, which usually indicates dissatisfaction with the present, the fragrance game has changed radically in the past 20 years. Not necessarily for the worse overall, but the bite and edge of fragrances in the mainstream sector has suffered indeed. Some of them, nevertheless, show a predisposition for resisting. Diva by Ungaro seems to be one of them, apparently surviving relatively unscathed. It's still a glorious chypre with an indestructible "hear me roar" bawl that can be heard from the rooftops

I was offered a bottle of Emanuel Ungaro's Diva when I was 19. By my young boyfriend, no less. In today's standards, that would be the equivalent of being offered a petal dress in organza silk, combined with diamond-encrusted earrings to match, to wear to a black-tie ball. Talk about a glamazon! Those were different times, though; we weren't afraid to be adventurous with fragrance or over-apply occasionally. 

Jacques Polge, the legendary perfumer who is the father of the current in-house perfumer at Chanel, Olivier Polge, made sure to include everything and the kitchen sink while composing the byzantine formula of Diva back in the early 1980s. There is the standard big, voluminous, and arguably synthetic rose of the1980s, immortalized in creations such as L'Arte di Gucci, Knowing, and Paris (YSL). It's balanced with a big dollop of patchouli and oakmoss, which give a very distinct aloof quality to the flower, eschewing the prim and romantic allusions of those blossoms and instilling a glamorous and somewhat demanding vibe. You can definitely see how it was an offer of supplication from a boyfriend to one's mistress...

 This wonderful and classic chord is then cleverly wrapped in a honey note, which only sweetens it just so, and a string of animalic notes, from civet to musk (it's almost YSL Kouros-like in its intimacy of warm naughty notes under the clean starchness). It is these elements that help make Diva congenital even to warm ambery perfume lovers. People who like Paloma Piccaso Mon Parfum but find it a bit harsh might find the Ungaro fragrance more simpatico to their sensibilities; it's worth trying and comparing to see the common lineage at the very least.

There is warmth and plush in Diva, as well as a dollop of other flower essences than rose, which enhances its femininity, and it all makes it less of a boardroom fragrance, unlike the way Knowing can appear austere and buttoned-up, especially nowadays. This quality brings it effortlessly into the salon and the boudoir. It's ladylike but still naughty; in the case of Diva, the lady is a tramp. And hey, even Lady Gaga reworked the classic song, so fragrance lovers should probably seek out Diva and give it a spin. It's worth exploring anew.


  1. ahhhh, how i do miss the perfume sensibilities of former times.

    those glorious, complex, unabashed fragrances, especially the chypres and earlier orientals...there is little being released today which compares. i do not want my perfumes to smell like cleaning products, or like candy.

    there is a reason these older, usually discontinued, fragrances command the prices they do...

    1. It's a long lost world, from the finest detail, to the bigger picture. It's perhaps better now in some ways, but not all, glamour and poise being two of the suffering segments of the bigger picture. Oh well...

  2. Wish I didn't feel so self-conscious about wearing some of those powerhouse frags now. With so much political correctness, so many "environmental" sensitivities, and so much animal rights activism, it's hard to imagine I woudn't be assaulting the sensibilities of just about EVERYONE with some of the fragrances I absolutely love. Paloma, La Nuit, Diva, Ysatis, and Samsara are just a few that I'm sure would have me fleeing from the pitchfork and torch-wielding masses that wallow in the mire of "social consciousness".

    Yet it would be me that was held in contempt should I ever complain about the odor eminating from someone with inadequate hygiene that I was forced to share space with on public transport, or an elevator with the chain-smoker in unwashed clothes. Sigh.

    1. Ah, hear hear.
      I do believe however you could get away with wearing anything you want, no matter how powerhouse it used to be, by spraying on your legs and letting it rise up slowly. ;) It's much subtler to everyone around and very much appreciated by that special someone (assuming they also like it, of course). :D


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