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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

There’s a Zombie On Your Lawn

By Marla

Do you know what to call a perfume that’s been long-discontinued, bitterly mourned, then revived, but it’s not the same perfume?? I call it a Zombie Perfume. I generally can’t stand them. But there seem to be more around these days, and I felt the phenomenon warranted a few words.

Chaos. Barbara Bui. Venezia. Feminite du Bois. The beloved perfumes had disappeared 6 feet under, most of the original juice had been sold on the bay or elsewhere, and we all mourned or battled for the last few drops. Then the company suddenly says, “Wait! We screwed up! We are bringing it back! Perfumistas love it and we will make lots of money!”

Now in the case of Chaos (Donna Karan, 1996), Long Lost Perfumes (J. Dame) had bought the original formula, and he made a fantastic version of Chaos called Anarchy. I loved it, went through 2 bottles. When DK decided to zombify Chaos, he had to stop making Anarchy. Very unfair. The Zombie Chaos showed up for a brief time and it wasn’t bad, it was a bit lighter, a little cheaper-smelling than the original. Now it’s still around, technically, but very hard to find, and Anarchy is definitely gone.

Feminite du Bois was reissued by Serge Lutens, and the zombie version is again, lighter, less distinctive, but very wearable.

The really ugly zombie is Venezia. This knockout oriental, in its original form, has achieved Grail Hunting status. Again, Long Lost Perfumes had bought the original formula and made a very close version of it. Laura Biagiotti decided to revive it, and LLP had to stop producing its own version, which had quite a few fans of its own. The new version has come out, it’s nearly impossible to find except in Germany, and most people who’ve tried it says it is one Ugly Zombie, nothing like the rich oriental studded with dark fruits and spices that we’d been hoping for.

Have you seen any zombies on your lawn? And if so, did you invite them in?



Blogger Madelyn E said...

Zombie is a good term for these lost beauties. I am deep in mourning for so many . To start with my beloved Miss Dior Diorissimo and Opium, Tresor . It is a crying shasme was Dior did to the first two. Thtey are barely recognizable. So I'm thinking ."why bother "?
Calandre is no longer made, Dune is fair. Terrible losses here .
Better to try new scents then wear the zom bies, they continue to haunt and remind you of the perfumes in paradise Lost.

2:40 AM EST  
Blogger Ines said...

Oh, I love that term!
Unfortunately because it's very true. I'd rather we had no zombie perfumes around, but since we do, they deserve the name. :)

4:56 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Dior is definitely at the forefront of zombification, the new Miss Dior Cherie (is that it's name, it's very confusing) being a prime example.

6:38 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad you like the term, and we are in agreement that it is generally a horrible phenomenon!

6:39 AM EST  
Blogger rosarita said...

A perfect name for a sad & scary modern phenomenon!

6:51 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm in total disgust with Dior. Miss Dior Cherie (aka Strawberry Treacle) is being renamed . . . wait for it . . . .MISS DIOR!! Miss Dior is now being called Miss Dior Original. Never having smelled the vintage version of Miss Dior, I quite like the current version (well, as of about 3 years ago) I'm sure it will be discontinued. How groundbreaking, how mesmerizing. The shear genius and manhours it must have taken to come up with such a gift to us consumers. Oh, and let us not forget the hideous cheap rose scent that they threw into their lovely spring nail polishes. And one last rant, by all means keep making Diorling, but don't sell it anywhere except Paris! Morons!

6:59 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This whole Miss Dior thing is a real mess! I have no idea which perfume is which at this point, but having tried the most recent reformulations, I can say I don't want any of it, and yeah, the nail polish was pretty gross....

7:08 AM EST  
Blogger Olfactoria's Travels said...

Dior really takes the cake when it comes to zombiefication, a sad state of affairs indeed.
Great article, Marla!

7:51 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Olfactoria!

8:29 AM EST  
Anonymous Newmaven said...

I agree with the "zombie" analogy re many of the "greats" which have been re-launched, but not in regard to Venezia. Have you actually smelled it?
I just received a bottle of the new Venezia which I purchased from Laura Biagiotti online. I did a side-by-side sniff test with the original, and they are very close. Not bad at all. And much better than the LLP version.

11:51 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The new Venezia is unavailable here, but comments from the boards (Basenotes, Makeupalley), and from German friends who've tried it have been largely negative. I'm very glad to hear you had a good experience!

12:13 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(A separate category might be "Stepford Wives" since so many fragrances these days are as unremarkable as they are indistinguishable.)

1:01 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have a good point there!

1:58 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vent Vert, YSL Rive Gauche, Paris... Lancome's Magie Noire - I could go on and on but this is depressing. Truth is, as folks lured in by Facebook to become reacquainted with their high school crush 30 years later can tell you, revisiting the past is NEVER a good idea. Even if IFRA didn't stick its nose in our business (and I am no fan of that fascist institution) the depletion of natural resources such as sandalwood means that at some point something would have to be reformulated/tweaked. There are thankfully many noses out there creating new beauties for the niche market, even once in a blue moon for the mass market, so that we can fall in love over and over again with a new scent. Our skin changes, our hormones and body chemistry change as we get older and the fact is that Paris - even in its heyday- would smell quite different on me today than it did in 1984. This may be a thin rationalization to feel better about a sad state of things, but somewhere in the midst of gnashing my teeth about the fact that oakmoss is no longer "allowed" in some of perfume's most glorious creations, I also began to learn a lesson about impermanence and learning to accept change with a modicum of grace.

7:34 PM EST  
Blogger Undina said...

My only real grudge is with Dior and its farce with Miss Dior. But I enjoyed reading your article because it reflects great on the state of affairs in that field - from what I hear from my perfumista friends.

8:03 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well stated. Zombies and drastic reformulations should be discouraged, they don't do anyone any good really. Because if an old, discontinued formula cannot be revived (think of G. Cellier's formulae!) it's best to leave them in the past and move on. I mean, Timberol and Cashmeran didn't exist 20 years ago, and I love that stuff! ;-)

8:05 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Undina, and I share your grudge with Dior!

8:06 PM EST  
Blogger DWR said...

I just wanted to stop and say that I loved the reference to Plants vs. Zombies!

10:21 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's my favorite game, Diana!

6:25 AM EST  
Anonymous Boston Red Lox said...

I bought a bottle of Zombie Arpege by Lanvin. It was horrible. I grew up with vintage bottles of it from the 50s or 60s that my mother had on her dresser. When I bought a new bottle, it was powdery, cloying, and had none of the cyphers of the original. I bought a knockoff perfume oil of Arpege that was truer to the original than the Arpege that Lanvin makes now. It makes me sad...

2:12 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boston Red Lox,
I've been hearing some interesting rumors that knockoffs and Eastern European fakes of famous, but zombified perfumes are actually better quality. Apparently, some of these fakes use loads of natural materials and are closer to the original formulae! What irony! And how sad. Arpege was so gorgeous back in the day. And I just heard that YSL has zombified Nu, one of my all-time favorites. Gah!

6:49 AM EST  

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