Extravagance Russe by Diana Vreeland

Up until I explored this range of fragrances, I had never heard of Diana Vreeland. Consider it a fashionable faux pas – I am guilty!

I will treat this ignorance as a fortunate opportunity to attempt to test my internalist/externalist discussions in fragrance. Does smelling either Extravagance Russe alone or the complete range of works sufficient in providing a good characterisation of Vreeland’s biography? Simply, no (less simply – I do not think so). The bottle design does Vreeland more justice than the scents themselves. Extravagance Russe was the only fragrance of the range I liked. I think Outrageously Vibrant also grabbed my attention, but to be perfectly honest, I do not remember.  I was hoping that the works would at least convey or (more strongly) contain a meaning that aligned with the way the brand is shaped, but that is not the case.

They’re in every way an exercise in fast-food perfumery, a more recent ailment in the niche-cum-mainstream trend. What would classically be considered niche is no longer marked by slow and careful steps – but through crude and rushed maneuvers (niche today). The promise of good biographical or narrative depictions (Arquiste does it decently, for instance) and strong brand identity through motifs and labels (L’Artisan and Etat Libre d’Orange are positive examples) is tarnished, whilst rapid release perfumery (unconsidered, unexpanded ideas and concepts, fuzzy edges – all becomes apparent) is the new thing.

And so, I will not be talking about meaning in this post, because there is an utter disconnect by the way of a complete irrelevance between scent and brand.

Photo by Diana Vreeland


How does it smell? Extravagance Russe is your typical amber wash. Amber, in all of its off-sweet goodness is like a shot straight to the pleasure receptors. It is the perfume fan’s catnip – an oozing amalgam of tones blurred into a homogeneous unit: a bit of smoke, an undertone of burning tire and tar, some honey, sexy vanilla, definitely something boozy, some fresh frankincense lifting up with its blunt citric tones, stickiness from the resins and saps, … I could continue waxing on. I particularly like the intensely soft impression of suede I receive from the musk notes, which is totally not as plush as actual suede-dominant offerings, but able to provide a velvet mood to the scent with an astringent, antiseptic feel found deep in the heart. This fragrance moves faintly, dissolving into a vanilla musk base.

This analysis looks at the scent in itself. It is, by all means, a decently done amber, but why am I disappointed? What more?

As a composed work, and especially as an amber subject, Extravagance Russe is barely extravagant. I would imagine that the fashion-conscious (contrast: scent-conscious) buyer would find some pleasure in this so called ‘evocation’ of Russian Extravagance, for amber dominated subjects might be too exotic for the uninitiated, but for anyone who is serious about fragrance, style, or themselves, comfort is best achieved in knowing that Ambre Russe from Parfums d’Empire exists – remarkably extravagant without having to openly make that promise; Champagne and vodka – nothing else needs to be said.

For evocation purposes alone, Ambre Sultan is indefatigable. And, finally, for the stifling and strictly fashion-inclined, Chanel’s Coromandel will have you quibbling at the knees, able to provide an amber beyond an amber alone; an Oriental in every sense, brilliantly achieved by dosing rose, patchouli, and chocolate atop amber-vanilla-musk to create a top-down structure. It is a feeling of absolute well-considered luxury, like being smothered and surrounded in the most luxuriously off-white fabric with a subtle Chinoiserie pattern.

When you compare the two, Russe is a limply reduced Coromandel, whereas Coromandel is able to capture a mood I feel the Diana Vreeland range tried to achieve without decent success. It is because Coromandel contains a well-established and emblematic signature that it becomes worthwhile. Didn’t Vreeland write about Coco Chanel anyway? Google reveals all.

Undesirable Amber

Subjective rating: 3/5

Objective rating: 2/5

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