I signed up for a month of yoga at this studio I’ve been test-driving, after going five times in a ten-day unlimited-class special I purchased on a whim. I don’t want to jinx it but I think it’s a really good fit for me. The studio’s clean, close, the schedule will (I think) work when the kids go back to school, and it’s an open/flow structure. Which means that I’m neither in way over my head nor stuck in a class where we move at a snail’s pace while we are talked through each detail. (I’m over-analytical enough already, thanks.) The room’s a perfect 90 degrees (32C), which helps me and everyone around me bust a sweaty move without (I hope) the rosacea-aggravation and migraines that dogged me in the 105F+ (41C) of Bikram, as much as I loved it in other ways. Finally, I alternate between a tall, serene Korean instructor who delivers a meditative, slo-mo yogic asskicking — you know, where down-dog is the rest position — and a short, gruff American gal maybe in her 60s, who manages to constantly help/correct/adjust those of us who suck are beginners in our practice without making it feel like nagging.
So there’s my backdrop for Pure DKNY, rolled out in every fashion magazine I read this month, with Angela Lindvall in a white dress, the essence of purity, against one of those whitewash backgrounds. The photo’s interesting because it’s actually suggestive of an urban aesthetic – the top of a white-painted old-style radiator to the left, paneling to the right (she’s sitting on a windowsill). It’s a big office/apartment windowsill, and in the background is what looks to me like a high-rise, blurred almost into abstraction in the magazine ads. There’s a glass of water to her immediate left. All of this is signaling that she’s either kicking back in her white-washed urban living space, or maybe this is the floaty cover-up she wears to the yoga studio. Do you want to find peace and serenity in your stressful urban environment, like this (expensively groomed, faux-natural blonde-highlighted) avatar? Well, Pure DKNY is your mantra.
“A drop of vanilla sourced from Africa, a drop of goodwill. Pure DKNY supports local communities by taking small steps to help make a difference.” Go to their website and you’ll learn that the vanilla in question comes from Uganda and this is some sort of partnership with CARE to support women in a fight against global poverty, although if you can find any firm financial details you’re a better reader than I am. The box is environmentally friendly and recyclable and (as you can see from the image) very clean-looking in an understated way. Notes are Ugandan vanilla, dewdrop, floral petals, lotus, Bulgarian rose, jasmine, freesia, orchid, white amber, sandalwood and vanilla in water. It is “a soft floral scent with a signature vanilla accord,” according to the ad.
That list might predispose you to think this is a heavier floral – maybe something along the lines of DK Cashmere Mist – but you’d be wrong. Mostly what it is is fresh. Not fresh laundry, or fresh linen. No, it is the kind of fresh that torments yours truly (and Robin at Now Smell This, apparently.) I never quite understand what’s happening to the smell as it renders itself in my brain, but this … note? aromachemical molecule? — is the antithesis of fresh, in that it smells to me mostly like that peculiar, sour note of sweat in synthetic garments. It’s the smell of a basket of sour laundry, the UnderArmour shirt or the $6 black Target polyester that you throw on after spin class, with a focus on the armpit area. I can smell the vanilla, soft and not overly sweet, against a background of attenuated, indistinct watercolor florals whose purpose seems to be to prevent this from being a gourmand. Absent the pick-axe edge of the FRESH pounding into me, I’d describe it as a wallpaper scent. I might have guessed a light summer scent from JLo, marketed as more “sophisticated” for the “mature” audience over the age of 25.
I’ll take another deep, cleansing breath and point out that, vague assertions of charitable aspirations aside, there are plenty of actual “natural” perfumes out there if that’s the way you want to swing. I respect the idea of natural perfumery just as much as I respect the concept of people who want to, say, construct or clean their houses with a minimum of potentially toxic compounds. There are great blogs about natural perfumes and related products – let me provide a link to Scent Hive – with plenty of diverse perfume styles. Natural perfumery does not provide me with everything I want in a fragrance, and it’s susceptible to fraud – if the perfumers aren’t sourcing everything themselves, for instance, they have to trust their suppliers. Beyond that, the more the merrier, and if we could not turn this post into the merits of natural vs. synthetic in comments I would be grateful.
Why did I bring this up? Because to me, and I believe to the casual magazine-reading consumer, one might take away the impression from all this “pure” imagery that Pure DKNY is in some way better for the environment, or more “natural,” or less toxic for the wearer. You know … pure. Says so right there on the label — or it would, if the bottle weren’t blank in the top advertisement (you can see the name on the bottle at left). But there’s nothing here to support the idea that Pure DKNY is any safer or more natural than Mitsouko or Gucci Rush. Instead we’re offered an aesthetic, a sham purification ritual, that troubles me on some level. There’s nothing pure about Pure, other than the level of b.s. in the marketing of it. I bet there are women right now spraying this scent on before their yoga class, and if I wind up next to one of them while I work on my down-dog, I’m going to be pissed.
What did I wear to yoga this morning? The very faint remnants of the majmua attar, which I could smell only because the room was hot, and only with my face inches from my wrists. (I’m a big fan of fellow exercisers using deodorants, which are often scented, so I’m not going to issue a no-frag policy for exercise, but nobody should be wafting scent.)
Donna Karan has created some of my favorite scents – and some of the most intense. Black Cashmere, Chaos, Gold, Fuel and even the original DK robo-duck are all things of startling beauty, no wallflowers among them. I’m also a fan of the Essences, although I thought they were wildly overpriced (I think the newest reissues are priced lower.) I’m not a fan of Cashmere Mist but I think it’s a nice enough scent, and in exchange for all that I’m willing to overlook the Be Delicious franchise and its endless spawn, along with their summer-fluff and duty-free releases. I find myself strangely disheartened by Pure – it feels cynical to me, gimmicky, capitalizing on an Eat/Pray/Love level of self-regard in a way that seems even more dishonest because it implies a kind of purity which Pure doesn’t have.
Now, I’d like to end on a happier note. WITHOUT DEVOLVING INTO A FLAME WAR, THANKS – I welcome suggestions from readers regarding particular scents they’ve enjoyed from houses that purport to be natural or botanical (can we phrase it that way?). Off the top of my head, I’ve enjoyed L’Artisan Jatamansi, which I think is “botanical” and smells like a very expensive spa to me, as well as Strange Invisible Perfumes and Dawn Spencer Hurwitz (search for “natural” in the product search box). And of course I’ll mention the attars again, from Tigerflag and White Lotus.
source: private sample