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Donna Karan WOMAN Eau De Parfum — Femininity Redefined

Even in the realm of fragrance, fashion designer Donna Karan has refused to conform to confining notions of femininity, insisting that her scents explore every facet of womanhood rather than ill-conceived notions of “sugar and spice” or of  outdated”prim and proper” memes. In 1994, when other companies were still preoccupied with heavy floral scents, Donna Karan released the groundbreaking Cashmere Mist, a woody oriental perfume with notes of bergamot, jasmine, and lily of the valley surrounding notes of sandalwood, amber, musk, suede, cashmere, and vanilla. At the time, Donna Karan had said she wanted to create a fragrance that felt like cashmere against bare skin, that would be as sensual and comforting , making women feel caressed and therefore exploring the notion of fragrance having a tactile quality. The result was so alluring, so intoxicating, that the fragrance continues to be a best-seller more than 15 years after its release.

This fall, Donna Karan has once again concocted a magical potion with the launch of her Donna Karan WOMAN Eau de Parfum ($85 for 1.7 oz. and $115 for 3.4 oz. at DonnaKaran.com and Sephora.com). Building on the Cashmere Mist tradition, WOMAN is packaged inside a sculptural flaçon designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, its edges sloping fluidly as an homage to the curvature of the female form, its glass base featuring a gradient black tint that’s rife with mystery but also features points of translucency and transparency perhaps meant to reference the honesty at a woman’s core. The plastic bottle cap, meanwhile, has more of an opaque quality and its rounded form is reminiscent of a swan’s neck.

Packaging brilliance aside, Donna Karan WOMAN again pushes people to reconsider outdated norms of femininity, using notes traditionally associated with masculine scents and reinterpreting them in a manner that’s indubitably feminine but far from predictable or cliché. Whereas Cashmere Mist accomplished this feat via amber and cashmere notes, Donna Karan WOMAN does so with the sandalwood and Haitian vetiver notes at its heart. Developed alongside perfumer Anne Flipo, these notes are surrounded by creamy orange flower and white flroal notes that soften the otherwise woody, herbal, earthy composition.

I’ve adored the fragrance from the moment I first experienced it. Admittedly, it teeters on an invisible see-saw between feminine and masculine, but therein lies its brilliance. The fragrance manages to be powerful without being overbearing, seductive without being overly provocative, elegant without being snobbish. And, without a doubt, it’s unlike any other scent in the market, making it all the more formidable a release.

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