DKNY My NY (2014) - The Smell of New, Upbeat - & Old, Retro New York {Perfume Review & Musings}


My NY by DKNY - the youth label of Donna Karan - is a very up-to-date and upbeat fruity chypre spiked with ethyl maltol, modern, cleaned-up patchouli and green galbanum, which manages at the same time to smell more old-school than old-school...

While the peachy link to Mitsouko by Guerlain has been reworked to integrate exotic nuances of pineaple and milky guava smoothie, the replacements for mid-century oakmoss are so good, it is like smelling an old, abandoned bottle of perfume from the 1940s-1950s, not even freshly opened. The raspberry too is retro, an allusion to the 1970s when it was popular.

The patchouli in lieu of oakmoss has that graphite-like smell which skews it a bit masculine and certainly pays homage to the androgynous advances in fashion for women. But what is striking over and over again, is to feel the connection that My NY has to the past. Have perfumers sensed that it is time for a re-education of young noses - Rita Ora is the face of the fragrance - before it is all too late and we are definitely going to submerge our memories of the decade in red syrup?

My NY has the accents of the day but also a near-museum feel. When you thought that the composition was a bit too commercial perhaps for comfort - with its lactonic trutti-fruiti signature - you then discern a more innovative superimposition of galbanum on this fruity mess - the latter said in a culinary sense, as in an "Eton Mess". It is a reprise of the lactonic fruity-floral theme which is pervasive in particular in celebrity perfumes but as if rethought for a new context and generation. It is muskier but also fizzier and more generally inflected by a purple creamy violet/iris which is not usually seen in these types of accords. As the composition evolves it takes on a more characteristic milky white caramel-y impression, feeling almost chewy, while a sensation of youthful aldehydes counterbalances the softness.


The eau de parfum offers an unexpected retro nuance of powder (iris), which mixing with the vegetaly, green galbanum and plump, fruity nuances - almost date-like, is a curious mix of banana-scented jungle dew and dry, sweet fruits harvested in the middle of a palm grove in the desert. Talk about tension and contrast between wet and dry, cool and hot. The only key word I find useful in the official description of the fragrance to describe this impression is "eclectic".

Visibly IFF and Trudi Loren wanted to offer an olfactory image of diversity, of the Big Apple as a melting-pot where the energies are swirling and resisting rather than blending into a harmonious whole with no seams to be felt under the tips of the fingers. This smells like an olfactory patchwork, a theme which is echoed by the metallic, cubic patchwork on the bottle top.

I am reminded a bit of a favorite fragrance that has largely passed unnoticed, Germaine Monteil II. The perfume made in 2014 also makes me think of another Germaine, Germaine Cellier: it is like smelling La Fuite des Heures dipped in a milk-shake. There is an unmistakable retro, musty facet to the fragrance.

The galbanum is also very Germaine-Cellier and while overdosed stops short of evoking Vent Vert by Balmain; or the No.19 by Chanel. It seems logical to me at some level that the perfumers might have thought of Cellier seeking inspiration as she is a perfumer reputed for her high level of energy and even sometimes brashness, which are reflected in her compositions. The green blades of galbanum cut through the fruit loops bringing a retro-edgy smelling tonality. Galbanum is not used in mainstream cuisine but you could find a close parent to this overall contrasted impression in the more popular use of leaves of mint with fruits served for dessert.

Undoubtedly, if we weren't used to inhaling the fruity messes of our times, this mélange would smell very odd if served to a 1920s nose and palate, say. As it is, it is only odd. Without any transition, and if this were the unique representative of its genre, it would smell very incongruously of earthy, metallic, fruity, sweet and milky notes.

The drydown with its blending of vanilla absolute, ambergris and wisps of galbanum smells almost like old books from a second-hand store - indeed old paper smells of Lignin breaking down, i.e., vanilla, but also grass. I am reminded of the delightfully retro and comfortable Strand Book Store in Greenwich Village, which I think incidentally is an excellent example of New-York-Retro style, which you can perceive in My NY.

I don't think that My NY by DKNY is an easy fragrance. The perfumers here went beyond the call of duty. There is an element of dissonance to it. If we use the food analogy to which we have become so accustomed in perfumery, then I want to say that it is not an easy one to stomach. It is a bit too much. It is a bit excessive. It is a bit sickening if you think of it as being a dessert. It becomes easier if you think of it as an used book with perfumed pages. It wafts of an old open book left on a vanity near a nail polish bottle and an old chypre, with the scene lit by colorful, flickering neon lights at night. It has its own personality, which is to be noted in a world swimming in smell-alikes.

The kaleidoscopic aspect of the composition is a bit dizzying, but if you don't mind a plural and loud signature - and maybe if you're a New Yorker it's calling your name for that reason alone - then you might find that My NY is in tune with the vibrations of the city that never sleeps.

It might be one of those fragrances that you have to experience in the city that inspired it to fully get it.


Top Notes: The sexiness of Raspberries and Galbanum spiked with accents of Pink Pepper

Heart Notes: The sensuality of Egyptian Jasmine wrapped with Freesia and roots of Orris

Base Notes: The soulfulness of Patchouli Heart LMR, Vanilla Absolute and Musk, laced with vibrant Ambergris

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