Friday, November 19, 2010

Roja Dove - Diaghilev

Glamour is not dead
As part of their exhibit to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Ballets Russe, The Victoria and Albert Museum collaborated with perfumer Roja Dove to create a new fragrance.

The Ballets Russe

In the early 20th century, an amazing confluence of art, dance, music and fashion was happening in Paris. At the centre of the this artistic playground was the influential company, the Ballets Russe and its founder, the Russian impresario, Serge Diaghilev (1872-1929). Under Diaghilev, the Ballets Russes collaborated with choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky and composer Igor Stravinsky. Artists who designed sets included Braque, Picasso, Matisse, Miro, de Chirico, Dali, and Utrillo. Coco Chanel herself designed costumes for four productions. The costumes and artwork (like the picture, right) of artistic director Léon Bakst, with their bright colours and swirling orientalism, had a great influence on fashion and design.

The Chypre

To celebrate this influential person, and the golden era of the Ballets Russe, Dove chose to create a chypre. Chypres were popular at the time and include some of the greats, like Coty Chypre and Caron Tabac Blond and legend has it that Serge Diaghilev used to spray his curtains with Guerlain Mitsouko.

Diaghilev, the perfume, is a true chypre, not a perfume that skips the oakmoss, adds patchouli and calls itself a "modern chypre." There is an uplifting citrus opening, a lush floral heart, and a warm, earthy base with oakmoss. But within this classic form, Dove has created a modern fragrance with transparency and complexity, like layers of chiffon silk.

What does it smell like?

Diaghilev starts with a sheer lemon-orange note that is slightly smoky. I always think that I haven't sprayed enough at this point; the old-fashioned bulb atomizer delivers such a fine mist. But as the perfume sits on my skin it seems to get stronger. Once the heart notes arrive it has significant sillage. And what a waft! Diaghilev is a sex bomb. Rowrrr. There's nothing animalic listed in the notes, but Diaghilev is a very, very naughty girl. It's a full and ripe and bed-headed in rumpled sheets kind of naughty. Diaghilev is a woman whose chic updo is a mess and her silk gown lies where it dropped on the floor last night.

The hussy heart of this perfume smells like some of the great vintage perfumes but done in a modern way. It's a "modern vintage" like The Party in Manhattan. The bottle features a figure by Baskt, Narcisse. Maybe that is why I keep thinking of narcissus when I smell Diaghilev, but it's not listed in the notes. There's rose and jasmine, a classic combo, and maybe baked peaches with spice, just a hint.  The base is sweet and dark and dirty and, of course, it has the necessary touch of oakmoss, without which it would not be a chypre.

I love Diaghilev. It was released by the V&A Museum in a limited edition, only 1,000 bottles, although I hear rumours they may make more. I bought it unsniffed, the first time I've ever done that, because I'd heard good things about it. I'd heard it was a chypre with classical bone structure and I knew that Roja Dove is a perfume expert and a connoisseur of the Grand Old Dame perfumes.

I'm not disappointed. Diaghilev is one of the few perfumes I wear that I want others to smell. You know how it is; I test so many different perfumes that most of the time I just want to keep my sillage under the radar. But with Diaghilev, well, let them smell the gorgeousness that is me.

House: Roja Dove for the Victoria and Albert Museum
Nose: Roja Dove
Notes: bergamot, amalfi lemon and orange; middle notes are jasmine and rose; base notes are vetyver, iris, patchouli, oak moss and vanilla

P.S. In my typical backwards fashion, I didn't read Roja Dove's beautiful reference book, the Essence of Perfume, before writing this. But I have a copy now and I'm looking forward to it. I may write a book review.


  1. Rrroar...a true chypre, that sounds like the perfect thing to put the va-va in your voom! ;-) From your description - and from Octavian's review, and he also had nothing but good things to say about it - I'm developing a terminal case of lemming. Oakmoss! How naughty, how subversive, how...glorious! I'd happily hop a plane, hotfoot it to the V&A and buy a bottle, but one will help me bury the body! ;-)

    Oh, well. Some day. If it hasn't been sold out or discontinued by then, and with my usual luck, it might!

    Diaghilev was an intriguing character, so it would be hard to imagine the perfume as anything less! Trail your sillage in my direction - I promise I won't complain.

  2. It's definitely a sexy fragrance. You've made me want to go back and try it again now. Might wear it out this evening in fact.

  3. I'm am just drooling over this. It's sounds amazing, and these days I'm all about the chypre!

  4. Wow, this sounds interesting. I'm at the tail end of my chypre phase, but this could revive me! Nice review!

  5. Hi Everyone, thanks for the comments!

    Tarleisio, the V&A delivers!

  6. I like your reviews!I am glad I met you at sniffa.

  7. Hello Olga, nice to meet you too, and thanks.

  8. I am also at the end of a chypre phase because without oakmoss, the "chypre-less chypres" sound like a string quartet without the cellist.

    With IFRA drastically curtailing the use of oakmoss, I guess he used an expensive captive. Perhaps it was explained in his video... I, admittedly, didn't watch the whole thing.

    But your review is enticing... I must admit.


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