Dead Letter Office: Donna Karan Chaos- Twice Canceled


One of the familiar refrains of this column is the perfume being profiled was ahead of its time. That is inevitably followed by the conjecture on whether it would have succeeded at a different time; after trends caught up to it. There aren’t many that are given that second chance only to end up back in the Dead Letter Office. Donna Karan Chaos owns this distinction.

Donna Karan is one of the most successful designer perfume brands on the market. Her namesake fragrances plus the DKNY branded ones are classic mass-market perfumes. It didn’t start out that way. Ms. Karan released her first branded perfume in 1992. Over the next ten years she would release another five perfumes. Taken as a collection they were an impressive group of fragrances staking out their own territory. Using those perfumes it seems like Ms. Karan was attempting to create her own niche-like character. That five of the six, Cashmere Mist the exception, are all in the Dead Letter Office tells you how successful they were in the marketplace.

In the realm of the senses where being different is lauded; that group of six were delightful for that. I own all of them because of their unabashed desire to do their own thing. They are examples of what mass-market can aspire to. Each of them was contemporaneous to emerging trends from niche brands.

Jean-Claude Delville

In 1996 the style of spiced dried fruit Oriental perfume was just beginning. Working with perfumer Jean-Claude Delville; Ms. Karan and her co creative director Jane Turker made one of the earliest versions of this.

What is fascinating about Chaos is it accomplishes this fruitiness without a single fruit ingredient in the note list. This would become common; in 1996 it was still infrequently seen. M. Delville would form an axis of coriander, saffron, and sandalwood. On to that he would adhere precious woods, resins, and spices. This is a gorgeously realized opulent Oriental ahead of its time.

Chaos has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Chaos was discontinued in 2002 after failing to capture consumers’ attention. This is where I say Chaos was ahead of its time and that’s why it is in the Dead Letter Office. Except the powers that be at Donna Karan must have thought that time had arrived in 2008 when they re-issued Chaos onto the market. Along with two of the other original six Donna Karans which also seemed to be too early for perfume lovers.

By 2008 Chaos was not an oddity there were many other perfumes going for two to three times the price in the same style. This was the time for Chaos to thrive. Except it didn’t. It would be discontinued for a second time in 2013.

As much as I want to believe every perfume has the right time to find its audience Donna Karan Chaos stubbornly refutes that hypothesis by finding its way to the Dead Letter Office; twice.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

50 thoughts on “Dead Letter Office: Donna Karan Chaos- Twice Canceled

  1. Donna Karan Chaos was the best smelling perfume I’ve ever worn or smelled! I believe they stopped making this fragrance because Donna Karan’s dead husband invented the fragrance and was too hard for her to produce it. I make less than $15 per hr. and scraped together $120 to purchase a bottle and would do it again if she would re-introduce it!!!

    • Clearly, the BEST! I would buy multibottles if brought back! I am constantly judging other perfumes by this delicious scent and no others can compare!!

      • This perfume is subtle enough to wear for those with sensitive allergies. This is probably one of my all-time faves. I see it on resale sites for ridiculous amounts. It would definitely do well, if it came back out! I’m a HUGE fan and receive compliments when I do wear it (have a little left). It would be worth their whole to bring it back. Even if for a limited time.

    • Totally agree!! And, I never knew it was reissued. It so fit the description of my life in the 90’s and now that my life is UNchaotic, I’d like a bit of Chaos in my life! Lol

    • I too want Chaos back. That is thee only perfume I would wear. Now I just use patchouli oil. I want Chaos back. PLEASE

    • SO WOULD I! It’s the best perfume ever made and I cried when I could no longer find it. I’d give about anything to find more. I was literally stopped daily at work and out by both men and women to say how wonderful I smelled. It brakes my heart that I can’t get it ever again!

      • Chaos, mi perfume favorito.. lastima que lo hayan sacado del mercado. Lo use en mi adolescencia y nunca mas lo pude conseguir.

    • I have searched for years to find something to replace Chaos !!!! Needless to say that has never happened ! I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to have one more bottle of the original one ! I have kept my last bottle and barely can smelling . It was the kind of perfume that every time I wore it people would compliment me of the wonderful smell it adorned !! Please pleas please give me one more chance to have one more bottle of it or tell me how to get some ! I have even dreamed about it coming back !!!

  2. The 2nd release of chaos in 2008 is DISTINCTLY missing something that the Original had! The Original chaos is my all time favorite fragrance! I LOVE the way I feel when I wear it! Theres nothing else like it! (Including its 2008 version)
    I always got compliments when I wore it! Some people used to say I smelled like fresh laundry.

  3. I was devastated when I ran out of my 1st bottle of Chaos, luckily it was still around. After my 3 or 4th bottle. I went to purchase another and found it was discontinued!!
    I kept my remaining bottle hidden in a dark pantry and used it very sparingly to save what I had left. Then I just kept the rest to remember it and smell it once in awhile for good memories. I got so many compliments on that perfume more than any I have ever worn. I still have my 3/4 full bottle and have kept it in a dark place m, though I’m sure it has lost it’s scent by now since it is 2020. Please, the powers that be, bring this amazing mysterious experience back. Please Bring Chaos Back.
    Please. It is time now

  4. Yazzzzz the best fragrance ever. Men wpuld stop me all the time to ask the name of the fragrance i was wearing. They would say I have to get that for my girlfriend/wife! I caught the relaunch in its last month! Needless to say I was devastated!

  5. I remember when Chaos was launched at Holt Renfrews in Toronto. It took the city by storm!! It became my all time favorite perfume ever!! I was stopped on the street ten to twenty times a day, by males and females, ” what is that scent”?. It’s stunning!
    I have only a quarter of an ounce left which is sacred. Will never spray
    I actually contacted Donna Kaos’ s reps
    about 5 years ago begging, please bring this scent back, just like Clinique brought their iconic scent Caliyx back!
    No success! I’m still hopeful!
    As the world becomes more kaotic, I need my Chaos!! Please, please bring back this glorious scent.

  6. My all time favourite fragrance. I could only buy it from selfridges in London. The memories that it brings back just thinking about it. I’m craving and desperate to smell it again.
    I’ve tried searching for something similar with the same notes, but with no success. I’m obsessed!
    One of the tom ford’s private blend was similar for a a minute or so and I thought I’d found it, but after a few minutes it smelt totally different.

  7. Yes, please bring it back. My mother has been driving me crazy looking for this perfume. And because she is getting older I look for it every time she says something. I would like to make this wish of hers to come true.

  8. Chaos is one of my favorite perfumes; I still have a bottle that I use sparingly, in the hopes that it will return. But it must be true to the original.

  9. Please. PLEASE. Re-release this fragrance. Third tome is a charm. I bought a bottle in the 90’s as well as the release in 2008. I wish I had bought many. It is, and will always be my favorite perfume.

  10. Loved Chaos it was best fragrance for body chemistry, I received many compliments when discontinued was very disappointed; wasn’t a ware it was relaunched and cancelled twice, what a disappointment, would love to know where I purchase it now.


  11. This is my favourite parfum and I have tried to find something like it..but no. Nothing.
    Its one of a kind.
    Please bring it back!

  12. OMG! Beyond Amazing! The scent, the bottle, the way it makes you feel. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, relaunch CHAOS back into this CHOATIC world we’re living in these days, however this is a sexy type of CHAOS. I have never been able to find anything that came even close to the scent of Donna Karen Chaos.

  13. I have been a huge fan since the 90’s… survived 2 discontinuation! Sourced it from around the world on eBay! Would love to have Chaos back. It’s the best ever ! Nothing comes even close.

  14. Chaos is my ultimate favorite. I loved her Black Cashmere too, but Chaos is better. I bought four bottles of the Chaos reissue in 2013 for 200 bucks each from Neiman Marcus, and I still have two unopened, and one half empty bottle left. Still smells great! I’ll be so sad when I’m finally out…

  15. Chaos is my all time favorite fragrance. And I completely agree, the reissue was simply not the same. I have half a bottle left and just sprayed some!

  16. This is my FAVORITE perfume ever!!!! I received compliments every day on how good this smelled. Please bring back!

  17. I experienced Chaos at my sister’s house years ago and was intoxicated immediately. I can barely remember the fragrance now but found that Demeter Mahogany gives me the same fluttery heart and memories of things I cannot explain. I spray it under the ceiling fan and let it envelope the whole room for a time. It doesn’t last long but it is very affordable. If Chaos were to return, this time I will buy my own.

  18. Please bring chaos back always searching for something that is the same or similar! My fragrance favorite of all time I received so many compliments from men and women every time I wore it!!!

  19. April 22, 2021
    I too became hooked on Chaos back when I was in college. I am now 71and still LOVE it. Please bring it back!
    Why doesn’t a representative from her company read these?

  20. When I heard about the discontinued Chaos back in the 90’s I just didn’t understand how or why. But I did go out looking for the last bottles in the department stores. I wish it would make a comeback.

  21. I loved Chaos too. Suggestion to try John Varvatos Eau de Toilette. It seems to hit similar notes to me. God bless.

  22. I remember my best friend Andrea had a bottle and we would always wear it to go out in our 20’s. 25 years later I still remember that perfume and ever have smelled another like it! Please please relaunch and advertise it!!

  23. PLEASE bring this back. Now IS the time. I have never been able to find another scent I like as much. And it’s 2021. PLEASE. I would buy a case!!!

  24. Same here…I would be a whole case too! By far my favourite perfume Donna Karan’s Essence Wenge. I would buy a case of that too. WOULD LOVE IT IF THEY BROUGHT IT BACK!

  25. Chaos was one the most memorable scents for me , it was irresistible I remember being stopped by police I was exceeding the speed limit and the cop snapped when I opened the window and just couldn’t stop telling me how delicious I smelled, well,he let me go with just a warning, this is a true story he let me go saying you smell so good you’ve made my day I’m giving you a warning go. It just make me feel so sexy ,and it was sexy because I remember how many people,specially man stopped me to ask what I was wearing I adored the perfume I spray my sheets I spray my home I just wanted to have it all over me and then boom I can’t get it I found one somewhere I wasn’t expecting to find it and then it was gone still till today I’m trying to find a bottle that’s not $400 though that’s how much they go for on eBay I just saw one for $200 that only has maybe little bit in the bottom left of the perfume please bring it back please please bring it back with the same bottle is perfect at this time with the crystal bottleI don’t even care if is called something else ,, but the truth is that I did create a little bit of chaos while wearing it

  26. This was and will always be my “signature” scent. Anyone who knew me in the mid to late 90’s and early to mid 2000’s knew I was present by the smell of Chaos and they all commented that it mixed with my body chemistry and smelled incredible. I would have men and women stop me to ask about t, it was incredible. Than it just stopped, and I have never been able to find another scent like it again. I have spent thousands searching out another scent that would come anywhere close to this, the only one I have ever heard anything similar about is Hermes L’Ambre des Merveilles, but at $170 a pop, um, no, and it is still not as good. I would buy at least 5 bottles if it was re-released at a comparable price.

  27. This breaks my heart. I first smelled this intoxicating fragrance on a beautiful woman at work nearly 30 years ago. She was a stylist and art director for a department store (that no longer exists either). I was a photographer’s assistant at the time. Sometimes she would come to the studio shoots. She was a tall, fit, gorgeous Amer-Asian who always dressed impeccably. The combination of visual and fragrant beauty left an indelible mark in my olfactory and on my mind. She was taken and I was too young so i didn’t pursue her even though her smell was like a love potion. I did ask her what she was wearing and she told me “Chaos”. Later, another time, she gave me a small vial tester which I have to this day. It’s empty now but it still smells as wonderful. I have always dreamed of finding my perfect lover and the woman I would spend the rest of my life with. I would buy her Chaos so that she would be the only woman I loved who would have worn this. But I’ve never found that woman and it seems I’ll never find this elixir again either. At least it was a pleasant memory and fantasy. It’s magical the way this and a couple other fragrances can captivate me and create an almost instant addiction to that scent. To be able to associate that desire and attraction with one person is the stuff romance is made of. The perfect perfume can be the key that unlocks the door to passion.

  28. Why didn’t the fans and public know about these releases? WOW! Please let me know if it’s ever released again. Thank you!

  29. OMG so I finally discover the name of the perfume I loved so much in my teen years. So my mom had given me a cahsmere perfume and it turned out I preferred the samples that came with it… And now after so many years I find out the name of the perfume and to my disappointment it has been discontinued. =( I wrote down every suggestion of similar perfume and I will buy them, but I really wish they would relaunch this one…

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