Dead Letter Office: Donna Karan Chaos- Twice Canceled

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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

10 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!!

  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.

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