Perfume Directory

Donna Karan Signature (1992)
by Donna Karan


Donna Karan Signature information

Year of Launch1992
AvailabilityIn Production
Average Rating
(based on 53 votes)

People and companies

HouseDonna Karan
Parent CompanyEstee Lauder Companies > Aramis and Designer Fragrances

About Donna Karan Signature

Donna Karan launched her first fragrance in 1992. At the time, the scent was known as 'Donna Karan'

In 2008, Donna Karan relaunched this fragrance as 'Signature', alongside Fuel for Men (AKA DK Men) and Chaos as part of the Donna Karan Collection.

Donna Karan say:

Donna's first fragrance is a sensual, floral scent made to replicate the power and femininity of a woman. The luxurious combination of exotic florals, natural earthy tones and deep scents has the power to invigorate and the sensuality to arouse something in every woman who wears it.

Reviews of Donna Karan Signature

Of all the Donna Karan reissues I own, Signature feels like the most “me”. This surprises me because I would have thought it would be Black Cashmere, based on my tastes and preferences – but Black Cashmere, while indeed beautiful, just feels like a sheerer version of other perfumes I own, like Idole de Lubin, and its sisters, Chaos and Wenge.

Signature, on the other hand, doesn’t smell like any other perfume I know. But if it doesn’t smell like any other perfume, it does recall the smell of an entire decade – specifically, the 90's. Whenever I wear it, I get images of MAC's Spice lipliner, bottles of Dewberry and White Musk from The Body Shop, and black bodies that fasten down at the crotch (also invented by Donna Karan, I believe).

Signature has the same sort of deliberately low-key, stripped-down effect espoused by scents such as CK One or L'Eau d'Issey, where you could almost smell them reacting against the excess of "Working Girl" chypres of the eighties (Knowing and Paloma Picasso) and the density of power orientals like Coco and Opium. If there was a new shape in the air, it was Signature in its architectural "phallus" bottle designed to jut into the air like a New York skyscraper. Donna Karan said she wanted her signature fragrance to smell of red suede, Casablanca lilies, and the nape of her husband’s neck (the great, late Stephan Weiss, a designer who also designed the original “Swan” bottle). To me, despite the plethora of notes, it smells as sleek and as streamlined as Kate Moss naked on that couch for Calvin Klein.

Signature is basically a fruity-floral built on a sturdy oriental suede base. But it's not in the least bit girly or frivolous. The opening notes give you a taste of a furry umeboshi plum and an overload of Egyptian jasmine which skips through a gasoline-tinged moment to settle on a fruity smell pitched uncomfortably close to red grape-flavored bubblegum. Jasmine often smells like fuel and bubblegum to me, and this is a very smooth interpretation of that type of jasmine. I could do with more roughness, more of that raspy indole I love so much in my other jasmines - something to catch against all that rubbery smoothness. But the 90's aesthetic was all about reducing a look to clean lines, and it's the case here too - nothing is allowed in to break up the smoothness of that line.

A mid-section of creamy Casblanca lilies and roses comes in to soften the “purple” fruit and jasmine accords in the opening, and there’s a point at which the whole mixture smells quite soapy and muted. It's an awkward moment, but it's rescued by what feels like a quite dark, oily patchouli, slightly smokey resins, and the lightly sugary wenge woods that Donna Karan seems to favor in all her fragrances. There is also tonka and amber (as befits any oriental worth its salt) but for me, the fragrance never loses that oily jasmine and fruit suede character with which it set out. And that’s a good thing – there are far too many sugary amber and tonka bases out there masquerading as complete niche perfumes these days. This isn’t one of them.

The dry down is my favorite part of the fragrance, and luckily it goes on forever, so I get to enjoy it in full – a satiny smooth suede replete with dark, smoky woods and that sexy patchouli. Surprisingly for an oriental suede, there doesn’t seem to be any vanilla, so I’d argue that men could wear this as well. Overall, this is a very grown-up kind of oriental, the kind that you need a little life experience for it to fit to your skin. And if you remember the 90's, then this is very much of its time and worth sampling for that alone.

14th July, 2016 (last edited: 13th July, 2016)
This is what NO VANILLA smellls like! DIVINE! Love this perfume and wish I could find/afford it now. If I had to pick one perfume for all time, I would choose this.
03rd July, 2014 (last edited: 03rd September, 2014)
Genre: Chypre

The reissued Donna Karan opens on a rich, plummy spiced fruit accord that’s as dark and sweet as molasses. Equally sweet florals, including jasmine, rose, and orange blossom, soon join the fruit and spices, and all are underpinned by tangy patchouli and a subtle leather note. In its use of fruit and leather Donna Karan presages scents like Parfum d’Empire’s equally plummy Cuir Ottoman and Christopher Sheldrake’s apricots-and-suede Daim Blond for Serge Lutens, but Donna Karan is darker, spicier, and hence more oriental in feel than either of these much later introductions. I also smell a very strong family resemblance to Donna Karan’s own Chaos here, though Chaos is a more transparent scent, perhaps because it emphasizes a brisk cedar note instead of leather and patchouli in its foundation.

Once the spicy-fruity patchouli oriental and leather structure is assembled Donna Karan drives a linear course for several hours of wear, with moderate potency and projection and modest-but-detectable of sillage. The drydown fully exposes the patchouli and smooth leather, which are balanced in a manner that's at once sensuous and civilized. I come down with the unisex crown on this scent, and it seems no less “masculine” to me than any number of unisex fruity leather niche fragrances, or even such fruit-heavy designer masculines as Magnetism and John Varvatos. This is not only a pleasant, versatile, and wearable scent, but historically significant as an innovative early entry in a genre that has since spawned several significant fragrances.
12th June, 2014
Came for the lilies and incense, bizarre original Stephan Weiss-designed sculptural flacon, and a rumored favorable comparison to Daim Blond. Staying for the crisp and strong sillage, remarkable tenacity, a certain gasoline and cleaning products hypermodern slant. An androgynous, intellectual but soft composition that samples from the best of all genres to bring in fruit, woods, florals, suede, and resins in thoughtful, serious united structures like elegant code leading to electronic music. Almost chilling in its contemplative remove but with a hint of just enough warmth to be human.
29th November, 2012
Donna Karan must really love her dark woodsy scents. Donna Karan, the re-released version in a tall, black cylindrical bottle, while it isn't as popular or as bold as Black Cashmere and Chaos, it is a remarkable scent on its own.

Donna Karan opens with a surprisingly soft, almost soapy blend of fruits and flowers. The fruits are so mild in this composition that it comes nowhere near the fruity concoctions produced in the DKNY range.

As the fragrance settles, Donna Karan develops into a rather heady and warm blend of dark florals, earthy patchouli, thick resins and smokey woods. I believe if it wasn't for the sugary vanilla note in the heart and drydown, this fragrance would smell quite masculine and thick.

This fragrance is sexy, but in a rather subtle fashion. The scent speaks confidence, power and maturity. From what I've experienced from both Donna Karan's fragrance range and DKNY's releases, real women wear Donna Karan and young girls, DKNY.

Despite it's dominant woodsiness and complexity, Donna Karan is rather clean smelling too. It is very unlike Black Cashmere and Chaos which tend to be very animalistic and dirty in a sense. This is the kind of fragrance I would wear to an office in Winter, that is, if I worked in an inclosed atmosphere.

The lasting power is very good and the sillage is average to moderately strong. In all honesty I do prefer Donna Karan's stronger blends, however Donna Karan Signature is just as worthy of being re-released as all the others.
04th April, 2012
I am reviewing the one in the amusingly over-the-top phallic bottle. I'm a bit confused if this is aka "signature". Mine is a parfum concentration. Yes, a plummy fruitchouli that reads rich suede and is similar to SL Daim Blond. There's a bit of bad girl/ cigarette smoke in this as well. There is no development. It's nice, but I'm slightly irritated by the overlay of's not horrendous and cheap as in many modern scents, but it does hit those shampoo-alert buttons. This seems to be a soft oriental type of fragrance that just plays its one chord - the sweet plum suede uniformly.
07th January, 2011

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