'Blackpepper' – Comme des Garçon’s most recent fragrance, which makes a hero of an ingredient more commonly used in a supporting role – is being introduced with a striking installation by Faye Toogood at London’s Selfridges. The fragrance, which true to Comme form professes to be devoid of gender and age profiles, comes in a black version of the classic recumbent Comme bottle. It is worked around five principle ingredients: black pepper, tonka bean, leather, cedar wood and Akigalawood (derived from patchouli). The star note, Madagascan black pepper oil, persists through the dry down phase, thus enduring while the scent evolves on the skin.
While the innovative structure gives originality to the famously unorthodox Japanese fashion and fragrance house's latest olfactory offering, Toogood’s involvement raises the quirk factor, by translating its notes into physical structures. Each of these bubbly monoliths represents one of the five key notes. They are designed to serve as a backdrop to the fragrance in-store – the installation begins in Selfridges, and goes on the road later this year to Moscow.
While the notion of fragrance being linked synesthetically to painting, poetry and music is familiar, translating scent into physical shape is new to us. Given the space, a height restriction of 1.2m to fit the beauty hall’s sight line and a bottle of the fragrance, Toogood had free reign to create what she wanted. 'The fragrance itself was the starting point,’ says the one-time interior stylist and set designer, who has successfully switched to furniture and fashion design over the past ten years. 'I took a big ball of clay and moulded the shapes I saw.'
These have been translated into a landscape of forms that carry the same language as the designer’s 'Roly Poly' range of furniture, and are made from a foam core and a hard coating of industrial rubber that usually coats roofs. It's up to the individual to identify the specific translations, though some are easier to relate than others; the conjoined balls, for example are unmistakably black pepper.
Space to display three bottles has been worked into the structure, in stark contrast to usual scent installations. ‘They usually involve MDF shelving, lightboxes and multiple bottles... we had to do something different,' says Toogood. And different it is.