Like its clothing, a Comme des Garçons perfume bears a distinctive signature – quirky, irreverent and always retaining an element of surprise. Since launching its first fragrance in 1993, the avant-garde label has truly stretched its boundaries. To date, it has created 75 different scents that articulate a variety of themes, concepts, collaborations with artists, icons and more.
This week, Comme des Garçons Parfums brings a new fragrance to life – a olfactory personification of the legendary fashion stylist, Grace Coddington. Simply named 'Grace by Grace Coddington', the perfume is a heady bouquet of Moroccan rose, freesia and peach blossom, cut with hints of mint, basil and bergamot, that ends with notes of cashmere wood, white musk and amber. Enclosed in a playful feline flacon (Coddington's pet of choice), the fragrance is as loyal to its namesake as it could possibly be.
'We like to pursue different pistes as we say in French,' says CEO Adrian Joffe. 'We have the main perfume, which was the very first one and always a perfume for yourself to stimulate the senses. Then there was a series called the 'Anti-Perfumes', so [working with creative figures] was one more of those. And then it was really [the milliner] Stephen Jones who came to us and asked us to do his perfume. We had never done a perfume for somebody else, but we sat down and thought it would be nice to do one more piste. They would design it, we would make it, Christian [Astuguevieille] would conceive of the perfume. It was another idea.'
Like the company's fragrances for Jones, Daphne Guinness and now Coddington, Comme des Garçons' name is only mentioned as the maker of the scent, largely because each perfume in this series has always been instigated by the individual, rather than the other way round. 'I've never been after anybody, it's refusing people really,' laughs Joffe. 'We discuss and decide whether we really want to work with that person. Basically Christian has to want to and to feel it and he had a very good feeling with Grace right from the beginning. She knew exactly what she wanted.'
'Grace by Grace Coddington' is the tenth perfume in this personality-driven series. For Astuguevieille, a perfumer and the creative director of Comme des Garçons Parfums, the challenge lay in creating a rosy, floral scent that was light but also possessed that inimitable Comme des Garçons edge.
'The idea is to build something and then to break it – that's always the surprise. In this scent, what we created was the rose and to break it, there is mint and notes of basil. It became something more contemporary,' says Astuguevieille. 'Grace wanted a tiny rose – a rose at the beginning of its budding. One that's very personal and not for everybody. The process was quite easy because she really knew what she wanted.'
As the perfume was being finalised, Coddington also worked with Joffe and Fabien Baron to design the endearing bottle. While the juice was inspired by Coddington's love of English roses, the bottle reflects her love of cats. The stylist lives with two in New York – a ten-year old called Pumpkin and a one-year old named Blanket.
From start to finish, the fragrance is entirely of Coddington's conception and a sophisticated, playful reflection of her character. Even the box, which is a plain white on the outside, is printed a fiery orange on the inside – an unbridled and self-deprecating reference to her most distinguishing feature.