As one of the world’s pre-eminent designers, it’s hard to imagine any gaps in Philippe Starck’s enduring career. In truth, Starck, who spent most of his childhood in a perfumerie that his mother operated, has long been fascinated with the idea of scent, which makes his latest undertaking – a trio of fragrances – less of a surprise than it seems.
‘I loved to take refuge in [that] place,’ Starck recalls of the environment that ignited his creative mind. ‘Because of the aromas, the exponential sum of the perfumes, beauty creams, lotions and shampoos, I travelled through an uncharted territory filled with incredible riches. What I did not know at the time was that I was growing up inside the most powerful vehicle for the mind and the unconscious.’
Of course, Starck has worked in the olfactory world before, having most memorably redesigned the iconic bottle of Nina Ricci’s ‘L’ Air du Temps’ as a limited edition in 2013. This new collection however, which has been simply labeled Starck Paris, owes its entire creative direction to Starck. Produced by the Spanish company Perfumes Y Diseño, the project is a sincere and conscious effort from the designer to articulate what he thinks perfume should be, covering everything from the bottle and packaging design to the concepts that drive the fragrances themselves.
Harking back to the ideas of evolution – a continual thread in the designer’s work – Starck has tapped into the notion of male, female and androgynous identity with the three scents. Working with famed perfumers such as Dominique Ropion, Annick Ménardo and Daphné Bugey, Starck challenged them to reinvent these ideas of identity, while capturing the mystery of each and what he calls ‘the space between’.
Ropion, the creator of the more feminine ‘Peau de Soie’, opted for a seductive blend of woody, animal and vegetal notes to distil the paradox of strength, beauty and mystique that women exude. Bugey’s ‘Peau de Pierre’ takes the opposite tack by bringing a feminine skew to a masculine fragrance; woody, smoky notes are mixed to exude a conscious sensuality, not often seen in men’s perfumes.
Ménardo’s ‘Peau d’Ailleurs’ is the most intangible. Starck explains, ‘I wanted a perfume that you can’t remember because it doesn’t exist... the perfume of the shadow, of the cosmic scent of emptiness. The idea was to grasp the ungraspable, to explore abstraction, to make the invisible visible, to make the air vibrate. This unending territory transports us into the total unknown, to that far-off place that sends us back into our unconscious, to pure spirit.’
The resulting scent, an almost invisible blend of earthy musk notes, woods and minerals, conjures up the impression of nothingness, as inspired by the picture of a meteorite on a long voyage.
Design-wise, the bottles are unequivocally Starck. Each minimal flaçon is imprinted with an amorphous form in a frosted, clear and textured finish, visually articulating the collection’s union of science and poetry. Simply capped with a shiny black top, the bottles redirect attention to their contents, making each scent the collection’s main focus.