Comme des Garçons Parfums: The Smell of Freedom
For a fashion house, fragrance is crucial – it’s the entry point that everyone arrives at and leaves spritzing till they need another bottle.
But at Comme des Garçons, the label of Japanese vanguard Rei Kawakubo, scent is done very differently. You won’t see a Comme des Garçons parfums ad on a bus. Or on TV. They don’t function as a souvenir of ready-to-wear either. You won’t find them at a chemist or airport. They don’t smell of spring posies or teenage deodorant – instead like a garage, dry cleaning or sweets that have melted in your hand (where all the colour has stained your skin). They might portray spiritual cen-tres such as Avignon, Zagorsk or Kyoto – the latter of which Mr Steven Patrick Morrissey is said to be fond of.
Christian Astuguevieille has been creative director of Comme des Garçons Parfums since 1994, and was appointed after an encounter with Kawakubo. A creative polymath, the Frenchman is known for his idiosyncratic furniture and jewellery designs, whose career is unorthodox as his side-boards – he has done so much in the world of fashion and design, all with impact.
Created in limited amounts, each of the 75+ CDG perfumes so far have their own loyal customer – and contrary to marketing convention, they’re not being ‘retired’. Comme is going the other way – of course! – and launching the Olfactory Library, exact re-editions so you’ll never run out. Think of it as a wildlife conservation programme, but for wild and expressive scents. Packaged in identical white bottles, with colourful text a nod to their original branding, the first 10 releases run from 1996’s Cologne to the groundbreaking Series 6 Synthetic.
We caught up with Astuguevieille for some insight behind the enigma.
Q: Can you tell us about the idea of the Olfactory Library?
The idea behind the Olfactory Library was to bring together different scents we had created over the years in one united Library. We decided to reissue them in a unique bottle and packaging.
In the future, other perfume titles from our past will expand our library and from time to time we will also present new creations in order to go further and diversify the project even more.
I think the concept of Comme des Garçons Parfums is to be different; to try in being really different and it is also the meaning of this library.
Q: What effect have Comme des Garçons parfums, and your work here, had on the fragrance industry?
Our creative approach is freedom. In that sense, I think our difference comes from this great liberty.
Q: Have you ever thought an idea was too much, too rebellious?
Q: How does the work of Rei Kawakubo inspire you?
What is most inspiring in Rei Kawakubo’s work is her extreme freedom of creation. We follow this freedom and are very lucky to be able to do so.
Q: Is there a correlation between your furniture, jewellery and object d’art and your perfume making?
The hemp of my furniture or the brass of my jewellery do not inspire me in my olfactory creations. They are separate.
Q: What are your favourite Olfactory Library fragrances?
My favourite is Palisander for the quality of its wood and its specificity. However I also love the synthetics, Garage, Soda, etc.
Q: Comme des Garçons fragrances have become a cult. What’s the biggest story of devotion you’ve heard from a fan?
I think this dedication was born from our difference, our boldness. We can see this devotion through the long waiting list of people that were awaiting the reedition of our Olfactory Library scents.
Q: A person’s fragrance can completely change your view of their character. Do you enjoy it when their choice is a total juxtaposition to their sense of style?
Yes, I definitely do like it. I think it is greatly interesting to see how a scent becomes something else depending on the personality, the being of whomever is wearing it. Garage for instance will be utterly different on an elegant lady then on a rebellious youth.
Q: They say that smoking damages the sense of smell, but I’ve heard a lot of noses in the fragrance industry smoke. Is this true? Are they superhuman?
What interests me most with perfumers is their tremendous creativity.
Comme des Garçons Olfactory Library 100ml eaux de toilette are available from Comme des Gar-çons Perfume shop Paris; Dover Street Market London, New York, Ginza and selected locations worldwide.