Olfaction | Narciso Rodriguez on Carmen Kass
— August 20, 2012 —
In this column, Laura Bradley explores the world of fragrance, from scent reviews to conversations with leading perfumers
Carmen Kass for Narciso Rodriguez, 2003 Photography by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin"We must have shot a thousand takes of Carmen Kass to get that image", say leading photography duo Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin. The sensual portrait – a bare-shouldered Kass, head tilted with her blonde hair in a soft Grecian braid – was used for Narciso Rodriguez's inaugural fragrance, For Her, in 2003. Nearly a decade old, the shot is one of the most iconic images in the history of fragrance campaigns – up there with Sophie Dahl's controversial recline for Yves Saint Laurent's Opium, and grunge Kate Moss shot for Calvin Klein's CK One.
"When we shot the campaign, it was a time in advertising when models were loaded with products - bangles, bags on each arm. I wanted something that was simple and pure", explains New York-based Rodriguez. The image is the result of longstanding relationships with Inez & Vinoodh and model Carmen Kass; having worked together for a number of years, Rodriguez has friendships with both. "We are great friends and I'm a big admirer of their work. They have a brilliant energy. It was a very special moment in all our lives creating that shot", he explains, of Inez & Vinoodh. "Carmen too – she's a close friend and we've worked together for a long time", he add. "I still have girls offering to do my next fragrance campaign for free because they want an image in their portfolio like that."
"Carmen Kass has a very pure instrinsic beauty, innocent yet somehow insouciant, sensual with a tough of the erotic."
Here, as the face of the fragrance, Carmen Kass is a striking modern Aphrodite – a Greek goddess regularly referenced in fragrance campaigns. "Carmen has a very pure intrinsic beauty, innocent yet somehow insouciant, sensual with a tough of the erotic. And it is not just a surface beauty, she has a real depth and integrity," Rodriguez explains of his choice of muse. "I am inspired by women who project strong personalities, who carry themselves with pride and who radiate femininity - through the visual, I wanted to express the real grace and beauty from the inside out."
Like the campaign, the fragrance became one of the industry's most celebrated, given four stars by respected perfumer Luca Turin and honoured twice in the US by the Fragrance of the Year FiFi awards in 2004. Based on a classic chypre, the scent celebrates musk, one of Rodriguez's personal obsessions. "I have loved and worn musk since I was a teenager, often layering it with other scents," he explains. "I always dreamt of creating a fragrance thst had musk at the heart, and then evolving it into something more refined and unknown. There's a warmth and familiarity to musk that's so unique."
Following the success of Narciso Rodriguez For Her, this year saw the release of For Her Eau Délicate Eau de Toilette and Eau de Parfum.