On the day of the launch of Comme des Garçons' latest fragrance, Airborne created in collaboration with Hussein Chalayan, AnOther met with the company's president Adrian Joffe to discuss...
"I've known Hussein since his student days. I remember him telling me about burying his graduate collection in his garden; the same collection which was bought by Browns. I have always considered his approach not that dissimilar from Comme des Garçons. It's very different way of working to Rei but there is similarity in their starting points; it is always abstract as opposed to a historical or geographical reference. It's never 18th century costume or Tibet crossed with Peru, it's always an idea, an emotion. And that's how conceptual fashion should be. We've kept in contact, we often have lunch at Dover Street Market; the fragrance collaboration came up in conversation one day.
When collaborating with an individual on a Comme des Garçons fragrance, it's important they have a different vision. Hussein knew exactly what he wanted; he knew what he wanted it to smell like. There was a story and that's important – there's always a story with a Comme Des Garçons product. It's more like journalism than fashion design. Everyone we have collaborated with has a story but they are all unique. Hussein knew he wanted it to be a journey from where he was born in Northern Cyprus to urban London. We worked on it for two years – some perfumes have taken two months but Hussein is a perfectionist. But it was well worth the wait, it's a great fragrance and we are very happy with it.
We've launched lots of fragrances since we started the line in 1994. We have five different stories – one is the collaborations, another is original design like the pebble bottle, another is the series like Incense. We've always tried to create fragrances that haven't existed before, that excite and stimulate. Even before I started working with the company, when Rei founded the label, the fundamental values of the brand haven't changed. The press release we did for the first fragrance in 1994 which was illustrated with bees and orchids best describes the Comme des Garçons fragrance philosophy: "a perfume for oneself, to raise the spirit and excite the senses, to make one feel positive" and "a perfume that works like a medicine and behaves like a drug". Even if some of the series are very simple, they've always got that hook. For Rei, it was like a cup of coffee or when she used to smoke cigarettes – she wanted the perfume to work in the same way. Something a bit addictive that really made you feel better so you can face the day again."
As well as its women's and men's lines, Comme des Garçons is also celebrated for its ever-growing line of unconventional fragrances and respected for its collaborations with leading creatives. The company's latest release is a fragrance created in collaboration with Hussein Chalayan. Having followed Chalayan's career since his graduation from Central Saint Martin's in 1993, Rei Kawakubo and her husband (and CdG president) Adrian Joffe have since given the designer his own space in their London Dover Street Market store and kept in regular contact.
Founded in 1969, the world-renowned brand grosses in the region of $180 million annually. Unusually for a global brand, Comme des Garçons has remained loyal to its original philosophies and has retained a focused, intelligent, passionate and genuine attitude and approach. This is undeniably a result of Kawakubo and Joffe's roles; the pair are involved with every aspect of the company, from design to retail strategies and advertising campaigns (with the exception of the designers who work under the CdG umbrella, who have complete creative freedom). Take Dover Street Market, the brand's five-floor Mayfair store. As well as working in Tokyo, Paris and New York, Joffe can often be found on the shop floor. He is friendly and approachable, whether it's with a customer, his staff or a well-known personality. Joffe's sister, Rose has a branch of her much-loved Rose Bakery on the fourth floor which is often the location for Joffe's meeting with possible collaborators. A number of the staff, each of them passionate and knowledgeable about the brand, have worked for the company for over a decade, back when CdG had a store at 59 Brook Street.
On the day of the launch of the new Chalayan fragrance, entitled Airborne, AnOther met with Joffe at Dover Street Market to discuss the collaboration, the history of Comme des Garçons fragrance and the importance of perfume. The company launched its first eponymously titled fragrance in 1994, followed by a succession of striking unisex fragrances including the first "anti perfume" Odeur 53, blending 53 non-traditional notes in 1998 and collaborations with Undercover, Monocle, Artek, Stephen Jones and Daphne Guinness. Airborne, also the title of Chalayan's A/W2007 collection, is an attempt to capture the designer's journeys from his Cyprus homeland to London. The packaging features a print from the aforementioned collection, in colour on the interior of the box and embossed on the exterior and cylindrical narrow glass bottle.
Airborne perfume and the book Hussein Chalayan, published by Rizzoli are stocked at Dover Street Market, London.
Text by Laura Bradley