The Creative Director of Comme des Garçons Parfums sheds light on the house's evocative and extraordinary new scent
Creative Director of Comme des Garçons Parfum Christian Astuguevieille has been collaborating with Rei Kawakubo and partner Adrian Joffe since 1994, and is a typically atypical addition to their ever-expanding family of avant-garde savants. He is the ultimate polymath: an artist who studied law and helped found the Pompideu Centre in the seventies, he is as renowned for his furniture and jewellery design (at one point, creating 14 collections a year) as he is as a perfumier.
"From the start we opted for freedom; it’s the same philosophy as the one that you find behind the clothes" - Christian Astuguevieille
His approach to the realm of fragrance is, as would be expected from Comme des Garçons, unorthodox; since his appointment, the house has produced perfumes that take everything from tar to photocopier toner as their inspiration (in fact, his first ever perfume – back in 1973, for Molinard – was based on the smell of half-chewed gum). He describes his latest creation, in collaboration with nose Emilie Coppermann, as "more of a negative proposal, a negative concept. It is a flower without a flower, an oriental scent without any vanilla. From the start we opted for freedom; it’s the same philosophy as the one that you find behind the clothes and behind the signature scent. We all share a philosophy, but each goes in their own direction."
"The story of perfume always comes from your family," explains Astuguevieille. "Your mother's perfume, your grandmother's, your father's. For me, the first smell that I remember is that of my grandfather's moustache. He had a little brush to brush it with that he would always spray with cologne. So, he would brush his moustache and then, when I was a little boy, also brush where my moustache would be when I grew up. It was a perfume full of flowers, but it was still masculine; green, with plenty of fern. It made me feel like an adult – I was an only child, and I would spend a lot of time climbing onto chairs and stools to pretend I was an adult, to see what the world looked like from there. Wearing the moustache perfume made it even better."
However, for the new Comme des Garçons scent, Floriental, Astuguevieille has taken every convention of perfumery, every charmingly evocative memory and affiliation with childhood and "broken its neck". He has created a scent around the Cistus flower (one which actually, has no smell) and eschwed the typical methods of orientalising a fragrance (usually, a hefty dose of vanilla) to design a spicy, woody scent that purports to "challenge the traditions of perfumery" through philosophically bizarre concepts manifest into a brilliantly wearable fragrance.
As well as mirroring the refreshingly unconventional approach that Comme des Garçons applies to all of its outputs, the scent's design is a seamless progression from Rei Kawakubo's S/S15 collection: the heartfelt blood and roses that she sent down the runway embodied not only in its packaging but equally its warm-blooded, passionate fragrance. Every element, from its glossy, sanguine bottle to its notes of sandalwood and vetiver, offers an extension on the enveloping, immersive experience into the world of Comme – a world that we are always delighted to enter.