Eau de Gareth Pugh
At last night’s launch party for the Six Scents Fragrance Initiative: Series One, a brigade of black-boots-wearing scenesters braved the line that quickly formed outside the New Museum on the Bowery. Sure, there were the six different designer-collaboration fragrances on view for looking and testing; free, pink drink specials (vodka with a mélange of different liqueurs and fruit juice, we presume); not to mention those downtown views from the venue’s roof deck. But all the clamoring and waiting around was more likely caused by the presence of one Gareth Pugh, who was in town from London to officially launch his contribution to the collection, Diagonal, and to play host. We caught up with the fashion wunderkind to talk about his first foray into the world of beauty and the task of trying to turn his signature black and white leather creations into an eau de toilette.
How did this whole collaboration come about?
Joseph [Quartana, owner of Seven New York] asked me if I wanted to do it and I said yes. I was just excited to be asked. “No” never came into it.
And did you go into the lab with the perfumers or was your involvement more peripheral?
Well, it was really such a short time schedule. I got asked in the summer, I said yes, and the deadline was in September. I had a meeting with this girl [perfumer Emilie Cooperman] from Symrise to start the process, and I was in Italy at the time, so she actually came to meet me there to talk about it.
And was it all base notes and bottles? Kidding. What kinds of things did she ask you to ascertain your perfume preferences?
They gave me this 20-page questionnaire with questions like what’s your favorite color, what kind of foods do you like to eat, what kind of smells do you like. But for me, it’s really difficult to say, you know, I like the smell of papaya. Because I mean, what does papaya even smell like?
Huh. Good point—who knows? What were some of the more telling questions in the questionnaire, then?
I think Emilie realized early on that I wasn’t good at being direct about what I like. So she brought me some existing fragrances—some Dior and the like—and I picked the ones I liked and the ones I didn’t. From the very beginning, though, I wanted something that was sexually ambiguous, unisex. So she brought me some masculine and feminine fragrances and we, you know, just kind of had a smell.
Did your fashion influences ever come up as a point of reference?
Well, she asked me what I thought was the most significant thing about my work and then we tried to capture it—so leather and black and white, and that kind of thing. In the second meeting we worked off that. And when she finally brought the fragrance options she had made, there were three—one for leather, one for black and white, and a wild card one, too, that was an amalgamation of everything we’d been talking about. That’s the one we went with.
And have you been wearing it?
I am tonight! You smell it in the bottle and you can’t really get it, but once you put it on, it smells really different. The musk that’s in it reacts to the body and becomes…something else. My favorite recently has been Comme des Garçons’ new one, Silver Words. It’s in a very similar ilk to the one Symrise made for me—masculine but also with a feminine edge to it. From the age of 15 to 26 though, it was always Acqua di Gio.
Now that you’ve gotten your feet wet, do you foresee a Gareth Pugh Collection scent in the future?
Well, yeah. I mean, I’m very aware that the whole process is pretty expensive, and if I wanted to do something I’d want to make it really right. So right now, I wouldn’t be the one who would be paying for it! But ultimately, it makes your label more accessible—because my stuff’s not widely stocked and it’s not something that everyone can wear. It’s like the idea of Dior couture and buying a Dior lipstick or fragrance. The fashion sells the dream and the fragrance and cosmetics are your bread and butter.