August 20 2014

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Mary Katrantzou Talks Fashion and Fragrance


After successfully pairing six fashion industry up-and-comers with six known and respected perfumers—first to benefit Designers Against AIDS in 2009 and then in support of Pro-Natura, a environmental sustainability program, in 2010Six Scents founders Joseph Quartana and Kaya Sorhaindo are at it again with a whole new theme and charitable initiative for 2011. Their third collaborative effort will support War Child International and boasts a collection of fragrances that explore the influence of adolescence on identity. “We steal from the future and offer it now,” Quartana says of the designer selection process, in which he and Sorhaindo choose rising rag-trade stars who have yet to reach the level of, say, having an in-house fragrance but who are definitely on track to branch out into beauty. As such, the latest names selected for the project include N. Hoolywood designer Daisuke Obana, Alexis Mabille, Juun J, Rad Hourani, Ohne Titel’s Alexa Adams and Flora Gill, and Mary Katrantzou.

Following the premise of her fashion line, which focuses on bold prints that trick the eye, Katrantzou’s scent, the second in the range, is aptly called No. 2 Trompe l’Oeil. “Most people can’t pronounce it, so hopefully they will just say they want number two,” she jokes of the bitter orange, mimosa, rose absolute, orris absolute, tuberose absolute, and ambrette seed eau that officially bows on Friday, along with the rest of the collection. We caught up with Katrantzou in anticipation of the launch to talk teenage years, the power of working with women, and a beauty future that looks bright.

So how does this whole collaborative fragrance process start?

Joe sent me the questionnaire, and it was almost like going to a shrink for the day!

Sounds…intense. What were some of the questions like?

If you were an object, what object you would be? What kind of smells do you remember from your childhood? What was your first kiss like? What words best describe you as a teenager? It was a 40-question questionnaire. By the end of it, I knew myself much better than when I started it.

Mary Katranzou as a teenager?! Love it. What words did you submit?

Outspoken but shy, giving, protective, feminine, rebellious, inquisitive, spontaneous.

All of which sound like the makings of a great fragrance. Then what happens in the process? You pick your perfumer?

The perfumer picks you, actually. I worked with Shyamala Maisondieu from Givaudan. She said that they looked over the questionnaires, and she felt more attracted to my answers. I’m from Greece, originally, and she liked my descriptions of how I spent my summers at a cinema on the rooftop of a four-story building, and my ingredient choices—she had always wanted to work with mimosa. I also told her that my favorite fragrance was Gucci II, which her husband created. Then it was more about me going to Paris to meet with her and test some of the samples. It was a really short process, and you never know—it could be something you don’t like, and it would be a disaster, but she got it all right, so that was really cool.

So you guys really clicked, then?

When I first met her, we instantly connected. She designs really sensual perfume. She interpreted my questionnaire in a way that maybe a man would not have. It’s sweet, but not too sweet—it’s a fruity floral. I myself wear perfumes that are a little more fresh and fruity, but I wanted to create a fragrance for a woman who was a little more grown-up and sensual. Shyamala brought that out of me.

And why did you call it Trompe L’Oeil?

It’s a link to how my work has been described since I started out. You kind of deceive the eye, ­so, for example, the painting is a painting on the wall and you think it’s real. I came to it because of the oversize jewelry I had been doing. The name also has a French sense to it, and I like that in a perfume.

It’s similar in concept to your Spring collection, too, which featured interiors as exteriors, as it were. What was it like, turning your attention to designing a fragrance, in relation to designing clothes?

It’s a similar process—you have references and you know how you want it to relate to the woman who is wearing it. The only difference would be that [fragrance] is less seasonal. Every season for me is about a theme, a print. But I wanted this to be more timeless—something a woman always wants to dress herself with. You have to have a woman in mind, a woman who would wear the collection.

And how would you describe the kind of woman who wears your collection?

She has a really strong presence. It definitely ranges in terms of age group, but a woman who can take some color and bold prints. An intelligent woman—these are more statement pieces. And a woman with a strong sense of style and fashion consciousness. Sophisticated, bold, expressive, mature, intelligent.

Could you see yourself staying the beauty course for future projects?

I’d really love to develop into a lifestyle brand, so, yes, a makeup line, maybe. I am a colorist and I come from a textile design background, so I’ve always thought of surface design and visual imagery. Maybe a home range.

Photo: Courtesy of Six Scents

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