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“A scent Should Be Like A Second Dress”: Roberto Cavalli Talks Fragrance


Spring 2012 has been a good season for Roberto Cavalli. The much applauded collection he showed in Milan back in September continues to get rave reviews as it rolls out to retailers, and this month sees the release of Cavalli’s first fragrance since he inked a deal with Coty, the perfume giant responsible for mega hits from Marc Jacobs, Balenciaga, and Calvin Klein. “The launch of this fragrance is a rebirth of the Maison Cavalli,” the designer says of the amber floral eau that was created in collaboration with Givaudan nose Louise Turner and boasts notes of pink pepper, orange blossom absolute, and tonka bean. And after 40 years in the business, it should come as no surprise that Cavalli’s renewed success in both the fashion and beauty spheres is coming at the same time; for the legendary designer, the two worlds are intricately intertwined. “A scent should be like a second dress for a woman,” he says of fragrance’s sartorial similarity. Here, the designer talks to about choosing Elisa Sednaoui as the face of his signature parfum, the flacon’s secret ingredient, and why Cavalli: the makeup range might not be that far off.

A few fragrances have bore your name in the past. What’s different or special about your first creation with Coty?

Every fragrance is unique—every fragrance is a new challenge, a new emotion, at a different time. We celebrated 40 years of the brand last year, a hugely important anniversary, and I want to show that the brand is still evolving and renewing itself after all of these years, so it’s the perfect time to launch this fragrance.

Your collections—and this fragrance to a degree—are often about channeling the feral sexiness of women. With clothing you can do that with animal print, fringe, etc. But how do you do that with scent?

The Cavalli woman has a very clear identity; she’s feline, sensual, and self-confident, so we had to capture that in the scent. We were searching for something very particular—a scent that instantly grabs attention, making a woman feel sensual and confident, just like a Roberto Cavalli dress would. It was a long process, almost a year, and we were searching for something very particular, but as soon as we smelt this perfume it was spontaneous—we fell in love immediately and decided right away. It’s the orange flower overtone that is very special. I also included five drops of my love!

What is it about “glamazons” that holds such an allure for you?

I love women; I admire strong women, women who know who they are and what they want with fantastic personality and presence!

Like Elisa?

Elisa is perfect for this campaign. Her Mediterranean looks are very close to the DNA of the maison Cavalli. Most importantly, she has the attitude of a woman who is conscious and proud of her femininity, which is exactly the type of woman we want to wear our fragrance.

Is the process of creating a fragrance a different or similar experience to creating a collection?

When designing a collection, you have a certain type of woman in mind and you focus on a certain element, a particular concept, for that season. When you are creating a fragrance, it is a much broader aim. You are capturing the essence of that woman, something that will appeal to all women, every season.

Speaking of collections, your Spring show was one of the rave-review favorites around our office. What were you thinking about last season that lead you to such a successful show?

I was in a very positive mood, I was thinking about staying positive in this time of crisis. I wanted to create a homage to “Made in Italy” and all its beauty, and there is a hint of Bauhaus in there, too. I played to the strengths of the brand, working with our expert artisans and finding a way of mixing new prints. It’s very light, very feminine, and sophisticated, and of course I loved it for sure, but I don’t have favorite collections. My favorite collection is always the next one…

Are there any other designers whose work you admire—collections you always look forward to perusing on

Honestly, I don’t pay attention to other designers. I concentrate on my own collections. I’m very secure in my own taste, so I don’t follow others or try to be a part of current trends. I am happy that I have had some influence on trends, but I follow my own style. But, I would say that it is very important for the industry to support young and emerging talent.

Like the Alexander Wangs and Prabal Gurungs of the world—who, coincidentally enough, have recently started dabbling in beauty collaborations? Is that something you would consider for your own brand, to build its beauty presence?

Actually, yes, I would love to expand our beauty presence. Maybe one day I will do a makeup line so that the Cavalli woman can be completely surrounded by my world. That would be fantastic!

Photo: George Chinsee

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