August 27 2014

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On Fragrance And Family: Real Talk With Marni’s Carolina Castiglioni


There’s a certain trust that family businesses inspire in consumers, as the idea of a personal, direct relationship with an original creator is always reassuring. So it goes with Marni. Founded almost twenty years ago, the Italian brand still operates under the reign of founder Consuelo Castiglioni, and also happens to employ most of her family—a lot of whom were on hand last night at KaDeWe, Berlin’s prestigious department store, to officially launch Marni’s first signature scent. The champagne and cocktail reception that ushered in the beginning of Fashion Week Berlin summoned the city’s fashion elite: photographer Ellen von Unwerth, Vogue‘s Christiane Arp, and German style icon Nadine Warmuth all gathered around a gigantic replica of the immediately iconic polka-dotted flacon, which served as a larger-than-life centerpiece in the cavernous room. The evening peaked with a special performance by fashion darling and punk protégé Jesse Jo Stark, instantly giving the bergamot, pepper, cardamom, rose, cinnamon bark, and incense perfume an edge of rock ’n’ roll cool. On the eve of the scent’s international release (the fragrance launches stateside in February), caught up with Carolina Castiglioni (pictured with her mother, Consuelo, above), to discuss the process of perfume creation, which, it turns out, was the product of passion, focused determination, and a move to “bridge the gap” between the Marni faithful and those for whom the brand is strictly aspirational.

So what took you so long? Why launch a scent now?
The reason is because we wanted to find the right partner. We’ve been, for many years, talking about fragrances, but then we had to look for a good partner. And when we met Estée Lauder, we said, “Okay, they are the perfect one for us,” because they are, of course, a leader in the market, but what is important to us is that they trust our brand identity. They gave us the freedom to interpret the Marni aesthetic and to select everything: the bottle, the packaging, the display in shops—everything. And also the scent. We had complete freedom to create the scent.

What was that process like?
My mother doesn’t like sweet fragrances, so more in the direction of incense, wood—something spicy. The idea was to have more of a masculine fragrance, but with a touch of femininity. So we decided to use the black rose, which is, yes, a flower, but not too sweet or girly of a flower. So the first part of the process was to smell all the raw materials, then we selected what was “yes” and what was “no.” Then we went through many, many trials.

Tell me about the bottle. Where did the idea to use the polka dots come from?
We wanted it to embody all of the iconic qualities of the Marni brand. You can see the characteristic dotted pattern, the prêt-à-porter logo, the subtle play with proportions between the container and the cap—it is all mirroring the brand’s signature style.

Who do you envision wearing this fragrance?
I think it will be all of our customers, or all the people that follow our style. I also think that with the fragrance, we will reach a wider audience. Of course, there are many women, or girls, who cannot afford a Marni piece, but they can follow our style starting from the fragrance. The same thing was when we did the collaboration with H&M. It was maybe the first time we opened our aesthetic to people that maybe cannot follow us to the price point. And with the fragrance, I think we are bridging this gap.

What’s next for team Castiglioni in 2013? More beauty projects perhaps?
There’s very many! We were nominated by the Design Museum in London for a prize for the work we did with Salone in Milan last April. And like this project, many come our way, and we just tackle them as they come.

Photo: Courtesy of Marni

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