A Rose is a Rose

In January, Grace Coddington, the much-adored, visionary stylist and longtime creative director of Vogue announced she would be downsizing her role at the Condé Nast publication. Her indelible appearance in the 2009 documentary, The September Issue crystallized her as not just an industry hero, but a hopeless romantic and a bona fide fashion celebrity. Now Vogue‘s creative director-at-large, the ever-prolific septuagenarian isn’t slowing down. The first of her labors outside the magazine (she’s signed with Matthew Moneypenny’s creative uber-agency Great Bowery, and a film adaption of her 2012 memoir, Grace, is on the way), is the fragrance Grace by Grace Coddington, created in collaboration with Comme des Garçons Parfum.

“It’s something I never really considered and didn’t know anything about,” Coddington explained yesterday, when Interview met with her, Comme des Garçons president Adrian Joffe, and Comme des Garçons Parfum creative director Christian Astuguevieille, at Rose Bakery in Dover Street Market’s New York outpost. “It was a challenge. It was something completely different from what I’ve been doing for the last 50 years, and it was a big changing point in my life to actually look to other things,” she continued. “Adrian’s a really good friend of mine. I’m the one who came to him, begged him.”

“My first question was, ‘Do you know what you want?’ I only like to work with people who really have a vision of what they want,” added Joffe. “For me, that’s the most important thing. I knew she really understood what Comme des Garçons was all about.”

“I wanted to be totally involved,” Coddington remarked. “It’s always my peeve that people have their team do it and they go to lunch, you know. I’m very hands-on.”

Astuguevieille, who designs furniture and decorative objects and has exhibited his artwork at various museums and galleries around the world, began creating perfumes for CDG in 1992. Among the fragrances on his résumé are the iconoclastic Odeur 71 (described per the CDG website, with notes of “hot light-bulb, warm photocopier toner, and a toaster”) and the “abstract anti perfume” Odeur 53. Coddington is the latest in a long line of personalities (including Pharrell, London’s Serpentine Gallery, and the publication Monocle) to team up with Astuguevieille, who crafted her fragrance around a heart of Moroccan rose, with notes of freesia, peach blossom, white musk, and spicy hits of cardamom and pink peppercorns. “The main idea was to listen to Grace, what she really wanted and what she really wanted to express,” Astuguevieille explained. “The idea was to make a very personal and light rose, which was really easy for me.” The flacon, designed by Interview editorial director Fabien Baron, comes stoppered with a sleek cat head, and the packaging features several illustrations by Coddington (a nod not just to her love of cats, but also her two Persians, Blanket and Pumpkin, who make frequent appearances on Coddington and partner, hairstylist Didier Malige’s Instagrams).

“I never met a nose before. It was fascinating,” Coddington laughs. “Rose is my favorite flower. If anyone says, ‘What shall I send Grace, it’s her birthday or something?’ I always say roses because I love them—I love them visually and I love the smell, so it comes from there. When I was very young, my mother was not someone who ever wore perfume. I remember she wore a lot of nail varnish, lipstick. When I first came up to London, I thought I would start exploring the perfume thing. I wanted to start in a very gentle way, so I went to Floris because I loved the whole old-fashionedness of just the experience of being in the shop itself. I love the gentleness of their Red Rose toilet water.” Coddington and Astuguevieille went through several rounds of tinkering with the right formula, reinventing the classic rose into something new. “It was pretty quick because Grace really knew,” Joffe said.

“I thought I was being slow,” Coddington added with a chuckle. “I was like, ‘Oh god, should we really go back and try one more time to perfect it a little bit more?’ I was kind of worried that I was being picky. I knew, ‘this is going to probably be the perfume I’m going wear for the rest of my life.’ I kept testing and asking my friends if I smelled nice.”