As the former editor of French Vogue and founder of CR Fashion Book, Carine Roitfeld’s boundary-pushing fashion shoots have inspired countless readers. Photos of her own outfits spread like wildfire across blogs, then Instagram. But for Roitfeld, it’s scents, rather than images, that burn in her mind.
“I remember someone by his perfume, by the smell,” Roitfeld, 64, tells Alexa. “I remember the perfume of my grandma. My mother was always wearing Elnett [hairspray], and the smell of Elnett is very strong. You cannot forget it.” The same goes for places: “When you go to the South of France and you land at the airport in Nice, you smell the pine trees. It is unforgettable.”
So it’s fitting that she has created, as her first solo non-media product, a line of seven genderless perfumes inspired by her memories of people and places. And she’s all-in on the project, even using a nude photograph of herself for its ad campaign in France.
The collection — dreamed up by Roitfeld, with the help of her son and business partner, Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld, and three master perfumers — is inspired by “fantasy lovers” from seven cities. (Roitfeld recently split with her longtime partner, Christian Restoin, the founder of clothing brand Equipment.) The process took eight years of brainstorming and an ever-increasing budget: “Scent is not easy!”
The fragrances are based on Roitfeld’s early olfactory memories from each city. For New York, it was the moment she first stepped into the Carlyle in the 1980s. The hotel’s entrance was flooded with flowers, she says, and the sweet smell has stuck with her. She named that NYC fragrance “Orson,” for her literary love, Orson Welles, whose movies she’s always associated with uptown Manhattan. The result is a soft, creamy floral fragrance with notes of hawthorn flower, benzoin and tonka bean resin. Other highlights in the range include a Parisian fragrance rich in orange blossom, and a smoky amber St. Petersburg offering, named “Vladimir,” after her son.
The collection is available at a pop-up at 158 Mercer St. until May 12, then exclusively online at Net-a-Porter and Carine Roitfeld — a decision the editrix sees as a fun risk. “A lot of people start online, but they are bigger names than me,” she says. “Kim Kardashian does all her perfumes online. I think it’s modern.” Curious buyers can purchase a travel set ($250) to sample all of the scents, while each full-size bottle ($285 for 90 ml) comes with samples.
“Perfume has to be expensive, or it is not perfume,” Roitfeld argues. “It’s like couture — it’s really something special. And as a French person, it has to be high quality.”
That’s not to say that she isn’t scheming more accessible price points. A year ago, she was strolling the aisles of a Walmart in Calabasas, Calif., when a customer rushed over to tell Roitfeld — who was wearing a test fragrance from her line — how beautiful she smelled.
The moment left her dreaming up a lower-priced line, now that she knew her high-fashion scents would appeal to the masses. Says Roitfeld, with a coy smile and a laugh: “I love all my future buyers.”
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