What do Rei Kawakubo, Marc Jacobs and John Galliano have in common? The milliner Stephen Jones. This is quite an accolade – after all, in their own, highly idiosyncratic way, these three names are among the most feted in international fashion. And working away quietly, behind the scenes, is Mr Jones, a diffident character who creates quite the finest hats in the industry, adding the finishing, quixotic and rigorously executed touches to their groundbreaking designs.
Only last week, Jones stole the show at Giles Deacon, with oversized, high-shine metallic hats inspired by Pac-Man and his ghostly enemies. This is not headwear for the faint-hearted. The capital's most famed milliner also launched his first fragrance in collaboration with Adrian Joffe, CEO of Comme des Garçons Parfum and husband of the aforementioned Kawakubo, designer of that label.
It is a weighty collaboration. Over the past decade, Comme des Garçons's determinedly abstract and innovative fragrances have set the pace – modern perfumery is indebted to Comme des Garçons in much the same way as fashion always has been. "A violet that hits a meteorite" is how the people on both sides sum up this latest enterprise – as impenetrable an analysis as might be expected.
First: the packaging. It's a miniature, glossy black hatbox, inside of which lies a net veil cushioning a black bottle.
"It's based on an old ink bottle I found in Paris that dates back to about 1890," Jones explains.
The liquid itself was never going to be bland, but why violets – this is not a flower that has had much of an airing in stylish circles since the late 19th century, after all.
"Violets are just so unfashionable," Jones confirms. "And then there's that slightly Queen Motherly thing, which, if you're a milliner, you just can't avoid. Violets are also a little bit sad, a bit pensive."
As for the meteorite part of the equation: "It's an aldehyde – I wanted there to be a slightly metallic, synthetic side to the fragrance, so any familiarity would be balanced with something more strange."
Given that Comme des Garçons has, in the past, based fragrances on the scent of dry-cleaning, for example, and even tar, Jones was in safe hands where conjuring up strangeness was concerned.
"I created this fragrance for the woman who loves dressing up," Stephen Jones concludes. "For the woman who loves fashion and takes it somewhere else."
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