QUESTION: I love fragrances. What do you wear? BARNES: Me…
On the occasion of Mother’s Day and the launch of her new fragrance, Be Jeweled, our DEBORAH FULSANG speaks to iconic American designer Vera Wang about perfume and the feminine rituals surrounding it.
QUESTION: Do you have a first memory of fragrance?
WANG: Yes, of getting ready; of the ritual of getting ready and getting beautified and feeling beautiful. I certainly do. The first time I ever went to a high-school party, my mother gave me a fragrance—Bal à Versailles—and she put it behind my ears.
In those days those were very serious essential-oil fragrances, and they were strong.
And my mother said to me “Jacqueline Kennedy wears this. She’s a special, stylish woman and I want you to feel as glamorous as you possibly can on your first date.”
And that was the beginning of how I learned a little bit from my mother on getting ready.
It’s really the most intimate thing you can wear or be is your scent—my god, there’s nothing more memorable than how a woman smells.
QUESTION: Are you a one-fragrance…?
WANG: No, I’m multi. I like to play around. My daughters, who are in their 20s, they even sometimes mix [different fragrances together]. I see such a resurgence of fragrance in the young people today. I mean, my god, they’re embracing it because I think it makes them feel good. I mean, I don’t even know if it’s a tool for seduction like the French or what I learned when I was young, but I think it makes them feel like it’s part of their beauty ritual and they’re getting ready and ready to have a wonderful evening. It’s really fabulous.
QUESTION: Have you always loved fragrance?
WANG: I’ve always loved fragrance. Well, I grew up in Paris and had a home in Paris for many years so I’ve learned the history of fragrance; and from my mother it’s been a part of my upbringing. And my daughters have adopted it.
QUESTION: What did your mother wear?
WANG: My mother wore everything—she changed all the time. L’Air du Temps from Nina Ricci. My mother wore Chanel No.20, No.5; she was a real fragrance buff. But women were in those days. You have to understand, it was part of the art of seduction; it was as important as putting your gloves on, or your hosiery. Today, it’s once again a part of a woman’s beauty ritual.
QUESTION: Do you have a favourite note or ingredient from your new Be Jeweled perfume?
WANG: I’ve done so many fragrances and I’ve explored things that have always meant something to me like vanilla, or chocolate, or heavy florals—it’s dependent on the fragrance and the project and what we’re aiming to do with it. …I do like florals—I’m known for that. I don’t hate vanilla either, I don’t hate coconut either, I do like tuberose; but in this case, it’s certainly about the blend, and that’s how I started my fragrance business. In this case, certainly it was about the peony and about the currant and that kind of strength of flavour.
QUESTION: How does Be Jeweled relate to your other Princess fragrances?
WANG: Oh, I think it relates wonderfully because I think we started with Princess in all its variations.
Again, it’s about energy, it’s about youth, it’s about the exploration of oneself. The spirit, and the happiness, and the freedom, and the desire to express yourself, and I think that’s what you do when you wear fragrance.
QUESTION: Where did your Princess love come from?
WANG: I’m in the business of love. I think that the emotion of love, and that overpowering feeling of “no matter what” or “no matter how”; that is the romance of it.
I don’t mean necessarily romantic, I mean more the romance of that emotional feeling; that’s what I’m really after. Do you know what I mean?
When it’s a young woman, a middle-aged woman, or an older person, I think it’s about reliving or recapturing those feelings that are so strong and overpowering and [that] I think guide so much of our culture—my god, film, music, literature, since forever.
The idea of being in love and falling in love, and then sometimes the heartbreak of it all, that’s just part of the vocabulary of our brand and our company, and I think that’s where it comes from. It’s a very authentic and real place.
For the princess in your life. Or the queen: Vera Wang Be Jeweled: A dash of pomegranate, red currant and champagne, peony sugar and musk combine in this sparkling, fruity-floral and upbeat perfume.
Just in time for summer party and wedding season. EDP, $49 (30 ml), www.verawang.com