You often say you don’t think fragrances are necessarily “for men” or “for women.” But given what you’ve said, do you think Grey Vetiver is undeniably masculine?
Fragrances are so interesting. You attach your own associations to them based on your past experiences. When I think of vetiver as an ingredient, I think of a lot of men I’ve known over the years who wore it because it is such a timeless man’s fragrance, and there are certain older iconic scents built around it that are very familiar to me. But if you’re twenty today and your girlfriend wears Grey Vetiver, which many women say they want to do, then when you’re forty or fifty you’ll close your eyes and remember her. So it’s impossible to pinpoint. Meanwhile, about thirty percent of people who wear Black Orchid are men—it goes both ways.
How do you wear fragrance: Do you pick one and stick with it for weeks?
I like strong fragrances, and I always have. People always comment on it—maybe at times I’m overpowering. I spray a million things on me all the time. In the morning, when I get dressed, I spray one juice on; when I come to work, there’s another one on my desk ... I layer them and end up with a real mix. I am not timid about fragrance.
Are men more open-minded about wearing fragrance than they used to be?
Fragrance, especially for men, has always been a little at odds with our American puritanical culture. There are other societies, like Italy, where if you read about the 19th or early 20th century, the men were always described as being perfumed. Somehow that challenged our Puritan standards. The idea that a man would use scent was almost licentious. But I think as Americans we’re finally becoming more comfortable with fragrance now, like we’re becoming more comfortable with men being sexual, with homosexuality, with a black President. We’re loosening up in some significant ways. And culturally we are less afraid of fragrance than before. We’re becoming much more accepting and fascinated by fragrance, men included.
Do you consider fragrance to be an important accessory?
I think fragrance might be more important than clothes. I’m actually not a very materialistic person. I’m so aware that everything we experience is transient. We have possessions and get to enjoy them, and sometimes they’re very exquisite possessions, but I could be just as happy in New Mexico with no clothes and a one-room adobe house. It would be pretty, of course — I’d have my one Indian pot in the right place and a little palette bed in the perfect spot on the floor. but I wouldn’t miss all the other stuff except fragrance. I’d have a harder time living with - out it than fancy clothes and fancy furniture. Because, like music or food, scent is a very direct sensory stimulant. It provokes the senses, it brings up emotion and memory and feeling. It doesn’t mean I have to buy an expensive perfume; it just means I would have to smell flowers, smell the landscape. So fragrance is more than an accessory, absolutely, to me. In many ways, it is the main event—certainly one of my biggest passions as a creative person.
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