Stephen Jones: ‘It's a hysterical world’

The cult milliner tells Susie Bubble about his latest Comme Des Garçons fragrance, Wisteria Hysteria

It's been six years since Stephen Jones collaborated with Comme des Garçons eau de toilette on a dark fragrance. At Comme des Garçons Trading Museumn in Paris last week, Jones and Comme des Garçons revealed the second chapter to this fragrance story – "Wisteria Hysteria" is the positive yang to play off of the negative yin. The mouth blown opalescent bottle is white this time and is wrapped up in milliner's veiling, which was also used to hand out perfume samples. It turns out wisteria has never been used as a perfume note, as far as Jones can tell. At first the sweet floral scent hits you, but like all Comme des Garçons scents, it's a fragrance that deepens as it lingers, hitting you with futuristic and rococo notes. Jones also got his very own perfume "ad" with a video directed by friend Henry Pincus, where the duality of a woman plays out in macabre fashion - the spirit of the two fragrances in black and white confront each other. The relationship between millinery and fragrance was emphasised with examples of Jones' magnificent hats all in alabaster white on display. The dialogue between the two is plainly obvious to Jones: “Millinery, I think is closer to fragrance than fashion. A hat, like a perfume, is an evocation of something nebulous, ephemeral, and other-worldly.”

Dazed Digital: Why wisteria?

Stephen Jones: Wisteria has never really been used as a perfume note. It's perceived as being super sweet and a bit generic. People always mistake it as in the Northern climates, particularly in Scotland, they flower twice. It's the most beautiful sight to see that second flowering! It's very pungent.  

DD: What made you decide to resurrect this perfume project?

Stephen Jones: The plan was always to continue it somehow. But it takes time to work out the scent. I have the greatest respect for what Rei Kawakubo does and it's a a real honour to do something like this.

DD: What was the idea behind the fragrance?

Stephen Jones: I wanted it to have the resonance and richness of all Comme des Garçons fragrances. They have those woody undernotes. They have this incredible fragrance language that I really love. I really did not want a sweet, I wanted to do a white floral fragrance but I didn't want it to smell of sweets. I wanted it to be a woman's fragrance, not a girl's-grown-up.

DD: Hence the hysteria?

Stephen Jones: That's a bit autobiograhical actually. If you're a hatmaker you live permanently in this world of hysteria. It's like the fashion business turned up to eleven. You're always there at the last moment. Hats are the most visible thing and the most potent and extreme. It is a hysterical world.

DD: As a milliner, what draws you to perfume?

Stephen Jones: Actually for twenty years, I was actually a consultant for Shiseido. I was an art director for the fragrance division. It was a wonderful thing to do. I really wanted to expand and continue that - it would be crazy not to.

DD: Tell us a bit about the duality seen in the video?

Stephen Jones: Within the fragrance there are two sides to every night - there's a cool one and a sensuous one. It's somehow familiar too.  Black and white. Everybody I know has got the inner dialogue inside of them!


Filmmaker: Henry Pincus