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Diane Pernet by Alan Gelati
Diane Pernet wears KTZ AW14Photography Alan Gelati

How to become a perfume genius

Veiled fashion polymath Diane Pernet takes us on a fragrant journey to celebrate the release of her signature scents

It’s hard to name a job in fashion Diane Pernet hasn’t taken in her shadowy stride. In the 80s, she had her own fashion label in New York, in the 90s, she was a costume designer in Paris and then a fashion editor at Joyce, Elle and French Vogue. She started her eclectic fashion blog A Shaded View On Fashion in 2005 and explored photography and filmmaking, before launching the pioneering A Shaded View On Fashion Film (ASVOFF) festival in 2008. Now she’s turned her nose to the olfactory scene, creating a collection of four fragrances with art perfumer Celso Fadelli. We caught up with Pernet ahead of the launch and bottle signing at Liberty during London Fashion Week to discover the process behind creating a signature scent.

RECOGNISE THE SCENTS YOU HATE

“I don't like women's fragrances. I love to eat sweet things, it's my biggest guilty pleasure, but I can't stand sickening sweet fragrances. I used to always wear gardenias in my hair and they would intoxicate me; I thought I was Billie Holiday! But I don't know about transforming that into a perfume. I love incense in churches and the smell of citrus, of blood oranges. For a long time I wore Vetiver by Guerlain, for men, and then Avignon by Comme Des Garçons. Always genderless. And my fragrances, they have no gender, no age. I wanted something that would appeal to everyone.”

FIND YOUR “NOSE”

“The ‘noses’ are the people actually mixing the scents, they're chemists practically. We tried three noses, so there were all these trials. I had more than a hundred little bottles coming from three different noses. This process is not quick, it's like giving birth. I kept smelling each sample and saying ‘no, I don't like this, I don't like that.’ I thought we were never going to get there, but then, close to the end of one year, one did. She would come with her little black lacquered box with all the raw materials and I knew that we could arrive at something I loved.”

“For a long time I wore Vetiver by Guerlain, for men, and then Avignon by Comme Des Garçons. Always genderless. And my fragrances, they have no gender, no age.”

BE THE GRAPHIC DESIGN MUSE

“Cristiano Seganfreddo designed the packaging. It's very simple, just black, but there's a little bit of red for my lipstick and the inside of the box is red. Mario Salvucci did the little spiders. When I was a designer in New York, Mario used to do the accessories for my collections. I guess I was his muse; he was the one who came up with the idea of the spider, it wasn't actually me, everybody thinks of me as this spider person, but you know, I'm not Louise Bourgeois! I'm the inspiration for the spiders. He says I'm kind of like a spider in many ways, because I have my net and I catch people in it along the way!”

FIND AN OSCAR-NOMINATED FILMMAKER

“I love Mike Figgis! When I saw Leaving Las Vegas, I just couldn't, you know? And then what he did with Kate Moss for Agent Provocateur, that night vision. Last June at the Champs-Élysées Film Festival, we had lunch and I told him I was working on these perfumes and he said "Well, you're going to need a film - call me," and I’m thinking "YES!" To me he's just fantastic. He's kind of changed the landscape of independent filmmaking. He's the real deal, he's authentic. I said "I love your work, I don't want to limit you at all.” I gave him the perfume briefs and the little samples and said ‘just do what you want.’”

HAVE A FASHION WEEK LAUNCH AT LIBERTY

“I love Paris, I've lived there for 24 years, but people there don't have a sense of humour. I always think of London for its creativity and sense of humour. People have fun with fashion here, they’re not afraid to try things. And Liberty represents something to me: it's so British, so old world, but it's also really modern and it looks like nothing else. I like things that have a weight about them, it has integrity and authenticity; those are two things that are really important to me, especially in creating fragrances. I don't want to do anything like anybody else, it's got to be mine; it has to bear my signature.”

See the films below: