December 22, 2013
Most people who know much of anything about perfume know that most celebrities have very little to do with the creation of the fragrances they put their names on. They might have something to say for press release and interview purposes, but mostly they are presented with a few cookie-cutter perfume formulas to pick from, and the PR machine does the rest. There have been a few exceptions, but one celebrity who has not only lent her name to her fragrance collection, but acts as a Creative Director in every sense of that title, is Dita Von Teese. From concept to the finished product, the perfume, packaging, and advertising look are all helmed by Ms. Von Teese, and she strives to bring uniqueness and personality to her audience. Ms. Von Teese recently accepted our invitation to answer some questions about her perfumes and life, and we are pleased to bring you this insightful interview.
Photo by Ali Mahdavi
What first inspired you to create your own perfume line, and what caused you to choose Luxess over the bigger brands that specialize in celebrity scents?
DVT: I've always sought out rare and unique perfumes, so when Luxess approached me to create my own, with creative control, I accepted. Usually celebrity fragrances are made with plenty of focus group testing in order to appeal to the masses, but I was very clear from the start that I wasn't going to pick a pre-chosen "juice" that "did well in focus groups". I was also adamant that I wouldn't go for any fruity, vanilla-y, gourmand fragrances, even though those are what generally sell well. But I believe that things that are universally accepted by the masses are generally mediocre, and I really don't think my fans are looking to me to show them things they can already find …They're people that like the exquisite, looking for unusual, rare things that make them feel glamorous. My entire career is based on being unique, challenging boundaries… changing people's minds about striptease, fetishism, etc, and showing it in a different light, so there was no way I was going to just bottle up a popular scent ut my name on it. Integrity and authenticity are important to me. It's not always easy to do everything I really want to do while keeping the price points accessible. … There comes a point where I have to understand and accept that when designing within a certain price range, some things simply aren't possible, but I keep pushing, challenging, hunting for ways to offer sophistication at an accessible price. My latest fragrance Erotique is the fragrance I really had to fight to have made, I think it's my favorite of the four that I've done. It's technically a "flanker" so the bottle emulates Rouge and Fleurteese, but the scent is completely different from the others I've done. The others might be more "me", but Erotique was about my fantasy of the woman I really want to be! I took total control over the imagery and language to describe the perfume too. I suppose there aren't many celebrities that write the press releases for their perfumes, but after working for so long on each, I feel like I have to do it myself!
What is your earliest perfume memory? Has it impacted the perfumes you have created?
DVT: My earliest actual perfume memory is of my mother wearing Halston in the 70s. I also recall the scent of fallen autumn leaves and blooming spring purple lilacs, and one of my most vivid scent memories was the smell of smoldering fire, so I love scents that have a "smoky" accord. My first perfume was based on my desire for a very sophisticated, elegant floral that has also has a mysterious, skin-like feel to it. I would say my love of the scent of smoldering fires and autumn leaves can be found a bit in my latest perfume Erotique. Erotique was inspired by the vintage erotica that first inspired me to create retro-fetishistic photos when I first started out in the early 90s. I loved reading Anais Nin, Henry Miller, Georges Bataille. I wanted to create a perfume that captured that feel, something that would smell like a perfume laced with elements of leather…like a bouquet of flowers held by black leather opera gloves, which are an obsession of mine, I wear them with everything! I thought a lot about perfume from another time, and I met author Barbara Herman who introduced me to the world of vintage perfumes, and I began collecting decants of actual fragrances from the 1930s-50s, noticing how different perfume was back then, how animalistic and erotic they were…how vastly different from all the commercially made modern scents. It got me thinking of what it must have been like back then, how perfume used to mean something else, and then, of course, I had the desire to actually wear a perfume like that, so I made Erotique … People in business are always afraid of taking chances, but I say that at some point, someone has to be brave enough to try something new. To be frank, I'm a little embarrassed to [be] part of the "celebrity scent" category, because it all reeks (pardon the pun) of sacrifice of quality for profit. I honestly care more about creating interesting, special things more than I care about turning a profit…surely I could offer fragrance that appeals to everyone, and I could sell more, but that's not what I stand for … My fragrances are not for everyone, but I believe in them, and each has my personal touch on them…Erotique more than any of them, in fact, because I was able to take it to another place, both with the "juice" and the imagery.
How important is fragrance to you in your daily life? What influences your scent choices?
DVT: I am very influenced by the seasons and my wardrobe, and of course for situations. I choose different perfumes for different occasions. I always choose very carefully which scent I would wear on a first date, because if it works out, I know I will be wearing that fragrance for as long as I see the man! Scent and memory is very powerful, and I've found the men in my life like it when I have a signature scent they equate only with me. That's not to say I wear the same fragrance all the time, but I like to have a signature along with a rotating fragrance wardrobe.
Grace Kelly with the famous Mark Cross travel case in "Rear Window"
You travel extensively, all over the world. What items in your carry-on bag are your absolute essentials?
DVT: I always have a little purse sized makeup kit with mini moisturizer, powder, red lipstick and mini perfume along with other beauty essentials like a mini-hair brush and hairpins for creating a quick chignon upon landing. I also always have my ipad with a few TV shows, movies and books downloaded onto it plus a "real" book or two and a few select magazines. I also travel with my favorite teas and a bar of pure dark chocolate. Great sunglasses and a chic coat are the quick way to glamorize the simple, comfortable dresses I like to wear when traveling.
Photo by Ali Mahdavi
If you hadn’t become an icon of glamour, beauty, and burlesque, you would be _____.
DVT: I would basically be doing the same thing but I wouldn't be the star of my own show or the "face" of my own products. I'd strictly be orchestrating. I got my start styling my own shoots, creating burlesque shows…I would hope I would have been able to design and create for someone else instead of with myself as the subject. But then again, I guess we will never know what would have been!
You have successful perfume, cosmetic, and lingerie lines: what’s next for you?
DVT: My show Strip Strip Hooray! is always a big focus for me, my first love! I will start touring again with that in the US in the early spring. I'm launching my lingerie in a big US retailer in early 2014 too, so I'm especially excited for women to be able to try things in stores rather than just order online.
Photo by Steve Erle
I have seen your quote: “I advocate glamour. Every day. Every minute.” With the trend seeming to be headed in the direction of wearing flannel pajama pants for all occasions, do you think everyday glamour can be brought back?
DVT: I think glamour will live on and on for some people, but I think for the average person, high-glamour might eventually be lost. It can be very difficult in this day and age to indulge in glamour and beauty and not be ridiculed or labeled as "eccentric". I think the divide is getting greater and greater. All you have to do is hang out in the airport for a while and see that glamour in everyday life is becoming lost, save for the flight attendants, pilots and a few of us who find clever ways of finding comfort WITH glamour.
Tama Blough, Senior Editor and Michelyn Camen, Editor-in-Chief
As a special treat, Luxess has provided us with two 40 ml bottles of Erotique to give away to two lucky US readers. Please leave a comment with something you learned about Dita Von Teese in this interview, and remember to say you are in the US. Draw ends December 26, 2013.
We announce the winners only onsite and on our Facebook page, so Like CaFleureBon and use our RSS option…..or your dream prize will just be spilled perfume.