Much like fashion, fragrance can reflect what is going on in the world at large. It’s possible that’s what sparked the concept of Calvin Klein Women, because whether they are mobilizing, marching or simply making their voices heard, women have been dominating headlines for well over a year now. To really underscore this idea, an all-female cast was assembled, including artist and photographer Anne Collier, the bottle’s co-designer Suzanne Dalton and actresses Lupita Nyong’o and Saoirse Ronan as the faces. The latter two chose images of women they’ve long admired—Eartha Kitt, Katharine Hepburn, Sissy Spacek and Nina Simone—which appear in the ad campaign with them. Lastly, there were Honorine Blanc and Annick Menardo, the two perfumers. “Having all these women brought different approaches to femininity and modernity to the project,” says Blanc. “And I think that in our world today, differentiation is very important.”
For Blanc, that also meant creating a fragrance that would not necessarily be a crowd-pleaser. “My objective with Annick was to break the boundary and to go to unsafe territories, out of our comfort zone,” she says, which led them to use ingredients uncommon in feminine fragrances, like eucalyptus acorns and Alaskan cedarwood. Having two perfumers also ensured that the scent wouldn’t project a singular view, and they were occasionally at odds in its development. “Sometimes Annick would add something and we’d disagree,” says Blanc. “But I’d learn how to use her elements, and I love that. She did the same.”
Both Blanc and Menardo insist that being women themselves did not influence the creative process; nor do they feel they ever bring any part of their identity to their work. “I detach myself,” says Blanc, while Menardo adds that for her, creation goes beyond gender. “Even if I think being a woman means we have a better understanding of sensuality and our needs,” says Blanc, “it’s important to think as a creator first.” In this case, the end result is a perfume that hasn’t been conceived to attract a partner. In fact, the perfumers believe that today’s consumer is not only “educated olfactively,” with a greater understanding of what she likes and why, but also looking to please someone else entirely. “I think a woman now chooses her perfume for herself,” says Menardo.
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