What Goes Inside

When fashion's pacesetters fuse their artistry with beauty's marketers and perfumers, the results can be as unexpected as they are captivating.Forty years ago,...

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Describing the language of the Donna Karan brand, for example, Gabai-Pinsky says, "The Donna Karan brand is nothing short of iconic and timeless and the values behind it are very deep. It is all about the contrast between sensuality and spirituality. It's about body and soul and black and gold. Everything about it is extremely timeless."

Turning to her vocabulary for Kors, she notes, "Everything that Michael does exudes his taste for ultimate luxury and indulgence.

"I was truly impressed by his take on luxury and his sense of humor," she continues. "At the same time he brings glamour to our world, he's always doing it with a wink and that gives enormous appeal to the brand."

Coty's Walsh, who has created scents for Marc Jacobs, Vera Wang and Kenneth Cole, agrees that while fashion is generally her first touchpoint with a designer, the process begins in earnest only after she's asked the designer a host of questions. She employs a variety of ways of mining inspiration from the designer. For instance, while working on Marc Jacob's second fragrance, Blush, she asked Jacobs what olfactive scents he was thinking of for the project. Jacobs responded that he was inspired by the jasmine that blooms outside of his window in Paris—which was subsequentally re-created for the fragrance.

"I'm not inside their heads and I never want to pretend to be. The runway is a big dramatic event. It's when a designer unveils his vision," Walsh says, adding that clothes have a store life of one season. In Walsh's view, her job is to create a fragrance that has staying power on department store fragrance counters season after season, for years to come.

Walsh says that pragmatism prevents head-butting over ideas and concepts. "I'm not in this for my own personal aesthetic. I'm there to channel their aesthetic and ask enough questions to give them something that they want that is also appropriate for the fragrance market."

Franck Salzwedel, Selective Beauty's U.S. creative director, says that when designers come to him with an explosive idea, he gives them ample opportunity to express themselves. "Sometimes the designer provokes us, but other times it's important to tell the designer we haven't pushed the limits enough. The key is being as close as possible to the designer, while keeping a certain distance to make a decision."
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