nothing smells as sweet as pharrell williams's new perfume g i r l
Master producer, Billionaire Boys Club co-founder and now perfumer with Comme des Garçons, Pharrell Williams is prolific. We sniffed out the man of many talents over colourful KAWS-covered bottles of G I R L at Dover Street Market.
Oh, Pharrell. Not only are you one of the greatest producers in the world, responsible for the ever brilliant N*E*R*D, JT's Justified, Daft Punk's Get Lucky, the soundtrack to Spiderman 2 and your own massively contagious Happy, you also co-founded Billionaire Boys Club and just so happen to be one of the most attractive and age-defying people alive. So, with the news that you're teaming up with Comme des Garçons on your first fragrance, we understandably got very excited indeed. Invited down to Dover Street Market to quiz the master on his next move, we chatted over colourful KAWS-covered bottles of G I R L and tried not to fall too deep in love. The great news? As Adrian Joffe of Comme and Dover Street Market points out - this is "G I R L , for boys and girls" and it is perfect.
What did you want from your fragrance?
I knew I definitely wanted wood as a base. Over five years ago I was greeting Sarah from Colette one day and she gave me a hug and I was like, 'what is that?' She told me it was Wonderwood by Comme so I hunted it down and got it for my wife but instantly started wearing it myself. I discovered Comme properly through Nigo and ended up going to the shows, collecting their pieces and eventually went to their showroom in Paris and was blown away by everything there. I had a meeting with Adrian and Rei and they asked what I wanted to do. Adrian suggested a fragrance and I instantly knew - yes, wood. I hadn't worn fragrance in like 15 years but Wonderwood had made such an impression on me that I wanted to create something with the same effect and I knew that they were the people to do it with.
What was the process like?
Comme have the best creative director for their fragrances - he's nothing short of an alchemist. We gave him words and things that I felt were essential and he just totally nailed it. I called it G I R L because my album was coming out at the same time and while the muse for the album is women, it's still a love story and meant for all human beings. I wanted the same sort of transparency and equality for the fragrance - I wanted it to be unisex. It really was a collaborative effort, with Adrian and his creative director (I call him the alchemist, his real name is Christian Astuguevielle) holding my hand on the scent, and Ronnie Newhouse holding my hand for the visual aspect - she understands my asthetics and what it is that I like. She knows which artists I appreciate and the fact that I love Wes Anderson, so she suggested KAWS. I'm a huge collector of his work but would never have thought about bringing him into this equation. But with her and her boxless thinking it happened. She's one of those purple-minded people. Wisdom.
Did you find it difficult coming up with a scent for both men and women? Often they're very distinctly different.
Well I've had a history of blending things together. And I have to say that after wearing Wonderwood, I've been much more liberal. I used to wear a lot of pink and people looked at me a little weird for it but I'd always balance it out because I'd be wearing jewellery that was kind of unquestionable to my crowd. People would be like 'well, he does have that chain on, so….' It kind of gave me the license to wear whatever I wanted, you know. But wearing Wonderwood opened me up to other things that women were wearing. I felt like I could get away with the womens Vans from Celine. You know, toying around with certain things that are feminine here and there whenever I could. I mean, I'm not gonna wear heels! I'll leave that to Prince… but I love women and I'll do anything to get closer to them and understand them more.
Did you find that your synesthesia affected your perfumery skills?
You know what, I never really thought about it, but I guess there are colours associated with smell too.
If the fragrance was a colour, what colour would it be?
Well, let's see. That's a good question. [sprays & smells] It's kind of like a pastel blue with hints of gold… the gold is the musky part, and the sweeter part is the baby blue.
Nice! Thank you for the colour reading.
You just took me somewhere else… synesthesia is weird. It's one of those things where you've had it all your life but until someone asks you, or you talk about it and people look at you weird, it just exists within yourself.
So what makes Comme des Garçons so great?
Well, it's your favourite designer's favourite brand! It's the top of the top! The best of the best! Walking into their shows is like walking into the garment version of Willy Wonker's factory. The crazy thing is, as much as there are no rules, there's even more connotation and reasoning for everything that they do. It's more about definition; less about cut and sew rules. That's why it's great and why it offers such creative license for one to find oneself in the store. You just have to be smart enough to walk in… and even wiser enough to not buy absolutely everything.
Which is hard! What was the first fragrance you ever wore?
My first was Polo, then I moved onto Fahrenheit because it was so different, so unique. Then I didn't wear anything else for ages until a really short Creed stint… it was very short.
But you dabbled… Out of everybody you've ever met, who smells the best?
Firstly, I'd say that every woman has her own smell. You know, our personal smells are the olfactory version of our fingerprint. They're our identity. But I still think that the best smell I've ever smelt in my life is probably Wonderwood.
What about your favourite food smell?
It has to be cake. I love all kinds of cupcakes.
What's the most nostalgic smell for you?
My grandmother's cooking. She made the best soulfood.
Are there any British artists that you haven't worked with yet who you'd like to?
Oh yeah, tonnes. From Elton John to Disclosure.
How do you stay looking so good? Are you secretly a vampire?
No… but I love life. I love life like one.
G I R L will be available in Dover Street Market now.
Text Francesca Dunn
Photography William Selden