Carine Roitfeld is OK with the fact that patchouli, the dominant note in her eponymous new perfume, is utterly polarizing. The heady ingredient with the grungy-hippie backstory isn’t for everyone, and that’s a major reason why she loves it so much.
“It’s a bit free-spirited, like me,” says the French style icon, who has fond memories of scouting for patchouli essence, years ago, in the Indian import stores of Paris. “I think people have such strong reactions to it because it’s distinct, like how they walk past a café and suddenly want a fresh cup of coffee. I believe patchouli invokes adventure and suddenly makes one brave enough to live out their fantasies.”
Roitfeld — who helmed Vogue Paris for a decade, was Tom Ford’s styling ace in the pocket for years and is now overseeing a publishing, content creation and perfume empire that includes CR Fashion Book, CR Studio and a range of fragrances dubbed 7 Lovers — christened her latest scent “Carine.” She considers it her most personal project to date.
She likens the experience of creating “Carine” to walking down the Champs-Élysées starkers (perhaps a nod to the 2019 ad for the debut of Carine Roitfeld Parfums, in which she appeared completely nude). “I wanted to create an irreverent fragrance that people didn’t expect, something sensual and unpredictable, like how I create my fashion editorials or put together an outfit.”
Working in collaboration with perfumer Dominique Ropion, the creator of such seminal scents as Viktor & Rolf “Flowerbomb” and Yves Saint Laurent “Y,” Roitfeld steered him toward obsessions she wanted to see realized in scent form. Case in point: cashmere. “He introduced me to Cashmeran,” she says, “a complex synthetic ingredient so named for its ability to impart something of the softness of cashmere.”
Other notes in her namesake fragrance (available at CarineRoitfeld.com, Kith in Paris and Harrods in the UK) include vetiver, jasmine, gardenia and a splash of spices.
To promote her new labor of love, Roitfeld sat for photographer Max Von Gumppenberg, a longtime editorial collaborator. “I trusted him to capture the intricacies of the fragrance through his lens,” she notes. “I’m always delighted with his work, and he was able to bring out this side that I didn’t recognize before. I feel powerful, sexy and extremely proud of the work I’ve put in over the last several decades to be in a place where I am now.”
Clad in head-to-toe purple and lavender, with a sliver of ruby satin bra peeking out, she says the “stripped-down version of the Carine Roitfeld people have come to know” in the campaign imagery mirrors the journey she went on while creating the perfume. “With ‘Carine,’ I’ve opened the door to my emotions, memories, thoughts, dreams and fantasies. It’s a very vulnerable thing to do, but also very cathartic.”
Now 67 and a grandmother, Roitfeld says she’s faithful to her Paris-based facialist, stays fit and strong with boxing and ballet classes, and has zero intention of dialing-back on her edgy sartorial style. “Who says you can’t wear something just because you’re over a certain age? I never follow the rules, and I won’t be starting anytime soon.”
And really, why switch gears when you’re pretty much #goals personified? “Somebody recently commented on one of my Instagram posts saying, ‘I want to age like Carine.’ That made me feel beyond happy.”