SCENT OF A BOOK
In case you missed it, the other big story this past two weeks—at least in the world of who made-the-dress? and what-color-is-the-Queen’s-hat?—is that Karl Lagerfeld is about to launch a new fragrance smelling of … a book!
Or is he?
That was the gossip all over the internet this week. The fantastical genius behind Chanel, Fendi and his own eponymous label was launching a new perfume—named, apparently, Paper Passion—in conjunction with the German publishing house Steidl, which has produced many of Lagerfeld’s own books. The only problem with the story was that it wasn’t true. Or at least the Lagerfeld part wasn’t.
It’s common knowledge that Karl Lagerfeld has a thing about books. He’s produced more than 33 himself, and has long been known as a voracious buyer of books; he reportedly owns more than 30,000. So many, in fact, that his collection now spills out into a bookstore, 7L, that he’s opened next door to his studio in Paris at 7 rue de Lille; he evidently has plans to open one in New York soon, too. Fashion designer, photographer, film director, costume designer, interior designer, artist, subject of a French reality TV series, hand-puppet model, diet-book muse, Lagerfeld has already produced a few perfumes—making the news of another, smelling of books, entirely plausible.
But as we delved into the details, conflicting messages emerged. Steidl, the publisher, originally wrote to confirm that it was working in conjunction with Chanel; a short time later, however, a rather flustered press marketing manager confessed to not knowing where the Chanel/Lagerfeld rumors were coming from. The book fragrance—which does indeed exist—was, it turned out, a project of the design and interiors magazine Wallpaper. According to Wallpaper, there was a fragrance arrangement with Lagerfeld; Chanel, however, said firmly that it was nothing to do with them, while Lagerfeld wrote that his designer “refutes his implication in the launch of the perfume Paper Passion,” and that he would “stick to Coty Prestige when it is about his own perfume creations.” In other words, non, a thousand times non!
According to the same flustered Steidl press marketing manager, what is actually known is that along with the new scent—which is formulated by Geza Schön, a pretty out-there “nose” who has produced perfumes that rejoice under names such as Escentric Molecules 01, Pussy de Luxe (!) and Intelligence and Beauty (part of a series called, er, the Beautiful Mind)—there are plans for a Paper Passion book as well. Steidl is one of the few remaining independently operated publishing houses. Its founding owner, Gerhard Steidl, controls every step of the process—editing, design, typography, scanning, marketing, distribution, public relations, printing—almost emulating Lagerfeld in terms of job descriptions. Steidl confirmed that they have sent Geza Schön paper samples to sniff, although it wouldn’t be drawn into what exactly they were.
Wallpaper, Steidl and Lagerfeld clearly aren’t alone in a love for the smell of books; there’s a scent called In the Library by a Brooklyn-based perfumer named Christopher Brosius. His tagline is “I Hate Perfume.” (For a perfume hater, he has a lot of scents—more than 30, in fact, including a couple named I Am a Dandelion and Mr Hulot’s Holiday.)
Who smelt it?
Not much is known about the bookish scent itself, but Geza Schön has said it will contain a “fatty nuance,” and the bottle will apparently be encased within a hollowed-out hardcover book. A mystery (whosmeltit?) book, perhaps?
Yesterday the London Review of Books tweeted about the already-two-week-old Forbes story—”Karl Lagerfeld to Launch Fragrance That Smells Like Books”—linked to the Forbes book pages. Perhaps the Review should get on their stories a little earlier. That way, they’ll at least be tweeting about things as they happen—or, in this case, as they aren’t.—LUCY SISMAN