THE POWER AND THE PRADA
WE’RE IN ITALY WITH ACTORS ANSEL ELGORT AND DANE DEHAAN – TALKING GENDER FLUIDITY AND THEIR FRONTING OF THE NEW ‘L’HOMME PRADA’.
The delivery of a new scent is involved. It takes years. Years since an idea first flickers. Years since notes are proposed, discussed, embraced and secured. Years since early design concepts are explored and brand messaging – because that’s the key – defined and distilled ahead of an eventual bottling. It’s why here, on a balmy Milanese morning, heavy anticipation drapes the room for the unveiling of a new scent, ‘L’homme Prada’, a fragrance that’s been years in the making. Invited guests mill about the central flagship store, each eager to understand and sample the new offering and learn of the journey undertaken to this point. ‘L’homme’ comes coupled with ‘La Femme’ – they’re a pairing, yet they also sit individually. It reflects, we’re told, a sense of interchangeability and the contrasting and complementary nature of gender. “I wanted to present these fragrances together, with the same concept, with the same photographer [long-time Prada collaborator Steven Meisel] so that they are really interchangeable,” says Prada CEO Miuccia Prada. “We have two actresses and actors that play three of four roles each. This is the main concept: that there isn’t a single icon representing the dream of a woman or a man. It’s the opposite – these people represent the reality, the differences and so on.” Three are here – Ansel Elgort and Dane Dehaan, alongside Mia Goth. Australian Mia Wasikowska, the fourth player in this
“BEING A MAN TODAY REQUIRES AN EXTREME AMOUNT OF SENSITIVITY.”
Prada party, is unable to attend due to filming commitments. Sitting with Elgort and Dehaan, conversation meanders into obvious corners – exploration of their attachment to the label generally (both have previously fronted seasonal fashion campaigns for the house), and ‘L’homme’ specifically. “It’s like family here,” confides Dehaan, a standout in 2013’s Kill Your Darlings, of his work with the luxury Italian label. “Honestly, throughout my career, it’s been my most constant employer, and that’s why it feels like family... I’ve gotten to know Prada, I’ve gotten to know the clothes and the people and what it represents – it’s a company that I can really get behind in a lot of ways, one I have a lot of respect for and it’s really just an honour to be attached to the brand.” This sense of family is furthered by Elgort, the actor and DJ who landed broad critical recognition in the honest and heartfelt The Fault In Our Stars. “I honestly think a lot of that comes from the fact you have a company where the designer is actually the name – that’s very rare and you can feel how personal it is; you can feel that [Miuccia] still has her fingers on everything and I think it’s very unique in that way.” There’s a fluid, understated elegance to the bottles presented in Milan. And it’s a theme obvious in the scent itself – ‘L’homme’ juxtaposing the firm masculinity attached to the use of neroli with playful elements of amber and iris, elements emblematic of many female-oriented Prada fragrances. “If you look at the bottles, they come together and everything makes sense like that. But we did not work with the obsession that they have to fit together,” offers perfumer and internationally renowned ‘nose’ Daniela Andrier. “Instead, it was this obsession to create a real Prada female fragrance that is very much a master brand. Then, when you [have that], they can go together, because they came from the same idea.” Elgort laughs off suggestions that this has led him to try ‘La Femme’. Still, the gender notions that Prada has presented open a discourse on modern masculinity – specifically, the softening of such. “Being a man today requires an extreme amount of sensitivity. Society’s moved past the idea that men just have to be strong, tough and emotionless human beings. You know, it’s strong to be able to express how you feel and I think that is true masculinity – to be sensitive is to be masculine, to be in touch with how you feel is masculine. I think we’re also learning that there’s masculinity in weakness, too.” Haan adds: “You wouldn’t be your masculine self if you shied away from feminine]. These scents represent fidence in yourself as a human being ot truly needing to label what that is; fidence in true masculinity and true inity, and the fact that true femininity asculine qualities and true masculinity minine qualities.” me, like that taken to craft a scent, is singular and central concept grafted at fragrances offer. Because they’re allming and highly transportive. mell itself is one of the most powerful . When you smell something it can you back to a time years and years says Elgort. “It could make you laugh, ld make you cry – I feel it in an instant, moment when you miss somebody ou smell the way they do, the bed still like them and they’re gone, but you that they were still there... It’s funny you think about it, that when you smell hing it reminds you of something or one else; it’s like you lose all your other , you don’t see what’s around you, you hear what’s around you, the smell really you somewhere.” mme Prada’ EDT (50ml), $100; ‘L’homme (150ml - launch only), $170; prada.com
CLOCKWISE, FROM LEFT: ANSEL ELGORT; PRADA’S FLAGSHIP STORE IN MILAN; SAMPLING ‘L’HOMME’; DANE DEHAAN. BIG WHIFF TODAY’S GLOBAL FRAGRANCE INDUSTRY IS ESTIMATED TO BE WORTH ABOUT $55bn.