The Fra­grance That Wants to Beau­tify the World

Its premise was about re­sist­ing life’s ug­li­ness with grace and joy. Now, it ex­presses this idea afresh with a new cam­paign and face. Goh Yee Huay re­ports from Seoul.

Herworld (Singapore) - - F / TO KNOW -

It all started with a pho­to­graph. On Oc­to­ber 21, 1967, French pho­to­jour­nal­ist Marc Ri­boud was in Wash­ing­ton D.C. cov­er­ing a mas­sive rally op­pos­ing Amer­ica’s in­volve­ment in the Viet­nam War. Anti-war fer­vour was at fever pitch, and pro­test­ers were out in force.

As the crowd (more than 100,000 strong, by some es­ti­mates) con­verged on the Pen­tagon, they were met by a line of ri­fle-wield­ing sol­diers. That was when Ri­boud no­ticed a lone high-school girl stand­ing serenely in front of the troops, their bay­o­nets mere inches away from her. In her hands she clasped a sin­gle flower, raised in front of her face like a gen­tle of­fer­ing.

This mo­ment when ide­al­ism and in­no­cence squared up to brute force was cap­tured by Ri­boud in a pho­to­graph that be­came not only his call­ing card but a defin­ing im­age of the anti-war move­ment and the flower power era. Printed in news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines around the world, the photo was widely cred­ited with turn­ing pub­lic opin­ion against the Viet­nam War. And more than three decades later, its mes­sage of fight­ing neg­a­tiv­ity with beauty would be­come the in­spi­ra­tion for Flower by Kenzo, the French brand’s sig­na­ture fra­grance.

A pow­dery flo­ral scent com­posed by Al­berto Mo­ril­las and launched in 2000, Flower by Kenzo has a warm, sen­sual char­ac­ter cour­tesy of rose, vi­o­let, vanilla and white musk. Pink pep­per­corn and in­cense add a lively zing that sets it apart from pow­der-heavy old-world per­fumes. Its vis­ual touch­stone was the grace­ful, vivid red poppy flower. Its key con­cept: Make the world a more beau­ti­ful place.

Pa­trick Guedj, Kenzo Par­fums’ artis­tic di­rec­tor who has cre­ated all the ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns for the fra­grance, says: “In a Flower film, there’s al­ways an as­pect which is out of this world and fan­tas­ti­cal. That’s im­por­tant. At the same time, you have some real sen­sa­tions, real peo­ple, real feel­ings – things which are gen­uine and au­then­tic. I like the mix of these two as­pects which usu­ally don’t go to­gether. It’s dreamy, po­etic and true.”

Con­tin­u­ing at the helm, Guedj re­cently com­pleted the fra­grance’s lat­est cam­paign – set to be un­veiled in mid-April – which fea­tures not only a new film but also a new face and vibe.

While the pre­vi­ous cam­paign star­ring Chi­nese su­per­model Ming Xi veered to­wards the ab­stract and had a mod­ern, graphic look, Guedj wanted the new edi­tion to be more earthy, fo­cus­ing on

hu­man emo­tions and a feel­good buzz. “There was an old Flower cam­paign with Lika Mi­namoto which was shot on the rooftops of Paris. It was ex­tremely suc­cess­ful and it showed peo­ple smil­ing and be­ing to­gether – a lot of life. So I thought it was in­ter­est­ing to go back to that kind of feel­ing,” he says.

The new cam­paign also has to be cur­rent and rel­e­vant to the times. “We need to be aware of the changes in so­ci­ety and to work them in. We thought it was im­por­tant for the woman this time to be a lit­tle less soft and gen­tle, more in ac­tion. If you look at the cam­paign from a few years ago, the woman was watch­ing the world rather than mak­ing the world move. But in this lat­est one, you can feel the woman is very de­ter­mined and strong,” says Guedj.

To em­body this more as­sertive and pur­pose­ful Flower woman, the brand chose 28-year-old ac­tress Kim Tae Ri. One of South Korea’s most promis­ing young stars, she shot to fame as the lead in au­teur Park Chan Wook’s ac­claimed The

Hand­maiden – a role she beat 1,500 other can­di­dates to land. Her per­for­mance in that film (her de­but fea­ture) left a deep im­pres­sion on Guedj, who made her his top pick for the fra­grance’s new face.

He says: “She looks so young and baby-faced, very nice and cute, but she ac­tu­ally has a core of steel. I like that con­trast in her. And the char­ac­ter she played in The

Hand­maiden was ex­actly like that too. Tae Ri’s got a very strong per­son­al­ity and she’s very fem­i­nine. She knows what she wants and what she’s do­ing. She had so many ques­tions about the char­ac­ter in the Flower film – she wanted to un­der­stand ev­ery­thing, to be sure about ev­ery­thing.”

For Kim, the mix of opposites is also what she finds most alluring about Flower. “I think the poppy has very con­trast­ing qual­i­ties be­cause it has a very thin, frail stem that is ac­tu­ally the life force sup­port­ing the bright, dom­i­nant flower. Sim­i­larly, the fra­grance can smell very girl­ish one mo­ment and very fem­i­nine and grown-up the next. Hav­ing all these con­trast­ing as­pects com­bined in a scent is what ap­peals to me,” she says.

Shot in San Fran­cisco, the new cam­paign film sees Kim strid­ing through a mul­ti­cul­tural neigh­bour­hood to the tune of Bri­tish singer Tom McRae’s What a Way

to Win a War. At the end, she stops di­rectly be­low a gi­ant red bub­ble float­ing in mid-air, which bursts open to re­lease count­less red pop­pies. The over­all ef­fect is part old­school Western, part Tim Bur­ton fan­tasy.

“I think the char­ac­ter I por­tray is kind of heroic. She has this power to touch a world that is hard­en­ing and has this won­der­ful, amaz­ing en­ergy that she spreads to the peo­ple around her. She’s a very con­fi­dent, strong woman. I think that was what they were look­ing for dur­ing the au­di­tion, and they saw those qual­i­ties in me,” says Kim.

An up­beat hero­ine was cer­tainly what Guedj had in mind too. “When I was look­ing into this con­cept of a woman with de­ter­mi­na­tion, I thought it would be nice to do it in a smi­ley way, not too se­ri­ously, and with a bit of irony. I didn’t want her to be harsh. I liked the idea of her as a cow­boy woman walk­ing through town. The mu­sic helps to con­vey that, and there’s a bit of Tarantino as well.”

The cam­paign’s strong sense of op­ti­mism is an echo of the ide­al­is­tic spirit cap­tured in Ri­boud’s pho­to­graph all those years ago. Kim her­self feels it keenly. “For me, this par­tic­u­lar fra­grance has the power to raise ex­pec­ta­tions of what’s to come. Ev­ery time I smell it, I feel as if some­thing is open­ing up to me, and that fills me with an­tic­i­pa­tion. It’s a feel­ing of hope­ful­ness,” she says.

As for Guedj, though he may have swopped the dreamy ro­man­ti­cism of past cam­paigns for a more grounded, au­then­tic style this time, it doesn’t mean he has chucked the poppy-tinted glasses with which he views the world. “There are so many bad things hap­pen­ing, and we want to fight back by show­ing all these dif­fer­ent races and kinds of peo­ple be­ing happy to­gether. I like that the film has a scene of two peo­ple kiss­ing. It’s a good way to say to the world that we can have some­thing beau­ti­ful, some­thing without weapons. It’s a bit naive, but I think it’s nice.”

What a way to win a war, in­deed.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Singapore

© PressReader. All rights reserved.