When Catherine Deneuve said: “He knows what you want . . .” on a television commercial some years back, what “you” wanted was Chanel No. 5, the fragrance she was under contract to at the time.
Today, she has another answer to what you want.
It’s called Deneuve. And it’s her own fragrance this time, created by the French film star with the help of Parfums Phenix, manufacturers of the $165-per-ounce scent.
Richard Avedon, who photographed Deneuve for part of her original Chanel campaign, has again captured the essence of the famous French screen idol to help promote her namesake scent, which is currently being sold by direct response only. Advertisements featuring scent strips and a striking, full-face glimpse of Deneuve began appearing recently in national magazine ads.
“It’s a fragrance I really love, and this time I don’t have to be paid to make that statement,” says Deneuve, who adds she was involved in the evolution of the scent for more than a year. The perfume, which comes in a slim, crystal bottle with an abstract crystal bow as a stopper, created by French sculptor-designer Serge Mansau, is described as “floral/semi-Oriental.” Some of the heady ingredients include jasmine, ylang-ylang, rose and orange flowers. Miss Deneuve’s stellar autograph is imprinted on the box.
Creating a perfume is not unlike doing several takes of the same scene in a film.
“The difficult part was being able to smell anything anymore when you’re testing for the scent,” recalls Deneuve, who has made some 57 films. “It’s not like you’re smelling different perfumes but variations of the same idea--so close and yet so different.”
Deneuve says she’s always loved perfume. Her parents both wore scents. She used to put cloves in oranges to make pomanders when she was a little girl. Her first scent was L’Heure Bleue by Guerlain, which she began wearing at age 18 and wore until she debuted. She also had a special scent mixed for her by a perfumer, which she wore for summer.
Deneuve says her fragrance was created “as a secret weapon, as an ally, a silent seduction . . . .” She says she puts her olfactory ammunition on her neck, wrists, behind her ears, on the lining of her jackets, in her bedroom on the bed and curtains and says she’ll sometimes even throw scent into the air.
“When I say secret weapon, I don’t mean fragrance is used to attract men--but to be attractive. It’s a magic touch really. Fragrance does not always smell the same on everybody. It’s something you say about your taste and yourself. It gives a sensuous image to your own image.
“Frankly, when I wear a perfume, it’s for myself first. It makes me feel more alive. It makes the start of my day a little different. It’s like wearing a certain color. It gives you a kind of confidence. And you don’t have to get so involved to do it. You just put it on.”
Deneuve’s image as an aloof, detached, icy blonde--not unlike the screen persona attached to the late Grace Kelly in her Hollywood days--has become part of the selling of the fragrance. In the press information, she is quoted as saying, “This perfume resembles me; Deneuve is open, yet secret at the same time.”
She refuses to talk about French film director Roger Vadim’s recent memoirs, which touch on his role as architect of her career. Otherwise, Deneuve is surprisingly candid.
“I think for someone who’s supposed to be so secretive, I’ve been talking a lot in recent years. I know I’m very cool, but I think my emotions show in my face. When I’m happy or sad, I may not say so but I know it shows.
“People see me as this blond, sophisticated woman living in a limo, but it’s not exactly right,” she says. “You see, the people who write about me are not the people I meet in the streets. I think people would be surprised that I live a much more simple, natural life. I very much like living--I mean being with friends, walking in the streets or in the park. I live normally and do a lot of things for myself, though I do have a lot of help because of the time my career demands. I think I’m more concrete than I seem to be from my screen image.”
In a recent poll, Deneuve was deemed the most beautiful woman in France. Isabelle Adjani came in second. Deneuve also recently replaced Brigitte Bardot as the face on the bust of Marianne, a tongue-in-cheek symbol of the French Republic. Periodic lists of the world’s most beautiful women inevitably include her name. But the subject of beauty tends to leave her even colder.
“I think there’s too much emphasis on beauty,” says the 42-year-old star, who for this early-morning interview wears the simplest hair style, very little makeup and, despite both, looks, well, beautiful.
“Really, I think beauty is in someone’s eyes. Beauty can be both an asset and a danger. But now I see beauty as helping a woman to pass a certain age, to grow older better. Consciousness of beauty isn’t just face but also health. You’re forced to get up and do something in the morning to look right. It’s survival in a certain way. Women are younger in a sense than they used to be. They grow older better. Taking care of yourself has a lot to do with that.
“I do a lot of exercise because I’m a very tense person and I have a bad back. I walk a lot, but more for pleasure. I quit smoking a year ago, so I always have a problem of keeping a few pounds off. It’s hard for me to be on a diet because I travel so much for my work. I drink a lot of water and avoid sugar and alcohol, though that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a drink now and then. For people like me, I think the best beauty treatment is sleep.”
Who does beauty find beautiful?
Ava Gardner. Marilyn Monroe. Carole Lombard. Meryl Streep. Brooke Shields. Isabelle Adjani. And the fashion model Iman. “She’s not real. She is like a queen. Not just her bones and features but it’s in her eyes. She’s amazing.”
Deneuve says she thinks her cheekbones are her best feature. There are a lot of things she doesn’t like about her face, but says she wouldn’t change any of them.
“Maybe I would like to have had green eyes,” she admits.
The person many believe to be the embodiment of French womanhood has great admiration for American women.
“French women don’t always do what they say. They are not as direct as American women, who I think are very energetic and straightforward. Americans are not so envious. They like success. They want to make it. And they admire you when you do. They have an incredible energy for doing things all the way. They are very strong workers, which we’re really not in Europe anymore. We talk too much. It’s very stimulating in the United States. Very fair. What you are is what you do. It’s not where you came from.”
Deneuve fragrance can be purchased by calling (800) DENEUVE.