To read parts I and II, click here and here.
D.B.: What do you tell Christopher Sheldrake to work with? What do you give him?
S.L.: I talk a lot about myself and then, after all, I’ve been dealing with perfumes for 24 years… even longer than that… In a way, if you will, I have my materials. I know how things should be done, what should be done. I say: “Let’s try this, let’s try that”. In fact, what’s terrible is that people always want to give you a role.
I’m not a technician, I’ve never pretended I was, I don’t want to be. When I made my pictures, for instance… Directing light is very, very important to me. Lighting my model: I knew exactly… I knew how the read shadows no one else can read on a face, but I didn’t know how to set the camera. It’s the same for my phone: I don’t know how to use it. It’s a phone like yours, very sophisticated, but I don’t know how to use it: it’s too complicated. There are too many buttons, too many keys, too many things. I’ll never be able to use that phone, it’s too complicated.
I’m not a technician, in any way, I’ve never learned anything in my life or rather, all I ever did was learned. All I’ve done, I’ve invented: when I cut hair, I cut it my way. When I was a makeup artist, I knew what to do. I invented the profession. The trades I practiced, I invented. I invented that. Makeup artists, such as they are today, didn’t exist. I did everything: I did the sets, I did the hairstyling, I did the makeup, I dressed my girls up. I could have been a couturier. That’s something I could have done.
Christopher is someone I have a lot of respect for. Our way of working is totally explainable. I don’t work with someone: I work within someone, I don’t know how to be with. It’s not my thing… I’m porous, spongy, absorbent, I let things in. This quality was a flaw when I was little, because I was afraid, I was always in danger: fear and aggressiveness are two friends well-acquainted with each other. They are the same, one is the reaction to the other, they’re two sides of a coin. So I learned to use that, and I know how to get into someone. Not understand him, be him.
“I needed to settle a score.”
D.B.: I get the feeling L’Orpheline is the tenderest of your recent perfumes. Especially coming as it does after Laine de Verre.
S.L.: Yes, it’s tender. You’re right. You’re perceptive. Laine de Verre was an extreme. It was extreme tension, it was war. Even then, I wanted to go further. I want to go even further than that.
D.B.: In La fille de Berlin, though it is warm, even burning, there’s a blood note. The blood of the dragon.
S.L.: Dragon on fire…
D.B.: It’s like a raw ruby on a Valkyrie’s helmet. In fact, in most of your recent perfumes, there’s this current of cold, metallic, blood notes… As though you were exploring the two slopes of incense. Incense as a combustible materials…
S.L.: The two slopes of incense: that’s a beautiful way of putting it.
D.B.: … fire, smoke, the combustible, etc. And then there’s the other slope of incense: blood-like, cold, metallic, almost like raw meat.
S.L.: I adore incense, it’s such a rich material, especially Somali incense. It’s so pure! It’s a beauty! It’s pyrogened, there’s castoreum… It’s a delicate balance. What you said was very accurate: “a quivering perfume”.
D.B.: In the writings that accompany those “blood” perfumes, you speak of your mother, directly or indirectly…
S.L.: A bit too much!
D.B.: It’s the law of blood.
S.L.: I spoke about her a bit too much, but I needed to settle an account. I’m done with it now, it’s behind me, it’s over. But it was very important to me to get rid of this story, which was dragging on too much. It was taking up too much space.
D.B.: How old was your mother when she died.
S.L.: One hundred, minus one month. Very tenacious. But my father died young, however: he died at my age now. He died when he was seventy-two.
D.B.: There you go: when you said: “I had to get rid of it”, I knew there was an “at my age now”, somewhere, that had to come out…