Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re well aware that Lady Gaga threw an epic end-of-Fashion-Week party at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City to introduce her new fragrance, Fame. But earlier in the day, I had the opportunity to sit down with the man behind the perfume, Coty’s Richard Herpin. Naturally, he found working with Gaga to be quite an experience.
‘It was a dream of a lifetime. She’s a chameleon. She’s never where you expect her to be,’ he says. ‘And being a perfumer is a little like being a psychologist. I had to understand her world.’
As you also might expect, Gaga was involved in ERRYTHANG: the bottle design, the colour of the juice (black, obvs), and particularly the fragrance notes. ‘Usually you have a pyramid: a top, middle, and heart or back note. But Fame has things happening all at the same time,’ he says.
In keeping with traditional perfumery, Herpin created three accords, but, this being Gaga, called them ‘doses’. First you have Dose 1: madness, which is the belladonna/saffron/incense business you smell on first spray. ‘Belladonna is a tiny, shiny fruit. You can eat the fruit, but the seeds are poisonous. And the saffron and incense create darkness.’ Then there’s Dose 2: pleasure, which is a combo of honey and apricot. ‘This is not the typical sweetness you see all the time. It’s a little bit like skin,’ he says. And bringing up the rear is Dose 3: glory, a creamy jasmine and orchid situation, which makes Fame especially feminine.
As for all those rumors about blood and semen notes, Herpin says they were never really on the table. ‘We have molecules that smell like those things, but it would have been disgusting.’ In particular, he said, the blood note smelled like raw steak. And this is random: One of the other notes she wanted was gummy worms. ‘Being French, I had to do my research about her American references,’ says Herpin. ‘I had to buy some gummy worms to figure out what they were. They smelled a bit like saffron and flowers to me.’ But in the end, what made him so happy with how the perfume turned out was that Gaga, exacting as she is, loved it. Like, a lot: ‘She asked for liters and liters of the fragrance, so that was a good sign. I knew I did my job,’ he says.
Written by Anne-Marie Guarnieri, this article originally appeared on Allure.