Actor, artist and fashion designer Greg Lauren unveiled his foray into the world of fragrance in Hollywood on Tuesday night -- against a backdrop of olive-drab Army tents, paint-splattered plywood floors and just beyond a paintbrush-wielding gentleman near the entrance who generously anointed arriving guests with a baptismal swath of blue paint.
Once inside, the guests, who had been provided white Greg Lauren overshirts on arrival, removed them and hung them on racks to dry (or, in some cases, have additional paint splattered on them) and were given claim tickets so they could take their one-of-a-kind spontaneous creations with them as they left.
As a way of hammering home Lauren's goal for the scent -- a Barneys New York collaboration -- it was a master (brush) stroke of genius.
"I wanted everyone to immediately and interactively engage in the artistic spirit," he said. "To have fun and feel what it's like to be the bottle."
Lauren was referring to the paint-splattered fragrance bottles, each one distressed by Lauren himself -- a torn label here, a bit of hand-sanding there -- and labeled with a simple piece of masking tape on which he'd written his name with a black Sharpie pen.
"I was so excited to sink my teeth into my natural territory, which is the packaging and the bottle," he said. "I wanted each person to feel like they were getting a little piece of art -- a little jewel -- so that they'd think: 'Wow, a person really touched this.'"
For the scent itself, Lauren turned to renowned perfumer Ralf Schweiger (his past efforts include Marc Jacobs Men and Yves St. Laurent Baby Doll), asking him to craft a fragrance that reflected some of the common themes in the artist's work.
"I wanted the contradictory themes of strength and vulnerability, pain and beauty," Lauren said. "I literally asked [Schweiger] if there was a scent that we could find that would make you cry and make you smile at the same time -- that’s what I wanted."
The result is a unisex fragrance described as "a combination of tonka beans, vanilla, and marine notes." Perhaps it was because Lauren had mentioned crying, but our first sniff gave us a distinct impression of salty and sweet and evoked the image of one's true love sitting in a scented bubble bath, warm tears streaming down her face and pooling atop a vanilla sundae.
Joining Lauren to celebrate the scent were his wife, actress and current "Dancing with the Stars" contestant Elizabeth Berkley; Berkley's "DWTS" dance partner Val Chmerkovskiy; Paula Abdul; Mariel Hemingway; artist Ally Hilfiger; shoemaker of the moment George Esquivel and LACMA chief executive and director Michael Govan and his wife, Katherine Ross.
Greg Lauren for Barneys New York is the second in the retailer's designer fragrance collection (the first, with L'Wren Scott, came out last November), and the 2,500 limited-edition 100-milliliter bottles are priced at $195 each and are available exclusively through Barneys.