If authors Judith Krantz and Sydney Sheldon collaborated, even they couldn't invent a character as glamorous. No wonder that Paloma Picasso, the daughter of the most celebrated artist of the 20th Century, describes the perfume she created not in terms of top or bottom notes, but as "essentially . . . glamorous."
As the sort of woman who is dressed for a party first thing in the morning, Picasso--wearing a black outfit by Azzedine Alaia and orange Yves Saint Laurent separates, diamond pave jewels and vivid orange lipstick--somehow manages to scrunch up on the floor of her Bel-Air Hotel suite and get down to business.
Gifts From Friends
Surrounded by a bottle of iced Moet & Chandon, a bounty of fresh fruit and so many flower arrangements (including a topiary of pink roses sent by Carol and Walter Matthau) that the room resembles a florist shop, she points out that one vase welcoming her to town held a bouquet of white hyacinths. If bottled, it would smell a lot like the $165-per-ounce perfume named Paloma Picasso.
Although her primary occupation since 1980 has been designing a collection of jewelry for Tiffany & Co., Picasso says she is now "on the road" to promote her 2-year-old fragrance. Locally, the tour involved an appearance at Bullock's. She takes great pride in her fragrance. She says: "It's fair that I should fight for it."
Since it was introduced in the United States by Cosmar Inc., manufacturers of Cacharel's Anais Anais, Giorgio Armani for Men and Ralph Lauren's Polo, Monogram and Lauren, a Cosmar spokeswoman said so far this year sales are running 35% ahead of last year.
The reason for its success, she admits, is the bottle--as opposed to its contents. Picasso conceived of housing a round, blown-glass flacon within a frosted crystal ring.
"Usually a woman buys eaux de toilette and sprays, but rarely perfume. In my brand, people buy the perfume," she said, adding: "Then once they buy it for the bottle, they become addicted to the perfume."
The main ingredient, hyacinth, is tempered by a woody note, which Picasso says gives the fragrance "quite a strong masculine side. All my life, during the summer, I'd wear men's perfumes. Because of the heat, if you wear heavy perfumes, they're just not appealing anymore." But her own fragrance, she says, withstands the heat test and can be worn year-round.
Picasso believes that instead of switching fragrances, women should stick with just one perfume that people can identify them with.
"It depends on your personality, but if you change your perfume, you get contradictory messages. Of course, some people's personalities are contradictory. I myself believe in one perfume."
Before she created a perfume of her own, the designer wore Chanel No. 5, Fracas and several different men's colognes in the summer "because I wasn't exactly happy with one. The greatest thing is to find one and stick with it."
As for the correct amount to apply, Picasso said: "It shouldn't be too overpowering, but it has to be enough that people can identify you with it."
While she continues to design her big, bold signature jewelry from her home base in New York, where she lives with her husband, playwright Rafael Sanchez, Picasso says her priority now "should be to sit down and think about what my priorities are." Eventually, she says, there will be more products bearing her name.
To critics who think she is capitalizing on the Picasso name, the designer responds by saying she thinks her father would have approved of her ventures.
"It's a different world. I'm not a painter," she says. "It's a very different thing. I could be selling my jewelry at art galleries, which would be very wrong. I think things are where they belong."
In her teens, Picasso says, she once considered dropping her last name.
"I thought my name, Paloma, is so beautiful, why do I need more than that? Why should I be Paloma Picasso? But it's just like chasing rainbows. When my career began, I decided I had to accept that I was Picasso's daughter because if I didn't, I would never be successful with my life."
Today, in fact, she is actively involved in activities relating to the Picasso legacy. Every month and a half, she says, she and her siblings and nieces and nephews meet to "check out everything that's being done on Picasso and give our agreements or nods."
And then, of course, there was her involvement in the establishment of the Picasso Museum in Paris, which opened last September.
"It's quite wonderful. It's really great," she says. "It has a human quality.
"My time is broken into a number of things," Paloma Picasso adds.