A curious thing about Catherine Deneuve: She will not pose for photographs with, next to or near her new perfume.
Asked to explain why the French film star, in town for the scent's promotion at Nordstrom, peered through her Ray-Ban sunglasses and said coolly: "I don't do anything with the bottle. I just think it's too, too . . . too much like selling."
She gladly talks about the scent that carries her surname. And of course, she wears it--every day. But that is where Deneuve draws the line.
"Even when I was doing Chanel," she said of her five years as "the image" for Chanel No. 5 perfume, "I was never touching or holding a bottle."
Lest anyone forget, Deneuve will remind you that she is an actress first (currently starring in "Scene of the Crime"), albeit an actress with a mind for merchandising.
Although approached many times to endorse products "like underwear," she said, she has turned everything down except for a fine-jewelry collection at Fred Joaillier.
Asked three years ago by Avon to market a scent of her own, Deneuve was originally "a little suspicious" because of the firm's mass-marketing image. (Indeed, Deneuve perfume, at $165 per ounce and $35 for 1.7 ounces of eau de toilette, was the company's first entry into the prestige-fragrance market. Giorgio, which Avon recently purchased, is its second.)
Once convinced of Avon's commitment, Deneuve said she dived into the project, living with "a lot of bottles with numbers" and finally settling on a scent she calls "very floral, very light, very open and very all day long."
Like most Frenchwomen, Deneuve is a devout perfume wearer. "I cannot NOT wear perfume," she said, "even in the country. I put it on as soon as I'm dressed. I'm an addict--I have been ever since I was young. I find it reassuring. I feel protected from the outside, from aggression, from pollution, from smoke. I feel surrounded," she said, smiling. "Perfume is very important. It's like magic."
Before she had her name on a bottle, Deneuve wore mostly L'Heure Bleu by Guerlain. Even during the Chanel years, she said in the interview, she wore Guerlain in private.
"I'm a free woman," said the actress, who looks less the fragile beauty she seems to be on screen and who wears her liberation like a badge of honor.
Dressed in a conservative, businesswoman's dress and jacket by Yves Saint Laurent, Deneuve added, "Even with my own perfume, I only wear it because I like it."
Sergio Ognibene and Peter Zendman, whose label reads Ognibene-Zendman, traveled to Los Angeles from Rome with their own coffee beans. As soon as they arrived last week, they bought an espresso machine at Williams-Sonoma.
It was at their side in a workroom at the Elizabeth Arden salon in Beverly Hills, sending off a pleasant aroma, as the design duo (Zendman is American, Ognibene is Italian) worked to coordinate a show earlier this week for the Cedars-Sinai Women's Guild.
Ognibene and Zendman are perfectionists of the highest order, which partially explains their prices ($900 to $9,000) for day and evening ensembles.
"I used to be a bit embarrassed to say how much something cost," Zendman said, "but I've gotten over that. We give a great deal, and it shows."
Their customer is a woman "with great respect for quality workmanship and who isn't too much for flash," he added. "Our most sensational clothes, even if they are the most expensive, are the best selling. People today want something they can't resist."
Stressing the classical and timeless, they avoid frills, ruffles and bows in favor of ensembles that revolve around, say, gray pants with a discrete pink pinstripe. There is the matching pink belt, blouse, scarf and jacket. "Even the thingamajig to pull down the zipper is designed by us," Zendman said, proudly. "In a way, it's like a Rolls-Royce."
The designers appear in the store through today.
Debbie Reynolds doesn't have a perfume to call her own, but she is now a spokesperson for the petite divisions of the Leslie Faye companies.
After a recent appearance at the Broadway South Coast Plaza, the singer and actress--who measures 5 feet, 1 1/2 inches--said: "I've never endorsed anything. I've been in the business 39 years. The only thing I ever did was a commercial for Singer sewing machines. My mother and grandmother used them. They were the best."
Her interest in clothing, she said, comes from having been "raised in the fashion business" in the sense that during her early movie career she was dressed by such film fashion greats as costume designers Walter Plunkett, Edith Head and Helen Rose. "So certainly I'm aware of fit and fabric."
During her store appearances, she first moderates a fashion show and then takes questions from the audience.
Most of the questions, however, have nothing to do with fashion, Reynolds said.
"People always want to know about their favorite stars. 'Is Jimmy Stewart really so nice?' 'What's Carrie Fisher (her daughter) doing?' 'What's your son's name again?' (Todd Fisher.) 'Are you married again? Is he nice? Are you getting along?' " (Yes, yes and yes, she answers, and her husband's name is Richard Hamlett.)