When Lady Gaga burst onto the pop scene in 2008 with her album The Fame, she was a somewhat mysterious superstar. In music videos her face was obscured behind giant TV-like sunglasses (see “Bad Romance”), long fringes and heavy fake eyelashes (“Poker Face”) or graphic metallic make-up (“Just Dance”). She was irreverent, provocative – a Madonna for millennials. Her signature oversized sunglasses and platinum wig could be read as a kind of mocking parody of the celebrity look.
But she’s expanded her aesthetic in recent years, appearing both as a space-age dance queen (at the recent MTV Video Music Awards she wore an LED facemask and had violet hair) and as a red-carpet fashion icon, accepting awards with coiffured blonde hair, wearing giant Tiffany rocks. It’s as the latter that she’s fronting the campaign for Voce Viva, the latest fragrance from Valentino Beauty.
“Gaga represents ambition, dreams, strong will,” Valentino creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli explains. “I have enjoyed the company of her voice since her debut. It moved me in a way I rarely encounter in contemporary pop. When I started reflecting about a fragrance with the personality of a voice, an ensemble, a concert, my thoughts immediately went to her.”
Voce Viva is Latin for “with living voice”. This idea – to evoke a voice through scent – was born out of a conversation between Piccioli and Valentino Beauty general manager Garance Delaye. “What if a perfume could evoke something other than a sense of smell?” said Delaye. “The answer spoke for itself. Both voice and scent leave an invisible yet distinctly memorable trace.”
The fragrance has been created by Valentino Beauty’s perfumers Amandine Clerc Marie (who worked on the 2008 Chloé; perfume) and Honorine Blanc (of YSL’s Black Opium and Lady Gaga’s 2012 fragrance, Fame). It’s a sweet, floral scent with a slightly tart finish, achieved by blending notes of Calabrian bergamot with sweet mandarin, a bouquet of jasmine, gardenia and orange blossom, a syrupy hit of Madagascan vanilla and a base of woody, mineral-heavy crystal moss – an ingredient typically used in fragrances for men.
The bottle recalls that most distinctive of Valentino symbols: the stud. This, Piccioli explains, is inspired by the nailheads on Roman palazzo doors, which are shaped like pyramids. The designers wanted the bottle to suggest the seam of a bag, or the buckle of a Valentino shoe.
To accompany the perfume, Lady Gaga and Piccioli have collaborated on a film with Harmony Korine, which sees the singer perform a track called “Sine From Above” (which, joyfully, features a duet with Elton John) in a forest, wearing a dramatic Valentino gown. “I felt strong and alive, hearing myself echo through the forest as I was singing in this dress,” Gaga said. “It reminded me of my freedom and how I get to experience magic – a freedom and magic I wish everyone to have.”
Dutch photography duo Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin were selected to shoot the campaign image, while Arielle Bobb Willis (who has worked with stars such as Megan Thee Stallion and King Princess) worked on the editorial visuals. She shows Gaga barefaced but for some lipstick, and with her platinum-blonde hair. She’s dressed in an enormous enveloping gown made up of bubblegum-pink and raspberry-red bows, like a physical embodiment of the perfume. “I wanted it to be oneiric and slightly excessive,” Piccioli said of the dress. “Just like the world we are sharing for this project.”
Copyright The Financial Times Limited . All rights reserved. Please don't copy articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.