2 February 2023

Serge Lutens tells HUNGER all about La fille de Berlin on the iconic scent’s 10th anniversary

The French fashion designer, perfume creator, photographer, filmmaker and hair stylist is reimagining the bottle's iconic design in celebration of the landmark.

In 2013, 10 years ago, Serge Lutens’ iconic La fille de Berlin scent was born. In celebration of this landmark anniversary, the fragrance is being reissued in a bottle accentuating German expressionism with its bold and graphic aesthetic. The delightfully rosy scent is complete with the illustration of a girl who embodies the elegance of the bottle, in all of its sharp, angular beauty. Here, Serge Lutens speaks with HUNGER to discuss the history of the legendary fragrance. 

What place does “La fille de Berlin” occupy in your olfactory œuvre?

It evokes the contradictory dimensions of history. One cannot allude to pre-war Germany without remembering the growing sentiment of the permanent crisis that pervaded the Weimar Republic in the 20s and 30s. The escape into casual hedonism was the beginning of the end and represented a very collective human desire to be done with it. Intoxicating nights can be heady and fascinating, but the hangovers are always terrible! How can one not draw parallels with the society in which we are now living? Freedom has become an illusion, a kind of trap: we are commanded to be free, but our ways and means are constrained.

And how do you situate the character in this history ?

How do you see her? Well, first of all, she’s not a woman but a girl! The two are very different things. She is trapped between two worlds, caught between laughter and tears, joy and despair, misery and good fortune. She is squarely human. She is neither the bully nor the victim but lies somewhere between the two. She has no mitigating circumstances, and that’s why I am so fond of her. A real child of Berlin!

The image of her on this limited edition is both quite representative yet very abstract: a sketched profile against a lamppost…

To describe an image is to destroy and ruin it for those who will eventually discover it. Preserving its mystery is, therefore, very important to me. My girl from Berlin is all angles, acute yet tenuous. She is a broken girl. Emerging from blue and purple shadows, she breaks up into the colours of fear. Alone, at the edge of the night, she endures amidst its green and blue zones… And the lamppost above her only sheds light on her to cast her even more in shadow. Her outline is important for the image because it reveals an oblique and skeletal silhouette: she looks broken but remains standing; we don’t quite know how. It is a beautiful yet painfully moving image. It is exploratory and confrontational.

Since you brought up the colours, how can one miss the red? It is everywhere, including in the colour of the perfume and the background of the label, as well as the ingredient at the heart of the composition, which is rose. Does the rose and its colour hold special significance for you?

The rose has existed for millennia and carries within it a 40-million-year-old history… It was the first flower on earth, preceding even Eve! To me, it embodies the struggle to rise above our own nothingness as well as our desire to surrender to love. Frozen in snow, the skin of winter, which is a season of waiting and emptiness, buried in the landscapes of amnesia that erase everything only to begin anew–that is how I like its fragrance! The red colour echoes our beating hearts, it binds us to the past while anchoring us in the present.

La fille de Berlin 10-year anniversary limited edition is exclusively available now at Harrods.

  • Writer Chris Saunders

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