It’s not every day that a celebrity is in Johannesburg to promote his latest fragrances, Antonio Banderas The Secret Temptation and Antonio Banderas Her Secret Temptation. And do good while smelling good.
Antonio Banderas is best known for his films with director Pedro Almodóvar (Matador, Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown) and Hollywood hits (Philadelphia, The Mask Of Zorro, Spy Kids, the Shrek franchise). What’s not so well known is that the Spaniard is also a photographer. Funds raised from the sale of his photographs at a gala event auction will benefit Nkosi’s Haven, an HIV/Aids NGO.
It’s fun to be part of the whirl for the four days he’s in the city, attending the press conference and gala event. But the real reason I am excited is the one-on-one interview I have with him, in which I plan to focus on his fragrances.
“Unlike many other celeb scents which crash and burn, the Antonio Banderas fragrance range is doing quite well, thank you.”
Unlike many other celeb scents which crash and burn, the Antonio Banderas fragrance range is doing quite well, thank you. Originally launched in 1997, the line now includes 20 fragrances and has bagged some awards along the way. All of them play on the theme of seduction and why not. Antonio Banderas has used his Spanishness to great effect in his films and his fragrances shamelessly ooze seducción.
Antonio Banderas fragrances are smartly positioned and priced. They cost more than the average celeb scent, but are considerably cheaper than designer fragrances. Although I have not tried all of the fragrances in his range, those that I have tried offer surprisingly good quality at the price.
I arrive early for the interview (officially I have 10 minutes), dreading a haze of ego and entourage over the swanky and secluded hotel he’s staying in. When I meet Antonio Bandera in the flesh, I am immediately put at ease. He’s utterly charming, professional and looks good in blue jeans and a T-shirt. Before the interview kicks off, we chat about how he reduced his caffeine intake and stopped smoking after having a mild heart attack in January 2017.
When we start talking about his fragrances, he’s visibly animated. I take that as a sign that I am not asking him the same questions as everyone else. Or he’s such a pro, he answers them like it’s the first time he’s been asked that question.
Shall we talk about your fragrances…
I’m not a chemist. I’m not a perfumer. I kind of understand the process, but I’m not the one signing the fragrance. What I give is a tremendous amount of information when I sit down with the perfumer.
Something very interesting happened when I first started doing this. They gave me as a gift a briefcase with a bunch of different scents inside, with no names on the front. They told me to open them, smell them and tell us what it is. I opened one and said, “My God, I know this. What is this?” And then I turned the bottle around and it said “Sunday morning”. Wow! They can synthesise Sunday morning, or they can synthesise recently washed sheets in a 19th-century closet. They play with all of these things and this is way, way, way more sophisticated than I thought. I didn’t know the combinations they could use to have this effect on your brain.
When I arrive in Malaga, I know I am at home. You don’t have to tell me. If it’s springtime, it’s the smell of the flower of the orange tree, the ocean. And if it’s Holy Week, the smell of the incense. Together that is a package that makes me back to being seven years old and phew… [he laughs].
“When I arrive in Malaga, I know I am at home. It’s the smell of the flower of the orange tree, the ocean, the incense.”
That’s the power of fragrance. It’s an art and a science. You think you have forgotten something, yet a particular smell can trigger something from your childhood. What’s your earliest scent memory?
Oh yes, you don’t smell with your nose. You smell with your brain and your memories. My mother! Her scent of woman. The kind of feeling you want to throw it here [he laughs like a naughty boy]. That and my home town, with the strong smell of the ocean from the apartment terrace.
You’ve been in the fragrance biz for 20 years and launched with Diavolo in 1997. What was your original motivation when your first started?
The motivation wasn’t mine. A lawyer friend Paco said to me, “Why don’t you diversify everything you do. We create a little company, you work with them and get a percentage of the sales.” For me, business at the time was something cold, dry, things I didn’t like. Paco taught me that you can be very creative with business.
At the beginning it wasn’t easy. Paco, me and the company Puig said we have to sacrifice time, slow-cook this thing – that’s how you do things that are successful. The third or fourth year our head came out of the water and my obligations became bigger and bigger. Now we travel all around the world and sell in 83 countries. And then it’s your baby and love what you are doing!
You didn’t expect such longevity…
No. The maximum they gave us was five years. Now we represent 7% of the whole company that has Paco Rabanne, Jean Paul Gaultier, Carolina Herrera, Nina Ricci.
“Now we represent 7% of the whole company that has Paco Rabanne, Jean Paul Gaultier, Carolina Herrera, Nina Ricci.”
Congratulations! A lot of celeb scents come and go.
We’ve put a lot of work into it and they believe this company is a part of my life now. I go to Barcelona and see the CEO, Marc Puig. We are received like we are part of the family. And it is literally a family, the Puig family [founded in 1914, Puig is a third-generation family-owned, Barcelona-based business]. Next year we will celebrate the 20th year with special limited editions. I use all of them. This is the truth. Since 1997 I have not used other perfumes.
So what are you wearing today?
The first one, Diavolo. Tonight I will wear Temptation. But in the morning I need Diavolo, because it’s still my younger me [laughs]. It’s more lemon-ish, it’s more fruity, it’s almost like an eau de cologne. You feel very fresh. The afternoon you need something more complex.
“In the morning I need Diavolo, because
it’s still my younger me.”
I am wearing a combination of the King and Queen of Seduction to test you, to see if you will notice your own fragrances.
[Huge laughter] That’s an interesting mix!
One of my favourite characters that you’ve played, well, it was more the voice, was Puss in Boots. Which fragrance of yours would he wear?
Diavolo, for the name. He is a little devil. And, of course, King of Seduction. Because that’s the way he can conquer women! Oh yeah, PUSS IN BOOTS!
Antonio Banderas The Secret Temptation EDT, R455 for 50ml and R570 for 100ml. Antonio Banderas Her Secret Temptation EDT, R455 for 50ml and R570 for 80ml.