Blanket, a longhaired Persian the color of steel wool, gave up his spot on the dining room table when a reporter came knocking, and made himself scarce. His owner, Grace Coddington, the longtime creative director of Vogue, shrugged and settled down in a chair to discuss her new project: her first perfume, which sat on the table like a rosy pepper mill, its long flaçon topped with a stopper modeled on the head of a cat.
Ms. Coddington is well known to those in the fashion industry — and indeed many outside of it, thanks to a fabulously upstaging turn in the 2009 documentary “The September Issue” and the memoir, “Grace,” that followed it — as one of the driving forces of Vogue. Ms. Coddington has spent more than 25 years at the magazine, styling its most lavish shoots. So long was her tenure, and so certain her reign, that it came as a shock when she announced in January that she was stepping down from her full-time position to become creative director at large, a role that will allow her to do several Vogue shoots a year but also pursue outside projects. In short order, she signed with the new agency Great Bowery, whose stated mission is to create and pursue hitherto unexplored opportunities for the fashion and art stars it represents.
The perfume, Grace by Grace Coddington, is the first such effort, though it was actually begun before Ms. Coddington’s change of role. It smells primarily of roses, a scent Ms. Coddington associates with childhood (“I’ve come from a trail of roses,” she said) and now can see her through to old age. (She is 74.) It is being produced by the perfume branch of the Comme des Garçons empire, whose resident nose, Christian Astuguevieille, developed the scent with Ms. Coddington and encouraged her to spray it into her hair. She travels in a ready-made diffuser, a nimbus of coppery frizz.
Comme des Garçons Parfums has made a habit of teaming up with oddball icons and unexpected institutions in the past, including Pharrell Williams, Daphne Guinness, the Serpentine Galleries and Artek, the design company of which Alvar Aalto was a founder. Ms. Coddington joined the list, Adrian Joffe, the president of Comme des Garçons, wrote in an email from Tokyo, because she is a “true visionary.”
That this vision found its focus on a cat should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed Ms. Coddington’s career.
“I’m obsessed with a cat, to a boring degree,” Ms. Coddington said, deadpan.
Persians have been illustrated in one of Ms. Coddington’s books (“The Catwalk Cats”) and one of her collaborations (a limited-edition series of Balenciaga bags in 2012), and occasionally appeared in her editorial shoots.
“I’ve designed a lot of fragrance bottles,” said her friend Fabien Baron, whose company, Baron & Baron, designed Ms. Coddington’s, “but this is the first cat.”
It is not, it turns out, the first cat bottle anywhere: Some of Katy Perry’s fragrances come in a feline bottle.
“That really upset me,” Ms. Coddington said, though the two bottles strike different tones. Ms. Perry’s is “a sexy cat and very glitzy. I think this is … Ihope it’s kind of refined.”
Fragrance marketing, in fact, is more often the province of celebrities like Ms. Perry (who has a handful) or Paris Hilton (who has more than a dozen). Ms. Coddington professed to be shy about the prospect of selling herself in this way.
“My immediate thought was something like, ‘But I’m not J. Lo, so how’s it going to work?’” she said of the idea to do a perfume at all, which was proposed by a friend and former co-worker. “I’m not really a celebrity person, but just by chance, my name is known a little bit, which I keep trying to deny, but it is. Then I think, well, if it is, maybe I’ll cash in.”
Ms. Coddington’s fragrance will come in two sizes: a 50-milliliter size for $110 and 100 milliliters for $145. When it arrives on April 19, it will be sold not only at Dover Street Market New York, the multibrand concept store owned by Comme des Garçons (and its Tokyo, London and Beijing stores thereafter), but also on GraceCoddington.com, Ms. Coddington’s new website. This is a milestone of sorts for a woman who proudly claims not to know how to use a computer.
“This is my computer,” she said, gesturing at her assistant, Lauren Bellamy, sitting on a couch nearby.
Ms. Coddington is a proud Luddite, the last of an earlier generation that sketches during fashion shows instead of Instagramming and uses the telephone instead of email. (Her cellphone quacks for incoming calls. “Everyone is upset by that, but it makes sure that I hear it,” she said.)
Which is not to suggest that she is insensible to the changes brewing in the fashion industry, citing the ever-increasing pace as one of the reasons for leaving her full-time Vogue position.
“There are just so many designers,” she said. “Seems like there’s too many. Certainly too many fashion shows. I can’t really see where it’s going — on a website, isn’t it? Since I don’t know how to work a website, I guess I won’t be looking at magazines anymore.”
She added: “Will there be any runways anymore? I don’t know. They’re a dying trade.”
Change or no change, her phone still quacks and the offers pour in, including a current project to adapt “Grace,” Ms. Coddington’s memoir, for the screen. She hopes it will focus on her early life in Wales, rather than the well-trod fashion years. “I don’t want to make another ‘Devil Wears Prada’ movie, or indeed ‘September Issue,’ because they did it, and they did it well,” she said.
Until the film arrives onscreen, the cats — Blanket and his companion, Pumpkin — remain the stars of Ms. Coddington’s show. They do not, however, seem inclined toward perfume.
“I should think they’d probably run a mile” from a sniff of it, Ms. Coddington said.
But by the end of an hour’s interview, Blanket was taking tentative steps toward the table again. He even approached his bottle-topper likeness. But the click of a shutter scared him away, and he declined to be photographed with it.