“I have been a fan of Gaultier’s house for a while,” the multihyphenate actress, model, activist, social justice advocate and feminist told WWD. “I was always inspired by how they really made the most of the creative medium.
“So, when I was approached with this, it was not only coming from a brand that I loved, but creatively they were proposing something really exciting — putting together this team of humans that I admire in the creative field,” continued Shahidi, referring to the likes of Tess McMillan, Lola Rodriguez, Thando Hopa, Janet Jumbo and Ana Elisa Brito.
“What I love about how they built out the campaign is that everyone involved not only has a presence in the fashion world, but has a presence socially, in carving out spaces for people to feel more authentically themselves,” she said. “The other women that are in the commercial are all people that I admire out in the world.”
Shahidi took part in discussions about the casting, and has made friends with others in the ad.
“I love when a project lives past just the moment of filming,” she said.
Divine’s message, that every woman is a goddess — channeled through the fragrance’s name, campaign and packaging — resonates with her.
“While the ad feels larger than life in so many ways, they really are trying to use it to talk about how we all carry authenticity — [it is] how we all carry a sense of divinity,” she said. “It’s very special when you feel alignment in multiple areas of a partnership.”
As Shahidi dabbled in fashion, unbeknownst to her she started collecting vintage Gaultier pieces. Shahidi recently sported a Gaultier couture bustier to the 2023 Met Gala.
She has a longstanding relationship with fragrance, as well, explaining it “really defines a space for me.”
“I’ve always grown up with a love of smell,” she said. “Scent is always the main way I feel teleported to a place or can identify a place.”
Vincent Thilloy, chief brands officer of Paco Rabanne and Jean Paul Gaultier at parent group Puig, said it was key to have an ambassador who endorses diversity and inclusivity.
Shahidi, who is African American and Iranian, created Eighteen x 18 to encourage young Americans to vote, for instance.
In Divine’s ad, elaborate gilded doors open on to a scene of muses near a golden corset in which Shahidi then appears. She holds a bottle containing a miniature boat, Le Male Elixir vessel, that flounders as she rocks the flacon to and fro. The camera zooms in, and the ship becomes life-size, with marines battling to keep it afloat. The ship’s captain, Raphael Diogo, catches Shahidi’s eye — and her his.
For Shahidi, this was the most fun she’s had filming an ad since it was such a creative endeavour.
“Everyone was so invested,” she said. “We walked into these sets that were just stunning and literally larger than life.”
The making-of was a mix of planned and ad-libbed elements.
Shahidi said everyone on set probably tired of hearing “Motomami” by Rosalía.
“Because that’s how I got into the energy of this campaign, which meant I did not mind playing it over and over again until we got the shot,” she said.
The spot is set to “Casta Diva,” by Maria Callas, remixed by Massive Attack.
“It’s new, but with continuity going back to [Gaultier’s] roots, as well,” said Thilloy, of the campaign, which is chockablock with house codes, such as sailor stripes.
The eau de parfum, created by Givaudan perfumer Quintin Bisch, is a floral, gourmand, marine scent that’s vegan, cruelty free and contains ingredients with 90 percent stemming from natural, responsibly sourced origins.
For a new Gaultier femininity, Bisch was after an opulent, spectacular and sensual perfume. That was created around a lily note, with other notes of white flowers, merengue and a salty sea breeze.
Divine is expected to reinforce Gaultier’s presence on the women’s fragrance market.
“We have many things to say about femininity at Jean Paul Gaultier,” Thilloy said.
Woman as powerful goddess is also expressed through Divine’s perfume bottle, which is refillable.
“The bottle is really emblematic,” said Thilloy, regarding the gold-colored flacon coming in the form of an iconic Gaultier corset, like modern-day armor. (Think Madonna on her “Blond Ambition” tour in 1990). The body of this imaginary woman, however, is more rounded than that for the original Classique bottle from Gaultier 30 years ago.
Divine comes in oh-so-Gaultier outer metal-can packaging, which has become a signature for the brand.
The new fragrance will come in 100-, 50- and 30-ml. sizes priced at $160, $130 and $90, respectively.
Divine is to be first available for Gaultier’s most engaged consumers on the brand’s website starting Aug. 9. On Aug. 16, it will be sold on its sites for all consumers in France, the U.K., Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Spain.
A brick-and-mortar pre-launch is to take place in Harrods in the U.K., starting Aug. 14, after which all other markets are to follow beginning in September.
Since Puig took over the Gaultier fragrance brand in 2016 from Beauté Prestige International, Shiseido’s perfume arm, the focus has mainly been on Le Male and also Classique. As a result, the Gaultier brand’s overall business has more than doubled and climbed nine notches to place it among the top 16 fragrance franchises globally.
Within that, Gaultier’s Le Male scent, launched in 1995, is in the top eight of men’s fragrances worldwide. The brand also has Scandal men’s women’s scents on the market today.
“We have strong ambition; we really want to go even further than that,” said Thilloy, of Gaultier’s fragrance momentum. “And we are on track.”
The Puig executive would not discuss numbers, but industry sources estimate Divine could rank in the top 10 of women’s fragrances at launch. If so, that could see the perfume generating between 100 million euros and 150 million euros in first-year retail sales, according to the industry sources.
Thilloy called Gaultier “a love brand with a strong purpose — because of Jean Paul Gaultier himself. The purpose of the brand is celebrating differences — all cultures, all bodies and all genders. This is not marketing. It is something that Jean Paul Gaultier was doing from Day One.”
And that keeps amplifying.
“We have a strong community that’s very engaged,” Thilloy said.
Gaultier counts 7.2 million followers online and has among the highest rates of engagement in the industry.
The brand listens to its fans on social media and heeds their call. It noted people were requesting the return of the Gaultier2 eau de parfum and also Madame, two fragrances entirely discontinued. So which would they prefer?
“The community answered like crazy,” Thilloy said.
So in October 2022, the brand relaunch a limited edition of Gaultier2 on its website. All of the 5,000 units dropped sold out in less than three days. Gaultier dropped another 3,500 bottles in February, and those were snapped up in less than 24 hours.
Next up will be 4,000 units available on Aug. 3 through Gaultier’s European websites. Then, by year-end, a Gaultier2 U.S. drop is to take place.