The M’Finda Kalunga Garden, on the edge of Manhattan’s East Village, is full of city roses. The bower is a minor miracle, a lush floral hideaway nestled into the grayscale downtown grid. Chloe? Sevigny is an aficionado of such gardens. Walking through the gates of the historic green space on an idyllic summer afternoon, the actress and cultural gadfly explains that the oasis is one of the few souvenirs left of a time when this area was derelict and bohemian and, as Sevigny puts it, “full of interesting weirdos”—an era evoked in the Netflix series Russian Doll, in which Sevigny appears. “I come back [to the neighborhood], and it’s so shiny now,” says the 44-year-old, who rose to fame at the tail end of the East Village’s good ol’ bad days. She moved out in 2013, well after the squats had given way to million-dollar condos. You might say that the neighborhood left her before she left it.
But then, you might also say that Sevigny takes the East Village with her wherever she goes. The genesis of Chloe? Sevigny Little Flower, a collaboration with cult-favorite Los Angeles–based fragrance house Re?gime des Fleurs, is a case in point: It’s another Sevigny side project informed by her eclectic tastes and an inexhaustible appetite for spinning ideas around with friends.
“I’ve always worn rose perfumes, but I think of this as a city rose,” she explains of the scent, which she dreamed up with Re?gime cofounder Ezra Woods, whom she has known since he was “a young charmer” in high school in L.A., and his eventual business partner, Alia Raza, with whom Sevigny used to make Warholian video shorts. The duo knew about Sevigny’s taste for rose perfumes, despite their reputation for being “old lady,” and they wanted to create a modern update for her. “Basically, we wanted to make her ultimate signature scent,” Raza says.
Little Flower is as much of a first for Re?gime des Fleurs as it is for Sevigny: It is Woods and Raza’s debut eau with an outside collaborator, and its arrival this month will be accompanied by the brand’s first ad campaign. The fragrance went through 33 versions, reveals Raza, with Sevigny making trips to the lab to sample favorite iterations for a week at a time to see how they lived on her skin between shoot days on Jim Jarmusch’s Cannes-approved zombie flick The Dead Don’t Die and production on White Echo, her latest short film as a director. Vibrant Turkish Rose absolute became its base, which Woods proposed mingling with Palo Santo, the citrus wood currently scenting a sound bath near you. Finally, right at the end, “Chloe? had a moment of inspiration,” recalls Raza, “and suggested we add black tea,” a note she believed would add depth and nuance to the composition. (She was right.)
“I’ve always been obsessed with perfume,” Sevigny explains as we continue ambling through the garden. “When I was a kid growing up in Connecticut, I collected vintage perfumes—I loved the bottles. I used to keep them on this mirrory silver tray and was so captivated by the way they caught the light.” These flacons were like emissaries from the urban world of glamour and cool she longed to break into. “Of course, now that I actually live in the city,” she notes with a laugh, “I want something that kind of takes me out of it!” Little Flower abets the escape—no planes, trains, or automobiles necessary. “You walk around, you get dirty. . . and it instantly makes you feel refreshed. . . . I can’t see why I’d wear anything else.