Scent Of A Man: Q&A With Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian

September 1, 2020

Launching today, L’Homme À La Rose is the latest fragrance from perfumer Francis Kurkdjian. We chatted with “the nose,” whose Maison Francis Kurkdjian is part of the LVMH portfolio, about the new scent and his perfume-filled work. —Vita Daily

Hello Francis! Please tell us about yourself and your journey to becoming a perfumer.

I am a perfumer and co-creator of the fragrance house Maison Francis Kurkdjian. I have been creating perfume for more than 25 years. At age 14 I read a piece about several perfumers in a French magazine and it was a true revelation. I was inspired by the craft and how it was so intimately linked to couture, a field my family has ground into. Last, fragrance is the ultimate emotional accessory that builds so many memories and can change the way you feel. I went on to study perfume at ISIPCA, the perfumer school in Versailles, France. During an internship, I met the CEO of Jean Paul Gaultier’s fragrance business. She asked me to work on a project. This was the first fragrance and hit I created—it was Le Male and it became one of the top-selling men’s fragrances worldwide after it launched in 1995. I was 25 years old. Right after this, I lived in New York for several years, creating fragrances for beauty companies such as Estée Lauder and Elizabeth Arden or Coty. In 2000, I returned to Paris, continued to create fragrances for many other beauty and fashion companies, and started to create bespoke scents at the same time. In 2003, I met Marc Chaya at a dinner after a Jean Paul Gaultier fashion show. With time we became friends and realized that we were sharing the same vision of lifestyle and definition of luxury. Plus, we had complementary professional and creative skills. We co-founded Maison Francis Kurkdjian in 2009. His vision and sense of business have been one of the key points of the success behind Maison Francis Kurkdjian. I am very proud of what we have built together over the past 11 years. And now we are happy to celebrate a very exciting partnership: to launch our full collection with Holt Renfrew in Canada.

What was the first great fragrance you created, and how did that process go?

Throughout my career, I have worked with many world-renowned fashion designers, luxury houses and beauty brands. When Maison Francis Kurkdjian launched in 2009, one of the first fragrances I created for my own collection was Aqua Universalis. Its name says it all, as it has a universal/global appeal. From Australia to Singapore, Hong Kong to London and New York, its genuine-yet-sophisticated freshness provides a feeling of well-being as well as sensuality that each of our customers has been able to experience. Creating a new fragrance takes up to 18 months. First, there is a time of reflection during which I envision the creative territory I want to explore. By creative territory, I mean all the creative aspects of the scent, except the scent itself. At this stage it is not about the scent itself, it is about its purpose, meaning. Once I have gathered my inspiration I then search for the name. The name of the fragrance always comes first, and before the scent itself. It sums up the story I want to tell. It’s like the title of a book or the name of a painting. Then I start writing the formula using raw material as a word. Once I have a clear idea on the name and what to do, where to go with my emotions, I create the formula in the lab.

When did Maison Francis Kurkdjian come to life, and what makes Maison Francis Kurkdjian fragrances unique?

Maison Francis Kurkdjian and its fundamentals were created within a year; the actual launch date was September 9th, 2009. When Marc and I launched Maison Francis Kurkdjian, I wanted to share my vision on scents and luxury with the public. I envisioned an entire scented line where there is a harmony within all product forms. Our collection of fragrances can be seen and experienced as a fragrance wardrobe. That means you can allow yourself to wear multiple fragrances. Wear-ing a scent from Maison Francis Kurkdjian is a promise of wearing a state of the art scent, crafted in the heritage of French perfumery.

Let’s talk about your latest launch, L’Homme À La Rose. Is rose traditionally found in men’s scents? How does it fit into this release?

Rose has been THE traditional ingredient in women’s fragrances for ages. And sometimes, when people think of rose they may think of a fragrance that belongs to their grandmother because, most of the time, rose scents are played with honey-like, spicy or harsh notes. Several years ago, when I created the women’s fragrance À La Rose for my collection, I wanted to give rose scent a contemporary twist. And now, with l’Homme À La Rose, my vision was to introduce a fragrance for men that featured the rose, in a way you can’t miss. When you see floral notes in masculine perfumes, most of the time they are based on lavender, orange flower, carnation and violet in its green facet. And many times these scents are masked behind other notes or blended with other notes so you cannot really smell them. As for rose scent for men, rule was to hide/blend it with leather, oud, patchouli, dark notes and/or to use geranium. This latter is often used as a masculine version of a rose for men. I genuinely wanted to break the rules, introducing a men’s fragrance with a high level of floral notes of rose, not only in proportion but also in recognition. For that I have blended different types in accords so the final scent would be recognizable as a male rose scent, with this  floral, woody EDP. Today, men are more and more wearing perfumes and buy them themselves now. They are more confident in wearing perfumes than before.

What can we look forward to from you in the near future?

I will continue to follow my instinct and create unique perfumes, always evolving and breaking boundaries. My mission is to create beauty and happiness, bring sensuality and glamour into people’s life. Each product I designed and create must have a meaning as well as a unique fragrance signature.


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