The French perfumer takes us through his creative process in making fragrances for Maison Francis Kurkdjian, including the iconic gender-neutral scent, 724
Having travelled the world exploring its wonderful cities—Sydney, Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai, New Delhi, Mumbai, Manila, Kuala Lumpur, Moscow, London, Berlin, Buenos Aires, and Los Angeles to name a few—it just follows that Francis Kurkdjian’s creations draw inspiration from the diverse culture, art, fashion and people he has been exposed to. “My creativity thrives in cities. I grew up just outside of Paris; today I live and work in the French capital. I lived in New York for a while, just after launching Le Mâle by Jean Paul Gaultier at the age of 25. All these metropolises, despite being so different from one another, share a magnetic, uplifting energy, something that makes you feel that everything is possible,” says the perfumer, artistic director and co-founder of his eponymous perfume brand, Maison Francis Kurkdjian.
Although proud of his Parisian roots and the ancient French tradition of fragrance-making, the perfumer believes that fragrance is part of every culture and that perfumery evolves with taste and society. “The real difference, traditionally, has been in the choice of preferred ingredients and in the way fragrance is experienced personally,” he explains.
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His creative process, he admits, is pretty much consistent with all his creations. It starts with a time of reflection during which he envisions the creative territory he wants to explore. “At this stage, it is not about the scent itself, it is about its purpose, meaning, and the story I want to tell. Perfume is truly a mirror of our time in a unique sensory way,” Kurkdjian shares. Once he has gathered his thoughts and inspirations, the perfumer starts looking for a name for this particular scent. “[The name] sums up what I want to say, the emotion I feel. It defines the story and clears the creative path. It’s like the title of a book or the name of a painting,” he continues.
The last step is writing the formula, the stage when Kurkdjian ensures that every ingredient used in his creations is of the best quality and works in harmony with each other. “Ingredients are like notes for a musician, they compose the final melody,” Kurkdjian muses. The Maison’s gender-neutral fragrance 724, for instance, features a totally abstract olfactory theme of shades of white whose textures overlap in an energetic, flowing rhythm. Its top notes evoke clean, energising freshness, conjuring memories of New York laundries at the break of day, combined with the elegant notes of bergamot from Italy. The mid notes induce an airy aura conveyed by a bouquet of flowers structured by jasmine absolute from Egypt, sweet peas and mock orange. In the base notes is the comforting sensation of a sandalwood-white musk accord.
“There is something about big cities that elevates you, electrifies you in a way. 724 is all that,” he declares.
While ingredients are a vital part of his fragrance formulations, the connection between the perfumer and the world around is equally important. “You must be a chameleon and pay attention to what is happening in the world. Several of my fragrances at Maison Francis Kurkdjian were created with the same approach before 724,” he says. An example he cited is l’Homme À la rose, a scent that is unmistakably masculine—although worn by many women—that gives men the power to wear a rose, traditionally linked to women’s fragrances. Likewise, Gentle Fluidity, a duo of unisex eau de parfum with the exact same notes but completely distinctive olfactory signatures reverberates gender fluidity.
As fragrance is very personal, Kurkdjian reiterates that every scent relies on individual perception of the world. He says, “Scent is about emotion; it triggers feelings in a way that is hard to understand or predict. Each one of us will react differently to the same perfume”. Simply put, fragrance radiates someone’s personality—an extension of ourselves as it fills the air and space that surrounds us. “Fragrance is invisible while the feeling and the emotion you get out of it is indelible. It is a great paradox that makes fragrances so special and unique to our lives,” he avers.
With the aim of continuing to inspire people with the fragrances he concocts, Kurkdjian reveals an expansion of their distribution in Asia, starting with another boutique in Singapore, a store in Bangkok at Icon Siam mall, and a new boutique in Hong Kong. “We entered China this year, with a shop at Nanjing-Deji and online with TMall. The approach we defined with Marc Chaya, CEO and co-founder of the Maison, is to keep an ultra-selective distribution and to open only in top locations worldwide, with the goal of offering a beautiful experience in every door,” he says. In the Philippines, Maison Francis Kurkdjian is distributed by Rustan’s.
To conclude, Kurkdjian leaves this message: “I hope my fragrances will spark positive feelings among the people who wear them. When it comes to fragrance, however, everyone will feel something different about the same scent. The olfactive memory is the most ancient memory we have as human beings. It is very primal and linked to each one’s life experiences.”