With millions of fragrances in the market, it’s easy to get thrown off scent when picking a perfume gift for that special someone. So when the main nose of Christian Dior Parfum himself, François Demachy, was in Southeast Asia recently, we brought up this delicate issue, among other baffling questions.

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Above François Demachy, Christian Dior’s parfumer-creator. (Photo: Courtesy of Christian Dior)

The man with the nose: François Demachy

Perfumes are precious little things: Bottled in pretty packages, they are perfect gifts by design. Each scent is unique a code and language: One whiff is enough to establish an impression and form a cognitive memory, even emotions.

Having grown up in Grasse, the world’s capital of perfume, François Demachy, Christian Dior’s parfumer-creator, has been following the trail of scent all his life. His earliest memory of perfume, he revealed on a recent visit to the Maison Christian Dior Singapore pop-up, is of his mother, who wore 2 different fragrances, for day and evening. 

François trained in perfume manufacturing to raw material specialisation: Advantages to his gift in creating striking aromas, starting from his past career at Chanel. With Christian Dior, he’s added to and enhanced many a legendary fragrance of the maison. This expertise was key to unlocking our innermost puzzles: From how to pick one as a gift, to prolonging its staying power, and the best way to apply it, here are our scent-sational takeaways from the witty and observant François.

Finding your signature scent

“It’s about trial and error: Try a few. Because of its personal and intimate nature, it’s difficult to pick one the first time. Perfume, like us, will change. Whatever fragrance speaks to you at a specific moment might not work next time. So just experiment to see what you like and don’t like. One day, you might not like something you used to like. When you enter our Maison Christian Dior boutique, we also try to assist you with in-boutique advice by proposing different colours and names. The olfactory families at the bar will also help you but the real thing is to test and test.”

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Tricks to make your perfume last longer in the tropics

“Understand how fragrances work: When you smell it, it’s already evaporating. For them to reach nose, they need to be carried by water molecules, and to encourage this the air shouldn’t be too dry. Smell doesn’t carry well in a dry place. When it’s too humid, it’s the other way around. The water molecules get too heavy and will affect how the fragrance gets carried. It’s about working on how the molecules evaporate and its order of evaporation. One way to fight this is to wear your fragrance on an oily surface. Create a film on your skin with a water-in-oil type of cream, then wear your fragrance on top of it to make your perfume last longer.”

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The best body part to carry perfume

“You apply it in places you want to be kissed! But for technical reasons, you apply it where your skin feels the warmest, where your blood vessels flow: Inside your joints, on and the inside of your clothing. I’m a strong believer of applying fragrance to your hair. It has nature oils and is always moving around – it’s the best way to diffuse the fragrance around you. I’ve been working on an exhibition about the world of perfumery in ancient China and learned how they used fragrance as diffusers. Clothes are placed over a steam to envelope fabric with scent. Another unconventional way is to ingest it. They mixed it with food and after one week, the breath starts to carry the scent, in 2 weeks’ time; your skin, in 3 weeks; your bones, and 4-5 weeks on it seeps through your skin and into clothing.”

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How perfume translates a fashion identity

“Fashion can change the way to wear perfume – For example, we were inspired by the elegant Mitzah (for a past fragrance collection) and how she wore perfume. We introduced scarves, perfumed and tied fashionably to carry scent on the arm, neck or wrist. It’s important for us to use fashion as a bridge to show we’re almost the only ones who can do that sort of thing.”

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For your sweetheart: How to pick the perfume she will love

“You have to jump in and try. You have to take risks, no matter what: To keep a woman you have to take risks. On a more serious note, it’s to take your time picking a fragrance and not to be influenced by different offerings. Take a step back from all the advice given in store, follow your instinct, and if you love someone, the decision you make will reflect how well you know that person. Men are selfish: Case in point, I created a fragrance for my wife and it’s a scent I love to smell on her. It’s like having an ongoing conversation. It’s very woody and has a strong character, just like her.”

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The perfume trend right now

“Yes, they do exist but they move a lot slower compared to fashion. For now, one of the main trends relates to food: Chocolate, honey, licorice. Now the trend is geared toward more simpler and direct fragrances. Even though they come across as more simple, it doesn’t mean they are less sophisticated. People’s response to it is immediate and more easily recognisable.”

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