Cover Frédéric Malle

The French fragrance maverick corrected the course of the luxury perfume industry with his gifted nose

From Saint-Germain-des-Prés to Central Park, Frédéric Malle is celebrated for his knowledge in composing elegant scents. Hailed as the publisher of scents, his unique gift was inherited from his maternal grandfather, Serge Heftler-Louiche, founder of Parfums Christian Dior and his mother, the former artistic director of Parfums Christian Dior.

Embracing the idea that a perfume can be a luxury, a timeless object, his love of scents and vision prompted him to launch his own brand, Editions de Parfums.

Frédéric Malle introduced Editions de Parfums in 2000, and it's a highly novel concept where he invited the world’s greatest noses to create exclusive fragrances that would be sold under their creators' names. In an era when most companies attach more importance to brand names, Malle brought attention back to the product itself, the perfume. 

We caught up with Malle recently on the art of perfumery and his success.

Related: Beauty Talk: Bella Kuan On The Success Of Handmade Heroes Skincare

What’s your first ever fragrance memory?

I don’t think that I have one in particular, but I remember the smell of cut grass in Biarritz, the smell of the ocean, the smell of the Paris metro, and the smell of burning fires in the mountains at night. I also remember the smell of my parent’s apartment, which I tried to copy from memory when making a home scent called Café Society.

Who do you have to thank for your success today?

Perfumers, without a doubt.

What was it like growing up with such a creative family in the industry?

Growing up, I was aware that perfume existed at a very early age, and I was always told that perfume creation was a serious business where you had to be creative and never cut corners when it came to quality. Apart from that, which is already enormous because it defined my future life, my childhood was extremely normal.

See also: How To Gift, Wear & Understand Perfume: Notes From Christian Dior’s Master Perfumer

(Choosing a perfume) is a little bit like choosing a boyfriend or a girlfriend—it has to feel right.

What made you create Editions de Parfums? Tell us the story behind it.

This idea for Editions de Parfums came at a moment when luxury perfumery had almost disappeared, and the few examples of luxury perfume houses were companies that entertained the idea that great perfumery was something of the past.

So, my idea was to create a link between the more discerning public and the best perfumers in the industry, and show the world that luxury perfumery was not dead and that it could be as relevant as contemporary art.

Explain the creative process behind each edition, from choosing the perfumer to the composition of the scent itself.

The process is almost always the same. It begins with a conversation with a perfumer; either the idea comes from them and they will call me about it, or the idea comes from me and I try to share it with a perfumer who I think can express it incredibly well. Then comes the first sketch in the form of a preliminary perfume, a formula that illustrates our initial conversation, which will evolve to define the general shape of the perfume. Once we agree on where we are going, and after a few trials, then begins the very long process of making that preliminary sketch into a final, very well-finished perfume. 

What’s the defining aesthetic and scent for Editions de Parfums?

At Editions de Parfums we don’t have a specific aesthetic, and like certain perfume brands we don’t specialise in one certain type of perfume. We have probably the most eclectic collection of perfumes in the industry.

A little bit like a museum curator, who would host a very universal collection, I don’t strive for one particular style. But, I look for redeeming qualities—perfumes that have a very specific character and can be easily recognised, perfumes that are formulated in a very essential and simple way, perfumes that last on the skin and perform with perfect diffusion and, last but not least, perfumes that become one with the wearer so that one remembers who is wearing it rather than the perfume itself.

See also: Anne-Lise Cremona Of Henry Jacques: Preserving A Family Tradition Of French Perfume-Making In A Globalised World

What’s key to a great fragrance?

Creativity, signature, performance, and becoming one with the person who wears it.

How do I know what perfume is right for me?

When it feels comfortable and when you feel that you could wear that scent for a very long time without being bored. It’s a little bit like choosing a boyfriend or a girlfriend—it has to feel right.

Editions de Parfums is available exclusively at Ken's Apothecary

Related: #SocialDistancing: The Best Online Beauty Stores