Cover Synthetic Jungle

The two French perfumers share the inspiration and creative process behind this bold, new addition to Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle

Anne Flipo is a master perfumer behind some of the world's more iconic scents, with a superior command of floral and green palettes. She was the natural choice for Frédéric Malle when he decided to create the collection's first green, vegetal perfume. 

"We had a flirtatious relationship for years because we were both very shy. She was already a big star in the industry. I admired her work very much and I heard from other master perfumers—they are the best judges, after all—about her abilities," says Malle about the start of their friendship-turned-partnership. "I was looking for the right conversation to have with her. When I found it, I went to her and she agreed. And that's why we are here today."

A seamless blend of the organic and synthetic, Synthetic Jungle is a richly evocative fragrance that embodies Anne Flipo's vision of a jungle. Earthy notes of basil, moss and patchouli oil as the opulent base are blended with recomposed bouquets of hyacinth, lily of the valley, natural jasmine and ylang ylang oil to create a truly unique olfactory experience. 

The great noses behind this complex and contemporary fragrance sit down with Tatler for a lively conversation about their close collaboration and perfumery.  

See also: The Art Of Perfumery According To Frédéric Malle

Anne, this new fragrance is inspired by your childhood in northeast of France. Can you tell us a little more about the memories and how it inspired you?

Anne Flipo (AF): The place that you were born stays with you. I used to stay in a house with a big garden with a lot of greenery. I watched the rainfall and cycle of the seasons. I would wait for all the different flowers in the garden to grow. I have a very unique approach to the flowers growing in the north of Europe: lily of the valley, rose, hyacinths…

Frédéric Malle (FM): She had to move a bit down south for the jungle—a dream jungle. I would imagine it smells better than a real jungle.

See also: How To Choose The Perfect Scent, According to Frédéric Malle                                                                                                   

What other sources of inspiration went into making Synthetic Jungle?

FM: We grabbed a few ideas from rare vegetal perfumes from the ‘50s and ‘70s, including Chanel 19 and Estee Lauder's personal scent, Private Collection. They were already part of our vocabulary. We learned how these great perfumes were made, so we took that precedent to evolve and grow. It's similar in every industry. For example, when I went to a Cézanne exhibition in New York, I learned that hundreds of artists—Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, Jasper Jones—owned paintings by Cézanne. And if you looked carefully at their art, you can see that they found inspiration and learned from him.

Tell us more about the synthetic ingredients, highlighted by the name of your new perfume. Do you think there are some misconceptions about synthetic ingredients that give them a bad reputation?

FM: It’s not even a conversation, it’s marketing ignoramus. People think that everything made by nature is better than everything made by man. Synthetic is cheap while natural is expensive and good. There is no such thing as a good perfumer who doesn’t use synthetic ingredients. Modern perfumery has been using synthetic ingredients since the end of the 19th century. Haute cologne and perfume before that was plainly not interesting! All good perfumes use synthetic ingredients. Paradoxically, they allow you to better capture the smell of nature.

AF: I agree. My palette is made of both natural and synthetic. If I didn’t use synthetic ingredients, I cannot work. For example, we cannot obtain the smell of lily of the valley through extraction and distillation. We can only replicate it by using synthetic ingredients. And we rely on them to enhance the smell of a flower, such as the rose.

See also: The Best Fragrances For Fall 2021

What was it like working together?

FM: Oh, I hated it! Sometimes, she would lock the door and refuse to try new material (laughs). A good perfumer to me is someone who has good ideas and incredible technical expertise. If you don’t have technique, you don’t go anywhere even if you have the best ideas. Anne has both and more. She has a good sense of humour, interest in other things; she’s nice. Working with her is more than pleasant, it’s completely enjoyable.

AF: I have wanted to work with Frederic for the longest time. It was a challenge at the beginning because I wanted to do a good job and create something that I'm very proud of in the end. But I learned to listen and try out his ideas. It became more fluid.

FM: Making a perfume is not an exact science. Anne is very similar to our mutual friend, Dominique Ropion. She’s very willing to exchange and try new ideas. And there is a third person in the room: the perfume. It will tell you if the idea works, because it might smell good or bad, or not at all!

See also: Meet Barnabé Fillion, The Perfumer Behind Aesop's New Othertopias Fragrances

Will there be another Frederic Malle and Anne Flipo collaboration in the future?

FM: Synthetic Jungle is our first and it won’t be our last. We’re almost done with another one.

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