Creating Fragrance with Famed Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian
It’s easy to purchase your favorite perfume or cologne from the store without thinking beyond spraying a few times before you leave the house. But with every bottle of perfume or cologne comes more than just smell, each bottle shows craftsmanship, design, and a mixture of scents that are tried and tested. VUE recently had the pleasure of sitting down with famed perfumer Francis Kurkdjian and learned about the process of creating perfumes and exclusive details of what went into his newest fragrance, Baccarat Rouge 540.
Born and raised in France, Kurkdjian’s first passion was ballet, which he did for much of the beginning of his life. At age 15, he read an article about the four perfume designers, and fell in love with the details of the job. He explains that while France takes pride in many of the same things as America, such as cars, the French also take great pride in perfume, and though not everyone does it, becoming a perfumer is not an unheard of profession. Kurkdjian completed perfuming school and went on to achieve his master’s degree. At the age of 26, he designed Le Male for Jean Paul Gaultier, one of the most recognized bottles in the world to this day. He went on to design perfumes for more than 40 high end brands and houses, such as Burberry, Dior, Lancome, Versace, and Yves Saint Laurent.
In 2009, Kurkdjian opened his own fragrance house, Maison Francis Kurkdjian with his business partner, Marc Chaya. He explained that when it comes to designing and creating his own perfumes vs creating for someone else, the difference is in the story. “Creating a perfume is like telling a story, it’s just my way of expressing myself. When I work for myself, the only difference is I have to create the story and the pitch, otherwise, the process of creating for someone else is more or less the same, the end result is the same. Of course, when you work for yourself you have more work to direct and you have an eye on everything. But when you work for someone else, it’s easier, in a way, you feel less responsible because you have someone to guide you and tell you what to do and where to go. Whereas when it’s yours, it’s you.”
When it comes to the steps in perfume making and knowing what goes together, Kurkdjian explained that it’s an ongoing process, it’s part of something you learn in perfume school, and part of it comes throughout your career with trial and error. Kurkdjian also doesn’t believe that a perfume is created with one woman (or man) in mind. “I believe if you want to have success, you can’t close doors and think for just for one woman. If someone thinks it’s for someone who is tall or blonde or she does this or that, to me, that is very restrictive. The brand should talk to everyone, in a way.”
For his newest fragrance, Kurkdjian has created the Baccarat Rouge 540, in celebration of the 250th year of famous French crystal house. “The idea was to find the signature scent that would capture to spirit of Baccarat and also would become the iconic scent of the Baccarat Hotel in Manhattan,” he explained. “I started to think what the Baccarat was about, and something that is important is the red color, it is the iconic color of Baccarat, if you buy something from the company, you get it in the red gift box, in the red shopping bag. Red is also the color that shines from every single chandelier in Baccarat. There is a little emerald crystal in each, showing that it is a Baccarat chandelier. Of course, crystal doesn’t have a scent, it wasn’t about capturing the scent of the crystal, but to create a scent that describes the transparency and density of the crystal. Little by little, words were created behind it, and this is more or less how it works for every story I create.”
Kurkdjian also explained that in the perfume world, much like the fashion world, everyone’s seasons ahead. The perfumer is already working on a line of scented leather goods, like business card holders, coin purses, and scents for Fall 2017. He explained that people complain about things being too advanced, but he is always thinking in advance. “I’m already thinking about my Christmas Card for 2017!” Kurkdjian said with a laugh.
After the interview, Kurkdjian spoke to an invite-only crowd at Neiman Marcus, where his perfume has been exclusively sold for six and a half years. He explained the process of creating the Baccarat Rouge 540, and passed out samples of each element, Mineral, Fire, Craftsmanship, and the perfumes final project, to show the crowd how each came together. As for the name, Kurkdjian said he wanted to tie the fragrance to something sensual, and as for the 540, that is the degree at which crystal turns a bright red color, the iconic color of Baccarat. Customers were passed champagne and cupcakes, and got a chance congratulate Kurkdjian and have their personal bottles signed by the perfumer.