“Perfume is not art.”
– Francis Kurkdjian
At the recent launch event for Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s latest duo of fragrances there was a lot of discussion around art and its relation to the world of perfume. Kurkdjian, who is ever a frank and fascinating speaker, asserted that perfume is not art because it is created to please consumers and where art is given a value by the market, perfume prices are set by their creators. This isn’t to say that Kurkdjian is belittling perfume by any means, in fact it seems that he takes a purely practical view of the subject, comparing his collection to an olfactory wardrobe, containing a plethora of pieces ranging from the everyday staple of the white T-Shirt (Aqua Universalis) to the more occasionally worn leather trousers (Absolue Pour le Soir).
Also at the event, Art Curator, Karine Giannamore spoke at length about what constitutes a masterpiece, piecing together simplicity, hard work, innovation and emotion, as the key ingredients that create a timeless work of art. Giannamore states that a masterpiece “has to be new [and] has to be original” but also must be “cemented in tradition”. This collision of the innovative and the traditional is exactly what Francis Kurkdjian has played with for his two new fragrances – féminin Pluriel and masculin Pluriel.
“What makes a work of art? A masterpiece? A Timeless work of art? Something so good or beautiful that it cannot be affected by changes in society or fashion.”
– Karine Giannamore
The Pluriel (Plural) duo has been created as a mirror image – two fragrances that perfectly capture the essence of femininity and masculinity, or as the brand puts it; “the eternal feminine and masculine.” With each fragrance, Kurkdjian takes a traditional theme and adds a contemporary twist to create a pair of perfumes that feel thoroughly modern and very much in keeping with his clear and radiant style. For féminin Pluriel and masculin Pluriel, Kurkdjian has crafted two new pieces for his olfactory wardrobe – two fragrant garments that are as modern, chic, timeless and elegant as anything a couturier could construct.
Florentine Iris, Violet, Grasse Rose, Egyptian Jasmine, Lily of the Valley, Orange Blossom, Vetiver and Indonesian Patchouli
How Does it Smell?
When attempting to capture the “essence of femininity in perfume” Kurkdjian turned to the most familiar and classic of genres – the floral. In féminin Pluriel he paints a portrait of an abstract floral bouquet that is soft, supple and incredibly picturesque. The initial impression is of peachy, blush-coloured blooms caught on a cool breeze. There’s a pale, suede-like quality that comes through with time (thanks to the iris and violet) with hidden depth courtesy of rose and jasmine, with lily of the valley and orange blossom bringing a subtle touch of bright white light.
The innovative twist here comes from a modern chypre accord, and I do mean ‘modern’. This particular take on the chypre pairs a sharp and slightly powdery (and chocolaty), but ultimately clean patchouli note with vetiver and musk to present a jagged texture from which all of that floral silkiness can rub against, changing féminin Pluriel from being delicate and wispy to something decidedly more multi-faceted. This interplay between soft florals and pointed chypre creates a contemporary and fashionable fragrance that may be steeped in tradition but feels incredibly of the moment.
Kurkdjian has a knack for creating feminine perfumes that, through incredible complexity, deliver masterful clarity. Take his Amyris Femme, for example, a ready-to-wear entry into his perfume wardrobe that feels so utterly stylish that it could very easily scent the pages of Vogue magazine. féminin Pluriel follows in Amyris’ wake but adds depth and a distinct sense of timelessness. Both are wonderfully radiant.
féminin Pluriel is beautiful, breathtakingly so, in fact. It may sound a little bit over the top to say it, but I feel quite moved by the perfume. It’s subtle and chic with an effortless softness that is incredibly elegant, whether it is paired with fabulous couture or a more paired-down outfit. As far as florals go, féminin Pluriel is pretty perfect, in fact it is just pretty, full stop. Kurkdjian has succeeded in created something unabashedly feminine and incredibly special.
Lavender Absolute, Leather, Eastern Red Cedar, Indonesian Patchouli and Vetiver
How Does it Smell?
masculin Pluriel’s classic part comes from the timeless signature of the fougère – masculine perfumery’s most famed genre. Francis Kurkdjian is the perfect man to create such an accord, after all he is the perfumer behind the muscle-mary-macho fougère that is Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Mâle, but with masculin Pluriel he has created something that is altogether more grown up and less frivolous.
The fougère accord in masculin Pluriel is lavender-heavy thanks to the incorporation of lavender absolute, a material which adds depth and richness to the herbal, sugary and heady nature of the flower. The accord displays a pleasing sense of coumarin soapiness that is clean but not entirely sterlie, thanks mainly to a good slug of vetiver that brings some root-y dirtiness but also acts as a small ode to the barbershop fragrances of the past.
Where masculin Pluriel differs from other fougères is with its woody, spicy and leathery accord. Most fougères are soft, rounded, smooth and creamy, much like the Jean Paul Gaultier in fact, but masculin Pluriel is entirely more rugged, almost as if it is adding a few hairs to the smooth, tanned chest of the Le Mâles of the world. The woody accord is heavy with cedar and inflected by some harsh metallic spices, much like Kurkdjian’s very own OUD Velvet Mood, making for an incredibly handsome and stubbly masculine fragrance that feels incredibly versatile.
masculin Pluriel may play with familiar themes but it feels entirely new. With this fragrance, Kurkdjian has placed the incredibly well-used and completely masculine fougère accord into a new and altogether more butch setting. He has created an impeccably-dressed fragrance, complete with designer stubble and a distinguished air. In fact, masculin Pluriel is so much more than just incredibly handsome and well-turned-out, it’s also quite sexy.
The blogosphere has a propensity to thirst for and celebrate all that is unique, challenging and weird, often overlooking that which is simply beautiful. Francis Kurkdjian knows how to ‘do’ beauty and with both féminin Pluriel and masculin Pluriel, he has crafted two stunning fragrances that succeed in their ambitions of being contemporary twists on timeless classics. They are unique, yes, but not pointedly so, they aim to smell good first and foremost – standing out from the crowd is an added bonus. I mean it when I say that these two are my favourite perfumes of 2014, so far.
Both féminin Pluriel and masculin Pluriel will launch in September, and will be available in 70ml Eau de Parfum (£120) and 70ml Eau de Toilette (£110), respectively.
Samples, images, notes and quotes via Maison Francis Kurkdjian.