A few months ago or so, I sat down with iconic perfumer Francis Kurkdjian to chat perfume. This was my second time meeting Francis but my first interviewing him and he was as ever, candid, fun, cheeky and fascinating. You see, I’m a bit of a Kurkdjian fan boy and interviewing the man himself was a bit of a pinch myself moment, after all, I had spent much of misspent youth dancing in gay clubs surrounded by an atomic cloud of Le Mâle, and there I was meeting the very man that made that perfume. As you can tell from the ensuing conversation, he did not disappoint.
It was an interesting time to meet Francis Kurkdjian too – just after the launch of Gentle Fluidity, a duo of fragrances that are inspired by gender fluidity and share the same materials in different proportions. It was also the tenth year of Maison Francis Kurkdjian, his eponymous brand which was acquired by luxury conglomerate LVMH two years prior. Francis and I talked his new fragrances, not fitting in, the innovative products within his Maison and how social media is impacting the beauty industry and his favourite pair of leather trousers – it was an eyeopening discussion.
If you read yesterday’s post you will know that luxury house Amouage have just launched a brand new duo of fragrances – Imitation Man and Imitation Woman. Inspired by the glamour of 1970s New York City, these hazy, hedonistic fragrances speak of Amouage Creative Director, Christopher Chong’s personal journey to the city in this most iconic of decades. Moving to Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1975 as a young immigrant, NYC presented an entirely new set of experiences for Chong, who was fascinated by the fashion, art and subcultures that quickly surrounded him. In Imitation he celebrates these elements but also the freedom of growing up in such a fascinating metropolis at an audacious time.
I was lucky enough to be invited to join Amouage in the Big Apple for the launch of Imitation* and during my stay I got some time to sit down with Chong to quiz him about all things Imitation, Amouage and perfume. This was my first time actually meeting Christopher Chong, but after several years of social media interaction it feels like we have known each other for quite some time and he had always struck me as an olfactory visionary with a strong character. So when it came to meeting face-to-face I was not disappointed! Below you can find our chat, which covers the inspiration for Imitation but also details how Chong works with perfumers to translate elements from real life into olfactive form. Enjoy!
If you’ve been following the blog over the last year or so you will know that I’ve wholly and truly been bitten by the photography bug. All of the photographs on this blog for the last year or so have been my own and I’ve made a conscious effort to use my own photos over press shots because I want to visually interpret the fragrances I write about. But I’m breaking from tradition today, because in this post I’m showcasing the amazing work of a professional photographer working in the perfume industry: Mr David Newton.
David Newton is an illustrator turned photographer who has worked with some seriously big names in the industry – Harrods, Vogue, Dior, YSL – you name them, he’s worked with them. David photographs cosmetics and accessories as well as perfume, and his style is idiosyncratic as well as visually stunning. I first became aware of his work at the Jasmine Awards this year where he won an award for his jellylicious work with Harrods magazine. I have since dived into his portfolio and become increasingly more obsessed by his unique visual style. David is an amazing photographer and he provides a fascinating insight into his process in this interview. He also has really good taste in perfume, which you’ll find out as you read on.
If you were to ask me which fragrance house has really pushed the boundaries of what perfume can be I would answer Etat Libre d’Orange without a moment’s hesitation. They arrived on the scene in a whirlwind of spunk and accompanied by a plethora of bold olfactory characters, ranging from high class hookers to smoking sirens of the silver screen. The house rubs noses up both the wrong way and the right way, taking pleasure in the delightful and the depraved. In short, they are the most scandalous perfumery on the planet but they’re also one of the most substantial with fascinating fragrances that more than live up to their provocative names and inspirations.
The man behind Etat Libre d’Orange is Etienne de Swardt, a self-described troublemaker. Having spent many years ‘working for the man’ at LVMH, as it were, de Swardt broke free from the constraints of boring everyday big business perfumery, which included scents for cats and dogs, to create the ideal ‘anti-brand’. He launched his perfume house not with a slogan or a mission statement, but with a battle cry. Etat Libre d’Orange marched into war in the department stores screaming “Perfume is Dead, Long Live Perfume” at the top of its smoke-filled lungs. The scents were the weapons – missiles that exploded, destroying inhibitions and preconceptions. Etat Libre d’Orange was a chieftain tank and Etienne was the maniac at the wheel.
Having been a big fan of Etat Libre d’Orange ever since I encountered their phenomenal Jasmin et Cigarette one drunken evening, I jumped at the opportunity to pose some questions to the rebellious renegade that is Etienne de Swardt. In one of the most fascinating and frankly hilarious interviews I’ve had the pleasure of partaking in for The Candy Perfume Boy, Etienne tells us what led him to perfume, whether he could create anything more shocking than the blood, sweat, sperm and saliva of Sécrétions Magnifiques, and what is next for the brand. So buckle up, leave your inhibitions at the door and get ready for one hell of a ride, because Etienne de Swardt is in the building and he’s in a mischievous mood…
[Please note that there are a few NSFW images below]
I am honoured to have taken part in an interview with British fragrance retailer, The Perfume Shop, to see what’s on my perfume shelfie. As you can imagine, there are quite a few scents on my shelf, so we talked about six that are in regular rotation at the moment, including a couple of my all-time favourites. We also covered some of my favourite ingredients, and non-perfume smells, as well as what perfume I’d like to make for myself. Click here to head on over to The Perfume Shop’s blog to read the interview.
I’ve been lost in a Google labyrinth of pictures for the last 24 hours and both Le Galion and The Perfume Society are to blame. You see, there is a veritable bounty of vintage advertisements from the house of Le Galion all over the Google and each one is absolutely stunning. Now, the reason I’ve entered into this merry little hole of vintage advertisements is because of a fascinating evening I spent this week in the Heritage Suite at Liberty, London’s most fabulous department store, with Nicolas Chabot, the new owner of the historic Le Galion brand and Jo Fairley, the founder of The Perfume Society, who organised the event.
Le Galion is the story of a historic house with royal ties, a legendary perfumer, a symbol of Paris and a fragrance favoured by Hollywood’s brightest stars. What’s amazing about this history is that it has been almost all but forgotten – lost within the annals of modern perfumery. But the brand’s new owner Nicolas Chabot hasn’t forgotten and he has brought Le Galion back from the dead, relaunching a number of its classic fragrances and adding some new ones, all in the historic style of the house. Le Galion is revived and with Chabot at the helm, it is navigating the waters of the perfume industry in search of fragrant treasures, both new and old, guided by the spirit of one of the world’s greatest perfumers.
Below is a summary of the conversation between Nicolas Chabot and Jo Fairley – a tale of many serendipitous moments that is truly fascinating in every sense of the word.
In the office of Cartier’s in-house perfumer, Mathilde Laurent, there sits a proud statue of a velvet panther. Serving more than ornamental purposes, this handsome wild cat stands guard over something really quite precious – not expensive perfumes, extravagant jewels or fastidiously crafted timepieces, no, this panther protects something altogether more priceless – the heritage of the house of Cartier. It seems to be working too, because in the modernist glass cube of the Jean Nouvel-designed Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain building that houses Laurent’s laboratory (i.e. where the magic happens) as well as a conceptual art space, this spirit of the brand is alive and kicking.
Cartier is not a house hung up on the past, however. They acknowledge their heritage and look firmly forward to the future, seeking to create perfumes that bring something new to the industry as well as to express emotion. Currently, the house has an extensive back catalogue of scent which is widely available (Eau de Cartier, Déclaration and Le Baiser du Dragon etc,) as well as an exclusive collection entitled Les Heures de Parfum. Since joining the house, Laurent has taken Cartier in a new direction, most notably creating the thoroughly modern Baiser Volé and La Panthère, as well as the aforementioned Les Heures de Parfum. In these new fragrances, Cartier and Laurent fuse tradition and heritage with a thirst for pushing the boundaries and adding something new, and worthwhile to the industry. This marriage between history and modernism, and Cartier and Laurent, serves to preserve the spirit of this legendary house – to protect the soul of the panther, as it were, and drive it forward for the years to come.
Recently, I was lucky enough to be invited to Paris to meet Mathilde Laurent and sit down with her, and a group of fellow journalists at the Fondation Cartier, to discuss her work for the house. During the enlightening discussion Laurent spoke about IFRA and the impact reformulations are having on the industry, as well as covering her creative process in detail, in addition to discussing the inspirations behind fragrances such as La Panthère and L’Heure Perdue, the latter of which is the latest addition to Les Heures de Parfum and a gorgeous condensed milk cuddle of a scent. I left Cartier with a new-found respect for the house and a desire to discover Laurent’s work in more detail. In the ensuing discussions, you will see that Laurent is refreshingly candid and a marvellously talented and creative individual – a true representative of the ideals of Cartier.