THINGS V LOVE: Maison Francis Kurkdjian

THINGS V LOVE: Maison Francis Kurkdjian

THINGS V LOVE: Maison Francis Kurkdjian

In an exclusive interview with V, Francis Kurkdjian tells the story of his iconic fragrance house and blurring the lines of masculine and feminine.

In an exclusive interview with V, Francis Kurkdjian tells the story of his iconic fragrance house and blurring the lines of masculine and feminine.

Text: Kevin Ponce

Whether floral or fresh, woody or oriental—fragrances are always the most desired (yet invisible) accessory of all time, and the work of legendary perfumer Francis Kurkdjian proves just that. Kurkdjian has been creating staple scents for individuals all over the world for decades now—who is also best known for creating fragrances for the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier, Dior, Burberry, Yves Saint Laurent, and his own line, Maison Francis Kurkdjian. Now, the scent mastermind is back with his latest creation titled L’Homme À la Rose, adding yet another incredible and innovative scent to his scent wardrobe.

Below, discover a Q+A with V's Kevin Ponce about the repertoire of the fragrance maison and the newly released L’Homme À la Rose.

Kevin Ponce: Let’s talk about “L’Homme À la rose”! To me, rose is typically a scent one would associate with women’s fragrances—what was your source of inspiration behind the new release?

Francis Kurkdjian: First of all, rose is one of the most important ingredients in the perfumer’s palette. However, it remains an ingredient, a tool to express a feeling, and idea. In the exact same way, notes, colors or words are tools to a music composer, a painter, or a writer. To make another parallel, silk as a fabric is neither feminine nor masculine. But the way it is shaped by the designer and the convention linked to that object give its gender. As you can have a tie or a dress…  As a perfumer, my creative process always starts with an idea - the inspiration.  I need to get a starting point, and mine is words. The name of the scent is key to me. It’s the beginning of each of the scent I have created. Inspiration is the invisible part of creation. Once I have the name, the creative process of the scent follows. If someone asks you what you are wearing, you have to be proud to say it. When I got l’Homme A la rose in mind a couple of years ago, it defined everything: l’Homme – man, à la rose – with a rose. The name speaks for itself, it’s universal and yet very open so everyone can project their own meaning.

Kevin Ponce: What are some other unique characteristics about the scent that differs from men's fragrances on the market today?

Francis Kurkdjian: Rose is a feminine archetype in the fragrance world, as well as in art at large. But rose itself, as raw material, should not have a gender. It’s the way you use it that makes the difference. Historically, the rose has never had a prominent place in men’s fragrance. In some fragrances, rose is included but plays a very small role and you cannot even smell it. It is hidden behind other notes or blended with darker notes (patchouli, oud, leather) that blur it. More traditionally, geranium leaf oil is seen as the masculine version of rose scent. However, geranium has green, harsh, minty, and spiky top notes that were not suitable. For l’Homme à la rose, I wanted to create a rose scent for men that was truly recognizable as a rose and defining my interpretation of what masculinity means right now. I have used fresh and bright notes as I wanted a fresh, crisp rose.

Kevin Ponce: What do you think can be further improved/changed about men’s fragrances in today’s market?

Francis Kurkdjian: Personally, bringing the world of scent to a new level of consciousness and developing new ways to wear or experiment. Fragrances are really something I am, more and more, looking at in the future. I believe it is part of my mission in the world of fragrances to open new paths and question my era about the importance, meaning, and place of fragrances. I do believe it is also the modernity of it: breaking, not the rules, but the boundaries. You have to play the game. If not, you are outside the place to be, but no one has ever forbidden not to push the boundaries nor break them eventually.

Francis Kurkdjian

Kevin Ponce: With around 58 fragrances under your current Maison Francis Kurkdjian fragrance wardrobe, tell us: which fragrance is your absolute favorite one?

Francis Kurkdjian: Each of the scents I have released under Maison Francis Kurkdjian represents an ideal olfactory form and a creative challenge. I don’t have any favorite scents as the best is yet to come! As a perfumer, when it comes to my personal taste, the ones I have in mind for the future are always the most intriguing and appealing. In fact, the most exciting in life is always what lies ahead. So, I guess they are my favorite; even if they are not yet created.

Kevin Ponce: From your first fragrance to your latest release, what do you think you have learned most about fragrance making throughout all these years? Has your nose or preference for particular scents changed at all?

L’Homme À la Rose

Francis Kurkdjian: I look at the past a lot because the past is history and history tends to repeat itself. Not in the exact same way, but the values remain the same. So, I think it's very important to know history by heart and to do research and to learn more. I would never have been able to make the leather collection if I didn't know how to create scented gloves and if I hadn't done all the research around that. I would never have been able to work on the bubbles if I didn't know that the fountain of Versailles during Louis XIV had been scented. As a perfumer, I don’t have a preference for particular scents. It is not about what I like, but what I can achieve with each raw material of the perfumer’s palette.

Kevin Ponce: In your opinion, how has the scent of femininity and masculinity evolved throughout the years?

Francis Kurkdjian: Historically, flowers have been a feminine territory of expression that you can source in art, literature, poetry, music and even religions. Flowers are delicate and fragile, whereas woods are stronger and bolder. Fragrances are reflections of the times in which they were created. It may sound cliché now and may be outdated. When I was working on l’Homme A la rose, I knew I wanted something that was vertical in terms of smell – something bold and uplifting; not your mind, but your body. Something that straps you back and opens your torso like you’re proud. I truly wanted a rose scent that was recognizable as a rose, with the code of what masculinity stands for right now.

Francis Kurkdjian

Kevin Ponce: In a world of celebrity and clothing brand fragrances, what do you think separates Maison Francis Kurkdjian from traditional/mass-marketed scents?

Francis Kurkdjian: The difference is me, being free as a perfumer! That freedom allows me to create the fragrances I dream about.

Credits: Photography: Courtesy of Maison Francis Kurkdjian

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