Live One-On-One With Francis Kurkdjian Of LVMH’s Maison Francis Kurkdjian Parfumerie

Continuing Haute Living‘s live sessions with c-suite executives and leaders in the luxury industry, I had the pleasure of speaking with Francis Kurkdjian, Co-Founder and Creative Director of one of the most luxurious and renowned perfume houses of all time, Maison Francis Kurkdjian, in a live Zoom video call. Kurkdjian started his career in 1995, which was also when he created one of the most celebrated perfumes of all time, “Le Male” for Jean Paul Gaultier. As one of the most renowned perfumers in the world, his curriculum includes iconic creations for Guerlain, Dior, Armani, Narcisco Rodriguez, Elizabeth Arden, Acqua di Parma, Versace, Ferragamo, Lanvin, Van Cleef & Arpels, Burberry and Kenzo, among others. At the mere age of 30, he received the esteemed François Coty Award for his entire career, and he was the first perfumer to start his bespoke fragrance atelier in 2001. Motivated by a shared vision of French perfume making and the creativity that inspires it, Maison Francis Kurkdjian joined the LVMH portfolio in 2017 with Marc Chaya and Francis Kurkdjian continuing their roles as CEO and Creative Director, respectively. Since then, Francis created a fragrance exclusively for FENDI—another LVMH brand—called FENDIFRENESIA, scenting the leather of the limited-edition Baguette bag using an exclusive technique patented by the Maison. Here, we chatted about his process of creating and formulating new scents, finding inspiration and shared insightful advice for all the budding perfumers in the audience who were eager to learn from one of the perfume world’s greats. Read below for some highlights and scroll to the bottom to watch the session in its entirety.

francis kurkdjianPhoto Credit: François Roelants

ON FINDING INSPIRATION AND HIS TIME IN QUARANTINE

My inspiration didn’t change for one main reason: I work ahead of time. Right now I am currently finishing/ending my projects for 2021 and start thinking about 2022. My life hasn’t been shut down…[quarantine/lockdown] didn’t interfere at all. I was calm, happy to be home, serene in a way…anxious about how economically the company will be doing, and how what I’ve built for 11 years with Marc, how things would stay up. I had a feeling that things were collapsing for a brief moment, like a [house] of cards. But I was confident enough and relieved because Marc is an incredible business partner, and I know that I can always count on him.

ON DECIDING TO START HIS OWN PARFUMERIE

I did it because I had no other places to express my vision of fragrances. I’ve worked for many many brands, some are the most beautiful brands in the world. But I had kind of an empty space each time—I was missing something—because when you’re a perfumer working for other brands, you don’t deal with the other aspects of the project. You are, as a perfumer…not in touch with the design of the bottle, the visual team, all the environment of the product, and I really love that. In my creative process, I always start with a name—the name always comes first—and then I create the scent. If I’m not immersed into that kind of environment, I feel very unhappy in a way. I don’t pretend I do everything within the company, but I give the input of the name…then I start thinking with Marc about the creative ideas around the packaging, the bottles, which cap we should use, should we use a label or not, and then comes the scent. So, the only place I could do that is my own place. I will say, my ideal work would have been to be an in-house perfumer at Chanel or Hermès, but that position never came to me. Other people, great talented perfumers were invited, of course. I was not called, so in a way, I felt I was always on the side. So I was young, I had the energy, I met Marc as a friend…and together we decided that ‘Yes, we can do it.’

ON PROPER PERFUME STORAGE

If you don’t use the perfume often, at some point, the perfume goes wrong or goes off. [It] fades quickly because you have a lot of oxygen and oxygen is one of the worst enemies of perfume. So, I really encourage you to buy in a way smaller size if you don’t use fragrance often…perfume doesn’t like the cycle of heat and cold, hot and cold. It doesn’t like that. [Perfume has] three enemies: light—UV light, forget about it—heat, and balancing from cold and hot. And oxygen! This is why if you buy a big bottle and leave it half empty, make sure you use it regularly.

francis kurkdjianPhoto Credit: François Roelants

ON BEING PART OF THE LVMH GROUP FAMILY

It’s an amazing family, I have to say. I know it has been three years, but these are three amazing years because…it’s changed for the best. I am in touch with amazing people with…lots of knowledge. They try to help us to be even better. We are treated at the same level even though we are one of the smallest brands within the company—imagine Dior and Louis Vuitton compared to us, you can easily imagine. But when we go to the headquarters, we are treated the same way as any other brand…There is not a day I’ve regretted it.

REFERENCES FOR BUDDING PERFUMERS

http://perfumersworld.com/index.php
http://www.thegoodscentscompany.com/search2.html
https://www.osmotheque.fr/
https://www.parfumeurs-createurs.org/fr/

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