Francis Kurkdjian is probably the world’s most important niche perfumer nowadays. Since creating Le Male for Jean Paul Gaultier in 1995, one of the most renowned fragrances ever, when the Paris-born Kurkdjian was only 26, he went to make many other breath-taking fragrances for other brands such as Burberry and Elie Saab. In 2009, he established his own company Maison Francis Kurkdjian (MFK) together with Marc Chaya, which has gone from success to success, bringing niche perfumery to another level by producing some of the most subtle, sophisticated and exclusive perfumes of our times.
CHIC ICON speaks to Kurkdjian to find out more about the inspiration and mission of Maison Francis Kurkdjian.
Tell us about your background and what did you do before the perfumery world?
There was not even the shadow of a perfumer on the horizon in my family. After a short-lived career as a classical ballet dancer, I pursued fashion to continue my family history: my grandfather was a tailor. He has his own atelier with a private clientele.
What led you to becoming a perfumer?
At age 13 I read a piece about several perfumers in glossy pages of a French magazine. It was a true revelation. I found out that the couturier was not the one who was creating his perfumes. There were people behind it and a very special craft. Perfume is so much linked to the couture world. It’s the ultimate emotional accessory that builds so many memories and gives you a real feeling of being a woman (or a man), seductive and sensual. After that piece in the magazine, I then decided I would become a perfumer and started to some research about perfume school and I found out about ISIPCA (the perfumer school in Versailles – France). At age 15 my parents took me there to visit the school and we had a meeting with the director. I was too young of course and the school director told me I had to come back after a master’s degree in science. I applied to ISIPCA at 20 from 1990 to 1992.
How would you describe the concept behind your brand?
I don’t like the notion of “concept” that I found very Marketing driven. I prefer inspiration by far as each scent is nurtured with my very own feelings and vision. Paris is at the heart of my inspiration. Its name is as big as mine in the brand logo. My business travels and my work as a perfumer take me away, but they also serve to bring me back, back to my City, and its heterogeneous population, to its light and the shade of its monuments, the grey of its rooftops and the bursts of magic as its golden spires puncture here and there its incredible skyline. Paris inspires the universe my House: grey zinc and gold. The inspiration for the flacon is an example in crystal that I found while antiquing, one originally designed to be part of a travelling toiletries case. I was taken with the idea of a flacon that travelled and returned fitting exactly into its holder. My model is a unique object, obviously created for a particular person. It led me to design a flacon sectioned in square crystal facets, each in rapport with the next and shaped from the base to the neck. I asked the glassmakers to create angles as alive as possible without appearing too aggressive. To underline this artesian work, I added a small signature – the monogram of the House – at the back of the flacon, much in the manner of artists signing works with pride. A tube extends from the atomizer pump but seems to disappear after the first spray, leaving the perfume languid in its container. We wanted a stopper made of a material emblematic of Paris. We choose gold and an alloy of zinc. Zinc is alive and interesting in that it refuses uniformity. Thus, no two stoppers are identical; each has its own unique variation dependent on the density of the grey colour. We made the same choice for the bases of the candles. The alloy is only treated to prevent oxidation.
How do you see your clients?
Actually, I never think about a particular woman or a man when I create a fragrance. I follow my vision of beauty and elegance. I am seeking a universal ideal beauty and present it to the largest audience possible. The MFK customers are connoisseur, passionate and demanding about quality and fragrance. Fragrance is to them an art of living.
Do you offer anything exclusive like a customized perfume?
I founded my own atelier in 2001, with bespoke scents. I was the first one to bring that type of ultimate luxury back to the world of scents. So customization is at the heart of the Maison. From Hand-engraving to truly bespoke scent, with exclusive packaging and service.
What inspires you in your work?
I try to encapsulate the era we leave in, to echo our world through the scents I create.
What are your favorite creations?
The next one is the most exciting one by far. The now the past, the future is what excites me because it’s totally unpredictable !
What is the mission of your incredible work?
My mission is to bring people happiness, create olfactory souvenir for them. Give them comfort, allure and confidence through scents I create.
What are your plans for the near future?
Summer is at the corner! I will take some days off for a couple of weeks to recharge. The past months have been really intense. I miss my friends so it will be an opportunity to get together.
Do you see yourself in any other industry?
I have never asked myself that question. The industry is very vast with many know how. Maison Francis Kurkdjian has a lot of connections with other crafts such as our florist with whom I closely work. I have also worked with a fine leather maker. The diversity of the industry and its capacity of innovation makes it exciting day after day.