It has become a conventional wisdom in the world of perfume lovers that the large houses are often constrained by iron logic of the stock market. The logic dictates the production of fragrances that should appeal to as large number of people as possible in order to boost sales. Yet, to paraphrase John Stuart Mill, the common mean between creative excellence and wide appeal is often a “collective mediocrity.” Needless to say, as in almost every case, there are exceptions. However, it does not stop a fragrance consultant with an appreciation of beautiful things from thinking up a clever scheme—give nine of the most famous French noses as much creative space as they need to compose a fragrance of their dreams. There are few limitations in terms of price of the materials and the theme of the perfumes.
Frédéric Malle, grandson of the creator of Parfums Christian Dior Serge Heftler and nephew of the film maker Louis Malle, was born in 1962 in Paris. A self-proclaimed hedonist with a love for lilac, Joël Robuchon’s cuisine and Bach suites, he recalls that his love for beauty was fostered by his parents, especially by his father. “I am a sensual person,” says Malle in an interview. “You have to know how to look, smell and feel things.” Malle started working for Roure Bertrand Dupont in 1988, after finishing his degree at the New York University. Before starting Editions de Parfums in 2000, Malle was working as a fragrance consultant for Christian Lacroix, Chaumet and Hermès.
Unlike the common practice in the world of fragrance, Frédéric Malle places the perfumers in the spotlight. Every bottle is prominently labeled with the name of the artist responsible for the scent within. What is the result of the “auteur perfumery?” If Frédéric Malle Editions de Parfums were paintings, they would be more suited for Center Pompidou than for Louvre, because they are truly modern compositions, even though many are classically composed, respecting the tri-tiered construction model. Such is Pierre Bourdon’s Iris Poudre, a composition capturing the scent of irises held close to the beautiful chest covered with a thin layer of powder. Other fragrances are conceived in a more linear style, minimalist and elegant as the lines of Giacometti’s sculptures. Cologne Bigarade created by Jean-Claude Ellena is a reflecting his predilection for clear and strong lines bathed in soft light. One thing is for certain—these fragrances must be sampled.
Editions de Parfums
Angéliques Sous la Pluie by Jean-Claude Ellena
Bigarade Concentrée by Jean-Claude Ellena
Cologne Bigarade by Jean-Claude Ellena
En Passant by Olivia Giacobetti
Iris Poudré by Pierre Bourdon
L’Eau d’Hiver by Jean-Claude Ellena
Le Parfum de Thérèse by Edmond Roudnitska
Lipstick Rose by Ralf Schwieger
Lys Méditerranée by Edouard Fléchier
Musc Ravageur by Maurice Roucel
Noir Epices by Michel Roudnitska
Une Fleur de Cassie by Dominique Ropion
Une Rose by Edouard Fléchier
Vétiver Extraordinaire by Dominique Ropion
Carnal Flower by Dominique Ropion
Carnal Flower will be released in September of 2005 and will feature notes of tuberose, orange blossom, coconut and camphor. According to Frédéric Malle himself, it is the ultimate seduction perfume.
The first Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle boutique was opened in 2000 at 37, rue de Grenelle in Paris. Its interior, conceived in a collaboration with Andrée Putman and designed by Olivier Lempereur, is marked by clean lines and unique system of testing fragrances from olfactory columns. Although it is quite an interesting way of experiencing scents, I much prefer the traditional skin test.
In addition to another store on Avenue Victor Hugo, which opened in 2004, Editions de Parfums line is available at Taizo in Cannes, Dries van Noten in Antwerp, Natan/Treize in Brussels, Barneys New York, Isetan in Tokyo, and at Flinders Way Boudoir in Melbourne. One of the most appealing additions to the line is a test kit, which contains 5ml atomizer bottles of each fragrance available. Tester kit and the fragrances along with the ancillary products are available online at Editions de Parfums site.
Photo: Frédéric Malle.