Editions des Parfums Frederic Malle", which is expressing today’s very best, the true excellence in the perfume industry. The firm any composer would kill to work for.
When I'm a little nervous I get extremely direct so: Why this crowd in front of your door?
"Because when authors work for me, they’re completely free: they can use raw materials they prefer, even the most precious ones, and take time to make the fragrance grow as they wish" he says with a huge smile which puts me immediately at ease.
Back in the year 2000, Editions des Parfums Frederic Malle was the first brand to highlight the name and face of the composers. Today it seems quite obvious that every perfume has an author, but until a few years ago, companies considered composers as simple "scent-builders".
"It seemed so unfair to me... they weren’t even invited to the launching events of perfumes they composed! By showing their faces and names, I wanted to show the interesting people, behind the creations".
Since he began putting authors under the spotlight, and some of them began to write, or launched their own line fo perfumes, the public began to show interest and to seek information regarding them. Although perfume companies aren’t happy with the focus shifting from products to composers, now they even talk openly about them, and perhaps seem inclined to consider them a lever enhancing new products. Slowly, authors are gaining the front side, and depending on the level of their work and the name of the commissioner, their job will be granted a status which may also be regarded as artistic.
Did you expect your intuition to bring us here?
"Well, I only wanted to put some order into a confusing industry, with everyone back into his role. When I invite a composer to work for me I don’t brief him, so he can compose “his” fragrance. This highlights the style of each one of them, because without guidelines, without restrictions, what emerges from their work is their creativity, their style. "
How do they compose perfumes for your brand?
"Everyone’s different. Some prefer to work in complete autonomy, for example, Jean Claude Ellena and I meet at an early stage to talk about how the fragrance will be, then in the middle of work he makes me smell some drafts to let me understand in which direction he’s working and then we meet again at the end. Others, like Dominique Ropion and Maurice Roucel (a composer that I particularly love for his way of making flowers sing: Tocade by Rochas, 24 Faubourg by Hermes, L'Instant and Insolence by Guerlain, Envy by Gucci) rather rely on my presence throughout the creative process; we work in close contact, they consider me a sort of evaluator. In some cases, such as our last launch (Portrait of a Lady) Dominique and I worked side by side in every phase of the composition! "
How long does the whole process last?
"It can take up to 18 months to get to the fragrance."
In the same 18 months, any industrial brand would be able to launch three new scents! (and I'm not saying that in admiration)
When I ask of his background and training, I have a nice surprise, I should’ve imagined.
"I was interested in art, for my family it’s always been very important (one of his two grandfathers was the famous director Louis Malle while the other, Serge Heftler, was the founder of “Dior Parfums"). I studied Art History at New York University and in 1986 I entered Roure Bertrand Dupont (one of the most important raw materials industries, absorbed by Givaudan few years ago) and stayed there 15 years, under the direction of the great Louis Amic, who taught me a lot".
It’s here he learned the beauty of raw materials, and above all, he made friends with some of the composers who first worked with him.
How are the collaborations born with different authors?
"Eduard Fléchier was the best perfumer at Roure, and he was so generous to teach me the profession; when I set up my brand, he was, obviously my first choice. With Jean Claude Ellena (First by Van Cleef & Arples, Acqua di Parma Colonia Absolute Declaration by Cartier, etc.) I felt a kind of call, asking him to work for me was some kind of natural choice. I didn’t know young Michael Roudnitska (Parfums Delrae), Edmond’s son, was a composer himself. He approached me with such an extraordinary fragrance -Noir Epices- that I couldn’t let him go. I knew Pierre Bourdon (Joop, Kouros, Dolce Vita by Dior, Feminitè du Bois) since my days at Roure, I admired his capacity for innovation, he created a new style, so I invited him to work for me. It was Pierre who introduced me to Dominique Ropion (Ysatis and Amarige by Givenchy, Mugler's Alien, L'Homme by YSL, Kenzo Jungle and l’Elephant, Pure Poison by Dior, Euphoria by C. Klein), I consider him the most gifted perfumer around, with a terrific technique".
Quite unpolitely, I stop him because I want to know something about one of my favorite composers, Olivia Giacobetti and he kindly tells me.
"The range of authors at Editions des Parfums was expressing an extremely high level, some of them were the creators of Poison, Cool Water, Eau des Merveilles (Ralph Schweiger), Paris (Grojsman) which are loved and bought worldwide. But at some point I felt the need for something younger, fresher. I was very impressed by the craftsmanship with which Olivia builds her fragrances, I especially appreciated Premier Figuier composed for L'Artisan Parfumeur. Olivia added a gentle touch of chic to the collection".
Who else would you love to work with?
“I would’ve loved to work with Jean Louis Sieuzac (YSL Opium, Dune and Fahrenheit for Dior, Oscar by Oscar de la Renta) but unfortunately it wasn’t possible.
And until recently I would’ve said also Carlos Benaim, but when I moved to New York I invited him and he agreed. The new line of room fragrances bears his signature and Sophia Grojsman’s" (yes, Frederick Malle has launched a line for the house which is excellent and innovative; I'll write about it soon).
Thanks to Butterboom for the pic: I was so focused on Mr. Malle that I completely forgot taking pictures...