16 marzo 2011

Interview with Francis Kurkdjian

Lively, restless like an elf seeing everything, speaking fast, and thinking even faster, I can understand he’s used to confront head-on with things, without “dragging it out”. He’s one who watches well ahead, he’s already travelled a mile while others are still wondering about the meaning of what he’s just done. An innovator, brilliant, versatile (he works in three areas: industry, his Maison Francis Kurkdjian, and bespoke fragrances), and seem to see challenges like lifeblood.
At 25 he was already famous with Le Male (JP Gaultier), and a few years after, he was creating Narciso Rodriguez Pour Elle, then the Dior Colognes... as well as fragrances for Guerlain, Yves Saint Laurent, Lancome, Versace and many more.
But it took him 10 years before venturing into the creation of a Maison of his own... Why did you take so long?
- Because things have to be made... when they are ready to be made. Life’s a matter of timing, and everything has a “right” time for everything; you cannot start building something on the wrong way.

Is perfume art, in your opinion?
- No, but perfumery is. Because a single perfume, sitting on the shelf of a museum, doesn’t say anything. I may appreciate the bottle, for me art is mostly a visual matter, and scent is not. You have to open it, wear it, experience it, otherwise you wont’ understand it.

And the composer, is he/she an artist?

- It 's true that artistic sensibility is basical when composing a scent. But if you don’t pair it with a good technique, there will be no art whatsoever; proper technique is necessary to manage diffusivity, persistence, evolution.

Do you work in different ways when composing for your Maison, for industry or for a bespoke fragrance?

- I may use different ways to express myself, but in the end, the overall approach is always the same, it’s always me.

What’s the most significant among your creations –not your Maison FK-? Which one you're closest to?
- Although some have become bestsellers, all have given me the opportunity to learn, to grow, to speak my mind. Narciso Rodriguez for example expressed my idea of a new woman... In any case, the last is always the one I’m most bound to. Because I’m constantly growing, each scent brings me more self awareness and competence, so the last one is always the one I love most.

The other day I happened to smell on a person a clone of Le Male; are you happy or it makes you angry, that it’s so widely imitated?

- Imitations simply exist, and are often the best form of homage (maybe Coco said it first?). But it’s ok if you smell a little difference: while imitation may be homage, a blatant copy is no good. Also because you cannot completely achieve the perfect result: you’ll get as close as possible, but a perfume is an expression of he/she who created it, and since you are not me, you won’t be able to reproduce exactly what I made.

Francis is really a fun interview, on the one hand seems not to take you seriously and starts replying nonchalantly, but after seconds he becomes very serious, staring at you in the eye and speaking three inches from you. He’s pleasant and bursting with energy, I’d love to spend a whole evening with a guy like him to hear him talk about wine, food, and of course perfumes. His charm is strikingly uncommon. 

Francis, can you explain something that I didn’t understand? APOM (ie, A Piece Of Me) ... in short, who is this “me”? Is it you? That is, are we wearing a piece of you? With that, he comes up with a good laugh:

- No, it doesn’t mean "a piece of me-FK-composer"! It’s a piece of you, the wearer. I'm not so narcissistic as to expect people to wear a piece of me! I don’t put myself in perfumes. My fragrances talk about people I love, which I feel close to, but never myself.

What is the essential characteristic in a fragrance?
- Diffusivity, texture. The fragrance must be very present: for me is the most important thing.

What raw materials do prefer?

- (He smiles because the answer, even if true, would seem trivial) The most beautiful ones. For the others, I have no preference.

Projects in the near future?

- I’ll launch a fragrance for an industrial brand: a new fragrance representing a great challenge for me. As for my line Maison Francis Kurkdjian (website here) in June I’ll release Aqua Forte, a sort of Aqua Universalis but "stronger"; and at the end of the year the purse spray of many fragrances in the line.
In May, to celebrate 10 years of experience in bespoke sector, a limited series (20 bottles) of an expensive anniversary-fragrance will be launch.

I see you like to put a lot of irons in the fire...

- People now have very high expectations about my work, and it’s not always easy to cope with such high expectations.

Um... I guess I'd be a bit anxious…
- (smiling) Eh...

Thank you Francis for your precious time and energy; I was delighted meeting you and hope to meet you again soon!
And thanks also to Valentino and Fabrizio of Campomarzio70, who organized a wonderful Friday.

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