May’s – ‘The Fragrance Issue’ – Download Now

Contemporary, internationally renowned perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, Co-Founder of Maison Francis Kurkdjian discusses what it takes to launch a successful brand in the perfume space

What do the first 30mins of your day look like, your morning routine?

I am an early bird. I wake up at 6am at the latest and I am instantaneously operational! My brain is immediately ready to go. I drink a hot cup of water to wake up or matcha tea then a couple of hours later I have a couple of expresso shots. Then I go to the shower where I love to use my scented shower gels. It’s like my morning routine to pick which one I will be using, depending on my mood. When it’s cold outside, I use Aqua Vitae shower gel, if it’s a bright sunny and hot day, I use Aqua Celestia. Aqua Universalis, when I travel away from home.

Francis Kurkdijan

What is at the heart of Maison Francis Kurkdjian, the DNA?

Maison Francis Kurkdjian is a perfumer’s house that celebrates freedom of creation, quality of products and services and kindness at all levels.

You previously created one of the most widely selling fragrances at Jean Paul Gaultier. Tell us how your past experiences led you to co-Found your own brand?

Right after Le Mâle for Jean-Paul Gaultier, I went to live in New York for several years, creating fragrances for beauty companies such as Estée Lauder, Elizabeth Arden or Coty. In early 2000, I returned to Paris, continued to create fragrances for many other beauty and fashion companies and started to create bespoke scents at the same time. In 2003, I met Marc with whom I became friends. We both realized that we were sharing the same vision of lifestyle and definition of luxury. Plus, we had complimentary professional and creative skills. We co-founded Maison Francis Kurkdjian in 2009. His vision and sense of business have been one of the key points of the success behind Maison Francis Kurkdjian. I am very proud of what we have built together over the past 11 years.

How did you know you were ready to make the leap and launch your own brand?

It’s not about being ready, it’s about feeling you have to do it. An inner force and energy overwhelm you and urge you to do it. I wanted to share my vision of scents and luxury with the public. I have envisioned an entire scented line wherein lies harmony within all the product forms.

Have you had any mentors along the way and if so what has been the best advice they have imparted to you?

I was given once this advice: “Never think you are satisfied; never think you are done.”

How do the creative and commercial sides of the business work together and do you feel particularly drawn to one side of the business?

The Maison is a balance around Marc Chaya, CEO and co-founder, and I. The main reason of our success lies in the fact we both strongly understand each other and are capable to step into each other’s shoes. I’m a perfumer with a strong business sensibility while Marc is a performant business leader with a strong creative drive. I focus on composing extraordinary fragrances and emotions while Marc focuses on strategy, marketing and sales development. We both work together in order to ensure beautiful aesthetics and a sound creative direction.

The aesthetic of Maison Francis Kurkdjian feels superlatively elegant and clean. Was this a clear vision from the outset?

Oh yes, totally, it was the vision from day one.  From the packaging and bottle to the visual identity everything is made in-house. Quality, refinement, soberness are the three keywords that we had in mind during the conception. Each product is precisely detailed. To me, all these are the definition of true and modern luxury. The bottles took their inspiration from an antique crystal bottle we bought in a flea market in Paris. We totally redesigned them to include a natural spray and more to bring the unique technology of invisible spray tube to keep the bottle transparency, elegance and aesthetics.

Maison Francis Kurkdijan perfume

What has been the biggest challenge since launching the brand how did you overcome it?

On my side, each new fragrance is a new creative challenge and the biggest. It is a new story to tell and, in the end, it has to become an ideal olfactory form. Most recently when we launched l’Homme À La Rose, the aim was to create a fragrance with a rose scent you could not miss, while keeping it very masculine. That was a very complex challenge during the creation of this fragrance. So, I paired a grapefruit accord with Damask rose oil from Bulgaria to give a sensation of natural vitality. At the heart of the composition, you have some rosy notes, coupled with a very woody accord which brings some verticality to the fragrance. Finally, the woody amber base notes infuse sensuality to the trail. Thus, the rose accord stays at the heart of the fragrance and cannot be missed, and the other top notes in the background bring masculinity and strength.

The last year was a time that saw brands change strategy. Have you had to pivot as a business?

Marc and I don’t really look at what competitors are doing. We have our own path to follow. Last year, we empowered our digital strategy that was already on the process.

How has social media affected the business and which platform has been most useful?

The power of marketing via social networks is very strong now. Marc Chaya and I have a real digital strategy in mind. We are aiming to become the first digital brand in our field and today, we have more than 200K followers on Instagram. It’s not so much about the number but more how they follow you and engage with the brand. But, let’s not forget that the product and its quality remain essential! Quality is definitely the new luxury.

Do you see any buying trends globally in terms of scents and if so which?

Being contemporary does not mean you have to follow trends. As far as I am concerned, I stay away from trends. Instead, I follow my artistic vision and my feelings about the contemporary world we live in. Trends often disappear as fast as they appear. I want my clients to feel different and not feeling concerned about wearing an outdated fragrance or not. I want to reassure them that they are allowed to wear different things, creating their own fragrance wardrobe and selecting a scent to fit a certain mood or occasion. Trends are good for fashion as the pace for fashion is to outdate what was once fashionable. Scents are based on a different momentum.

Which is your personal favourite and why?

I don’t have any favourite scents. As a perfumer, when it comes to my personal taste, the ones I have in mind for the future are always the most intriguing and appealing to me. In fact, the most exciting in life is always what lies ahead.

This is The Fragrance Issue- what is your signature scent / your earliest memory of scent?

Surprisingly, since I have been creating perfumes, I no longer wear fragrance outside of what I am currently working on. I need to personally experience each of them, live with them until I decide they are completed. Hence, I don’t have a signature scent. Actually, I strongly believe that the dictate of wearing one single fragrance (aka signature scent) is totally passé and outdated when you consider our modern lives. Women and men have now much more freedom and power to express all their facets of their personality. From work, to love, being a parent… we all are multiple and there is not one single fragrance that could embrace all the facets of one personality. This is why I have created a collection of perfumes that can be experienced as a fragrance wardrobe similar to a wardrobe in the Fashion world. Each scent from Maison Francis Kurkdjian has its own unique signature and can fulfil all your emotional answers. It is a unique positioning in the fragrance industry. You can be loyal to a brand and expect a diversity of moods. From Aqua Universalis and its unique freshness to the creation of Baccarat Rouge 540, the olfactive spectrum is wide and accompanies women and men in their life.

My earliest scent memories are definitely associated with the fragrances of my family. Each member had a distinctive scent, which I still remember. My grandfather used to dilute its own cologne. I never discovered the recipe though. I just remember him mixing things and creating his own blend. I was so fascinated and also proud of him! He was a hero to me. My grandmother was The Real Grandma: caring, loving. She covered me with kisses and of course, her fragrance, Femme by Rochas, would be printed on my skin! My late mother had different fragrances. She was very modern I think for her generation. From fresh fragrances such as First by Van Cleef and Arpels or Fidji by Guy Laroche, to Mitsouko or the first fragrance by Karl Lagerfeld.  It was another era with fragrances that no longer resonate in people’s mind.

May’s – ‘The Fragrance Issue’ – Download Now

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